PS Audio aspen FR30 Loudspeaker Page 2

Air Superiority
Designer Chris Brunhaver explains that air-cored coils are used throughout for high power handling and low distortion, including a massive 2.5kg coil wound with 12-gauge wire – over 2mm thick – for the bass section, along with wire-wound resistors and metallised film capacitors throughout, apart from the electrolytics used to flatten the impedance curve at low frequencies.

sqnote New Sensation
Having read about the development of these speakers literally for years, in various online postings, I was both keen to hear them and also filled with a little trepidation that they'd not live up to expectation. I needn't have worried: it only took a few tracks to realise that the aspen FR30 is every bit a sensational design and – to cut to the chase – nothing short of one of the high-end bargains of the moment, making some much pricier speakers seem just a little bit silly.

Used in PM's listening room on the end of the familiar Melco/dCS Vivaldi/Constellation system – so with plenty of power to meet the speakers' 100-600W recommendation – the aspen FR30 was immediately compelling in its combination of power, resolution and lack of effort in delivering the music. It then went on to delight further the more I listened. Rarely have I heard a loudspeaker – and more to the point a large speaker – able to 'hang together' so well, such that it was impossible to single out aspects of the performance for acclaim or criticism.

Indeed, while I was delighted with the way these speakers delivered some of my familiar test tracks, just as pleasurable were the musical discoveries presented on their open, fine-focused and airy soundstage, underpinned by bass not just profoundly extended, but also remarkably taut and capable of devastating slam and impact.


Split 400Hz crossover allows for separate bass [bottom left] and mid/treble [bottom right] 4mm input terminals. Mid/treble planar drivers in top cabinet are connected externally via another set of 4mm terminals. Rotaries set ‘Near/Far’ boundary adjustment

They set out their stall immediately with a driving, snarling rendition of Yes's 'Roundabout' from the 1971 Fragile album [Elektra WPCR-14167; DSD64], the sensational attack, drive and sheer low-end power ensuring the music pounds from the speakers while all the noodling above is ruthlessly, and thrillingly, revealed.

It's almost literally breathtaking at high levels, but then the aspen FR30s are just as captivating with the delicate pianism of Anna Fedorova's Shaping Chopin set [Channel Classics CCS43621; DSD256], placing the instrument in a near-palpable acoustic, or the lush, fluid interplay between soloist and orchestra of Marc Coppey's French Cello recital [Audite 97802, 96kHz/24-bit]. The resonant, rosiny bite of bow on string is perfectly complimented by the rich sweep of the orchestra, and the drama of Broëllman's 'Symphonic Variations' assured in the hands of these weighty, but oh so fast, speakers.

High Drama
Switch to the gentle lyricism of Mark Knopfler's 'The Trawlerman's Song' [The Studio Albums 1996-2007 boxset; UMG/Mercury/Vertigo 0602435817088], and the focus of the speakers is entirely on the voice and instrumentation. They conjure up the spirit of the song, just as they do with Eddie Vedder's 'The Haves', from the Earthling set [Seattle Surf Co/Republic 00602445254262], despite making very clear the sibilant nature of the vocal. Understandably, the aspen FR30s sound outstanding with one of my favourite test tracks, the Britten 'Young Person's Guide…', with the Kansas City Symphony/Michael Stern recording [Reference Recordings RR-120SACD].

This is as dramatic and detailed as I have ever heard it, 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 FR30s are as adept with sweeping strings as they are with skittering woodwind accented with the metallic rattle of tambourine, and delicious with the plangent harp. And then they gather all their considerable resources for the effortless transition into the great fugue at the end, complete with shimmering gong.

Soar Away
But they're just as effective with the exuberant playing on Tuomas Antero Turunen's 'Joy Dance' from his Lifesparks album [Skip Records SKP 9154-2], fully making the listening experience live up to the title. Similarly, albeit different, the Helensburgh Tango from the Tord Gustavsen Trio's Opening album [ECM 2742] is wonderfully dark and sombre, with its snare rolls and recessed instruments very unsettling.

Then again, the speakers soar with Sandrine Piau's voice on her Rivales album [Alpha ALPHA824, 96kHz/24-bit], her aria from Gluck's 'La Clemenza de Tito' especially vibrant thanks to the speaker's free-breathing sound and purity of tone. They present Holly Coles voice on 'I Could Write A Book' [Holly, 2xHDRR1101; DSD128] 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. It's all delicious stuff – and addictive.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The waiting is over, and the aspen FR30 speakers are nothing short of remarkable, setting new standards of focus, openness, weight and control at this price and well above. The build and finish are as immaculate as the sound, the unusual styling works remarkably well in the room, and the listening experience is a revelation. If you're in the market for speakers in this sector, listen to them – they're a bargain.

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