Great Sound: Popori Acoustics Electrostats from Notable Audio Products

I first heard Hungarian speaker company Popori Acoustics' top-line XR1.23 electrostats in Warsaw last year, where their deep bass greatly impressed. On Day 1 of the Pacific Audio Fest, the world-wide premiere Popori's WR1.23 w electrostats ($75,500/pair), which reside one level below the XR1.23s delivered some of the best sound I heard at the show.

Now distributed in the US by Jeff Fox's Notable Audio Products of Falls Church, VA, the Popori Acoustics WR1.23 w loudspeakers produced some of the best sound I heard at the Pacific Audio Fest. With two caveats. First, with no less than five people from at least two companies in the small room, each of whom was eager to chat with visitors, listening was a major challenge. Second, and even more significant, the gap between the sound of the analog front end—J. Sikora Reference turntable ($47,000) and KVmax 12" tonearm ($11,750) with Lyra Atlas Lambda SL cartridge ($12,995) and Doshi Audio Evolution (EVO) phono stage ($19,995)—and digital courtesy of an Aurender A20 Server/DAC ($25,000) was so different that it was hard to believe I was listening to the same system. Nor did the differences conform to stereotype.

Although I was initially drawn in by the very alive/somewhat bright top, excellent colors, and fine tonality of an LP on Erik Truffaz's "Arroyo," I took pause when I encountered surprisingly thin and bright voices on Herbert von Karajan's famed recording of the final Trio from Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier with Schwarzkopf, Ludwig, and Stich-Randall. To these ears, sound was also tipped way up on Ignacio Alderete's "El Condor Pasa." The big shock came when we changed to digital, and far more grounded and balanced sound poured forth from a 24/96 file of the Isao Suzuki Trio's seductive "Aqua Marine." Highs were far more listenable, depth was impressive, and tonalities were drop-dead gorgeous. I was hooked.

Popori Acoustics has been designing speakers for over 25 years. The WR1.23 w is a full-range crossover-less electrostat with a supplemental tweeter that handles frequencies from 4.5kHz up. Tweeter response is adjustable according to room size, and the tweeter can be separately amped if desired. While the tweeter/room-size adjustment must be handled at the distribution end before delivery, users can adjust bass themselves via optional foam inserts. The WR1.23 w descends to 32Hz, has a specified sensitivity of 91dB, has an impedances down to 4 ohms, and weighs 149.9lb.

When I returned for a second listen on Sunday, the WR1.23 w pair had been traded out for a pair of smaller WR2.23 XL electrostats ($40,000/pair). Quite attractive in red, they're designed for smaller rooms whose dimensions are closer to those of the room in which they were displayed. Also in the system: Doshi Audio EVO stereo amp ($21,995) with a special 3 ohm tap ideal for the speakers, Doshi Audio EVO preamp ($19,995), Wireworld cables, and HRS EXR 4-shelf stand ($7795). Kudos and thanks for the unusual music choices, none of which I've ever encountered at an audio show.