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Obvious virtues were gargantuan where-are-the-boxes soundstaging of stupendous depth; chewy highly incarnate sound density very different from ghostly electrostatic leaniency; non-resonant bass; complete freedom from the head-in-a-vise syndrome of highly directive speakers; and from-a-cloth continuousness one gets from a Rethm widebander albeit without any remaining forwardness or blister but superior upper treble. The general presentation reminded me of a Gallo/Zu hybrid. From Gallo I had a vertically lifted deep-space Ref 3.5 reading without its obvious panel-speaker speed. From Zu I had Druid V tone density and warmth without its upper midrange/lower treble opacity. Of great cosmetic benefit was the compact form factor with very small footprint which stood in stark contrast to the cinerama panorama of sound. A cosmetic detractor was the need to be far into the room. Here the very easy sliding weight and utter disregard for toe-in meant that the speakers could be easily pulled out for proper listening, then parked close in the corners for social living room use.

Real versus canned. Play it again. Lovers of vinyl and tubes often agree that compared to good live sound—live sound can be terrible as well with the wrong venue, bad seat or poor sound reinforcement—digital and transistors tend to sound washed out. At their core they might seem strangely insubstantial despite their deep gloss of intense detail. If that's your sentiment, the HRS-120's far higher percentage of reflective sound aka acoustic reverb gives it certain vinyl & tube-type benefits without their actual appearance. No glowing bottle or slab of vinyl required. That's perhaps the DDD's greatest asset. Like all good medicine however the wrong dose turns poison. So don't short-circuit the time-arrival difference between direct and reflected sound with insufficient distance from boundaries. When there's fusion, things go murky, bloated and blurry in a hurry. Greatest asset turns into lead-weight liability. Hand in glove with this goes that even at its best, no 'omni' will ever focus as razor-sharp or cut out performer silhouettes like direct radiators manage it with their progressively narrowing treble units.

Unlike a Duevel which routes a conventional dome tweeter through a dispersion lens; or a Morrison that scatters it off a hard dome reflector; the DDD's sheer radiating surface for its HF is far larger to reflect as a better in-room power response. Set up properly its focus is less vague than other omni variants though not as specific as direct radiators. That's the payment one renders to obtain its natural built-in tone which isn't a function of harmonic distortion weighting but in-room energy. Unlike most widebanders with which it otherwise shares expanded bandwidth—AER, Fostex, Lowther, Voxativ—the DDD has far higher power handling. As Munich showed, the smallish HRS-120 will happily energize a much bigger space than most home dwellers have at their hifi disposal. The DDD also has higher mass and as such far lower efficiency than traditional paper-cone widebanders.

With Norma IPA-140 in direct mode preceded by the Nagra Jazz.

On that count I was simply tickled that for my civilized purposes the 10wpc SIT1 didn't run out of steam though they did seem to run extra hot. Devotees of big symphonica or music with punishing bass transients will most certainly want more headroom and grunt. I simply think that stuffing an 80-piece orchestra into a space barely sufficient to properly hold a string quintet is a ludicrous proposition. It's as far removed from 'realistic' or 'believable' as one could get. I thus do precious little of such extreme stuffing. Back to amplifier matching, I also tried Norma Audio's 2MHz IPA 140 integrated. This again was a bit too soft even in direct mode with my Nagra which quickens its performance. Resolution Audio's Cantata C50 mated slightly better but not nearly as well as the Job 225. Whilst the Norma had the highest bandwidth for presumably fastest rise times and the most raw power, those factors weren't decisive. What about the Job inked the deal I don't know. I can't make an educated guess about ideal specs an amplifier shopper for this speaker should cross off. What I can say is that this $1.495 amp very nicely offset some of the HRS-120's steep €11.500 satin-finish sticker.

On natural tone multi-polar speakers do things differently and arguably far better than the dominant (barbarian?) hordes of conventional radiators. From a Shahinian Obelisk to FJ's Ohm of yore to Dick Olsher's bygone mini cube with upfiring mid/woofer and front-firing tweeter to the already mentioned Duevels and Morrisons and my Boenicke B10 at right and even the Bose 901, there have been numerous attempts to energize or 'activate' our playback venues more evenly as happens during a performance. Planars with out-of-phase front/back radiation suffer lateral figure-8 phase cancellation. They aren't omnis to the same degree (and a more appropriate term in the first place would be polyradials since true omnis would have to include floor and ceiling radiation like a pulsating sphere suspended in free space which no speaker does). The DDD radiates in-phase like a lighthouse would disperse light without its rotating flare. It radiates directly without first reflecting off its own structure like speakers with dispersion lenses. The net result is tonal fullness linked to in-room energy density linked to perceived loudness. You can play the HRS-120 at low volume without diluting this fullness which arises from more complete room fill. Meanwhile high volumes scale up more intensely. They load up the entire space with sound pressure increases in (nearly) all directions. This would seem to be a more effective less lossy conversion of amplifier power into loudness, going beyond the basic voltage efficiency equation where 'x' input voltage nets 'y' decibels at 1 meter on axis.

All speakers transition from half-space to full-space radiation at lower frequencies. The HRS-120 is full-space all the way and thus probably 6dB more efficient than its actual rating. Why should we limit ourselves to predominantly on-axis energy when the air surrounding us so completely can potentially deliver sound from a lot more directions? As covered this cuts two ways. From this follows that just because the previously reviewed Manger also was a bending-wave driver, it didn't sound anything alike. The dominant expression isn't the drivers' overlapping operational principle. It's how they load the room. Now we're at the heart of the matter again. The HRS-120 loads our space like actual performers would. Isn't that perfect? Not if you mean to hear the recorded venue! By activating our space, that room becomes more dominant than ever to overlay itself on everything. Whilst this works quite well with purist recordings and for symphonic and live performances recorded in reverberant space, close-mic'd endlessly parallel-tracked productions as the vast majority of recordings are give up some of their core signatures of sharp separation.

What they gain even if sizzly of aspect is more natural tone. To put it cavalier but perhaps most succinctly, the German Physiks HRS-120 gives someone a taste of a good analog tube experience without getting their hands dirty by sticking with digital and transistors. It's a very pleasing acoustic coloration added to the recorded signal. Even so it's operationally far closer to a live performance than highly directional speakers. Those attempt* to play as though they were in an anechoic chamber (obviously with no success in the lower registers but achievable in the high frequencies in a normal room with absorptive/diffusive furnishings).

* If you think about it, German Physiks' Munich show demo had exactly that effect with their sidewall absorbers/diffusers. Particularly effective at high frequencies, they cut back on the omni aspects of the DDD's treble to there perform more like a forward radiator. HF reflections off their faraway front wall's floor-to-ceiling glass were too far delayed in time and too weak in amplitude to matter. The upshot? Better soundstage specificity to better suit people's expectations based on conventional speakers. That the real intent was to combat "terrible flutter echo" didn't matter.

My original setup as a reminder. Those boundary distances were patently insufficient.

To recapitulate, when set up properly there's rich and meaty but not fat or sloppy tone which doesn't change in volume or fullness anywhere between top and bottom. There's extravagant soundstaging. There's very little conventional box talk. There's no port resonance with its phase/timing issues. There's unusual dynamic scaling in the macro sense. Transients are well defined and clean but not razor-edge honed as they can be with acoustically drier speakers. Such mellower leading-edge behavior coupled with redolent tone isn't fuzzy soft like a heavily loaded 2nd-order THD colored sound but clearly non-hard and non-incisive regardless. Rethm's Jacob George should find it insufficiently illuminated, aerated and quick. On tonal bloom and transient texture it operates in a farfield rather than nearfield milieu. Extreme separation—what I call lucid mode—isn't part of this package. If one wished to tone down this character and narrow its difference with 99% of all other speakers, one would select a lit-up incisive very fast amp like a Bakoon or Job 225. You might say that this defeats the purpose. Why not celebrate this difference to its very max with a mellow darker amp? For myself I was perhaps too deeply engrained by the conventional stereo ideal to insist that moderation was key. I know what I like and what I think sounds right. There's not much leeway. But getting into this inner circle with diametrically opposing means is great fun and retains sufficient personality to not require going to caricature extremes. And the Job 225 driving the HRS-120 worked right within my inner circle whilst doing so from a new perspective. Those are the basics which due to unusual operation required more space than usual.