In the ever-evolving landscape of audio technology, PS Audio, a stalwart in the industry, has once again disrupted the status quo by introducing their latest creation—the aspen FR20 loudspeaker. Following the success of its predecessor, the FR30, this scaled-down version brings the promise of extraordinary sound within a more accessible form. With a reputation forged through decades of delivering innovative and high-performance audio devices, PS Audio aims to challenge established norms and captivate enthusiasts with the FR20’s cutting-edge technology and compelling sonic experience.
As we dive into the intricacies of the PS Audio aspen FR20, it becomes evident that this is more than just a smaller sibling to the FR30. Beyond its elegant design and manageable size lies a speaker that encapsulates the essence of PS Audio’s commitment to excellence. From custom-developed woofers and planar magnetic drivers to meticulous attention to detail in construction, the FR20 promises not only to meet but potentially exceed the lofty expectations set by its heralded predecessor. In this review, we embark on an exploration of whether the aspen FR20 can carve its own niche in the competitive world of reference-class loudspeakers, offering a listening experience that goes beyond the conventional.
PS Audio, based in Boulder, Colorado, has been a fixture in the audio industry for decades. Notably recognized for their electronic innovations, the company surprised enthusiasts with the introduction of the aspen FR30 loudspeaker. Despite its impressive capabilities, the FR30’s high price and substantial size limited its accessibility. Now, the FR20 enters the scene, offering a slightly scaled-down version of its predecessor. This review delves into whether the FR20 is merely a budget-friendly alternative or a formidable loudspeaker in its own right.
|Pearl White, Sable Black
|2 x 2.5” planar magnetic with Teonex diaphragm
|Mid Frequency Transducer
|10” planar magnetic with Teonex diaphragm
|Low Frequency Transducer
|4 x 8” woofers, cast frame, aluminum cone, 12lb advanced magnet structure
|400 Hz, 2500 Hz – LR4
|Sensitivity (2.83V @ 1M)
|4 ohm (3.2 ohm minimum impedance)
|Recommended Amplifier Power
|60.5” x 16” x 25.75” with base (10” width not including base)
|230 lbs (104.5 kg)
Design and Build: Aesthetic Sophistication Meets Structural Integrity
The PS Audio aspen FR20 stands as a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship and aesthetic sensibility that define the brand. Despite its considerable size, weighing just over 60 kilograms and standing nearly 1.3 meters tall, the FR20 exudes a visual finesse that sets it apart in the realm of reference-class loudspeakers. The design strikes a delicate balance, featuring a slim front of around 26 centimeters that imparts an air of elegance, while the lush depth of approximately 45 centimeters ensures a substantial presence.
A defining feature of the FR20’s design is its base construction, where form seamlessly marries function. The solid aluminum base, characterized by a long, narrow support and four truss feet, not only provides stability but adds a touch of sophistication. The clever curvature in the lower part of the case, mirroring the contours of the drivers, gives the impression that the speakers are gracefully suspended in space. This visual finesse is complemented by practicality, as the height-adjustable feet and included carpet gliders facilitate easy positioning and compensate for uneven surfaces. PS Audio has not just created speakers; they’ve crafted visual sculptures that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ears.
The attention to detail extends to the material choices, with a fiberglass-synthetic resin mixture forming the specially shaped-baffle. This not only ensures good radiation behavior but also contributes to the overall durability and longevity of the speakers. The FR20, with its carefully considered design elements, manages to strike a harmonious balance between visual appeal, practicality, and structural integrity—a hallmark of PS Audio’s commitment to excellence.
Sound Technology: Engineering Harmony for Sonic Brilliance
The PS Audio aspen FR20 ventures beyond the conventional with a sophisticated sound technology ensemble that underlines its commitment to audio excellence. The core of this sonic marvel lies in a meticulously crafted 3-way system that seamlessly integrates cone membranes, planar magnetic drivers, and passive membranes to deliver a genuinely captivating auditory experience.
At the foundation of the FR20’s sound architecture are two custom-developed 8-inch woofers, meticulously designed by PS Audio to span the frequency range from 23 to 400 Hertz. The significant investment in these woofers, a hallmark from the larger FR30, involves a blend of PMI foam and carbon fibers. This unique combination not only facilitates ample excursion for high sound levels but also aims to minimize distortion, ensuring a bass foundation that is both robust and distortion-free.
Adding to the low-frequency prowess, are two 10-inch passive membranes strategically positioned on each speaker’s side. These flat membranes contribute to the overall depth of the FR20 but also showcase a thoughtful design touch, adorned with covers matching the housing color to maintain a seamless visual appeal. Eschewing the traditional bass reflex opening, PS Audio provides flexibility in room placement while retaining control over the lower frequencies.
Stepping into the midrange frequencies, the FR20 introduces an impressive 10-inch Planar Magnetic Driver (PMD) above the tweeter. Unlike conventional cone or dome drivers, the PMD technology employs a metal foil driven by a magnetic field, increasing precision and dynamics. The thin film’s lightweight nature allows for enhanced control and tonal accuracy. This PMD concept is not limited to the midrange alone, as a 2.5-inch PMD tweeter takes center stage in the high-frequency spectrum.
The absence of a rear ambient tweeter in the FR30 is a considered choice in the FR20, geared towards optimizing performance in slightly smaller rooms. This tailored approach showcases PS Audio’s commitment to tailoring its sound technology to different spatial considerations.
The rear panel of the FR20 reveals the thoughtful inclusion of two pairs of fixed speaker terminals, allowing for bi-wiring and the separation of low and mid-high frequency sections. This flexibility in connectivity is a nod to audiophiles seeking optimal customization in their audio setups.
The PS Audio aspen FR20’s sound technology is a harmonious blend of innovation and precision, utilizing cutting-edge components to create an audio masterpiece that transcends expectations. The result is a speaker that not only impresses with its technical prowess but, more importantly, captivates with its ability to convey the subtleties and nuances of the music in a way that is truly extraordinary.
Connections and Connectivity: Bridging Audiophile Flexibility
The PS Audio aspen FR20 not only captivates with its acoustic prowess but also showcases a thoughtful approach to connectivity, emphasizing flexibility and compatibility with various audio setups. The rear-panel connections are at the heart of this design philosophy, strategically positioned to cater to the discerning audiophile’s desire for customization.
The back of the FR20 reveals a well-considered arrangement of two pairs of fixed speaker terminals, a testament to PS Audio’s commitment to providing options for optimal sound reproduction. This dual-terminal setup allows for bi-wiring, enabling the separate driving of low and mid-high frequency sections. The FR20 includes elegantly crafted cable bridges for users preferring a single-cable connection. These bridges, composed of a black cable for the negative and a red cable for the positive terminals, not only streamline single-cable setups but also maintain a polished aesthetic.
The lengths of these cables are designed with practicality in mind, offering sufficient flexibility for installation without being overly restrictive. Including high-quality fork shoes at both ends ensures reliable and secure contact, further contributing to the overall stability of the connection. PS Audio’s attention to detail extends even to cables, providing users with a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing solution.
The 4-ohm impedance of the FR20 makes it remarkably versatile in terms of amplification requirements. With a power range of 50 to a maximum of 300 watts, these speakers are not demanding in the realm of amplifiers. The 4-ohm system paired with this power range makes the FR20 accessible to many amplifiers, allowing users to choose an amplifier that aligns with their preferences and budget.
Beyond the technical specifications, the FR20’s connectivity extends to practical considerations. The inclusion of carpet gliders, alongside the height-adjustable feet, facilitates smooth and hassle-free positioning. This attention to user convenience exemplifies PS Audio’s commitment to creating an immersive and user-friendly audio experience.
In essence, the PS Audio aspen FR20 goes beyond being a conduit for sound; it is a platform for audiophile expression. The carefully crafted connections and thoughtful connectivity options underscore PS Audio’s dedication to empowering users to tailor their audio setups, ensuring that the FR20 seamlessly integrates into various high-end systems with elegance and sonic precision.
Listening Experience: A Sonic Odyssey of Sublime Pleasure
Immersing oneself in the listening experience of the PS Audio aspen FR20 is akin to embarking on a mesmerizing journey through the vast landscapes of musical expression. From the gentle nuances of acoustic melodies to the thunderous beats of dynamic orchestrations, the FR20 reveals its prowess as a sonic maestro, captivating listeners with a level of detail and precision that transcends the ordinary.
One of the standout features of the FR20 is its ability to strike a delicate balance between power and finesse. The custom-developed 8-inch woofers, meticulously designed to handle the lower frequencies, lay the foundation for a robust, impactful, and distortion-free bass. The two 10-inch passive membranes, positioned strategically on each side, enhance the low-frequency performance, adding a layer of depth that resonates with authority.
In the midrange, the 10-inch Planar Magnetic Driver (PMD) takes center stage, delivering a sonic clarity that is nothing short of extraordinary. The PMD technology, with its metal foil driven by a magnetic field, ensures precision and dynamics, allowing every instrument and vocal nuance to be portrayed with lifelike accuracy. The absence of a rear ambient tweeter, a departure from its larger sibling, does not diminish the FR20’s ability to create a captivating soundscape, especially in more intimate listening spaces.
The high frequencies, masterfully handled by the 2.5-inch PMD tweeter, contribute to the overall brilliance of the FR20’s sonic signature. The thin film’s lightweight nature enables the tweeter to articulate intricate details with finesse, creating a sparkling and well-defined treble that adds a layer of brilliance to every musical composition.
The listening experience with the FR20 is not merely about technical proficiency but emotional engagement. Whether it’s a jazz ensemble’s expansive soundstage or a symphony orchestra’s thunderous crescendo, the FR20 effortlessly navigates the complexity of musical arrangements. Its ability to convey the delicate nuances of instruments and the ethereal quality of vocals is genuinely remarkable, making every listening session an intimate connection with the soul of the music.
Furthermore, the FR20 showcases a remarkable versatility that transcends genre boundaries. From the intricate details of a quiet jazz ensemble to the thunderous energy of metal or the infectious rhythm of pop, the speakers exhibit a prowess that is adaptable and accommodating to a diverse range of musical preferences.
Extended listening sessions with the FR20 reveal another dimension of its excellence—the ability to sustain the magic over time. The dynamic and engaging sound does not compromise on long-term suitability. It beckons the listener to lose track of time, fostering an environment where hours pass effortlessly in the embrace of the music.
In conclusion, the PS Audio aspen FR20 is not merely a loudspeaker; it’s a portal to an enchanting auditory realm. Its amalgamation of precision, depth, and versatility creates a listening experience that is nothing short of sublime. The FR20 transcends the technicalities of sound reproduction, inviting music enthusiasts to embark on a sonic odyssey that lingers in the memory, making it a standout performer in the world of reference-class loudspeakers.
Usability and Unique Functions: Elevating the Listening Experience to Unprecedented Heights
The PS Audio aspen FR20 is not just a marvel of sound engineering; it is a testament to the meticulous consideration given to usability, ensuring that the user experience is as seamless and gratifying as the sonic journey it promises. From setup to everyday usage, the FR20 exhibits user-friendly features and unique functions that elevate it beyond being a mere loudspeaker to a sophisticated audio companion.
One of the standout features contributing to the FR20’s usability is its thoughtful design for placement flexibility. Including height-adjustable feet and carpet, gliders simplify the setup process and ensure that the speakers can be positioned easily, adapting to various room configurations. The ability to compensate for uneven surfaces enhances the adaptability of the FR20, allowing users to optimize their listening environment effortlessly.
The dual-terminal setup at the rear panel, accommodating bi-wiring for low and mid-high frequencies, adds a layer of customization for audiophiles seeking precise control over their audio setup. Including elegantly crafted cable bridges simplifies single-cable setups, emphasizing versatility and visual aesthetics. PS Audio has managed to strike a balance between technical sophistication and practical usability, making the FR20 accessible to both seasoned enthusiasts and those new to high-end audio.
A unique and noteworthy aspect of the FR20’s design is the decision to forgo a traditional bass reflex opening. Instead, PS Audio opted for a design that allows placement closer to the room’s wall without sacrificing sound quality. This choice caters to users who may have space constraints or prefer a setup that integrates more seamlessly with their living environment, showcasing an understanding of the diverse needs of its audience.
The FR20’s adaptability extends to its power requirements. With a 4-ohm system demanding 50 to 300 watts, these speakers surprisingly accommodate a wide range of amplifiers. Whether paired with a modest 50-watt amplifier or a more powerful 300-watt counterpart, the FR20 exhibits the same energetic and controlled performance, ensuring that users enjoy a high-quality sound experience without needing excessively powerful amplification.
Beyond the technical specifications, the FR20 delivers an immersive and engaging sound experience at various volume levels. The dynamic range and presence of the speakers mean that even at lower volumes, the intricate details and nuances of the music are retained. This feature sets the FR20 apart, allowing users to enjoy their favorite tunes without compromising on audio fidelity, making it an ideal companion for casual listening and critical listening sessions.
The PS Audio aspen FR20 goes beyond being a high-end loudspeaker; it’s a masterpiece of usability and intelligent design. Its adaptability to different room configurations, ease of setup, and the inclusion of unique features demonstrate PS Audio’s commitment to creating an audio experience that is technically superior but also user-centric and versatile. The FR20 is a testament to the philosophy that a truly exceptional loudspeaker should seamlessly integrate into the user’s lifestyle while delivering an unparalleled sonic experience.
Conclusion: A Symphony of Excellence
In the realm of high-end audio, the PS Audio aspen FR20 emerges as a symphony of excellence, seamlessly blending cutting-edge sound technology with user-centric design. From the first note that resonates through its custom-developed woofers to the delicate highs rendered by its Planar Magnetic Drivers, the FR20 delivers an auditory experience that transcends expectations. Its versatility, showcased through bi-wiring options and adaptable power requirements, ensures accessibility without compromising sonic brilliance. The FR20’s unique design choices, such as forgoing a traditional bass reflex opening and prioritizing placement flexibility, reflect a keen understanding of the diverse needs of audiophiles. It’s not just a loudspeaker; it’s an invitation to explore the nuances of music in an immersive and deeply satisfying manner.
With the PS Audio aspen FR20, a new standard is set in reference-class loudspeakers. Its elegant construction, thoughtful connectivity options, and a listening experience that seamlessly marries technical precision with emotional engagement make it a standout performer. Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or a newcomer to the world of high-fidelity sound, the FR20 beckons you to embark on a sonic journey that is both enlightening and exhilarating. PS Audio has not just created a loudspeaker; they’ve crafted an instrument that allows the soul of the music to resonate in your living space, making the aspen FR20 an undisputed champion in the pursuit of sonic perfection.
Reasons to Buy the PS Audio aspen FR20:
- Sonic Excellence: The FR20 delivers an exceptional listening experience with a harmonious blend of precision, depth, and versatility. Its innovative sound technology, including custom-developed woofers and Planar Magnetic Drivers, ensures a captivating and detailed sound reproduction across various genres.
- Usability and Flexibility: The thoughtful design of the FR20, with height-adjustable feet, carpet gliders, and dual-terminal connectivity, enhances user convenience during setup. Its adaptability to different room configurations and the option for bi-wiring makes it a versatile choice for audiophiles seeking a personalized audio setup.
- Visual Elegance: Beyond its sonic capabilities, the FR20 has an elegant design that seamlessly integrates into living spaces. The solid aluminum base, slim front profile, and careful attention to aesthetic details make it a visually appealing addition to any room.
- Innovative Design Choices: The decision to forgo a traditional bass reflex opening showcases PS Audio’s commitment to providing flexibility in room placement. This unique design choice caters to users with space constraints and those who prefer a setup closer to the room’s wall without compromising sound quality.
- Power Versatility: The FR20’s 4-ohm system and power range of 50 to 300 watts offer flexibility in amplifier choices. Whether paired with a modest or powerful amplifier, the speakers consistently deliver an energetic and controlled performance.
Considerations for Not Buying:
- Budget Constraints: The PS Audio aspen FR20, positioned in the reference-class category, comes with a premium price tag. For those on a tighter budget, this might be a limiting factor.
- Space Limitations: While the FR20 offers flexibility in placement, its substantial size may pose challenges in smaller living spaces. Users with limited room for prominent speakers may find more compact alternatives suitable.
- Complexity for Casual Users: Audiophiles seeking a straightforward plug-and-play solution may find the FR20’s bi-wiring options and dual-terminal setup more complex than necessary. Users not inclined towards detailed audio setup adjustments may prefer more straightforward speaker options.
- Preference for Minimalist Designs: Individuals who prefer minimalist or understated speaker designs may find the FR20’s visually striking appearance less aligned with their aesthetic preferences.
In summary, the PS Audio aspen FR20 is a compelling choice for those who prioritize sonic excellence, design sophistication, and versatility in their audio setup. However, potential buyers should consider their budget, space constraints, and preference for user-friendly features before deciding.