• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

PSB Alpha P3 Review (Bookshelf Speaker)

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 207 77.8%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 53 19.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 4 1.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 2 0.8%

  • Total voters
    266

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
35,411
Likes
136,191
Location
Seattle Area
This is a review and detailed measurements of the PSB Alpha P3 bookshelf, 2-way speaker. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $249 on Amazon including Prime shipping.

I appreciated the magnetic grill. Taking it off you see an upside down configuration with tweeter on the bottom:
PSB Alpha P3 Review Bookshelf Speaker.jpg


This is a very small speaker by the way. Back panel has combined the small port with binding posts which should reduce manufacturing cost:

PSB Alpha P3 Review Back Panel Bookshelf Speaker.jpg


I was surprised that the model marking and such was under the unit.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

I performed over 1000 measurement which resulted in error rate of roughly 1%.

Reference axis for measurements was the center of the tweeter. Grill was taken off.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

PSB Alpha P3 Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


I must say, I was very disappointed to see so many issues in the on-axis response. It is uneven and suffers from a number of 'acoustic events.' We can easily see their causes if we measure each driver and port in near-field:

PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Near-field Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


The port and woofer resonances are so loud that they push through the overall response. When running the sweeps for distortion tests, i could easily hear a "zing" as it went on at a distinct frequency.

In addition, this is a very low sensitivity speaker. I had to push the levels to the highest I have tested to get 86 dBSPL out of the speaker. It was 5 to 6 dB more than average.

Directivity is decent for good and bad in the way it creates similar room sound but also with the same faults as on-axis:


PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Early Window Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


Resulting in this predicted in-room response:
PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Predicted in-room Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


There is a clear bass hump as well but depending on the room and your taste, that may be OK.

Distortion graphs show one of the resonances very clearly:


PSB Alpha P3 Measurements THD Distortion Bookshelf Speaker.png



PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Distortion Bookshelf Speaker.png


It is a small speaker so can't be expected to do well at 96 dBSPL.

Beamwidth is reasonably good:

PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Horizontal Beam width Bookshelf Speaker.png


Resulting in the same in horizontal directivity:

PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Horizontal directivity Bookshelf Speaker.png


Vertical is typical of 2-way speakers so point the tweeter at your ears if you can:

PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Vertical directivity Bookshelf Speaker.png


Finally, impedance measurement again shows same resonance:
PSB Alpha P3 Measurements Impedance and phase vs Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


But also low impedance which when combined with low sensitivity, means that you need a very stout amplifier to drive these speakers despite their size.

PSB Alpha P3 Listening Tests
The first impression was not bad and didn't match what the graphs were indicating. Then I realized my ears are heavily plugged up from working in the yard recently so popped them open and realized the harshness of the highs. And a resonance coming through with female vocals just like what I had heard in measurements.

At first, I thought the problem was 1 to 2 kHz. Filtering that out helped but not as much as I thought. I messed with a bunch of stuff until I went after the 3 to 4 kHz one and that made the highs much better:


PSB Alpha P3 Equalization EQ Parametric Bookshelf Speaker.png


Notice how I actually increased levels across the board to make the subjective loudness the same. Whenever you filter out different bands you reduce overall volume so it is very important to compensate for that. Otherwise the EQ may sound worse in quick AB testing even though it is doing the right thing.

The dip at 150 Hz is optional. Depending on your room modes, this may or may not be necessary. I went back and forth on it as some tracks sounded better with it or the other way around.

When it was all done, the highs were more pleasing but still not quite right.

As noted in the measurements, I had to really crank up my amplifier to drive these. On one hand they took power well for how little they are. On the other hand, the bass becomes distorted tubby sounding.

Conclusions
I have high expectations from PSB given company/designer's work at NRC and with Dr. Floyd Toole. Alas, none of that was delivered here with response that is very uneven with many indications of the problem areas. I appreciate that they are trying to keep the size and cost down but at the same time, I have a minimum bar of fidelity I like to see and the P3 misses that by fair margin.

Given the fact that my ears are plugged up, I am going to put most emphasis on objective measurements and say that I can't recommend the PSB Alpha P3. Company knows how to do better and needs to do that even in budget class. Competition is strong here with many good options.

NOTE: there is a poll on top where you can rate this speaker as well. You don't have to be an owner to do so.
------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

  • PSB Alpha P3 Frequency Response.zip
    60 KB · Views: 37

001

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 21, 2020
Messages
110
Likes
204
That speaker configuration is a vague reminder of the vintage Mission 700 speakers I had on timber stands. I liked the sound but I wonder how they'd rate these days..
 

GimeDsp

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2020
Messages
409
Likes
341
Location
Earth
That speaker configuration is a vague reminder of the vintage Mission 700 speakers I had on timber stands. I liked the sound but I wonder how they'd rate these days..
I've had a few Missions including those I think. Black textile tweeter, front ported, hated them as I could locate the tweeter on the bottom.

My old school buddy said it was to try and fix phase/time issues, either way, not a good showing so far for PSB on ASR.
 

dsnyder0cnn

Active Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2019
Messages
245
Likes
292
Thanks for measuring these. This is a surprising result. I had the Alpha P3's in for a few months and truly enjoyed my experience with them. At around the same time, I also had the SVS Ultra Bookshelf speakers, and there was nothing I could do made the Ultras sound half as good in my room as the PSB Alpha P3's.

I've noticed that objective performance of the SVS was quite good here. Somehow, this did not translate to my room and system while the PSB was great. The SVS had kind-of a hooty upper midrange that especially affected female vocals. I had them on 26 in. Sanus stands. Perhaps the tweeter height was too low for the Ultra's when I evaluated them? The tone and timbre of the PSB's sounded "just right."

These results are a bit head-scratching, but the numbers don't lie.
 

Maiky76

Senior Member
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
304
Likes
2,167
Location
French, leaving in China
This is a review and detailed measurements of the PSB Alpha P3 bookshelf, 2-way speaker. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $249 on Amazon including Prime shipping.

I appreciated the magnetic grill. Taking it off you see an upside down configuration with tweeter on the bottom:
View attachment 160556

This is a very small speaker by the way. Back panel has combined the small port with binding posts which should reduce manufacturing cost:

View attachment 160557

I was surprised that the model marking and such was under the unit.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

I performed over 1000 measurement which resulted in error rate of roughly 1%.

Reference axis for measurements was the center of the tweeter. Grill was taken off.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

PSB Alpha P3 Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

View attachment 160558

I must say, I was very disappointed to see so many issues in the on-axis response. It is uneven and suffers from a number of 'acoustic events.' We can easily see their causes if we measure each driver and port in near-field:

View attachment 160559

The port and woofer resonances are so loud that they push through the overall response. When running the sweeps for distortion tests, i could easily hear a "zing" as it went on at a distinct frequency.

In addition, this is a very low sensitivity speaker. I had to push the levels to the highest I have tested to get 86 dBSPL out of the speaker. It was 5 to 6 dB more than average.

Directivity is decent for good and bad in the way it creates similar room sound but also with the same faults as on-axis:


View attachment 160560

Resulting in this predicted in-room response:
View attachment 160561

There is a clear bass hump as well but depending on the room and your taste, that may be OK.

Distortion graphs show one of the resonances very clearly:


View attachment 160562


View attachment 160563

It is a small speaker so can't be expected to do well at 96 dBSPL.

Beamwidth is reasonably good:

View attachment 160564

Resulting in the same in horizontal directivity:

View attachment 160565

Vertical is typical of 2-way speakers so point the tweeter at your ears if you can:

View attachment 160566

Finally, impedance measurement again shows same resonance:
View attachment 160567

But also low impedance which when combined with low sensitivity, means that you need a very stout amplifier to drive these speakers despite their size.

PSB Alpha P3 Listening Tests
The first impression was not bad and didn't match what the graphs were indicating. Then I realized my ears are heavily plugged up from working in the yard recently so popped them open and realized the harshness of the highs. And a resonance coming through with female vocals just like what I had heard in measurements.

At first, I thought the problem was 1 to 2 kHz. Filtering that out helped but not as much as I thought. I messed with a bunch of stuff until I went after the 3 to 4 kHz one and that made the highs much better:


View attachment 160568

Notice how I actually increased levels across the board to make the subjective loudness the same. Whenever you filter out different bands you reduce overall volume so it is very important to compensate for that. Otherwise the EQ may sound worse in quick AB testing even though it is doing the right thing.

The dip at 150 Hz is optional. Depending on your room modes, this may or may not be necessary. I went back and forth on it as some tracks sounded better with it or the other way around.

When it was all done, the highs were more pleasing but still not quite right.

As noted in the measurements, I had to really crank up my amplifier to drive these. On one hand they took power well for how little they are. On the other hand, the bass becomes distorted tubby sounding.

Conclusions
I have high expectations from PSB given company/designer's work at NRC and with Dr. Floyd Toole. Alas, none of that was delivered here with response that is very uneven with many indications of the problem areas. I appreciate that they are trying to keep the size and cost down but at the same time, I have a minimum bar of fidelity I like to see and the P3 misses that by fair margin.

Given the fact that my ears are plugged up, I am going to put most emphasis on objective measurements and say that I can't recommend the PSB Alpha P3. Company knows how to do better and needs to do that even in budget class. Competition is strong here with many good options.

NOTE: there is a poll on top where you can rate this speaker as well. You don't have to be an owner to do so.
------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Hi,

Here is my take on the EQ.

These EQ are anechoic EQ to get the speaker right before room integration. If you able to implement these EQs you must add EQ at LF for room integration, that is usually not optional… see hints there: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...helf-speaker-review.11144/page-26#post-800725

The raw data with corrected ER and PIR:

Score no EQ: 3.3
With Sub: 5.8

Spinorama with no EQ:
  • rather poor
  • resonances
  • poor directivity
  • not smooth
PSB Alpha P3 No EQ Spinorama.png

Directivity:

Better stay at tweeter height
Horizontally, better toe-in the speakers by 10/20deg and have the axis crossing in front of the listening location, might help dosing the upper range.
PSB Alpha P3 LW Better data.png
PSB Alpha P3 2D surface Directivity Contour Only Data.png

EQ design:

I have generated two EQs. The APO config files are attached.
  • The first one, labelled, LW is targeted at making the LW flat
  • The second, labelled Score, starts with the first one and adds the score as an optimization variable.
  • The EQs are designed in the context of regular stereo use i.e. domestic environment, no warranty is provided for a near field use in a studio environment although the LW might be better suited for this purpose.
Score EQ LW: 4.5
with sub: 7.0

Score EQ Score: 5.1
with sub: 7.6

Code:
PSB Alpha P3 APO EQ LW 96000Hz
October222021-100703

Preamp: -0.9 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 42.79,    0.00,    0.97
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 128.47,    -3.38,    1.05
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 575.74,    1.11,    0.81
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1200.98,    -2.98,    2.90
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 3321.05,    -3.46,    2.48
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 7314.35,    -0.89,    4.91
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 15528.29,    -1.83,    5.56

PSB Alpha P3 APO EQ Score 96000Hz
October222021-095413

Preamp: -1.3 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 43.76,    0.00,    1.05
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 136.37,    -3.52,    0.58
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 545.69,    2.11,    0.46
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1189.33,    -5.53,    2.55
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 3426.11,    -5.01,    2.29
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 7383.78,    -1.76,    2.27
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 15115.42,    -3.44,    5.02
PSB Alpha P3 EQ Design.png


Spinorama EQ LW
PSB Alpha P3 LW EQ Spinorama.png


Spinorama EQ Score
PSB Alpha P3 Score EQ Spinorama.png


Zoom PIR-LW-ON
PSB Alpha P3 Zoom.png


Regression - Tonal
PSB Alpha P3 Regression - Tonal.png


Radar no EQ vs EQ score
Nice improvements
PSB Alpha P3 Radar.png


The rest of the plots is attached.
 

Attachments

  • PSB Alpha P3 Normalized Directivity data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 Normalized Directivity data.png
    316.6 KB · Views: 17
  • PSB Alpha P3 Raw Directivity data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 Raw Directivity data.png
    480.7 KB · Views: 12
  • PSB Alpha P3 Reflexion data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 Reflexion data.png
    147.7 KB · Views: 12
  • PSB Alpha P3 LW data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 LW data.png
    145.7 KB · Views: 13
  • PSB Alpha P3 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    294.8 KB · Views: 18
  • PSB Alpha P3 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    436.1 KB · Views: 24
  • PSB Alpha P3 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    436.6 KB · Views: 18
  • PSB Alpha P3 Horizontal 3D Directivity data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 Horizontal 3D Directivity data.png
    422.4 KB · Views: 13
  • PSB Alpha P3 Vertical 3D Directivity data.png
    PSB Alpha P3 Vertical 3D Directivity data.png
    437.5 KB · Views: 17
  • PSB Alpha P3 APO EQ LW 96000Hz.txt
    388 bytes · Views: 24
  • PSB Alpha P3 APO EQ Score 96000Hz.txt
    391 bytes · Views: 20

Xyrium

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 3, 2018
Messages
475
Likes
369
I hate to say it, but some of my early Stereophile hero brands (30 years ago...though Thiel was always my favorite) are really taking a dive in the lower priced offerings. It feels as if they're just parts bin builds with no crossover tuning.

Better stuff for the price out there I suppose....
 

cbracer

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 13, 2021
Messages
26
Likes
11
Location
California
I wonder how much these issues could have been avoided with a little more design and bracing to fight the resonances especially of the port & box. Seems like they could just try some bracing and different things to bring down those and make a much better speaker. Maybe at this price point the company doesn't care enough to put more design time into it? Some smaller speakers want to act like bigger ones and they require more power to drive them with lower sound levels.
 

Rja4000

Major Contributor
Joined
May 31, 2019
Messages
1,225
Likes
1,202
Location
Liège, Belgium
I didn't even know about PSB.
Now I see they are part of the NAD Bluesound group.
"Beyond the Passion – Scientific Support" they say on their web page. Well, that doesn't look supported by facts, unfortunately.
 

WickedInsignia

Active Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2021
Messages
135
Likes
294
Location
Australia
I didn't even know about PSB.
Now I see they are part of the NAD Bluesound group.
"Beyond the Passion – Scientific Support" they say on their web page. Well, that doesn't look supported by facts, unfortunately.
Their headphone line fits that moniker pretty well (The M4U 1 is recommended here without EQ) but just a pity about this particular speaker.
Paul Barton respects the Harman Target and uses his own slight variation of it based on his own research, but the technical expertise has mysteriously been absent on this speaker.

Not trying to plug them, I loved my M4U 2 but it fell apart in every way possible over 4 years. Just that they usually do stand by the scientific method and good measurements.
 

ROOSKIE

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
Messages
897
Likes
1,600
Location
Minneapolis
Not terrible.
I don't know about anyone else but this is the PSB bookshelf I want to see tested here.
$2500 a pair so PSB's take on the $2kish monitor
Who is springing for them?

1634879407402.png
 

sweetchaos

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
The Curator
Joined
Nov 29, 2019
Messages
2,235
Likes
5,469
Location
BC, Canada
Not terrible.
I don't know about anyone else but this is the PSB bookshelf I want to see tested here.
$2500 a pair so PSB's take on the $2kish monitor
Who is springing for them?

View attachment 160627
This was announced on April 13, 2021:

It's currently the flagship PSB bookshelf speaker...
I'd like to see this reviewed as well. :)
 

GWolfman

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 3, 2020
Messages
389
Likes
456
Thanks for publishing this "PSA" on the PSB. :p

Note: PSA = public service announcement, like those of the 80's (?): "This is your brain" (shows egg), "this is your brain on drugs" (cracks egg in hot frying pan), "any questions?"
 
Last edited:

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,188
Likes
2,703
Location
UK
I rated this a "Poor (headless panther)" - just way too expensive for a speaker showing so many flaws combined with being very difficult to drive.
 

NYfan2

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 10, 2021
Messages
114
Likes
198
Location
Netherlands
I always taught that a headless panther was a broken design so I was in doubt to give the PSB the headless panther but the poll states headless panther = poor design so I agree with this one.
 
Top Bottom