Home audio speakers have come a long way from their reliance on components and amplifiers and cables to drive the various sounds we rely on them for. The emergence of compact all-in-one speaker setups that do everything — from built-in amplification and music streaming services to wireless and physical connectivity for just about anything — is on the rise, and Canadian loudspeaker makers PSB have just added their contribution, announcing the launch of the Alpha iQ Streaming Powered Speakers.
Available for online pre-order on October 19, the $1,500 set of powered bookshelf speakers are driven by BluOS, the multiroom wireless network audio system created by PSB’s parent company, Ontario-based Lenbrook International, which also owns NAD and the Sonos rival Bluesound.
For such a compact set of bookshelf speakers, the Alpha iQs pack in a ton of connectivity options, including HDMI ARC for connecting to home theater systems like TVs and AV receivers, an optical input for CD players or gaming consoles, a 3.5mm AUX input for connecting analog sources, and even a built-in phono preamp for connecting a turntable directly to its RCA line input. There’s also a subwoofer-out jack that, when connected, uses low-pass and high-pass filers that allows a subwoofer to do all the heavy low-end lifting for the main speakers, allowing for bigger bass in music and movies.
Wireless connectivity is prevalent in the Alpha iQs as well, most substantially with the BluOS system and Controller app backing it on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Able to wirelessly transmit lossless music up to 24-bit/192kHz with full MQA decoding and rendering capability, BluOS supports more than 20 streaming services and internet radio stations, including high-resolution audio sources such as Amazon Music Ultra HD (the highest-res tier), Deezer, and Tidal, and you can send this audio to any BlueOS-enabled speaker in your home. AirPlay 2 compatibility expands that, letting you stream Apple Lossless from Apple Music to the speakers as well. There’s Bluetooth connectivity, too, with support for two-way aptX HD, for wirelessly playing from smartphones and connecting Bluetooth headphones for quiet listening. There’s also an Ethernet port for those who prefer to hardwire.
On the speaker hardware side, there’s nothing to fear here with PSB’s reputation for audiophile-quality “True to Nature” sound. With a total system output of 180 watts from its built-in class D amp pushing each speaker’s 4-inch mid-bass driver and 0.75-inch dome tweeter, we’re pretty certain that these diminutive bookshelf speakers will pack a punch. A lossless wireless link connection pairs the left and right speakers together, eliminating messy wires and giving more options for placement. They come in black and white options.
If the price tag sounds steep, it’s actually on par with some of the other powered streaming speakers in the space, such as the excellent $1,400 KEF LSX IIs. Other more affordable options are also emerging, such as the much larger Fluance Elite Ai81 tower speakers. And as more consumers search for all-in-one speaker solutions to power the wide variety of sources they now have, we’re only going to see this market grow.
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