Sean Killebrew began his writing career in the '90s, covering football for UCLA (his alma mater). His first foray into publishing was in 2000, with the below-the-line film- and TV-production guide books LA 411 and NY 411. For the past decade, Sean's passion for audio/video has been poured into writing for HomeTheaterReview.com. When not chasing A/V deals, Sean spends time skiing and losing to his son in basketball.
Some audio companies are notable for the fact that, if their name is on a given product, you know it's going to sound great. PSB is one such company. Be it headphones, bookshelf speakers, or floorstanders, whether you pay $299 or over $5,000, you're going to get state-of-the-art engineering and exemplary sound quality. As such, I was thrilled to unbox a pair of PSB CS500 outdoor speakers for review.
The CS500s are available in black or white and retail for $399/pair. They're fully weatherproof; they feature rubber covers over rustproof terminals, and the enclosures are made of a UV-resistant polypropylene that, along with the grills, is paintable. In terms of drivers, the CS500 features a one-inch titanium dome tweeter and 5.25-inch clay- and ceramic-filled polypropylene woofer. Frequency response is rated at 63 to 23,000 Hz (±3 dB), and sensitivity is rated at 87 dB. The speaker weighs a stout 5.7 pounds and measures roughly 7.5 inches wide by 10.5 inches high by eight inches deep.
From a performance perspective, they're well balanced in terms of frequency response and put out solid bass, especially given the fact that the woofers are only 5.25 inches. I found the CS500s to be highly capable performers across the frequency spectrum, regardless of the genre of music being played. Also, given the flexibility of the mounts, these speakers can provide a larger and more precise coverage area than those with conventional mounts.
Competition and Comparison
As I mentioned above, there is plenty of competition in the outdoor speaker realm. Three that come to mind immediately are Yamaha, Polk, and Klipsch. More specifically, the Yamaha NS-AW390 has similar specs, although it sports a larger 6.5-inch woofer and retails for a more wallet-friendly $149/pair. Polk's comparable offering lies in the Atrium Series, which range in price from $199 to $399 per pair and have garnered some solid ratings online. The beauty of the Atrium Series is that there's something for everyone in terms of price and the actual size of the speakers. On the higher end of the price spectrum, there's the Klipsch AW-650 ($550/pair), which has a much more vanilla mounting system than the PSBs but likely offers comparable sound quality. It's difficult to find solid dealer demos these days, let alone for outdoor speakers, so it's a good idea to research manufacturers (like PSB) that offer in-home trials. You don't have to drive any screws into your wall to get a sense of their sound.
The number of available options when it comes to outdoor speakers is somewhat staggering - in-wall, on-wall, portable Bluetooth/AirPlay, rock speakers, etc. In the Bluetooth/AirPlay realm alone, it seems that a new product is launched by the day. I've experimented with both portable outdoor speakers and more permanent installs, and I'll always argue for the latter. First and foremost, it's going to sound much better than a portable offering. Secondly, a permanent two-speaker install will provide much better coverage of your listening area. If you have a decent amount of space with which to work in your outdoor area, a speaker budget of roughly $400 and discerning taste when it comes to sound quality, the PSBs should be on your short list. As I stated in the intro, you simply cannot go wrong with this brand.