PSB Alpha T20 Tower Speakers Hands-On Preview

The Alpha Series from PSB was introduced back in 1991 with the aim of being an affordable, performance-first line. Now, the company has introduced an all-new Alpha Series, which is shipping concurrent to its unveiling at CES 2019. I was lucky enough to get a demo pair of PSB Alpha T20 towers ($599/pair) to test prior to the unveiling, here’s what I found.

Compact size, not compact sound. Photo by Mark Henninger.

Paul Barton, the founder and speaker designer at PSB took a “clean sheet” approach to the design of the new Alpha T20 tower. The result is a speaker that looks and sounds like a high-end tower, but takes up less space and leaves more money in your wallet than you’d expect was possible.

The specs immediately tell you these are a new breed of tower speaker. The classic +/-3 dB spec is 30 Hz to 23 kHz while the more stringent +/-1.5 dB spec is 40 Hz to 20 kHz. Right out of the box, these speakers outperform a lot of towers in terms of response and extension. The main things they give up are sensitivity and peak output. This degree of performance is achieved using third-order Butterworth crossover at 2200 Hz. An additional 4th order Linkwitz-Riley filter is used on the lower woofer at 500 Hz, making this a 2.5-way design.

With an anechoic sensitivity of 88 dB (90 dB in room) and 60 watts RMS power handling, these speakers are not going to get to rock concert levels in a living room. But the moment you hear the full-range sound they produce, you’ll wonder where PSB hid the powered sub because the bass is deep and solid.

Not only to Alpha T20 towers have impressive specs, they also look fantastic (mine came in a walnut finish) and have built-in outrigger feet. Furthermore, perforated metal, magnetic grills complete the premium look. On the rear you’ll find two sets of binding posts that allow for bi-amping as well as the port.

These T20 towers feature an attractive Walnut wood grain finish. Photo by Mark Henninger

Great First Impressions

Among tower speakers I have auditioned, the new Alpha T20 towers offer the biggest sound in the smallest package that I have encountered, regardless of cost. By big sound, what I mean is the imaging is enveloping and holographic, the bass is deep, physical and tangible.

I set these speakers up flanking a Vizio P65 Quantum TV in my basement listening room and used an NAD 3045 amp to power them, which worked out great.

The very first thing I checked out with this system was Avengers: Infinity War. And in my opinion this rig is superior to any soundbar you could hope to put in its place. From the clarity of the dialog to the impact of the effects, the T20s put you in the movie with ease. Simply put, this system naturally delivers superior sonics (including deep and tight bass)that absolutely makes it seem like there’s a good quality sub in there somewhere. But I ran the system 2.0.

The big difference is soundbars have to resort to all sorts of trickery to envelop you in sound, especially with a stereo source. And it’s true that soundbars have become very good at what they do. But it’s refreshing to hear speakers that cost something similar to a midrange soundbar absolutely blow away the soundstage of a surround-sound soundbar system using just 2 channels and no DSP trickery.

Unsurprisingly, this performance also flattered music and allowing Roon to cobble together a playlist based on IDM, dubstep and ambient tracks had the desired effect of putting me in a chill listening mood where I could enjoy all the details these speakers present.

Fortunately, measurements reflected the specs and what I heard. With the PSB Alpha T20 Towers in-room bass extended below 30 Hz, fulfilling the promise of the specs that these unassuming towers dig really deep.

I look forward to hearing these speakers at a CES demo and also having more time with them at home.

More to come.

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