PS Audio aspen FR30 Inspired by Eighties giants, PS Audio’s inaugural loudspeaker boasts a stunning sound to match its oh-so-striking looks. Read our PS Audio aspen FR30 Review.
At just under 1.54m tall including the base, the aspen FR30 may be big and heavy, but it’s relatively slender and hardly dominates a room as would a 2.3m tall IRS complete with bass towers. Available in the Pearl White of the review pair or Sable Black, finished in 20 layers of hand-rubbed lacquer, it’s also sensibly priced – at least in high-end terms.
The aspen FR30 is very much a speaker of two parts – quite literally, with both parts fitting together using a custom-machined sliding mount. The upper part contains the midrange and treble segments, in a sealed cabinet, while the lower, mounted on a slender stand, houses the bass, using four drivers and a quartet of side-firing auxiliary bass radiators (ABRs) for each channel. The cabinet’s rounded shape to the base, and the way it seems to hang in air on the single support of the stand, makes the whole enterprise look even slimmer, although the enclosure is actually less than 26cm wide – just enough to accommodate the 20cm bass units. And the whole footprint, including the stand, is just 40 x 65cm. Deep, but hardly huge, then, although the speaker does have a suitably commanding in-room presence.
Everything has been custom designed. There are two treble drivers, with one to the rear to control the ‘space’ in the sound – and a midrange unit using planar magnetic tech said to give: “the speed of an electrostatic with the dynamics of a cone”. Using ultra-light Teonex diaphragms driven by neodymium motors in a push-pull configuration, the 64mm treble unit and the 255mm midrange above it are designed to drive air with minimal coloration, the midrange working from 400Hz up to 2.5kHz before handing over to the tweeters.
It only takes a few tracks to realise that the aspen FR30 is every bit a sensational design and nothing short of one of the high-end bargains of the moment, making some much pricier speakers seem a bit silly in comparison.
Used on the end of a Melco/dCS Vivaldi/Constellation system – so with plenty of power to meet the speaker’s 100-600W recommendation – the aspen FR30 is immediately compelling in its combination of power, resolution and lack of effort in delivering the music. Rarely have we heard a loudspeaker – and more to the point a large speaker – able to ‘hang together’ quite so well, such that it is impossible to single out individual aspects of the performance for acclaim or criticism.
It sets out its stall immediately with a driving, snarling rendition of Yes’ Roundabout from the 1971 Fragile album, the sensational attack, drive and sheer low-end power ensuring the music pounds from the speaker while all the noodling above is ruthlessly, and thrillingly, revealed.
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The combination of power, resolution and lack of effort is totally compellin
It’s breathtaking at high levels, but then the aspen FR30 is just as captivating with the delicate pianism of Anna Fedorova’s Shaping Chopin set, placing the instrument in a near-palpable acoustic, or the lush, fluid interplay between soloist and orchestra of Marc Coppey’s French Cello recital.
Switch to the gentle lyricism of the title track from Mark Knopfler’s 2005 EP The Trawlerman’s Song and the focus of the speaker is entirely on the voice and instrumentation. It conjures up the spirit of the song, just as it does with Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder’s The Haves from his recently released third solo LP, Earthling, despite making very clear the sibilant nature of the vocal. Understandably, the aspen FR30 sounds outstanding blasting out Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra with the Kansas City Symphony/Michael Stern recording.
|PRODUCT||PS Audio aspen FR30|
|TYPE||3-way floorstanding ABR-loaded loudspeaker|
|DIMENSIONS (WxHxD)||406 x 1,537 x 654mm|
|FEATURES||2x 64mm planar magnetic tweeters |
255mm planar magnetic midrange driver
4x 203mm aluminium cone bass drivers
4x255mm side-firing passive radiators
Quoted sensitivity: 88dB/1W/1m (4ohm)
|DISTRIBUTOR||Signature Audio Systems UK|
This is as dramatic and detailed as we have ever heard it – and we’ve heard it a lot as it’s one of our favourite review test pieces – opening up with that stately Purcell theme and demonstrating relentless focus and beautiful timbral revelation as the various sections of the band go through their party pieces.
The aspen FR30 is every bit as adept with sweeping strings as it is with skittering woodwind accented with the metallic rattle of tambourine, and delicious with the plangent harp. And then it gathers all of its considerable resources for the effortless transition into the great fugue at the end, complete with shimmering gong.
But it’s just as effective with the exuberant playing on Tuomas Antero Turunen’s Joy Dance from his Lifesparks album, fully making the listening experience live up to the title. Similarly, albeit different, the Helensburgh Tango from the Tord Gustavsen Trio’s Opening album is wonderfully dark and sombre, with its snare rolls and recessed instruments very unsettling.
Once again, the speaker soars with Sandrine Piau’s voice on her Rivales album, her aria from Gluck’s La Clemenza de Tito especially vibrant, thanks to the cabinet’s free-breathing sound and purity of tone. It goes on to present Holly Coles’ voice on I Could Write A Book with superb intimacy as she duets with Wycliffe Gordon before slipping into the languorous Lazy Afternoon, her voice set against the gentle Hammond B3 of Larry Goldings.
Pretty much everything we play through the aspen FR30 sounds delicious and it’ll be tough going back to listening to anything else.
A truly revelationary listening experience, time to buy a lottery ticket...
- Immaculate finish
- Openness and control
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