||19 mm aluminium dome with Ferrofluid tweeter / 100 mm cone woofer
||Analogue: 3.5 mm, Phono MM / Digital: Optical, USB / Wireless: aptX™ Bluetooth
||On Axis @ 0°±3 dB, 55 Hz-20 kHz / LF Cut-off: -10 dB 36 Hz
||50 watts x 2 rms
PRICE R12 990.00
SUPPLIED BY Cinema Imports (Pty) Ltd t/a AV Imports 082 571-6568
The Short Of It…
More than adequate power, exceptional build quality, myriad input options, jaw-dropping audio quality across the spectrum with sound mode options for television performance and an optional subwoofer output. Even a dedicated RCA phono input. Could you ask for more?
The Long Of It…
Settling down to listen to the AM5s, I tried to remember when last I managed to sit down and listen to a dedicated stereo set up. The answer was most likely over a decade ago, but in this instance without a traditional amplifier and source.
Why? Well because Home Theatre entered the arena and I believe was widely embraced by the population because we were sick and tired of being charged exorbitant fees to watch an out of focus film on a dirty screen with fellow cinema-goers yakking on their phones. It was a no-brainer.
The downside was that – save for a number of dedicated stereo adherents – we forgot how great it was to listen to simple stereo music.
PSB’s AM5s were accordingly a welcome treat to listen to.
Powered by a built-in Class D 50 watt amplifier, these speakers are not shy to say ‘hello’. I’ve mentioned before on my headphone reviews that while I enjoy being able to listen to my music privately, I do nonetheless miss the experience of sitting in front of a good quality pair of loudspeakers.
Build quality is impeccable, and the sheer weight of the individual units is a further indication that you’re getting value for money. The speaker grilles are magnetic and easy to remove if you prefer to lose the protection and watch the drivers in action. With a curious three year old who loves her music, keeping the grilles on is non-negotiable.
Connectivity-wise, it’s simplicity personified – there’s no amplifier (obviously) – to connect or Apps to download. Stream music via Bluetooth (Qualcomm aptX), connect to your computer or television (with a number of sound modes to choose from), while even lovers of vinyl are catered for via a dedicated RCA phono input. An Aux option is also available, so you really are spoilt for choice.
Different coloured lights on the amplifier unit indicate which input you are using. For example blue/red when pairing Bluetooth, white for Optical, green for Phono and so forth. Listening modes for the television connection also have their various colours – Widesound amber, Dialogue green… it can all get a bit confusing at times, to the point where I feel you might end up needing a flash card on hand to refer to what is going on!
However, after spending a few days with the PSBs I got used to the main input colours and it pretty much became instinctive.
Another option the AM5s offer is the ability to change sampling rates at the press of a button on the remote (well, two…). Holding the left or right Input Selection button on the remote will set the sampling rate to either 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz.
For this review, the AM5s were connected to NAD’s recently launched CS1 24-bit/192 kHz network streamer (review upcoming), playing a selection of tracks from Spotify as well as TIDAL MQAs. I also paired my Smartphone directly to the speakers using the Bluetooth option.
The AM5s’ performance was so good that it was depressing, knowing that they had to go back after the review. All the frequencies were there in abundance, the detail of the sound absolutely astounding across the entire frequency range, and most importantly for me was that the upper frequencies were never too sharp to the point that it was uncomfortable.
But as a Bass Head, it’s the low frequencies I have to make mention of in particular. In my younger years, I was a member of the Bass Brigade. I’m ashamed to admit it now, of course, but in my youth ‘doof-doof’ was king. Didn’t matter if that’s all I could hear: it was all about the beat (I’m sure there’s a song about that…).
It was only years later that I learned there were these other aspects to music called ‘mids’, ‘highs’ and so forth that I could hear and enjoy, if only I turned the Bass controls down. Fascinating discovery, I tell you. And this is an aspect of the AM5’s sonic performance that I really want to make mention of, simply because the system offers the option of a connection for a subwoofer, most likely for those who want to use the speakers in a home theatre setup.
I really believe you won’t need it for normal stereo listening.
If you feel you do need it, PSB should refuse to sell you these loudspeakers because clearly you can’t appreciate near perfection. The AM5s have this wonderful ability to punch you with mid-bass sounds as you hear them. It’s marvellous. Addictive. It makes you want to crank up the volume and just sit in front of them, getting this experience that is as much physical as it is aural.
But when the frequencies go even lower, you don’t necessarily ‘hear’ it as much as you ‘feel’ it in your body. And yet all the other frequencies remain present and completely clear. There’s never an iota of a hint that the lows are smudging any other frequency.
Having always listened to large floorstanding loudspeakers in the past, experiencing these ‘bookshelf’ speakers was a revealing exposure into how far loudspeaker and amplifier technology has progressed. Close your eyes and the sheer scale of their performance, the expansive soundstage, their control over the music, will leave you wondering how it’s all possible from such a small footprint.
I loved each and every moment with these speakers – take a listen and I think you will, too.