PSB Alpha iQ Streaming Powered Speakers: Small but mighty

April 12, 2023
3 mins read
Start
9/10

Summary

PSB Alpha iQ Streaming Powered Speakers REVIEW

On the hunt for a pair of small streaming speakers? PAT PILCHER recommends these highly practical and great-sounding beauts

$2499

The PSB Alpha iQ speakers are active, wireless all-in-one speakers ideal for anyone with limited space or wanting to reduce audio gear clutter. This is possible thanks to a super compact bookshelf design and built-in amplifiers, DACs, and other goodies that make them a stand-out option.

The Alphas are available in black or white. Their enclosures are beautifully finished, giving them an understated, Euro-chic elegance. Unlike many active speakers I’d tested in the past, the Alpha iQs come with oodles of inputs. Spinning the master speaker around reveals Ethernet, USB-A, digital optical, a moving-magnet phono stage, 3.5mm analogue, and HDMI eARC. Add to that wireless in the form of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (with aptX HD compatibility), Apple AirPlay, Spotify Connect, and TIDAL Connect and you’re literally cooking with gas. The DAC is capable of 24-bit/192 kHz and the crossover is an active DSP-based beastie.

 

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HDMI ARC makes the Alphas great for enhancing your TV’s sound. If you are a vinyl junkie, the news gets better. The master speaker has a phono preamp with RCA jacks and a ground terminal, so vinyl fans can directly connect them to a turntable without the added clutter of an amp.

The key feature of the Alphas is their streaming compatibility. They support 20+ music and radio services, including lossless, ultra-high resolution audio (up to 24 bit/192 kHz) via Qobuz, Tidal, and in my case, Amazon Music. Apple Music is the only fly in the streaming ointment, which must be pumped to the Alphas using Airplay 2 on your iPhone, Mac or iPad. That said, Bluetooth is there too, with support for the AptX HD codec to deliver sweet HD audio from your smartphone/tablet.

Their built-in amp can crank out 180 watts RMS, explaining how these pint-sized wonders delivered room-filling sound. The Alphas have a 19mm metal dome tweeter and a 4-inch polypropylene woofer. Oddly, the tweeter is underneath the woofer, initially leaving me wondering if I’d set them upside down. Still, given the clear and detailed sonics they delivered, I wasn’t complaining.

From a listening perspective, they impressed right out of the box. After a few days of running them in, their sonics only got better. Firing up some Air, the Alphas delivered tracks like the ‘Dualist’ with tight and refined bass. The mids and treble were present in spades and not overpowered by the bass. Speaking of bass, I was pleasantly surprised at how much low-end the Alphas cranked out. While it isn’t going to loosen ceiling plaster or jolt our neighbour’s house off its foundations, it was solid and plentiful. It almost felt miraculous, given the Alpha’s petite size. The soundstage felt expansive, opening up live recordings and making the Alpha great for music and TV.

One factor that played a big role in the audio quality I got from Alpha was their placement. Part of this comes down to the decision by PSB to flip the two-way speaker design and mount 4-inch polypropylene bass drivers (which get 60 watts from the integrated Class D amp) above 0.75-inch aluminium-dome tweeters (which have a separate 30-watt Class D amp). The logic behind this is that the driver inversion should supply an even sound field whether you’re standing or sitting.

As good as that sounds in theory, I found that if I placed the Alphas too low, they directed sound towards the floor, which was absorbed by the carpet, softening their sonics and diminishing their presence. Placing them higher on a bookshelf saw their sound field fill out, and bass notes developed far more body while mids/highs felt crisper. Putting them near walls bounced audio from their tuned rear bass ports, which played a big part in the bottom end they could deliver.

The Alphas’ integrated amp will be a godsend for those living in apartments, tiny homes, boats or vans. It saves a ton of space by removing the need to connect to a receiver or amplifier. Space-saving aside, it also greatly simplifies their operation and makes the Alphas a doddle to set up. Another nice touch is that they’re also wireless, so no wires are needed between the two bookshelf speaker units. Connectivity is handled by the master speaker, leaving the slave speaker with just a power connection.

While the Alphas are sonically pleasing and feature-rich, they’re not perfect (they’re pretty close, though!) I found the smartphone app (iOS/Android) that allows your phone to act as a remote felt like it needed to be more intuitive compared to similar apps from players such as Sonos. While I eventually got my head around the mobile app, it seems odd given the superb build quality and the sheer amount of top-notch engineering that’s gone into the Alphas.

Overall, the PSB Alpha iQ speakers are a great choice for those who are space constrained and want a compact yet big-sounding audio system that delivers high-quality sound and superb functionality. Their build quality and impressive sound performance make them a sweet set of bookshelf/TV speakers.

www.psbspeakers.co.nz

https://connectedmedia.co.nz

Note: NZ importer/distributor of the PSB Alpha iQ speaker, Connected Media, replies to Pat’s comment about the BluOS app: “It can be a learning curve using high-res services like Tidal and Qobuz within BluOS and we explain it to our customers as being like driving a European car… it’s much the same once you get used to the controls, it’s just that the bonnet release is hidden in the glovebox!”

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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Advance Paris - Designed with French flair. Amplifiers, Streamers, CD players and more www.pqimports.co.nz
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