The Todds Blog

HIGH-END AUDIO BUYER'S GUIDE: Stand-mounted Loudspeaker

Looking for compact speakers? Here are some recommendations from The Absolute Sound magazine.

PSB Alpha B1

One of the high end’s most venerated featherweights, the recently redesigned and curvaceous Alpha B1 combines mind-bending dynamics and rich mids in a speaker barely a foot tall. The 1" dome tweeter has been refined for greater bandwidth and smoother dispersion, the all-new woofer redesigned to reduce breakup modes. Even the midbass has a power and pitch-definition rarely found in this modest price range. Only the nebulous soundstaging is less than excellent. Ultimately, the B1 can’t move the volume of air of a larger design like PSB’s own Imagine X1T/X2T or fully articulate the lowest octave, but it does a surprisingly respectable and musical job on everything else.

B&W 685

If you’re looking for an affordable small speaker that offers excellent overall tonal balance, remarkable rhythmic authority, a large and open soundstage, bass response that defies its size, and extended treble response, WG’s experience suggests that the B&W 685 may be your ticket to ride. This British-designed, Chinese-made two-way plays loudly without strain and, thanks to a forward- firing port, can be mounted on a wall, shelf, or stand with good results. A slight lingering edginess in the uppermost treble makes it both exciting to listen to as well as slightly sharp with female voices. A 2007 Product of the Year Award winner.

PSB Imagine Mini

PSB’s tiny Mini almost looks too cute to be taken seriously. But it is actually quite capable of producing a musically valid performance— in an appropriately-sized setting. It has no low bass, limited dynamic range, and only a suggestion of recording-space ambience. Still, the mini manages to play “bigger” than expected and also sounds “correct” at a fundamental level. It can be successfully placed up to seven feet apart or in a nearfield setup. A higher volume setting than usual helps it “get going,” but when it does, it’s enjoyable, tuneful, and rarely harsh.

PSB Imagine B

Think Imagine T, subtract a mid-bass driver and the floor-length enclosure, and, voilà, the Imagine B. There’s the same expressive voice in the midrange and treble and, with only minor exceptions, the same superb balance. No, it can’t quite chew on bass lines and kick drums and church organ riffs as if they were rice cakes, as the T does, but the B is still capable of surprising mid-bass potency. And though it’s more reserved dynamically in the upper bass, it’s also a bit lighter and fleeter of foot in the upper mids and lower treble.