Call me weird - I've been called worse - but I don't like to listen to music (or anything else) while I'm working at my computer. Half of the time, I wear earplugs in order to block the everyday distractions of barking dogs, ringing phones, chiming doorbells, and you name it. However, I couldn't resist the chance to audition PSB's Alpha PS1 desktop/bookshelf speaker system when it came up. PSB's founder and chief designer, Paul Barton, is one hell of a speaker engineer who has spent a large part of the last 40 years stepping in and out of the anechoic chamber, measurement lab, and listening rooms at the National Research Council's facilities in Ottawa, Canada. Based on my past experiences with PSB speakers, I figured that the new, compact monitors would be good. The question was, just how good?
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The PSB Alpha PS1 is a $299 powered speaker system, consisting of a pair of two-way, rear-ported desktop speakers with a 20-watt Class D amplifier built into each one. The driver complement includes a 0.75-inch aluminum dome tweeter mounted above a 3.5-inch polypropylene cone midbass driver. Each compact Alpha PS1 measures 4.5 by 7.88 by 6.88 inches and weighs 4.15 pounds. The gloss-black cabinets have rounded edges and are constructed using ABS with a UV coating. The PS1's rubberized base can be easily replaced with the optional PTB-1 Tilt Base by removing and reinstalling four screws under the speaker. On the back of the left-designated Alpha PS1, you'll find the system volume control, the output jack for the signal/power cable that connects the left PS1 to the right speaker, a pair of stereo RCA input jacks, and a one-eighth-inch AUX stereo input jack. The backside of the left PS1 also includes a mono subwoofer RCA output and a 5V USB power/charging port, while the right PS1 sports a single port for the audio/power umbilical cord that connects it to the left PS1.
The performance of the PSB Alpha PS1 speaker system was absolutely amazing, especially considering its small size and the fact that the pair costs less than $300. Whether I was listening to indie-pop (Marina & the Diamonds) or old-school rock (RUSH), the system had plenty of punch - although, as with all such diminutive speakers, it could obviously be extended by adding a powered sub. The PS1s were utterly dazzling and temptingly addictive when it came to playing a more "refined" recording, such as a Michael Hedges guitar solo. Likewise, the soundstage had extraordinary width and layers with more complex compositions by Roger Waters. The speakers were delightfully nuanced and detailed in the vocals and upper-frequency regions. In fact, the Alpha PS1s quite readily revealed the enhanced presence and smoother but more intricate top end when connected to the headphone output of a HiFiMAN EF2A external USB DAC.
Read about the high points and low points of the PSB Alpha PS1 on Page 2.