|On Axis @ 0° ±3 dB 36-21 000 Hz
|On Axis @ 0° ±1 ½ dB 54-20 000 Hz
|Off Axis @ 30° ±1 ½ dB 54-10 000 Hz
|-10 dB / 28 Hz
|Nominal 8 ohms / Minimum 6 ohms
|Recommended 15 – 120 Watts
|Tuned Port Bass Reflex
|170 x 825 x 243 mm
PRICE R14 990.00
SUPPLIED BY Cinema Imports (Pty) Ltd t/a AV Imports 082 571-6568
The short of it…
Loudspeakers with a presence far larger than their physical stature, and which deliver a sonic performance that challenges other brands costing considerably more. Performance that needs to be auditioned in person to truly appreciate what they have to offer.
The Long Of It…
If you haven’t read our review on the NAD C 700 BluOS streaming amplifier, then my suggestion is that you read that one first (https://avnews.co.za/nad-c-700-bluos-streaming-amplifier/), then come back here, because that review will give you better context on the pretty exceptional NAD that was the power behind these loudspeakers.
The PSB Alphas have as their background a desire by Canadian loudspeaker creator PSB back in 1991 to create a loudspeaker range that offered the best possible quality at a price that wouldn’t break the bank. And based on the phenomenal success of the range, three generations now in total, it’s clear the company achieved those aims.
The Alpha T20 is said to be the pinnacle of those aims, and after reviewing the Alpha AM5s and being completely blown away by their performance, I have to say that even though there’s obviously a huge difference between powered bookshelf speakers and dedicated floorstanders, I did have a certain amount of doubt as to whether the difference would honestly be that huge.
Boy, was I wrong. But let’s start with the basics.
Build quality is beyond reproach. They are solid buggers. Two things in particular I must mention, first being the magnetic grilles. Back in my AVSA days I helped unbox a pair of loudspeakers worth most likely four or five times the PSBs, also with magnetic grilles. However, in spite of that asking price, the edges of those speakers’ grilles were so sharp that one of our staff cut his finger open on it.
I’m admittedly a strange person, but that experience immediately put me off the brand, because I felt that if the company was asking that kind of money for its products, how could it have failed so dismally to pay attention to the smaller details? But not so here – the machining on the PSBs is such that the edges are nice and smooth. Alas, as much as I tried shaving with them, it didn’t work.
The second thing I’d like to mention is the feet of the PSBs. Now, I know that almost as much as been said about the importance of anchoring the loudspeakers to the floor of the room as has been written about cables.
Okay, I fib. A lot more has been written about cables. But let’s not go there. It never ends well, so moving swiftly on…
At my old place I had wooden floors. Pretty much just as unhappy with the spikes that came with loudspeakers in the day as tiled floors were. So the solution that the manufacturer of the loudspeakers that I initially had, had come up with, was to provide metallic ‘cups’ for the spikes to sit inside. It sounds like a good solution, but unless you have a willing hand, do you know how insanely difficult it is to try and lift a moderately heavy tower loudspeaker point by point to insert the cups on your own?
PSB’s answer? Feet with rounded bottoms. Ingenious. My prayers answered. I’ve no doubt that there will be naysayers (standard spike versions are also offered), but for me this was yet another example of a company thinking about the end users.
But, as always (and I’m firmly in this camp!), blah, blah-technical guff designed to shock and awe… what did they sound like?
It’s entirely incorrect to compare a bookshelf to a tower. I completely get that.
If you read my review on the Alpha AM5s, you’ll know that I was quite astounded by the quality of music that these speakers can deliver, and that I was floored by the ability of the AM5s to push out low frequencies with such ease, that I honestly felt that they would never need the addition of a subwoofer.
I still feel that way about the AM5s, but the T20s took listening to the next level. A standout memory for me was listening to My Immortal by the group Evanescence back in the days when I had a full 5.1 NAD/PSB system. In those days, the introduction to the track used to make the metal cupboards in my flat vibrate.
The NAD C700 driving the T20s did the same thing, even sans the cheap metal cupboards of my early rental days. The low frequencies were like listening to the approach of one of our earth tremors: you felt it milliseconds before you heard it. Only those who have felt sound as well as heard it, will understand the experience.
Then the punch of these speakers.
I’m known for having a somewhat ‘eclectic’ range of music that I listen to (in other words I suffer from multi-personality disorder), so please don’t judge me too harshly with my music choice for the review…
Apart from Evanescence, on a particularly boisterous night we cranked up Madonna’s Frozen. Oh. My. Word. When the drums kicked in it made Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight sound positively anaemic. In all honesty it sounded as if we were faced with loudspeakers four times the size of the T20s: that’s the control and power of these speakers.
But these PSBs are not just about low frequency growl, punch and slam: one of my favourite review tracks is Eric Clapton’s My Father’s Eyes. The guitar work by Clapton deserves the very best from amplifiers and loudspeakers. If either is lacking, then it is a disaster. The clarity of the guitar’s plucks accompanied by the bass is a phenomenal creation if done correctly. The NAD/PSB combo delivered it in spades.
But let me be biased, if somewhat just because it’s my four year old daughter’s experience of what happened. She, as my wife and I do, loves music. She often asks for either ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ music, but for the first time ever with the T20s, when she asked for ‘slow’ music, she actually reacted emotionally and told us that the song made her feel sad. And isn’t that we’re all after from our listening music? Having it elicit emotions in us? The PSBs did so beautifully.
In summation, the PSB Alpha T20s are more than worth their cost, and should deliver a lifetime of sonic satisfaction so long as they are connected to a suitable amplification source. Absolutely stunning performers.