Many home sound systems are now based on bookshelf speakers, a small form-factor that offers stereo sound without taking up a whole lot of space. Canada’s PSB has been making speakers aimed at the music enthusiast and audiophile markets since 1972. This is a review of the company’s Alpha P5 bookshelf speakers, the modern upgrade of a PSB classic that was so popular it remained unchanged for several decades. Tuned and tested at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) facilities, these $399 (per pair) speakers are aimed at people who love to listen to music but don’t have unlimited space.
Bookshelf Speakers That Fit on a Bookshelf
One of my pet peeves with bookshelf speakers is that too many of them don’t actually physically fit on typical (may as well say IKEA) bookshelves. Or they are so small that they are “mini” speakers that just can’t put out the sound I want for a serious music listening experience.
The first thing the PSB Alpha P5 bookshelf speakers had going for them was the fact that they actually fit on my bookshelves. At 11-3/8 inches tall, they should easily fit on most. The 9-1/2 inch depth left them sticking out an inch or so, but only because my shelving unit has a 3-inch high strip of wood running the length of each shelf at the back and I had to leave some space between that and the speaker binding posts. The extra space also gave needed clearance from the wall for the rear bass port. The fit is almost perfect for my setup, and I feel like I’m getting the most speaker I can out of the available space.
I was extremely impressed with the sound the PSB Alpha P5s put out when connected to my receiver (an early ’80s vintage Pioneer SX-6). However, they were equally at home when I paired them up with a modern NAD D3045 Hybrid Digital DAC amplifier.
The 5-1/4 inch, high-efficiency woofers do an excellent job, producing deeper and more refined bass than most bookshelf speakers are capable of. They also deliver robust mid-range and crisp highs. I have them placed just over six feet apart and the soundstage is expansive and detailed. Part of the story here isn’t just the choice of drivers, the Alpha P5s also employ a custom crossover designed to deliver the flattest possible frequency response and tight control. Whether I was spinning vinyl on a turntable or streaming music, these were a joy to listen to.
I was so impressed with the PSB Alpha P5 speakers that I bought the review units—despite the fact that I had purchased a new set of Polk bookshelf speakers for my office just a few months before.
The PSB Alpha P5 speakers have remained at the heart of my office listening experience ever since. I’ve tested a lot of speakers since these arrived, but have yet to find any I would switch to. I have tweaked the setup several times since, though.
First I added a set of ISO-PUCK Mini isolation feet to eliminate vibration from the speakers from reaching my turntable (which is installed on the same book cabinet as one of the speakers). You can read my review of the ISO-PUCK Minis here—they really do a number on vibration and had the added bonus of giving the speakers a little more breathing room.
Second I decided to add a subwoofer to the setup. The Alpha P5s do a better job than most bookshelf speakers at providing low-frequency response, but I decided I wanted a little more low-end power so I could feel the maximum effect of the bass on tracks like Pink Floyd’s “Time.” Now, the PSB speakers handle the midrange and up while the subwoofer takes on the bass.
PSB Alpha P5 Speaker Key Specs
• 5-1/4 inch textured polypropylene cone woofer with dual-layer voice coils and rubber surround
• 3/4 inch black anodized aluminum dome, ferrofluid-cooled tweeter with neodymium magnet
• Tuned, 2-inch rear bass port
• Frequency response 55-21,000Hz
• Power handling 10-90 watts
• Impedance 4 Ohms to 8 Ohms
• 5-way gold-plated binding posts
• Acoustically-transparent detachable black steel micro-perforated magnetic speaker grilles
• 6-3/4 x 11-3/8 x 9-1/2 inches, weigh 10.15 pounds each
• Available in Black Ash or Walnut finish
If your home stereo setup could use a nice new pair of bookshelf speakers, the PSB Alpha P5s deliver very high audio quality in a compact design (that will actually fit on a bookshelf) for a very reasonable price.
Disclosure: PSB provided speakers for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.