There seems to be a retro feel emerging in the HiFi industry at the moment, with the likes of HiFi Rose’s RA180, Yamaha’s A-S2200, and even the new (this week) NAD C3050 amplifier. Speakers offer the same throwback look with modern components. The point of these new products is to offer style and substance and thus PSB, celebrating its 50th Anniversary, has brought out the PSB Passif 50 loudspeaker.
The PSB Passif 50 is a 2-way design with a 20 cm passive radiator. The Passif 50 is based on the 1974 Passif II design by Paul Barton, his first loudspeaker.
The Passif 50 features a 25mm titanium dome tweeter that has a ferrofluid and neodymium magnet. There is a prominent phase plug in front of the tweeter’s dome that PCB claims direct the tweeter’s output to ensure a wide and consistent dispersion. The tweeter is off the centre axis of the cabinet.
Next, there is a 16.5 cm woofer that features a cast aluminium basket, paper cone, and filleted rubber surround to attach to the cabinet. There is a 20cm passive radiator to complement the woofer. Passive speakers tend not to be as loud as ported speakers but the sound tends to be smoother than that of a port. The frequency response claimed from the Passif 50 is quoted at 50-20,000kHz, the speaker has a sensitivity of 89dB and is rated at 6 Ohms impedance.
At the rear, the binding posts are gold-plated and offer bi-wired options if preferred. These Anniversary speakers have a plaque stating Passif 50 – 1972-2022.
Out of the Box
Out of the box, the 50s are well protected and thoughtfully packaged, making setup a methodical and
enjoyable experience. The soft walnut veneer finish feels luxurious and smooth. Assembly of the wooden bases was a simple task with the Allen keys provided.
These Anniversary speakers have a nice ’50th’ pull tab on the grille with the original PSB logo on it (which really does look retro!).
The speakers are 870mm H × 280mm W × 254mm D with the stand and 13.7kg per speaker They are priced at £2,499 and available in their traditional open-grain walnut veneer.
Lovely, revealing, simple.
I’m using my reference system which is a Moor Amps Angel 6 with the passive Moor preamplifier. Sources include the iFi Pro iDSD streaming DAC and the OPPO BDP105 as a CD player, digital into the iFi. Lovely, revealing, simple. The amps have Atlas Eos power leads and I have an Atlas Eos Modular 2.5 distribution block for them. I’m using Tellurium Q Ultra Black II speaker cable and Tellurium Q Ultra Black II XLRs between the pre and power amplifiers.
The loudspeakers are mounted on their own stands, but they are not affixed to them. With the base being quite a small footprint, the loudspeakers have an element of a slightly top-heavy feel to them, even with the spikes I’m using (there are some rubber-type mounts for wooden floors in the box). The base slightly angles the speaker upwards.
The speakers are nominated left and right which puts the tweeter at the top of the cabinet slightly off-set from the centre line towards the centre of the soundstage, I’m sure there are good reasons for this as is the case with the felt surround to the tweeter, which is there to ‘minimize edge diffraction’.
I have the speakers about 2.5 m apart and I am the same distance away in the centre, the amplifiers and sources are placed to the side. I’ve got plenty of soft furnishings on a couple of acoustic diffusers on the rear walls. The speakers are half a meter from the back wall, the same from the sides. I’m a grille-off guy, so the light brown cloth grilles are to the side of the room.
Usually, my first port of call is a bass-heavy track, like Benson Boone’s GHOST TOWN (Tidal Master, 24-bit, 44.1kHz), then a bit of midrange, for example, Seal’s acoustic version of Crazy (Tidal FLAC, 16-bit, 44.1kHz), and then onto the resolution, often Hurricane (Tidal Master, 24-bit, 48kHz) by Bob Dylan.
The Moor Amps Angel 6 affords me the opportunity to reach in-depth with these baseline tracks due to its sonic weight, clarity, and dynamic characteristics. Sure enough, Benson Boone’s track reaches far enough for me to acknowledge the excellent bass response from the woofer/passive arrangement, and I am immediately onboard with these loudspeakers in this room. I often listen to the double bass in Arooj Aftab’s track Last Night (Tidal Master, 24-bit, 48kHz) on her Vulture Prince album. Here the bass sounds languid, slightly looser and laid back but the detail of the snare vibration in the soundstage is there and it sounds really special, the transient room echo in this track draws you into the moment.
Just checking in on the resolution with Dylan’s track, the string noise on the guitar in Hurricane is simply captivating and I’m all in with these speakers.
With the retro styling and slightly laid-back speaker positioning on the wooden base arrangement, I feel the need to put on some old-fashioned, Steely Dan, Eagles-type music. I choose the Tidal Track Radio selection for Joe Walsh’s Epic Life’s Been Good. Having done this and come out some half an hour later to Lynyrd Skynard’s Free Bird (Tidal Master, 24-bit, 48kHz), I begin to notice the drums in these speakers seem to be coming across rather well for me, I’m guessing it is a function of the passive drive over other ported arrangements. There does seem to be a resonance to these speakers that speaks well of the design and construction, I clearly like the presentation a lot.
As I’m winding down from a concerted listen, I put on Taylor Swifts Epic 10-minute version of All Too Well (Tidal Master, 24-bit, 48kHz) and again the languid drum rhythm comes across really well in these speakers.
Cambridge Audio Evo 150
Whilst nearly ten thousand pounds worth of amplification is all well and good for review purposes, it is probably a little overboard, with all due respect to these PSB loudspeakers. I’ve just said a fond farewell to the excellent Evo 150 and I felt it was a pretty good partner to the Passif 50s. The Evo has plenty of bounce and the Passif 50s easily kept up with the solid soundstage offered by the Hypex Ncore amplification in the Evo 150.
Naim Uniti Star
I have the same experience with the Naim Uniti Star, possibly with the Naim amplification a fraction punchier in my ear and a credit to the Passif’s that you can hear the difference from a more conventional Class A/B engine.
Of all things Audiophile, loudspeakers are the easiest to tailor to your ears. Some can be too tight and controlled, big and bloated, or harsh and shouty. These PSB Passif 50 are none of these things, they are nicely balanced, languid, warm and easy on the ear speakers, and they look stylish too.
The base was more solid
There was a black veneer
Full details are on the company’s site.