Impressions of the FR30

November 9, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of living with our new loudspeaker, the FR30. I thought you might be interested in a few of my impressions on those listening experiences.

First, a note on naming. The FR30 is one speaker in a line of what will be 6 models—3 below the FR30 and two above. (The two above are future projects we’ve not yet started work on. The 3 below will be launched within 2022). The series will be named aspen. Like the tree.

The FR30 is unlike any speaker I’ve yet spent time with. It is absolutely seamless from top to bottom of the frequency spectrum. This is something that becomes immediately apparent to listeners, especially if you’re used to the sound of multi-driver speakers that aren’t seamless. Like the Infinity IRSV. As gorgeous as the IRSV are they are not seamless. If you live with them as long as I have you kind of get used to their transitions between woofer and mids and tweeters. Once you hear music without those transitions you find it hard to ever go back.

That’s where I am at. Finding it hard to go back.

And the midrange. For years I had lived with electrostats because of their window-like midrange. From Quads to Acoustats to Martin Logans—and later Maggies—I gave up dynamics, bass, and slam to bathe in the glory of that midrange. The FR30 is better than they and without their drawbacks.

I could go on and over time I certainly will.

I have much to learn in their setup, their tuning, their character. What I can share with you is a sense of musicality unlike anything I have ever heard. Chris Brunhaver has crafted a masterpiece of which I have to spend more time with.

Like a great painting or work of art, spending quality time with it is more than a requirement.

It is an honor and a pleasure.

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82 comments on “Impressions of the FR30”

  1. Mission accomplished, bravo: the IRSV-killer has finally been launched. Obviously a huge success. But for which criteria defining sound quality can we expect improvements in both top tier models, Paul?

    1. That’s a really good question, Paul. I am guessing off hand bass would be one, but that’s almost hard to fathom since the bass of the FR30 is already off the charts (though not as good yet as the IRSV).

      I am in the mode of rolling with the new territory to see where it leads us. I had always hoped we’d get to this level (after 50 years of hoping to build such a speaker) but hope and reality aren’t always happy bedmates. I am thrilled we got here and can’t wait to see where it takes us.

      I’ll give you a better answer once we get some solid direction from Chris about where he intends to go with the upper models. As it is now we’re just sketching ideas from the wiild to the restrained. What I can tell you is it will not just be a bigger FR30. It’ll be very different.

      The lower models will be smaller FR30s, so that isn’t too big of a leap to visualize.

      1. Well, off course i haven’t heard them, but from looks alone i do like it a lot.
        She has lot’s of beautiful round soft curves, really pretty just to look at.
        I also am fond of the sort of “floating” base construction. Nailed it…
        I really do hope they also come in a light wood finish.
        No way i’m putting white or black speakers in my home. Brrr. No sir…
        Congrats to Chris, Paul and the rest of the PS audio team for making this beauty…

        1. Nico, an easy way to accommodate white or black speakers is with lots of large green plants and large works of art. If placed properly, these can also benefit the acoustics of the room, and the plants can help purify the air as well as supplement the humidity in the room. Of course, the plants will likely be more affordable than large paintings, fiber art or sculpture and the plants will need some maintenance, but these refinements can be the difference between just having a house and enjoying your home. They can also be a way to make a room more acceptable to a non-audiophile spouse.

          1. There are hundreds of blacks and whites. My speakers are dark titanium because my wife could not abide a wood finish. It’s a matter of taste, what one person loves is another’s poison.

            There was no need for large plants – it’s a music room, not a greenhouse – tasteful furnishings using silvers and greys, a dark striped eucalyptus for shelving and a couple of etchings.

            Speakers are part of the furniture and my wife would immediately refuse entry to FR30 because of the large black blobs on the front (drivers), never mind the rest of the colour. She’d have 10 other reasons lined up.

            You don’t need everyone to like them. You only need a few people and hope they buy them.

          2. Yes off course i understand decorating a room makes a difference.
            But my preference is a nice woodgrain on a speaker. Preferable cherry. Would look great on these beauties!
            It’s a matter of subjective taste off course.

            1. I love wood, too, Nico. The speakers in the video room are cherry. In the music room, however, I appreciate the way gloss black disappears when I listen in the dark at night. It is great that you have an appreciation for design as well as for music.

              1. The back wall of my room are solid cherry/glass bifold doors 2.8m x 3m. We have 4 different woods, 7 different fabrics, wallpaper and paint in this room, plus the titanium speakers, a polished steel radiator and bronze framed chairs.

                The point is that tonally everything works together, thanks entirely to my wife, and she loves sitting in here, because it is so relaxing. I used to turn the lights off, I just dim the lights to 5% and set the temperature to 5,000k. There is a pre-programmed button for this setting.

                The problem with black and white is that they are atonal. Most woods are warm and easy to complement, so are very calming. I like some wood speakers, but lots just look like crates.

      2. Thanks, Paul, for giving some hints. However, as long as you and Chris will not shock us with monster line-source towers every new design ideas are welcome. 🙂

          1. The answer is quite simple: like a point-source a line-source is a pure theoretical conception (an infinite number of aligned point-sources) producing an ideal cylinder-wave. In reality you Never get from a finite number of drivers an even wave front. And even worse there is a more or less huge time delay with respect to the driver of ear level – unless you build a curved baffle whose curvature depends on the listening distance. And just look at the efforts Wilson Audio makes for getting the drivers time-aligned by designing modular & movable driver-cabinets.

            1. This is why I went from horns to Martin Logan’s latest Masterpiece series. One CURVED driver covers a large range of what we hear (and don’t hear), it’s a dipole, its a line source and doesn’t suffer from the issues of baffles, multi driver/crossover voicings and blendings.

              And at 90 db. sensitivy, they are VERY dynamic. There are more advantages to the latest ESL designs by Martin Logan then the dis-advantages of multi driver box speakers.

              I wish that Paul would revisit these newer models before relying on older memories and experiences with past models before repeating:

              ” I gave up dynamics, bass, and slam to bathe in the glory of that midrange.” This, no longer applies to the ML Masterpiece series of today.

              I live in Massachusetts and the doors to Longfellow Music Hall are now open for vaccinated guests.

              I would be happy to give my email address to those interested and we can arrange for a Music Appreciation Day here in my home. You won’t soon forget the sound of electrostatics in a proper, dedicated room setting for enjoying great recordings, music and sound on any number of formats. Bringing a sample of your own recordings is a must!

  2. Well done Chris Brunhaver and all involved Paul you have answered the question I have asked before about the smaller speaker range,
    I look forward to reading about the FR-30’s and some day hearing them,on another note where has all this listening taken place at work or at home has Terri let you bring them home?.
    And will the FR-30’s have a permanent place at the McGowan residence.

      1. I don’t know there Rat, those babies look like they have their own room? However if they are as reliable as my SPROUT! then those are some He#[email protected]%&**! of ah set of speakers. My mono blocks got sick and needed some major surgery. In the mean time, what was I to do? Glad you asked, Sprout to the rescue! It’s funny that I have it driving my speakers and “the beast”, my velodyne has its own amp so the sound just melted me last night! Ok its final! A Sprout 100 will be added to the line up. Congrats on the FR 30’s and I’m waiting for the lower line Paul, hopefully they will be just as impressive.

        Keep Listening
        Hawk

    1. Probably not. She’s got her eye on the 3d one down the line. I will say that after 50 years of being involved with speakers and amps, this is the first speaker she’s approved of how it looks. And even likes it. That’s saying something for someone who has tolerated Acoustat 2+2, Magneplanars, and giant Infinitys. She’s a patient woman.

      1. Over the years our speaker choices have paralleled but not in scale.

        I’ll compare all of the speakers that I owned after my third speakers (Dahlquist DQ 10’s).

        Accoustat-X
        Infinity RS1-B’s
        Magnapan 3.6R’s with Carver True Sub.

        Pretty close I’m really surprised.

      2. Interesting and good to know I guess that means there is something physical to pass judgement on,which we have not seen yet.
        Only the colour remains a mystery.

  3. We have to take into consideration that there will be some bias on your part Paul, however it does stand to reason that nearly forty years of advancing technology in all facets of loudspeaker design & manufacture should now out-perform ye olde IRSV’s.
    We are also well aware of the short-cuts in design & execution that Arnie Nudell took with said IRSV’s & I doubt that CB took any short-cuts with the FR-30’s.
    Of course the proof of what you tell us here in this Post will be confirmed by the removal of the IRSV’s from MR2 to the PS Audio Museum & to be replaced in MR2 by the FR-30’s…
    until the FR-60’s come along of course.

    For someone (your’s truly) who doesn’t really care very much about ‘home audio equipment looks’, I gotta say Paul that those puppies in white look sh!t-hot!

    What’s the bet that the third model in the ‘Aspen’ range will be called the ‘Colorado’ 😉

  4. Before a proposed launch date of the smaller FR30’s is mentioned, wouldn’t it be best to get the FR 30’s out to ‘the general public’. If you’re finally ‘getting to know them’ and the midrange is that glorious, then shouldn’t the push to release and/or preorder become available? Or does everyone have to wait until you’re done learning their character, tuning, and best set-up?

    It’s good to hear how impressed you are….Yet the modified IRSV’s have still have that pull. ✌️

    1. We will be taking reservations later this month and into December. The first production shipments are scheduled for March.

      About 10 pair of the first lot are arriving in late December but they are already spoken for.

      1. It seems like AudioCon Los Angeles, January 14-16, 2022, would be a reasonable public debut. Yes, no? Perhaps followed by Montreal and Munich? 😎

  5. Gosh. Midrange clarity better than ESL? I’d like to hear that (at an audio show near me, or Bristol next Feb). If so, bodes well for the smaller NQFR15.

  6. Paul, I look forward to hearing them someday, but I am not sure how that will happen in the near future. Hopefully industry reviews will soon be out. My personal bias tells me the Magico A5 has set the bar high for $25K speakers, but I feel sure that the FR30 will challenge that. Good luck.

  7. Sorry to be the devil’s advocate but don’t you agree the heaps of praise are coming from a rather biased source and therefore must be taken with a grain of salt? Just sayin’.

    1. One of the benefits of running a forum on your own company website is that you can promote your own products, claim that they are the the reason why mankind exists and imbue them with magical properties. It’s all part of the fun. So a bit of latitude with fact or reality is fine, it’s a loudspeaker after all, it’s not like he’s running for president (he’s not old enough, anyway).

    2. Let’s put Paul’s personal feelings and marketing skills to the side for a moment. Judging by the original FR-30 model Paul demonstrated at a past audio show, I understand his excitement. The reviews on that prototype were the buzz of the show according to what I read in the audio community magazines. It’s been an awful long time since the inception of expanding PSA into the speaker arena and those of us who’ve been following their progress including the entire redesign of the enclosure tend to make me believe the FR-30 is the ‘real deal’. These beasts won’t leave the manufacturing facility unless they meet the standards that Paul and the design team set right from the beginning and how the design evolved. I remember seeing many morning posts where Paul spoke about the problems that they ran into so in my mind he didn’t hold anything back.

      One last comment in this reply is more a question to the audience reading this. How many PS Audio components in the last five or more years have got anything but the highest reviews and met the highest standards in music reproduction? I haven’t heard anything to the contrary from people who own any of these of components? Quite the contrary, reviews from people like Michael Fremer regarding Darren’s phono preamp have been more than exemplary. Think back on the BHK amps and preamp, the PST, the Sprout, etc. have gotten the highest honors in the industry. Why should the FR- 30 be any different? Seems like everything Paul has raved about when he released a PSA product have been spot on.

      Hopefully, over time, owners of the FR- 30s will chime in with their feelings about the sonic attributes of what seem to be (if Paul isn’t hallucinating) magical transducers.

      Once again, a big Mazel Tov to Paul and the entire PS Audio team for their Herculean effort. This is no small accomplishment.

  8. Very nice looking piece of kit. Interested in hearing some feedback of the performance from reviewers or customers when they become available to the public.

  9. This is one of the reasons I stated what I did when advocating a separate sub to fill shortcomings of the primary point of radiation from the front speakers. There is much to be said for a full range speaker set, and certainly one of the primary reasons that a well designed 2 way utilizing the dynamics of compression drivers for mid-range upwards can bring.

    Good luck with your latest set of speakers Paul.

  10. Ok, I some what understand the fraise, “seamless from top to bottom.”
    There have been a lot of speaker manufacturers over the past 70 years that made the same clame about speakers that only used one driver that has been said can reach the hole intire range of the sonic spectrum.
    Perhaps some can do that better then others.
    But getting a multi-driver speaker to do that, that’s quite a challenge!
    My hat is off to you Audiophile Dad!

  11. …better than whatever electrostic speaker…and without their drawbacks…
    …absolutely seamless from top to bottom of the frequency spectrum…
    …masterpiece…
    PmcG is a fantastic salesman with a fantastic sales pitch. I would hire him right away.
    Makes everyone greedy. After all, who does not want to have the best speaker in the world.
    I feel a bit sorry though for the old Infinity’s. Not so long ago they were the best speakers in the world with a
    (from top to bottom…) seamless presentation.
    Hmm….Maybe they can replace the LS50 in the McGowan living room.
    With his persuasive skills Paul should be able to convince his lovely wife.

  12. Thanks for the Alpine FR30 updates, Paul…Exciting times a Coming!!!

    Curious, to reach the subterranean depths of pipe organ and full orchestral works, will articulate/musical/fast subs still be recommended to pair with the FR30s?

    Ted

    1. Hey Tedd. Yes and no but mostly yes. Where in the room the main speakers work best may not be where the lowest bass notes are supported at your listening position. In my room, for example, where the FR30s sing is not where the lowest bass is supported at the listening position.

      Separate subs afford the luxury of mobility. Place them where they work best and the main speakers where they work best and you have magic.

  13. Both speakers have crossovers in the audio band then why is one seamless and the other not? If there is a crossover point between the midrange and the treble there is bound to be a lack of seamlessness however small. Interesting is it not? This is why speakers which have no crossovers between say 150-250 Hz to18000 Hz or beyond are really seamless. Regards.

    1. As long as the drivers are not separated more than the length of the wave at the crossover point, and voice coils are time aligned, little issue will be heard or seen. The real issue starts to happen when that distance is violated. Comb effects (Haas Effect) is not your friend.

    2. Actually, it’s a good question and one of the answer has to do with the quality of the drivers. Most speakers use off the shelf drivers and then use the crossover to get them married as best they can.

      In the FR30, every driver was custom designed for the task from the ground up, then optimized within the system. Each of the drivers also has incredibly low distortion – a magnitude lower distortion than anything else on the market. Instead of 10% distortion on the woofers, for example, Chris’ design gets them down well below 1%.

      It’s not an easy task and I don’t know of any other company that’s done it the way we’ve done it – though I am sure they exist.

      1. To the contrary, all the speaker manufacturers I have ever considered make their own drivers. It’s what gives the speaker its character sound. Alan Shaw suggests the drivers contribute perhaps 85% of the sonic performance. I can’t actually think of a speaker manufacturer that doesn’t make its own drivers. I appreciate that some use, for example, SEAS tweeters, but they are often bespoke designs for that customer.

        1. Oh, goodness. Steven. Indeed a few UK manufacturers like KEF and B and W design their own drivers but the vast majority of speaker manufacturers source their drivers from driver manufacturers. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to name names but if they have their own “version” of an off the shelf design it’s basically that—as opposed to ground up engineering which is extremely rare.

          1. Paul is right. Most speaker manufacturers buy the components from a few suppliers. Wilson and Magico for example do this.

            I have hard time believing that bass can have below 1% distortion. At what frequencies and at what levels? Woofer distortion is frequency and level dependent.

            Chris has been talking about lowering distortion in the bass in many videos, but I’d love to see independent measures. In addition, distortion in low frequencies is quite masked. Not the same in the midrange, where it becomes more noticeable.

          2. My speakers the last 30 years have been Wilson, Harbeth, PMC, Dynaudio, Quad and Raidho. All used proprietary drivers, I think Wilson are designed with Scanspeak.. Then my spatial system, with drivers by Lawrence Dickie, formerly of B&W and founder of Vivid.

            The other brands at my dealer are Focal, Magico, REL, Magnepan and Piega – I think these all have proprietary drivers. They also sell Sonos Faber and Franco Serblin, who have apparently had a relationship with Scanspeak for decades and they make exclusive drivers for them, they are not OEM.

            I’d curious to know a few well-known speaker manufacturers use bog-standard OEM third party drivers.

            1. Steven,
              If mainstream/majority loudspeaker manufacturing companies didn’t outsource (insource) their drivers then dedicated ‘drivers only’ manufacturing companies like ‘SEAS’, ‘Peerless’, ‘ScanSpeak’ & a few others that don’t come readily to my mind (I’m sure that there are at least 2 or 3 in China by now) wouldn’t exist to the size & scale that they do.

            2. So let me try to clarify a few things about how speaker manufactures have their drivers made.

              1. They simply buy off the shelf drivers

              2. They start with and off the shelf driver and have it modified to their specifications. The degree of modification varies greatly across the industry.

              3. The speaker manufacture does its own driver design and contracts with a driver manufacture to make the driver. They do prototypes and work with the driver manufacture to get the driver that they want. This is what Wilson Audio does. Also Wilson is the only customer allowed access to Loctite’s research lab and to have experiments run their under Wilson’s direction and I think ( I am not 100% sure ) Wilson bought a capacitor company so it can have the capacitors it wants for its crossovers.

              4. The speaker manufacture makes or partially makes its own drivers. This what Magico does. I know that in 2017 when I bought my S7’s the graphene nano tube technology that they were using for their mid-range and some of their woofers, the actual application of the graphene was being done in a laboratory that if I remember correctly was in Japan. Also the diamond coated beryllium tweeter that Magico uses was developed by Magico and the final formulation of the dome was based on data they took themselves which showed that the diamond coated beryllium dome remains pistonic ( i.e. no break up ) at higher frequencies than any other material tested.

              1. There are quite a lot of manufacturers whose driver tech is now totally in-house, most of the ones I’ve used, Dynaudio, Raidho, Harbeth, etc.

                Paul’s post implied that most other manufacturers just buy OEM drivers to manufacturer standard spec and make do with crossovers, and hence FR30 will by default be better than most other speakers because all the drivers are designed as an integrated basis. Personally, I read that as untrue and slagging off the competition before the product is even launched.

                If Magico and others use Scanspeak to help design and manufacture their drivers, it’s still their drivers to their spec and make their speakers do what they do.

                You might as well say the DSD DAC is not a PS Audio product because Ted Smith designed it before even approaching PS Audio to manufacture it.

                1. Steven, That is not what I am saying at all. First Wilson uses ScanSpeak, not Magico. When I worked the company I worked at decided to do OEM business in addition to its own internal business. People would come to us with designs and ask if we could build it and how much it would cost. We would look at their design and tell them it will be very expensive to built because there is one part of their design that will not yield very well in manufacturing. We would suggest how to change the design to make it yield better and be less expensive. Sometimes it would take a few iterations to get a design that worked for them and yielded well for us. But, the design was always their design even if we helped them tweak it. And we only made those parts for the people who owned the design. That’s how business is done.

                  The case of Ted and Paul is more of a partnership than a contract manufacturing agreement.

  14. Dear Paul,

    Congratulations! I am incredibly excited for you! Your enthusiasm for the new speakers comes through loud and clear!

    Electrostatics, MartinLogans, Magnepans, Infinity IRS V — you are talking my loudspeaker love language!

    I became interested in high-end audio when Michael Kay played for me Reference Recordings’ Symphonie Fantastique on the Goldmund Reference turntable, with Jadis JA-200 amplifiers driving IRS V speakers. This was my first “religious experience” of an audio nature, and I was hooked! I have loved planar speakers ever since.

    My loudspeaker, the Gryphon Pendragon, is a simplified and re-imagined IRS V. I look forward to the FR90!

  15. Chris Brunhaver have you ever taken from scratch to finish what will be a full range of loudspeakers before, I look forward to seeing all your hard work on sale to the public.

  16. I’ve been holding off on a new speaker purchase ever since I saw your early models at RMAF a few years ago. I’ve been a huge PS Audio fan since the early 80’s and several of your components. I’m looking forward to hearing a pair of FR30s in my listening room. Congratulations Paul and keep up the great work! These look beautiful!

  17. For a product whose entire reason to etre is to produce sound, I simply LOOK at them and I want ’em!
    Remember back in the 70s series Space 1999 how everything looks so awesomely futuristic and yet current all at the same time? These have achieved that perfect balance between future & current, extraordinary yet familiar; something that looks almost audacious and would demand your immediate attention in the showroom but would also look right at home in your abode.
    And I haven’t even hear them.

    Of course my brain went here immediately with the name:
    “Heya Bob, long time – heard you got some new terrific butt pounding speakers – how’s your aspen?”
    ** Wide eyed eye darting awkward silence…**

    Cause.. y’know
    Me: “Did you know the past tense of William Shakespeare is Wouldiwas Shookspeared?”
    Her: “So did you have a good childhood, or are you FUNNY…?”

  18. I have no doubt these speakers sound fantastic. How could they not sound great considering the talent of the designer, the investment in time and materials and the CEO’s experienced, guiding ears? Seamless driver integration and a glorious midrange is what most of us demand of a high-end loudspeaker. It will be the more particular esoteric sound qualities that set this speaker aside from the competition.

    I will be watching with great interest industry and customer reviews. Even though I cannot currently afford replacement high-end loudspeakers, it will be good to have a new candidate speaker in mind in the unlikely event my investments unexpectedly skyrocket in the near future. Meanwhile, it’s okay to dream 🙂

  19. Paul,

    As I said before, they are a good looking speakers. Contemporary in style, but not trying that they look like they come from a Japanese monster movie. They look great in my mid century modern home. Maybe even my wife could be convinced.

    But beauty is only skin deep. So how about a few section cuts drawings showing us what’s inside for us engineers 😉

  20. In the photo the shadow on the side of the speaker makes it appear on my screen that the speaker bottom is tapered. On closer inspection the actual bottom edge is visible against the wall baseboard. Interesting illusion.

    1. Joseph,
      Ooh yeah.
      That should’ve been taken into consideration before the camera shutter was opened.
      I’m sure that Paul will see that & that that wont be happening on the ‘promo’.

  21. Hi Paul,

    the FR30’s are looking great! Which roomsize do they fit approximatly? Which amp-power would you recommend?

    Best regards from Germany!!
    Sebastian

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