Is the One the one?

Hi Doug, 

I’ve been rereading your review of the PSB Synchrony One floorstanding speakers, which you personally reviewed and also gave a 2008 product-of-the-year award to. I recently had a demo of these speakers and would have normally looked right past them, based on their retail price and pedigree -- would that have been a mistake.

I can’t believe how focused and resolving these speakers are. They must have hit my hot buttons. They did not have an expansive, wide, huge soundstage, but, rather, an extremely focused, tighter soundfield. They are extremely resolving and very, very layered, displaying precise placement in the “z” (or depth) axis. 

I’ve heard many very expensive speakers -- Wilson, B&W, Thiel, Sonus Faber, and many more -- but none has struck me as having this degree of focus and placement in the depth field. Many had a huge soundstage and some more forward than others, while some had depth but not the layered, precise depth that these portray. Many lose this effect as they have such a big, wide, open sound. 

I’m not sure what to attribute all this to, and I am scratching my head as I would have dismissed these as a high-end home-theater speaker. I am sure the McIntosh 402/C45/301 combo contributed to the precision and resolution and space, but it is usually the speakers that make the biggest contribution to any final sound. 

With all of your experience, can you offer me any insight or offer me any other examples of speakers that you know of (floorstanders or monitors, without regard to cost) that sound like this as I would definitely seek them out?

Best regards,
Bill Bauman 

Congratulations, you’ve found one of the best speaker bargains in all of high-end audio right now. I’ve heard a lot of speakers from the brands you mentioned and, to my ears, the Synchrony One not only sounds more precise, it sounds better overall. I’m not sure of the One's retail price today, but when I reviewed them they were $4500 per pair -- an astonishingly good deal. Their midrange presentation is world-class and the bass performance is amazing given the speaker’s moderate size. The biggest downside is that the Synchrony One can be a little tough to drive due to its low impedance, particularly in the bass, so you have to use a high-current amplifier. Beyond that, the Ones outclass speakers many times their price. Moral of the story: never judge the quality of a loudspeaker only by the brand name or the price. 

But that’s not to say that the One is better than every other speaker out there. My current reference is Revel’s Ultima Salon2. When I look at every aspect of performance, this is the best speaker I’ve ever reviewed. However, it does cost $22,000 per pair. But if you like the sound of the PSB Synchrony One, I think you’d be wise to check out Revel’s products, since they also have models priced quite a bit less. I also like Vivid Audio’s B1 -- a full review of it will appear on December 1. Insofar as midrange and high-frequency transparency and refinement go, the B1 is better than anything else I’ve heard. It’s also wickedly good when it comes to imaging and soundstaging. However, the B1 costs $15,000 per pair. As you can see, the only other speakers I can recommend as heartily as the Ones cost quite a bit more, which is why I still consider them a very, very good deal. . . Doug Schneider