PSB Speakers is one of my all-time favorite brands. Its little Alpha B1 monitor ($299 a pair) is excellent, and a couple of years ago I was blown away by the Imagine Mini ($759 a pair), an even smaller but bona fide high-end speaker.
Small speakers are great, but the lucky folks with huge living rooms who like to occasionally play movies and music nice and loud need big speakers. And since it's been a while since I spent quality time with a PSB tower I requested a pair of Image T6s ($1,298 a pair).
The 40.5-inch tall, 48.5-pound speaker has two 6.5-inch woofers, one 5.25-inch midrange driver, and one 1-inch titanium dome tweeter. All of the drivers were designed by PSB's Paul Barton. My review samples were finished in dark cherry, but black ash (both finishes are vinyl wraps) is also available. The midrange and tweeter drivers are housed in a separate sealed cabinet within the main cabinet, so the woofers don't muddy the midrange driver's sound. The T6 has two large ports on the front baffle, and the rear panel has double sets of all-metal binding posts for buyers who like to bi-amplify their speakers.
That's cool, especially because I'm seeing more and more 7.1-channel AV receivers that can be configured to "bi-amp" the front left and right channel speakers. What does bi-amping do? One set of the receiver's amps drives just the T6's woofers, and another set of the receiver's amps drives the midrange and tweeter. The sonic advantage of bi-amping is small, with slightly improved dynamics and volume capability, but if your receiver has that feature, give it a try.
I used the Peachtree Decco65 and Teac A-H01 stereo integrated amplifiers, and a Yamaha RX-V475 AV receiver for my listening tests. First thing, the T6 sounds big, it can play stupid-loud without working hard, and the bass is big and beautiful. I pumped up the Dirtbombs' magnificent "Party Store" CD, and the band's sledgehammer beats were to die for. The low end was so strong I checked to see if I still had our Hsu Research VTF 1 subwoofer on, it was not. The T6 just makes a lot of bass. If you want to feel your tunes, the T6 can almost give you a full massage. The sound dwarfs our reference Aperion 4T tower speakers ($700 a pair), the T6s have a much fuller balance, and they handle high volume better.
The T6 is a big speaker, it might even be a little too big for our 15x25-foot CNET listening room. That is, with some movies and CDs the bass was overly full, but then again, a lot of folks like a lot of bass. As always, it's a matter of taste.
With less bass-prominent recordings, the T6's low-end glories were on full display. Bass definition was very good, and the T6's midrange is open and natural. Big-band jazz was a joy; the T6 can easily play this type of music at realistically loud volume, and quieter material, like Vlatko Stefanovski and Miroslav Tadic's dueling acoustic guitars on their "Krushevo" CD had believable presence. Stereo imaging was spacious.
Used in a stereo home theater context with the integrated amps I mentioned before, big action movies came alive in ways no sound bar-and-subwoofer combination can match. Full-on dynamic jolts are taken in stride, and the T6s' rich balance and natural dialogue are far beyond sound bar capabilities.
If the T6 is too big or expensive, the smaller T5 towers ($998 a pair) might be a better fit. I reviewed the T6s as stereo speakers, but if you're more interested in a traditional 5.1-channel home theater, add the Image C5 Centre channel ($399) speaker, two or four Image B5 Surround speakers ($449 a pair), and the SubSeries 300 subwoofer ($999). After looking at those prices for a complete 5.1 system, maybe just a pair of 5Ts or 6Ts for a stereo home theater is starting to look a little more attractive (and affordable)?