Not being a biwire junkie by habit—spending twice the green on the same cables isn't really that appealing and none of my resident speakers go that route—I first jacked into the top terminal for the shorter signal path to the widebanders. German Physiks' posh WBT terminals arrive linked up with WBT's standard bridge for our non-bi kind. On the next note, the Borderland MkIV incorporates a passive subwoofer of stout dimensions. Nothing about that octagonal enclosure really goes toward the DDD driver. It's all about loading the 12-inch downfiring woofer and tucking away the filter boards.

The extreme wide angle required for this shot from the front wall, me out on the balcony but camera inside, creates some dimensional distortion for the speakers. The next shots show them properly.

Given that invisible sub inside sticker, my amplifier diet would focus on current and low-impedance drive. For that I had my Pass Labs XA-30.8 whose 20 Mosfets per channel manage a stout 90 watts in class A before hitting 1% THD. So they far exceed their official 30-watt rating. In fact the exact same hardware of output devices plus dissipating heat sinks biased to just 5wpc in class A would deliver 300 watts in class A/B. And I also had a loaner pair of Job Sys 250 monos from Goldmund's direct-sales budget branch which make 250/400watts into 8/4 ohms..


Given prior experience with the HRS-120 which upstairs plays with Crayon Audio's CFA-1.2 for best reflexes, I expected no need for tonal assist aka preamp fattening for the big boys either. I thus direct-connected my new COS Engineering D1 DAC with analog precision volume to the amps, via XLR to the Pass, via RCA to the Jobs. The XA-30.8 was first to rack up some settling-in hours.


As it turned out, even with the tweeter contour set to +4dB, here the very saturated bassy slightly dark XA-30.8 wasn't my favourite amp. I wanted for some incisiveness, zip, pep and separation. This sound reminded me of my wife's slow cooking with her new Moroccan-style Creuset tagine. Its conical glazed clay top captures all condensed liquids. Due to the cold water retainer on top, they all cool down, then run back into the cast-iron base. None of the steam is allowed to escape. It simply circulates endlessly. The result are intensely commingled flavours of the olives, salt-pickled lemons, dried fruit and harissa spice paste; and the type of fully through-cooked veg and meat you otherwise only get from a pressure cooker. To inject some quick stir-fry crispness, the Job 250 monos were ideal. Hence that's what my audition stuck to. If one stayed with Swiss amps, that'd mean Soulution, Goldmund or Neukomm over Nagra and darTZeel.


But I still had to settle the biwire question. Enter two equal-length Zu Event cables deliberately terminated spade and banana on the amp end to stack more conveniently. This replaced a wildly costlier single run of Arkana Research rare-earth-metal solid-core wire. For the same reason that the Pass didn't pass, the far dearer Arkana eliminated itself. Its warmer heavier gestalt wasn't what the speakers wanted. Did that mean biwire trumped single-wire? Or that Zu beat up on Arkana? Since this wasn't a cable review, I didn't bother comparing single/biwire Zu runs. I simply left the WBT bridges on the table and went bi. Sometimes more money is simply more money, not better sound.


If this suggests that I was deliberately managing a certain balance of performance attributes, spot on. All experienced audiophiles do it all of the time. With today's sonic Zeitgeist, it's far more likely of course that one starts out with a lean prickly resolution-über-alles sound. That means one must then labour hard to inject proper color distribution and mass (if that's what one feels skimpy on). With German Physiks, you start in the other polarity. That's also pursued by Zu Audio speakers or Leben electronics for just two examples. The Germans simply achieve it with their omnipolar radiation pattern, not with large beamy vintage paper-cone widebanders or tube-sourced harmonic distortion. 360° radiation is nothing which DSP can clone. But it makes for phenomenal freedom from sweet-spotting. The sound is equally good pretty much regardless of where in the room you are (we disregard obvious exceptions like corners). If you're the type of music consumer who likes to sit off-axis sipping a cup of Oolong Fujian to still expect a proper stereo image without shifted tonal balance; putters around in the kitchen with the same desire; or entertains guests without playing aural favouritism with specially blessed seats... nothing else even applies for the job.

Final review system: iMac/PureMusic, COS Engineering D1, Job Sys 250 monos, all Zu Event analog cabling.

What also applies to this presentational style are mastering conventions. With a preponderance of close-mic'd productions which stick microphones where no human ears would ever be—on the bridge of a cello, inside a piano, a few centimetres from a trumpet's bell or nearly touching a singer's lips—most modern listeners are used to recorded sound that's extremely nearfield. Those meanwhile who attend a lot of concerts not front-row center, with their own two ears the only microphones, know of a very different sound. It's bigger, darker, heavier, bassier, with water-colour transitions, no sharp image outlines, no ultra separation but a gentle blending. Voilà, that's how the German Physiks do it too. Obviously one can massage/manage it a bit with the choice of ancillaries. Still, nothing will trump/override the innate radiation pattern and how it affects in-room power response and the ambient field. Whilst mbl cover the same ground, their driver tech sounds a lot faster, crisper, lit-up and far more percussive. As I hear it, Duevel of Germany would be more similar to German Physiks.