Despite the wide-angle distortion for the left speaker to get both columns and the DAC/pre reasonably close up into the same frame, this photo illustrates another very serious Borderland advantage: Direct-connected amps, no tubes in sight! Due to their built-in tonefulness, these speakers mustn't depend on the additive signal conditioning which premium separate preamps provide. And they certainly don't need any valve-based sun tan either. As long as your DAC has analog volume to not get lossy at low levels, you can omit a preamp for sonic reasons. As the $1'695/ea. Job monos prove, well-matching amplifiers of the quick sort à la Bakoon or Crayon or Spectral needn't break the bank either. You just need to know where to shop (mail-order in Switzerland if you want these).

For a likely obvious proviso, if you're used to small light tweeters à la Raal ribbons or their circular 'super' tweeter omni brethren from Elac and Expolinear; or a diamond, beryllium or ceramic dome which perhaps even is horn- or waveguide loaded... then the heavier Carbon-fibre DDD widebander won't strike you as similarly teased out and champagne-bubbles debonair and airy regardless of where you set the tweeter contour jumpers. That's not a function of output voltage but refinement. Of course conventional tweeters beam. These do not. You might say that a small shadow is outshone by a lot more light. Still, it bears mention to underline my preference for mating the DDD to DC-coupled wide bandwidth amps. Of course unless you sat practically on stage with the performers, the kind of lit-up treble so popular in hifi today really isn't part of the live concert experience.

But chunky redolent bass and a weighty midrange are. Here the downfiring 12er and conical widebander comply fully. By now we've revisited the core message sufficiently. Like the recently reviewed Zugspitz Sound Seligkeit open-baffle dipole but with greater resolving power and a more compact far more agreeable form factor, the Borderland MkIV approaches playback more from the live than studio perspective. This creates a division. What side you come down on depends on your expectation for the playback experience. For extreme separation to follow the mix-down of numerous microphone feeds, a beamy direct radiator is more precise. For a reading more akin to a concert as experienced mid hall—or a purist stereo mic production—this omni has the upper hand. For a huge sweet spot, there's nothing like it but another omni.

German Physiks' Italian distributor Luca Parlato of LP Audio with Borderland MkIV and HRS-120.
Where some bloom is bound to fade off this rose is the value perspective vis-à-vis the smaller HRS-120. Here the Borderland MkIV obviously lags behind. At €23'900 vs. €11'500 (certain finishes add surcharges), there's beaucoup coin in the gap to crush any dreams of twice as much equals twice as good. If pure value was the goal, most folks who allocated even two very good infrasonic active subwoofers would achieve more and come in lower. In the real world, a single sub like our $5'000 Zu Submission set for <40Hz augmentation makes the HRS-120 the go-to solution even for our downstairs space. It's when you insist on two not three boxes and guaranteed bass integration that the Borderland is the obvious ticket. All that's common sense and the usual small print for the law of diminishing returns. Here it's simply graver than normal. Where other lines give the twice-priced model a better tweeter and superior or dedicated midrange, here the half-priced model gets the exact same exotic widebander for the lion's share of the bandwidth. It's the pièce de résistance of the entire speaker concept. It makes anything above the HRS-120 just louder, bassier, bigger, heavier and seriously costlier. Beyond the Borderland and with apologies to the company, I'd also call the bigger guns progressively more challenged cosmetically. Hence if the HRS-120 played loud enough for you—I don't see why it wouldn't—adding sub bass is far more cost-effective with a JL Audio, REL, Zu or other high-quality sub. I'd go even further. If you arrive from the normal perspective of direct radiators, the smaller woofer of the HRS-120 is the quicker and lighter to be closer.

Having awarded the HRS-120 and purchased it after its review, my regard for it is a matter of open record. Against such ingrained satisfaction and familiarity—short hand for knowing exactly what it can do—the Borderland MkIV's far higher ask was innately challenged. As reported, I've been informed about its upgraded crossover parts. To my ears that didn't create enough of a sonic uptick to, in conjunction with lower louder bass, stoke the same excitement I have about the smaller brother. If you want to assign blame, say that the Germans made the HRS-120 too good for the sake of their pricier wares. Incidentally, Kaiser Acoustics might have done a similar thing with their just reviewed Chiara. I'll find out when I review their Classic model later this year.

Conclusion. Unlike mbl's big terribly inefficient omnis which, every time I've heard them at shows, sounded nearly too spectacular to be real, the Borderland MkIV goes for natural. It's not the over-the-top bombast of an IMAX movie that's high on 3D glasses. The biggest boon of this full-bandwidth omni radiation pattern is realistic tone. Right behind that or inherently intertwined is what's not required to get said tone: tubes, warm transistors or additive preamps. For others, the N°1 attraction will be that it says hell no to the lone-wolf ideal of the singular sweet spot. If listening to fine audio is a lifestyle, the life in the style is something to be shared. Interacting with others and living are pretty much synonymous after all. If all you know as yet is the selfish anxiety over the sweet spot, you have no notion of just how liberating, generous, easy and fun it becomes when you can get the same quality sound from nearly anywhere. Multi-tasking like doing dishes or laundry, writing a letter, eating or leafing a coffee-table book, working out or moving about now can include listening with full satisfaction in an open-floor space. Very practically, that means that you'll listen more often. And by extension, if you're a family of more who use a combined audio/video system, every watcher gets a proper stereo image, no center channel required or desired. That's exactly how we use our upstairs HRS-120. That's how I'd recommend using the Borderland MkIV too: in a dual-purpose system for high-performance sound and picture.

Minimalist A/V system with NuForce-modified Oppo and Crayon Audio CFA-1.2, Vibex power filter and German Physiks HRS-120.

German Physiks' paint finish deserves its own thumbs up. It cashes in fully on price-attached expectations. The 86dB efficiency rating meanwhile is deceptive. It doesn't factor the radiation pattern. That essentially puts two speakers back to back (or four around for certain usually very directional bands). Hence in-room, you really need to add at least 3dB to be factual. That and a minimum 3.7Ω impedance at 375Hz mean no wicked load which would enforce silly-priced amps to take off. Here I'll give another shout-out to Job's 250 monos as ideal happy-priced options. Lastly, the appearance, whilst unusual, is surprisingly décor friendly. Taking up about 1.5 square feet of precious floor space, the octagonal Borderland columns with their slimming open tops seem to strike most visitors as minimalist sculptures, not hifi appliances one would rather not see. Such cosmetic friendliness coupled to plain sonic practicality and goodness opens up doors. Unlike so many futuristic, robotic or steam-punk styled contraptions, it actually gets these hi-tech speakers with drivers you can't get anywhere else on the list of mutually agreeable desirables and into domestic spaces. And delivering in the real not abstract idealistic world (aka the solitary sorry man cave) is what fine hifi is, or should be, all about. The German Physiks Borderland MkIV gets it loud and clear!

German Physiks website