Not the final frontier.
Being stuck at home during the pandemic has forced us to reevaluate how we use the space inside our homes.
If you’ve met my children – often the space outside on the deck as far from Zoom remote learning as one can possibly get. Sorry kids. Daddy needs a break sometimes.
Millions of us watched our office jobs transfer from impersonal cubicles (I miss my cubicle…nobody can see your facial expressions when reading inane emails) to home offices requiring one to be flexible with their design choices and a lack of office space.
I’m fortunate to have a rather unusual home office; the room has our home theater space on one end, and my office/game room/media storage on the other. It’s a 35’ x 13’ x 9’ room in our finished basement that has acoustic treatments and a decent amount of light.
I battle daily with my 14 year-old son over control of the space because his gamer lifestyle is “complicated.”
I have no idea what that means either.
Desktop (or Ikea Kallax media unit flipped horizontally) audio has become a way of life for me in this space.
The affordable bookshelf loudspeaker category is starting to feel rather crowded. Not only is there more choice than ever before, but the sound quality of some of these products priced below $700 is beyond impressive.
PSB is a loudspeaker brand revered by other loudspeaker designers; those who understand the science behind building a pair of loudspeakers have a deep respect for the man behind them even if the mainstream media have taken their time to catch on.
Paul Barton has been designing award-winning loudspeakers for PSB for more than forty years, making him of the most respected loudspeaker designers in the world with a customer base that extends well outside Canada. Barton struck gold in the audiophile world with his PSB Stratus Gold which were released at the 1990 CES in Chicago and never looked back.
Unlike some of his competitors, Barton has resisted the temptation to design cost-no-object loudspeakers for the simple reason that he remains committed to the ideal of creating high-end loudspeakers, headphones, and other audio components that consumers can afford.
As part of the Lenbrook Group; which includes NAD, Bluesound, and PSB, Barton has access to extensive R&D resources that many loudspeaker designers do not – yet his focus in recent years has been affordable loudspeakers like the Alpha P5 that have become instant classics because they offer so much performance for under $400.
Once you get over the realization that you will not hear very much below 50Hz, the compact Alpha P5 (11”H x 6 ¾”W x 9 ½”D) get very little wrong with a remarkably clean sounding midrange and extended top end that make them ideal for a desktop system.
Finished in an American Walnut vinyl veneer, the Alpha P5’s ¾” anodized aluminum tweeter sits below the 5 ¼” midrange-woofer which is unusual for a two-way monitor and makes a pair of desktop stands even more necessary to make sure the tweeter hits your ears and not your chest.
The front baffle is 1″ thick; and the other panels are all constructed from ½” MDF and are finished in Black Ash or American Walnut wood-grain vinyl. A single pair of binding posts and a relatively deep 7” port complete the rear panel of the loudspeaker. The overall level of finish is extremely high for a loudspeaker priced below $400.
At 87 dB (nominal impedance is 8 ohms), the Alpha P5 are not a very difficult load to drive, but they did sound significantly better with something like the Bluesound PowerNode 2i or Audiolab 6000A integrated amplifiers that output more than 50 watts per channel.
The Audiolab 6000A had no difficulty driving the Alpha P5 to loud listening levels, but its slightly cooler tonal balance would not make it my first choice with the Alpha P5.
I own the P5, so I’ve been fortunate to drive them with a lot of amplifiers. Before I took the Yamaha A-S3200 integrated amplifier upstairs for some extended listening with larger loudspeakers in my den system, I let it drive the PSB Alpha P5 for a few weeks to see how a $400 loudspeaker would handle the $7,500 amplifier.
No one is going to drive these loudspeakers with this kind of amplifier, but the Yamaha altered my perception of the Alpha P5.
Within their limitations, the PSB Alpha P5 had zero difficulty filling my office space with warm, immediate, and glorious music.
The differences between the Yamaha and Bluesound PowerNode 2i were obvious; scale, dynamics, and waves of tonal colors that left me rather speechless with some recordings.
The PowerNode 2i is not a dry sounding amplifier at all but the extra power, combined with the Yamaha’s midrange resolution and superior top end transformed the Alpha P5 into something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Back to reality.
The Alpha P5 play loud enough with most music to make them suitable for everything but really large listening spaces; the addition of a subwoofer like the REL T5i would be a great match sonically but also push the price to $1,000 where other full-range options exist like the Wharfedale EVO4.2, and Polk Audio Legend L100.
Within their limitations, the PSB Alpha P5 loudspeakers have top notch resolution, midrange clarity, dynamics, and just enough top end energy to make them a very easy recommendation that will only sound better as you improve the rest of your system.
I can see them working with a less expensive Yamaha integrated amplifier, NAD C 316BEE V2, Cambridge Audio, Rega, or a powerful vintage amplifier that has some grunt.
Having driven them with a selection of integrated amplifiers between $350-$7,500, it’s safe to say they can perform well above their asking price.
Very highly recommended.
For more information: PSB Alpha P5 Loudspeakers
Where to buy: $399 at Amazon