PSB Century 300i
Sugg. Retail: $330 pr (CAN)
Size: 14 1/2″H x 8 1/2″W x 9 1/2″D
Century Subsonic 2i Subwoofer
Sugg. Retail: $700 (CAN)
Size: 14 1/2″H x 19″W x 15″D
Manufacturer: Lenbrook Industries Ltd.,
633 Granite Court,
Pickering, Ont. L1W 3K1
(905) 831-6333 FAX 831-6936
(Reprinted from the 1999 Almanac Issue)
This is our first PSB review in a few years, though AIG contributors have been aware of the Canadian brand’s growth and success. For example, contributing editor and columnist Gordon Brockhouse has been proud owner for years of Stratus Gold speakers, and has just upgraded to the newest iteration of these.
The Century 300i comes at the other end of the price and size scale, a budget bookshelf model that is a 2-way rear-ported reflex design that uses a 6 1/2″ woofer/midrange and dome tweeter, both appearing to be made or polyproplylene. The speaker comes in either black woodgrain or dark cherry vinyl finish, and has a single set of binding posts with gold contacts and plastic nuts.
The Century 2i subwoofer is front-ported and uses a 12″ “poly-coated fibre” (probably paper) cone driver with a foam surround. The low-pass crossover is variable from 50-150 Hz, and inputs are provided at low and speaker levels, with 80-Hz high- passed low and speaker level outputs. A small pushbutton can be used to introduce a 180o phase shift. Our review sample was finished in black woodgrain vinyl.
Under test this system showed somewhat more than you’d expect for about $1000, the subwoofer matching superbly to the 300i pair. As the measurements suggest, it was best at the highest crossover setting, but I’ll say more about that below.
The overlapping curves at top are the Pink Noise Sweep (PNS) and Summed Axial Responses (SAR), and their close correlation is a sign of good design and even dispersion of sound into the listening area. That can be seen in the axial curves measured at 0, 15, 30, and 60o, the normal listening axis usually between 15 and 30o. As can be seen by the close matching of the curves, you could almost sit right between the speakers and still hear natural sound and good stereo, the only high-frequency rolloff seen at 60o off axis. The level of the upper frequencies is down 3-to-5 dB above kHz, an intelligent design choice in a speaker intended for relatively small rooms and closer listening distances. A bit more energy can be seen just above 10 kHz, something I’ll comment on in the listening tests.
The lower midrange region is very smooth, with some shelving into the bass region below 200 Hz, bottom end response holding up well to about 70 Hz, down 11 dB at 40, and 14 at 30 Hz. The sub can be seen to match well at its highest crossover setting. I would say that this speaker was designed to operate with this subwoofer, the design choice being for tighter rather than deeper bass from the small box.
Below the 150-Hz curve of the Century i are those at half- rotation of the control (about 95 Hz) and minimum (50 Hz). Note that the relative levels of these 3 curves are exactly as measured, that is, the crossover setting also affects the sub’s level. This means that as you lower the crossover point you will also have to increase level. Looking again at the top curve, we can see that relative to 100 Hz, the 2i is down about 4 dB at 40 Hz, with a 1 dB bump at 80 Hz, an excellent +/-2 1/2 dB tolerance from 40 to Hz. At mid crossover setting it maintains +/-2 1/2 dB from about Hz, even more linear performance, with a knee at 50 Hz giving some extra oomph in home theatre use. For the money, this is one helluva sub!
Looking at the Century 300i measurements again, in particular, the quasi-anechoic curve above the axial and below the PNS/SAR curves, we can see quite smooth response for a budget speaker on the direct axis, with a crossover dip just above 4 kHz. This can be seen in the axial curves to be somewhat lessened at 15o and beyond, suggesting that the speaker pair will sound smoothest when facing directly forward rather than when angled in at the listener.
The impedance/phase curves are typical of small reflex types, with dual peaks to about 30 ohms in the bass and a rise to 20 ohms in the midrange. Electrical phase is a bit odd above crossover, indicating that the tweeter is in opposite polarity to the woofer/midrange. This may partially explain the limited depth of image perceived in the listening tests. Given the fairly even impedance curve, the lowest point of which is about 5 ohms in the bass, the Century 300i shouldn’t be a difficult load for today’s receivers, but will like current.
In listening, I liked this system’s natural and civilized character, notably free of any shoutiness in the midrange on choral music. In our very demanding Psalm 67 from Awake My Heart AI-CD-010), the very bottom octave of pedal organ, the 32-foot stops, were missing from the sub, but energy from just above 30 Hz up was strong and clean. Acoustic guitar on Sandy Denny’s Bushes And Briars from Sandy, Island IMCD 132 (848 746-2) was very clear and had a little extra zing, courtesy of the slight bit of extra energy around 10 kHz, but both guitar and piano had very natural timbre and texture.
With massed strings, specifically, the wonderful Maazel/Vienna Mahler 4th, and choral music, I heard a very unusual level of detail and definition for a budget speaker, and both male and female solo voices were well balanced timbrally, too. These qualities could also be heard in Serge Istomin’s baroque cello in the Bach Suites (Analekta Fleurs de Lys FL 2 3114-5).
What I didn’t hear was a great deal of depth, nor a fully realized ambient field. As suggested earlier, this is probably at least partially due to the lack of phase coherence between woofer/midrange and tweeter, which cross over at quite a high point in the midrange. The speaker did do dynamics quite well, and lateral imaging was precise, Claudio Roditi’s trumpet having snap and bite, and percussion fast and quite clean. The 300i never sounded hashy on cymbals, nor did the small woofers have problems with deep bass, even when run full range. Nor was Doppler distortion audible, but, then, the speakers did not have enough deep bass capability to create such problems.
The subwoofer handled the deep bass with a very tuneful character, and though it lacked much of the bottom octave, what it did reproduce from about 35 Hz up was clean, tight, and punchy. Though it does not provide any special home theatre settings, the 2i is well suited for this use, as well as for music reproduction.
This Century system, then, is an excellent way to spend less than $1000 on good quality full range high fidelity sound. I think PSB is going to do very well with the Century 300i/Century i speakers…probably well into the next century.