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Fringe benefit. If you use Spotify+ or similar streaming services to discover new music, you'll appreciate that 320kbps feeds are tonally crippled. Not so over the HRS-120. Using Spotify's new discover feature—it mines their data base to suggest things based on your recent activities—I was told that having listened to Taksim Trio 2, I might like Erkan Oğur's Yazi Tura soundtrack. Loving this Turkish guitarist's Bir Ömürlük Misafir album but being unaware of this one, I hit play. I guarantee your shock at being told it was a lowly MP3. Dimensionality and textural wetness didn't let on at all. If you're too snobby to even know about Spotify, you could care less. Fine. Otherwise you'll agree. It's far from marginal. So be pragmatic. If this acoustic room response has you listen longer and to far more varied and outright forbidden fruit, how could it possibly be a bad thing?


Flipside. AsiaBeat's Spirit of the People is a percussion-intense Malaysian music project with densely woven beat patterns called bols, echoes of Balinese Gamelan, happy synth melodies and a fun playful and often cyclical overall vibe like a multi-armed multi-legged Indian deity dancing. Since nothing can escape the German Physiks acoustic makeover, tight drum rolls and other rapidly alternating staccato sounds become texturally less distinctive as though someone smudged over a not altogether dry signature in ink. That's why you wouldn't play top-level flamenco in a heavily reverberant church. Unless you didn't mind streaky arpeggios and blurry footwork. That's a bit overwritten and also a function of how far you separate direct sound from its reflections with setup distances. Still it's the flipside of richer wetter decay-enhanced tone. Think watercolors, not pixel count.

As typical for hifi it's about picking your compromises. The narrow-dispersion front-radiating speaker is a deliberately dry mastering studio. An engineer gets paid to hear deep into a recording for flaws. The polyradial speaker is a deliberately wet performance venue. It beautifies tone, maintains tonal consistency regardless of seat or frequency and minimizes a collapsed stereo perspective when leaving the center. For the non-audiophile pleasure listener who enjoys company, the preference should be crystal. For someone graduated from audiophile listening who wants to trade seats with the mastering engineer, this true omni might not be dry enough. It's really a soul search. What do we expect of our hifi?


As a former Pilates instructor I still do Joe's abdominal floor work on a narrow camping mat in front of my hifi. In this unusual position—doing supine audio worship against piss-poor downward radiation, extreme off-axis response and a complete lack of focus as a result—I was shocked to for once hear a properly developed soundstage without any hole in the middle. That's on the floor between the speakers, their up-angled drivers one meter above my ears. It's admittedly a strange bonus but still. And because I do my routine late in the evening, playback volumes must be very low. Here too the HRS-120's very effective room gain paid out big. I heard more with less. Audiophile discourse routinely skips over whisper levels. It reports on extreme SPL which no civilized or sane user selects. The more complete and full a speaker sounds at low volumes, the more you will actually use your hifi. Here the German Physiks beat up on the hi-eff crowd. Their 96dB+ on-axis voltage sensitivity is not as practical as the HRS-120's ~93dB full-space loading. Given my preamp's volume control position that latter figure seems about right to explain why my 10wpc monos didn't shrivel up.


The HRS-120 acted as though it had very clean impulse response. Digging deeper into their website I found this on their Borderland model, a bigger version of the HRS-120. It's a graph from a German review. Whilst inverted it's very clean and settles rapidly. This gave me the idea to invert polarity on the amplifier. Gallo's Strada 2 is very sensitive to proper as opposed to absolute polarity from the amp. This type of time-accurate speaker can sound noticeably better one way than the other. What will be the better polarity isn't predictable. It must be tried and isn't the same as inverting source polarity

Using "No Ha Podío Ser" from Gerardo Núñez' spectacular Travesía Flamenco guitar album as the decider, 'wrong' polarity was clearly right. It was an easy tell too. This seemed to support my suspicion. Like its bigger brother the HRS-120 must have a very clean impulse response. Otherwise the wire reversal wouldn't have been as obvious. That's the takeaway. This speaker is accurate enough in the time domain to be sensitive about such matters. My admiration for what on sight appeared to be a very simple design that shouldn't cost this much grew even more. When executed properly, simple can be very good. Here it includes a treatment of the inner walls with Hawaphon, "polymer sheets containing a matrix of small cells filled with very fine steel shot originally developed as anti-surveillance measure for military and government buildings [11kg/m²]".

Hawaphon affords up to 50dB of noise reduction from surfaces it's been applied to. For a speaker enclosure that wasn't deliberately designed to actively shed à la soundkaos, Ocellia or Harbeth, quiet walls are key. With a hexagonal cross section the HRS-120 already exploits far narrower hence stiffer panels than the square footprint cheaper Unlimited MkII. Horizontal braces and steel-shot liners complete structural damping, dense fiber fill does it acoustically. Given the DDD's speed, accelerated very clean woofer response was vital for textural continuity. This outlawed popular port loading. It's sensible to view the HRS-120 as a bass-augmented widebander with no crossover where our hearing would be sensitive. But which widebander has full bandwidth omni radiation?

How would this one tango with the costly 87dB Sopranino super tweeter run off the HRS-120's own binding posts and parked securely atop its perfectly flat top? To properly assert its 8kHz+ directional treble (the high-pass runs a 2nd-order filter to be quite leaky into the presence region), Sopranino required that I set the HRS tweeter contour to -2dB, itself to full gain angled directly at the seat and tilted downward to also align that axis with my ears. This accomplished two things. On purist recordings with authentic recorded ambience, air increased. This wasn't 'more' treble as in hotter, brighter or more forward. This was fluffier texture. On all recordings the sense of image focus or outline sharpness went up.


Listening in that mode for one hour before returning to the German Physiks solo also showed the super tweeter to inject a whiff of the spectacular. With it came a shift in my listening attitude. I no longer followed the music groove like a bit of drenched driftwood. I was actively riding it. That's an internal focus-of-attention shift. A different emotional perspective. As such it's mighty difficult to convey. Let's just say that the whiff of the spectacular felt less organic. It was a bit like Photoshop's sharpen command. On its own it's impressive. Compared to the original photo if you still have it—and if that was in proper focus to begin with—it's pushed and more pixilated. And the HRS-120 had my vote au nature, not pushy. The Sopranino toppers also sorely Frankenstein'd the clean but already tekkie German cosmetics.


My own takeaway from this experiment was that whilst one could introduce just a bit more conventional image focus, it diminishes what makes the HRS-120 so special in the first place. Whilst the Sopranino effects were particularly obvious by subtractive contrast when removed, they weren't even close to being as substantial or musically relevant as my addition of Zu's Submission subwoofer. In fact I thought them detractive and overpriced.


Closure. Hifi often amounts to the dubious art of filling stale old wine into glam new bottles. Here the German Physiks HRS-120 is genuinely different. But it isn't different just for the sake of it or any associated bragging rights. Like Sven Boenicke's mostly omni B10, the HRS-120 celebrates undenatured tone and soundstage communism, not synthetic timbres with single seat exclusivity. On realistic tone density it is the antithesis of lean thin nervous modern hifi sonics. On soundstaging it imitates life by being a bit amorphous, very chewy and pretty much independent of position. By radiating across its entire bandwidth in a single dispersion pattern, continuousness and coherence which as suggestive terms are often bandied about for far less acquire new and deeper meaning. This goes beyond even the best of widebanders with which it otherwise shares expanded driver bandwidth by moving its single crossover point to 240Hz. Yet all conventional widebanders get beamy with rising frequency. The HRS-120 does not.


Whilst Elac's clever 4Pi Plus.2 above is another omni, its bandwidth begins at 10kHz. It's only good for super-tweeter duties like the ENIGMAcoustics. And though the Raal Requisite Eternity project at left is a true full-bandwidth omni, it's a far more complex three-way construction which requires 15 x tweeter ribbons, 18 x 3-inch midrange drivers and 5 x 15" woofers to do what the HRS-120 does with just two drivers (admittedly the Eternity goes a lot louder and lower).


To mechanically duplicate what the bending-wave DDD does with conventional dynamic or planar drivers involves massive paralleling to diminish structural elegance and singularity of purpose. In my book then the DDD's primary attraction is its dispersion pattern followed by its bandwidth. Its exotic operational mode is merely the necessary means to these ends.

The HRS-120 even lends itself to show off decorative items like a Tibetan Tara statue on the left and a walrus-bone carving of Ganesha, the latter just acquired at this year's Ste. Marie-aux-Mines jewelry and stone show in France. Orchids would be great too.

If there's one item its own propaganda overplays, it's placement insensitivity. At least for me the opposite was the case. Without proper wall distance—factor on at least 4 feet or 1.3m—the sound in my 5.5 x 12m room overloaded on acoustic reverb to bloat like a puffer fish and become just as toxic to clarity and speed. Once in properly 'free' space the HRS-120 exhibited very clean impulse response, wall-to-wall staging, true tonal continuousness top to bottom and twice as effective conversion of amplifier power into at-ear loudness than forward radiators. This not only scaled macro dynamics with true conviction and very rapidly so (truly ideal for bombastic symphonica), it worked a treat in the opposite direction. Here the HRS-120 hung together down into whisper levels without any bleaching or shifts in tonal balance.


My own 10 reasons for saying yes. For being white to match my subwoofer; for working in my short-wall orientation where the B10's horizontally opposed 10-inchers overload in the bass to only work in the upstairs long-wall system; for being an ideal townhouse whisperer without any of the side effects of traditional 100dB widebanders; for sealed not ported bass; for sounding like good tube-based analog with affordable transistors and digital; for making 320kbps Spotify+ streams sound most respectable; for what is a fundamentally different closer-to-live gestalt than conventional speakers; for all that at living-room friendly dimensions and a back-happy weight whilst being full-range enough to only warrant subular assist below 35Hz...

"There are 17 standard veneers, carbon fibre and any automotive paint color in satin or high gloss - too many to fit in a photo."

...I won't be returning this pair. It replaces my costlier Aries Cerat Gladius which moved to new owners. The German Physiks HRS-120 is truly fantastic in a very non-audiophile real music way. Another unique aspect is that across their entire lineup from €5.900/pr cheapest to €276.000/pr stratospheric model, German Physiks always use the same DDD driver. Due to its wide bandwidth this creates a solid core signature shared between all models. No other company does that to this extent. I thus needn't audition the €9.450/pr Unlimited MkII with its simpler four-sided box to include it in my award with full confidence. One naturally expects the price/performance ratio to shrink in the other direction. This most likely makes the HRS-120 the hottest buy in this unique speaker portfolio.
German Physiks website