At $849 per pair, the PSB Alpha T20 floorstanding speaker from the legendary Paul Barton at PSB is the company’s entry-level tower (buy at Amazon). It features a 0.75-inch black anodized aluminum dome tweeter, two 5.25-inch textured polypropylene woofers with rubber surrounds, and a bass reflex cabinet design with a rear-firing port. It’s light for floorstanding speakers, weighing in at just 25 pounds, as opposed to the usual 40 pounds I have typically seen in this product category and at the Alpha’s price point. The Alpha T20 comes in two finishes: Black Ash Woodgrain and Dark Walnut Woodgrain. It’s designed for performance from a diminutive footprint while never forgetting about value.
What Makes the PSB Alpha T20 Tower Speakers Special?
- With a sensitivity of 88dB and minimum impedance of 6 ohms, these speakers are as easy-to-drive as just about any floorstanding speaker out there. A small audiophile integrated amp or even a modest AV receiver can get big sound from these small speakers.
- The Alpha T20 stands just 32.5 inches tall, not as tall as most floorstanding speakers. By comparison, the Paradigm and Monitor Audio floorstanding speakers I reviewed where both eight inches taller. Every room is not the same in terms of dimension and acoustical demands, so being able to get a quality speaker in the right size for your space is a great feature. It could be a game changer for some.
- The build quality of the PSB Alpha T20 speakers is rock solid, especially when considering the modest asking price. No, you aren’t going to get custom shop PPG paint colors from your favorite exotic car, but for well under $2,000, you get a very pretty pair of speakers.
Why Should You Care About the PSB Alpha T20 Speakers?
PSB, much like many of their other Canadian counterparts, benefits from a partnership with the Canadian government through its National Research Council, which helps advance technologies that are used in speakers. This provides a huge advantage, as you are getting some research and development at a discount. So, if you look at the price and think that it is too low for the speakers to be any good, you might want to think again. These are very capable audiophile floorstanding speakers, even if they are coming in a smaller package.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Alpha T20
- This is getting to be a more and more common complaint with loudspeakers in this price range, but I found these a little bit wobbly. Not so much that I worried about them tipping over, but with them being so light, they would be at a higher risk of getting knocked over if you have young humans who roam your home as I do.
- Depending on your height or the size of your listening room furniture, you could be sitting with your ear level above the tweeter. Tweeters are normally designed to be placed at ear leve,l and with these speakers standing roughly a foot shorter than the average loudspeaker, that makes these speakers sub-optimal for people who over six feet tall.
Listening to the PSB Alpha T20 Audiophile Speakers…
One of the first tracks that I tested was from the James Bond film Goldfinger. The track “Goldfinger” (Streaming PCM 44.1kHz) performed by Shirley Bassey from her album Hello Like Before (buy at Amazon), which was recorded at the famed Studio One at Abbey Road Studios, not only gives you the legendary vocals of Bassey but the orchestra as well (which includes Jimmy Page backing Vic Flick’s guitar). When listening to this track, the speakers felt very laid-back. You could hear the specific music details of the accompanying orchestra, with the PSB Alpha T20 speakers providing a very musical sound. Bassey’s voice sounded powerful and, particularly in the final bars of the track, very natural, but I never felt like the performance was occurring in front of me with this track.
When listening to “The Grand Optimist” by City and Colour (Streaming PCM 44.1kHz) from their album Little Hell (buy at Amazon), I got the sense that I could hear and feel the space around the music. It is a simple track that features the haunting vocals of Dallas Green, and is largely just an acoustic guitar until you hit the verse where the drums kick in. This is very typical of City and Colour at this stage of their evolution, as it was still years before Green would add a backing band. Ultimately, these floorstanding speakers reproduce the track beautifully. They really pulled the backing vocal out, which really adds another dimension to the sound. Overall, the presentation felt very forward, and it was easy to feel like I was there during the recording of the track.
With “Here Comes the Night Time” by Arcade Fire (Streaming PCM 44.1kHz) off of their 2013 double album Reflektor (buy at Amazon), I really appreciated the wide array of sounds, ranging from the typical vocals, guitar, bass guitar, and drums to the horn, synthesizers, and piano. The Alpha T20 towers handled these sounds with ease, and created a soundstage that sounded natural and clear. The speakers showed no issues keeping up with the differing tempos and instruments and their sounds. It was also worth noting that as the track draws to its conclusion, I felt the bass as much as heard it, which I didn’t expect from a speaker of this size.
Do the PSB Alpha T20s Speakers Have Any Resale Value?
PSB is a well-known brand that audiophiles appreciate. This line of speakers is new, so there haven’t been many of them sold on the secondary market yet, but I would expect them to hold their value reasonably well. Also, with their relatively light weight, they will be easier to ship, especially if you kept the original box, as it was built to contain two individual speaker boxes. These are the type of speakers that, if cared for nicely, will last a long time and likely retain a good bit of value over the years.
Who Is the Competition for the PSB Alpha T20 Tower Speakers?
You get a similar design in the Polk Audio Reserve R600 ($850) (buy at Amazon). One thing that stands out about these speakers, though, is that you can easily balance them on your floor. The build quality of today’s Polk speakers is simply fantastic, as the brand keeps value in mind. Many audiophiles who haven’t seen a modern Polk speaker are shocked to see just how fantastic they look and sound for the price.
With the SVS Prime Tower ($699) (buy at Amazon), you get a very interesting value proposition: a 3.5-way design featuring a tweeter, mid-driver, and two woofers, which you simply are not getting from many other speakers in this price range.
Final Thoughts on the PSB Alpha T20 Tower Speakers
When I first took the PSB Alpha T20 (buy at Amazon) speakers out of the box, I was skeptical. They simply just didn’t really look like any floorstanding speakers I had seen, so I didn’t have really high expectations, despite PSB’s excellent reputation. Once I plugged them to one of my more modest audiophile systems, everything changed, and I quickly forgot about the size of the speakers and started to enjoy the sound they reproduced.
As mentioned in the listening section, the sound was natural and clean, and the speakers had no issues once I turned the volume up to a pretty high level. At higher listening levels, the clarity of the sound was maintained and on the rock tracks I listened to, the soundstage made me feel like the music was being played right in front of me.
While I’m not certain that these speakers will be ideal for bigger rooms, I think in anything smaller you will find yourself enjoying these speakers just as I did. They deliver an interesting value proposition to the consumer. Many people, when they visit their traditional home audio stores, could dismiss these speakers quickly, but the PSB Alpha T20 are definitely worth a listen, and in my side-by-side testing they faired very well against larger and more expensive floorstanding speakers from other, respected audiophile speaker brands. Just another reminder to not judge on things solely based on their size, as they sound great and are incredible affordable to boot.