PS Audio aspen FR20 Loudspeaker Page 2

However, you're still going to need a bit of space in your room, as a 3m distance from seat to speakers will require the cabinets to be around 2.4m apart, with at least 0.5m to the wall behind the speakers, and a metre or so from the side walls if the FR20's powerful bass is not to become a problem. A little extra toe-in will further tighten the image, but with some possible loss to the sense of space – so a deal of 'suck it and see' is required.

Given the level at which they're pitched, these speakers aren't going to be used with a budget integrated amp, so some decent clean power is your best bet. They thrived on the end of the Constellation Centaur II Stereo power amp [HFN Feb '23] in PM's listening room, and their sound suggested they'd be a good match for amps such as the Musical Fidelity NuVista PRE/PAS quartet [HFN Mar '23] or perhaps the Rotel Michi P5/M8 [HFN May & Oct '20] and certainly PS Audio's own flagship BHK M600 monoblocks [HFN Dec '22].

Chip Off The Block
What's apparent in very short order is that the FR20s give away very little when compared with the flagship FR30s, heard here in the same room with the same ancillaries. The instant impression is of a free-breathing sound, with weight and bags of detail, plus fine imaging with impressive width and depth. That slight toe-in optimises both their tonal and spatial qualities, for example with the Fred Hersch/Esperanza Spalding Alive At The Village Vanguard [Palmetto Records PM2007], where the slightly 'big' piano impression heard when the speakers are firing straight down the room is turned into a sharper, better focused image. Toed inwards, Spalding's voice sounds rock-solid ahead of Hersch's instrument, with both performers having fine presence, and the ambience of the audience rendered with a realistic warmth.

Similarly with another accompanied voice – Jodie Devos on her And Love Said set [Alpha Classics ALPHA668], and especially the closing cover of 'You Take My Breath Away' – there's that same mixture of an explicit view of the singer with huge character in the voice and every breath clearly taken, bags of space around the performers and total focus. It's as thrilling a hi-fi performance as it is musically satisfying.


Split 400Hz crossover allows for separate bass [bottom left] and mid/treble [bottom right] 4mm input terminals. The planar mid and treble drivers crossover at 2.5kHz

But the FR20 isn't a one-trick pony, best heard with delicate audiophile-quality recordings. Play Varèse's 'Ameriques' from the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas's American Mavericks [SFS 821936-0056-2-0] and this shows the speakers' ability to image a large orchestra. The depth back across the instruments is especially impressive, along with the dynamics of percussion and the sheer spaciousness of the performance, not to mention the distant police siren!

Live Action
It's a dramatic, thrilling sound, and that's also true of the snarl and power of 'Jailbreak' from the remastered super deluxe release of Thin Lizzy's Live And Dangerous [UMC/Mercury/Vertigo 0819035]. The speakers simply unleash this superbly-produced collection of live recordings from the mid '70s, while the more downbeat 'Dancing In The Moonlight' has stunning clarity by live album standards, with the sax sounding crisp and clean and the band playing tight as ever. There's just so much riveting, edge-of-the-seat vitality on show here.


Flagship FR30 has the same planar mid/treble drivers, in a separate top cabinet, while a total of four 200mm alloy-coned woofers are joined by pairs of 255mm ABRs on each side

That control and punch, allied to speed and definition, is totally suited to the close detailing and found sounds of Steve Reich's 'WTC 9/11'– here on the MIVOS Quartet's recent collection of Reich's quartets [DG 4863385]. The speakers bring out all the passion of the piece while maintaining the dramatic bite of the instruments and the way they echo and comment on the speaking voices. It's chilling and emotional, as it should be, and there's superb body to the cello as well as the high strings.

Turning to PS Audio's own Octave Records The Art Of Hi-Fi: Bass [Octave OCT0030; DSD128], Seth Lewis's take on 'How Deep Is The Ocean' has glorious growl and definition in the lower frequencies, as one might expect from a collection designed to showcase a system's bass quality. The organ recordings on this compilation have not just complete room-shaking ability but also a fine sense of the 'presence' of the instrument in the recording venue. Listening to Kendrick Mervine's performance of the Bach 'Toccata In D Minor', and the speakers' ability to reveal those big pipes energising the air is never in doubt, and neither is the way they resolve the notes hanging in space, decaying to a deep silence, full of anticipation.

With the ultra-vivid sound of the Sinfonia of London/John Wilson recording of Elgar's Introduction And Allegro [Chandos CHSA5291; 96kHz/24-bit download], the aspen FR20 speakers sound immediate and powerful with the drama of the opening, but also do a fine job with the subtleties of the scoring, despite the sometimes 'maximum attack' playing here. It's that combination of a massive sound and superb control again, and this is also readily apparent with the highly detailed mixes and deep, throbbing beats of Bonobo's Fragments set [Ninja Tune, ZENDNL 279; 44.1kHz/24-bit]. The at-times-ethereal samples, set against those driving basslines and rhythms, are delivered effortlessly by these FR20 floorstanders, while the excellent soundstaging and palpably solid imaging develops a near-3D listening experience.


Side view illustrates how the FR20's cabinet is significantly deeper than it is wide. Each side hosts a flat 10in/255mm ABR with a hard surface skin of carbon-fibre

X-Ray Specs
With a less subtle recording – there's a lot going on in Genesis's 'I Can't Dance' from 2021's The Last Domino? compilation [Virgin 3542876] – it's 'all up there on the screen' thanks to the clarity, scale and punchy sound of the aspen FR20s, which bring the remastering up like viewing a familiar picture through freshly polished specs. This is a pair of speakers through which to relish familiar recordings anew, and also rediscover hidden treasures in your music collection.

For example, the sheer simplicity and superb musicianship of Nat King Cole and his trio's After Midnight [Capitol Records W-782] just immerses you in the velvety tone of the great voice on this 1956 mono recording, tempting you to explore new releases. In short, PS Audio's new FR20s are the exception to prove Steve Jobs' rule...

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The inaugural aspen FR30s were hugely impressive, but the smaller, more affordable and easier to accommodate FR20s are an even more sensational achievement. They still place demands on your room and partnering electronics, but these mighty, musical and marvellous speakers set a new benchmark in their sector and, arguably, fix the standard even more ambitious designs now have to beat.

PS Audio
Boulder, Colorado
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems
07738 007776