Home Theater Review

 

PSB CW800E In-wall Speakers & CWS10 In-wall Subwoofer Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
4.5 Stars
Value
4 Stars
Overall
4.5 Stars

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The Music
Most of the music I used in this review came from my ReQuest server and was ripped at the highest resolution that the system would allow, which is close to identical to Compact Disc. The ReQuest server has a very useful multi-zone output which makes it useful for multi-zone audio systems. My first demo track is a classic from Rubber Soul. If a speaker doesn't sound good with The Beatles, I suggest that it might not have what it takes to stay in my house. The PSB CW800E did very well on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" as the bass was notably strong on a track not known for a Barry White like low-end performance. What was most notable and is a characteristic of early Beatles records was the wide separation from left to right. In my room, there is physically more room for side to side imaging than even in the acoustically treated theater room. The Ravi Shankar influenced sitar fills had a three dimensionality that people don't expect from an in-wall speaker.

Cueing up "Love Ritual" by Al Green from the Love Ritual album highlighted the PSB CW800E's ability to resolve fine details. The track has a warm, analog, 1970's feel to it, which on the wrong speakers can sound flat and two-dimensional. On the PSB CW800E's you could hear the actual hands swirling on the bongos before being hit. The micro detail is impressive. The bass with the CSW10 in the system was low and fun yet never intrusive or disconnected. The overall musical experience was pleasant and engaging as the speakers never get in the way of the music but have all of the chops needed to keep even a recovering audiophile happy.

In getting into more complex music, I looked to "Show Me How To Live" from Audioslave's self titled album. This track's snare drum is a reference standard for me as is the bass in the opening verse. The space created by the PSB CW800E, while not deep because they are in-wall speakers, was otherwise audiophile worthy. In playing with different power amps, you can clearly hear on this track (at high volumes) why you would consider using a bigger power amp over a receiver. On lesser power sources, you hear the soundstage collapse, which is something that I have heard this track do to countless speaker systems. On bigger, more powerful system like my reference rig and with enough spank in the bank with your amp - you will come out sounding great on the PSB CW800E's, especially with at least one subwoofer. The snare had a snap to it like the real instrument. The high hat had life and sheen to it with a three-dimensional reach into the listening room but never sounded too harsh or tinny as many in-wall speakers can sound. This is an audiophile in-wall speaker system and shouldn't be compared to mere in-wall speakers. The PSB CW800E's are better than that.

My last track is somewhat of a guilty pleasure in the 1980's pop classic "Inside Out" from Phil Collins' No Jacket Required. You just have to love a song that starts with a major drum fill and the chorus before it even gets to the first verse. Thoughts of Crocket and Tubs cruising through South Beach in the white 1984 Testarossa coursed through my mind as I enjoyed the wide soundstage once again. When Mr. Collins got around to the first verse, I noted specifically that the micro-detail of the guitars sounded particularly good. The signature gated reverb on Collins' drums had that retro-echoey sound that really takes you back to a day when pop songs didn't require an auto-tune and weren't played by "entertainers" who couldn't play a C-chord or five notes of the blues pentatonic scale if you had a .44 Magnum up to their heads. But I digress.

The Downside
The PSB CW800E aren't super easy to install and the grill can be tough to get back into the frame after painted. A good amount of depth is needed to properly install the speakers and the sound box should without question be used both for optimal performance as well as to isolate the sound as to not annoy other people in your home or even next-door. As I said before, you can install them yourself but why not have a dealer do it when you are spending this kind of money on a top-level audio component?

Compared to the Sonance Architectural line of high-end in-wall speakers, the baffles of the PSB CW800E aren't as well suited to modern d├ęcor. As I mentioned before, I solved this issue by using a fabric wall, which was somewhat pricey but worth it. The zero-edge baffle on the Sonance speakers is really cool but they don't compete sonically with the more expensive and reference level PSB CW800E speakers.

Conclusion
I spend more and more time listening to my PSB CW800E and CSW10 speaker system. I have plans to upgrade the amp again. I am considering using some room correction for even more audio fine-tuning specifically in the bass. I also plan on using my AppleTV more as a video source on my 50-inch Panasonic Plasma controlled by an Apple iPad. I have been told that you can run a Crestron program on it and I plan on having my installer and programmer work on making me the first on my five mile long block to have that trick. These in-wall speakers are so good that they have captured my audiophile curiously as well as my next few upgrade dollars.

Until you look up the food chain to the uber-expensive Wisdom Audio in-wall speaker and room correction systems starting at nearly three times the PSB CW800E and CSW10 system - you might just have the best in-wall speaker system money can buy. You are getting 95 plus percent of the performance of PSB's best engineering in their top speakers with zero impact on your floor space. Sonically, when powered correctly the PSB CW800E can sound better than any in-wall you have ever heard. You will fall in love with them. I know I did.
Additional Resources


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