Room 1IRS Audio Review -- Awesome!!!!!


I had the ultimate honor yesterday to visit Paul in Boulder and take a tour of Room 1 and hear the IRS’ in all their stunning awesome glory. Many many thanks to Paul for taking the time out of his busy day.

After a brief discussion of the analog circuit diagram in my tube preamp, we headed to Room 1 and Paul showed off the system, down to the wood in the cabinetry, the driver magnets, and the woofer tower where all the woofer speakers were slaved (via servo) to the third woofer off the floor. By this time the Calypso preamp had been warmed up, so Paul sat me down in the sweet spot and started with an album track of a solo bassist, followed by a jazz ensemble and a classical track that had a lot of tympani that seemed to be staged perfectly. My apologies, but I didn’t get the album names, artists or track titles. It sounded great.

Then I put on the CDs that I brought, starting with “In the Mood” on the Dave Grusin album “In the Digital Mood” (GRP-D-9502) that put Glen Miller’s original scores to music in 1983. I had gotten my home system up to the point where the instruments seemed well staged and properly located, but when I heard them on the IRS’ it was nothing sort of amazing (sorry to over-use this). I had always wondered if it had been recorded right (or maybe got mixed to 2 channels from the 32 channel 3M multi-track system) Paul even mentioned it was a ‘lousy’ recording, but even so, sounded way better than my MartinLogan Spires and Streets 950 ever did.

Off to the second album, the opening fanfare of Cirque du Soleil “Ka” (track 1, ‘O Makunde’) where the opening drum beats are forceful and add to the majesty of the piece. OK, I realized I’ve got the bass turned a little too high on my system at home, but wow, what a difference. Vocals were crystal clear and well separated from the orchestra.

Off to the last CD, Bear McCreary’s music form Season 3 of “Battlestar Galalactica, Season 3” track 4 ‘Storming New Caprica’ and track 2, ‘Precipice.’ Not only does McCreary use standard orchestrations, but in addition there’s a lot of different percussion used in these two pieces to emphasize the battle sequence to rescue the humans from Cylon control in track 4 and to show the desperation of the human resistance to that Cylon occupation in the track 2 piece. Track 4 starts with a crescendo of slow then ever increasing drumbeats with a wood block accent way deep in the soundstage, later building to the full orchestration with multiple percussion emphasizing the battle in progress. Halfway through the piece I noticed Paul’s head involuntarily nodding as if the smack of each percussive beat during the crescendo was reaching out and was swatting us in the head. (That’s OK, Paul, I do that every time I hear that track.) I can’t even describe what it was, not a cymbal, not a drum, but almost as if it was a sheaf of 1/8 inch steel rods being whacked against a hard steel surface. Unlike the Streets amp and ML Spires, The IRS felt so clear those percussive beats shone through brilliantly even while the violins and other orchestra instruments and traditional drums were going full bore.

Paul pointed to his entire rack of albums and said “I’ve got nothing like that” and the music was interesting. It’s very engaging, I can vouch for that.

Track 2, “Precipice” was equally as engaging.

OK, so Paul didn’t like McCreary’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” and we shut it off halfway through the track, and only afterwards I remembered that it took some time to get used to.

We promptly went to Paul’s office and he ordered the album on Amazon for himself (Amazon one-click is sooo scary)

I’m dying to get my system to sound as good.

As an aside, I did meet Bear McCreary at the San Diego ComicCon in July and he said he was in process of releasing his work in high resolution, so as soon as that happens I’m going to be a very happy camper. Woohoo!

Final request to Paul: When you do get the Season 3 Battlestar album, please let me know how Track 4 sounds on Arnie’s all-tube system!

Again, many many thanks to Paul for taking the time out of his busy day for the tour and enlightening conversations. Here’s to the PWA meeting all expectations!



Sounds like a fantastic audition of the PerfectWave Room 1 system - lucky!!!


Can I ask which power amp is in music room 1 currently?

Can I ask which power is in music room 1 currently?

Not sure exactly, I think it was either one of the early PWA prototypes or something else sitting on top of it.


I ask because I would think in designing a power amp a suitable comparator would be needed. I have always wondered what Paul would use as a comparator.

Forget New York. Forget LA, San Francisco. Forget Miami. Next time I visit the US, Boulder Colorado is where I will be going…


He’s using Arnie’s all-tube system, the one that put the kabosh on the production schedule once he heard it.

Arnie lives locally and I think he’s the one who designed the IRS speakers 25 years ago.



Thanks David, that was really fun having you come visit - and I extend the red carpet to anyone of you reading these forums to come by and visit. If you’re going to RMAF and have a day before or after you might consider it. I’ll have the big system partially removed so we can play at RMAF.

The amp David heard is the best efforts so far on the new PWA - which David will tell you sounds pretty danged good.

We spent all of yesterday with about 40 members of the Colorado Audio Society also enjoying the system (hopefully) and we certainly had fun.

The PWA needs a bit more openness on the top - my friend Chuck Zellig noticed the lack of the rosin on the bow of the cello or contra bass - which is a good observation on Chuck’s part because indeed it’s what’s missing. Also noted that on very loud passages the PWA still barks, so those are the two areas I need to fix.

Unfortunately it’s not like I can just tweak something to fix those areas - instead it’s requiring a whole new front end as best we can tell - perhaps even a new back end but only time will tell us that. The work goes on.

Important here is that finally, after a lot of work, I have a system that is truly remarkable enough to plainly hear even the smallest of details - and that’s what I’ve wanted for a long, long time. The results of these efforts will be seen in future PS products that will have a new level of refinement and sound quality the likes of which we’ve yet to hear.

I am excited.


AGB posted this comment of the IRS that I thought really summed it up and explained better than any I have read. The full thread can be viewed here:

People look at the obvious by missing the obvious. Some think the IRS is an ancient design not worthy of a serious second look. Wrong. The IRS, just as the Servo-Static almost two decades before it, was revolutionary and two decades ADVANCED over the competition of its time. Both designs were ridiculously expensive overkill and today would certainly seem to be just that if they were still made and the price were adjusted. The IRS’s drivers are very similar to those some well-known current brands use. By providing many mid and high frequency drivers to handle the same signal, Arnie Nudell understood how to take his technology where no electrostatic has gone before. LOUD! Many drivers added together create a large surface diaphragm, just like that of a full range ESL; and for the same sound level, each driver is tasked with a smaller movement fore and aft – all meant to operate within their linear range. As such, the IRS mid to highs have very low distortion, the line source is immune to side/wall and floor reflections, and one can go as loud as one wanted. The subwoofer’s movement is controlled by a first for its time, a servo amplifier; the advantage is that EQ and restricted EMF enhances the linearity of the sub – allowing it to provide low distortion and low frequencies at the same time.

The reason there is no IRS today is because it is too expensive to make and too huge. There are four towers. The problems, size, weight and expense, are serious enough considerations for even the well-heeled A-phile. The other consideration is that modern designs using similar technologies at lower cost can achieve similar, but not the same results. I speak of Magnepans, Wisdom’s, BG Radia’s and Carver’s The Amazing Loudspeaker. There are others.

Some of these are low priced to the extreme, making them an amazing value. Others listed are still south of the IRS pricewise. The fact is, the IRS has no competition today, but all the others that had emulated it and emulated many of the innovations incorporated in it. Just because there are other very expensive products available doesn’t mean that they are vastly superior to a well-set up IRS. Where the new has an advantage is their ease of set up.

I had the opportunity to hear Arnie Nudell’s creation a good number of times. It can be an overwhelming experience, but as Paul points out, setting it up will be daunting, and to some degree, very frustrating. However once it is done right, one will hear a magical holographic image of musicians playing in real space in front of one.


Great report/review.

The Battlestar soundtrack sounds intriguing. I am going to put it on my purchase list.

You didn’t happen to compare PWD direct v. through preamp did you?

Great report/review.

The Battlestar soundtrack sounds intriguing. I am going to put it on my purchase list.

You didn't happen to compare PWD direct v. through preamp did you?

No, it went through the Calypso tube preamp.

Please do try the soundtrack. If Bear McCreary gets enough sold maybe we can convince him to release them in high resolution.



I plan to get the soundtrack. I am not one for soundtracks per se, they rarely stand well on their own unless it is a Elmer Bernstein or Rota, but your description makes it well worth trying.


@streets, thanks , i like it, Storming New Caprica is massive :slight_smile:

I plan to get the soundtrack. I am not one for soundtracks per se, they rarely stand well on their own unless it is a Elmer Bernstein or Rota, but your description makes it well worth trying.

Bear McCreary was mentored by Elmer Bernstein. Need I say more?

I hope you enjoy it.



I bought it after listening and it’s on the way.

streets still works said: Bear McCreary was mentored by Elmer Bernstein.

This is fun connection.

I have Season 3 and have listened to all of it and multiple times to "Storming New Caprica" and "Precipice." There are some amusing sounds and noises put to effective use in the various tracks. Nice clean recording as well.

I do not find that the music stands alone well outside of its context as a soundtrack, but this is my typical reaction to soundtracks. They can be very effective when accompanying visuals. However, when naked and alone, the music bits are strike me as the sonic equivalent of bleeding chunks ripped out of context.

I suspect that most who like a given soundtrack enjoyed the show/movie and partially revisit this positive experience through the sound.

I found the cover of "All along the Watchtower" fine, but perhaps because I have heard so many different versions already.

I encourage the curious to check it out. It is worth exploring.