To Doug Schneider,
I have been reading your speaker reviews with particular interest. My setup these days includes the NAD M17 preamplifier-processor and matching digital amp, a PS Audio DirectStream DAC fed through a Mac Mini running Pure Music. Previously, I had an Anthem D2v and Bryston amp, with a Calyx DAC. For speakers, I switched from Aerial Acoustics 7Ts and CC3C center to PSB Imagine T3s and C3 center. For bass I run a pair of JL Audio e110 subs, but only for home theater.
For home theater, the system is just fine. I noticed that going from the Aerials to the PSB towers the transparency and soundstage seem to have collapsed significantly with the speakers in the same positions or in different positions. I am considering swapping to the KEF Reference 3s, maybe the Focal Sopra No2s if I can sell the look to my wife, or the Sonus Faber Olympicas, or even back to the Aerials.
Given that you have reviewed my various speaker options other than the Aerials, I am curious whether you noticed any flattening in the soundstage of the PSBs in comparison to these other speaker brands. The PSBs seem accurate and precise, but seem to lack something. I am trying to determine if it is a positioning issue or if the PSB is just designed to have a mellow sound. I would appreciate your thoughts given your experiences here. I am not a member of any audio forums, nor have I reached out to a reviewer before. It is just that I am baffled by the performance of the T3s given all the positive press on the speakers. Thanks much.
I think I can help you a little bit. I have never heard the Aerial 7T, but I have heard the PSB Imagine T3. In fact, right now I am listening to a pair and finishing off a review. I have also reviewed the Olympica III and Sopra No2.
I definitely see how some people could find this latest PSB model to sound a little mellow compared to some other speakers -- it presents music in a very smooth and natural way, without highlighting any specific areas of the audioband. In this way, the T3 is similar to the Revel Performa3 F206, which I also really admire for its evenhanded presentation across the audioband. The Olympica III is even mellower than those two. In contrast, the Sopra No2, which I just reviewed and really enjoyed, is a little more exciting sounding. For example, the No2’s bass was not as deep as what I am currently hearing from the T3, but it was certainly punchier sounding -- kick drums really kicked. Likewise, the No2’s highs sounded a little livelier than the T3’s. Overall, the No2 sounded a little more Technicolor in its presentation than the T3 does, if that makes sense. If the 7T sounds like the No2, I can understand your finding the T3 mellow.
The T3s are currently creating soundstages as wide and deep as what the bulk of speakers that have been in my room have provided, so in that area they are not exceptional, nor are they deficient. Call it par for the course. However, there have been speakers that have created wider and deeper stages -- the most recent examples are Muraudio’s Domain Omni PX1 and Focal’s Sopra No2. The former is an omnidirectional design, so the vast soundstages that enveloped my room were not surprising, since all the omnis I have heard create that kind of width and depth. The No2 surprised me because it’s a traditional front-firing design. I have no idea why the pair of them created stages that were consistently deeper.
I certainly cannot tell which speaker will be the right one for you, but I hope that relating my experiences with the T3 and other designs can help you along. The only specific piece of advice that I can leave you with is this: if you want something livelier sounding than the T3, and not go back to the 7T, give Focal’s Sopra No2 a try. . . . Doug Schneider