2016 Choice EXOTICA
Chris Ward listens to German Physiks" latest omnidirectional floorstander to see if it"s a great all-rounder
looking more like alighthouse than anythingelse, one glance at thisextraordinary loudspeakertells you that you"re going to hearsomething different. The HRS-130 isno higher or wider than many largefloorstanders, but this octagonalcross-section speaker is heavy, stronglybraced and seriously dense. Thecabinet is lined with a high-massdamping material called Hawaphonthat consists of a polymer sheetcontaining a matrix of small cells filledwith fine steel shot. Apart from thetwin binding posts, there is nothing todenote a front, back or sides and beingomnidirectional, it should deliver thesame performance in every direction.Build quality feels superlative withhighly refined engineering meetingexquisite, hand-finished polished
The soundstage is so huge it"s as though I can wander through the performers
surfaces. Here we see the gloss pianoblack, but you can choose from anextensive list of gloss, satin and veneerfinishes. The HRS-130"s origins can betraced back to the work of LincolnWalsh in the sixties and more directlyto the designs of visionary polymathPeter Dicks in the late seventies. Dickswanted to create a transducer designthat would avoid traditional driverweaknesses. His early designs havebeen advanced considerably, but thisrevolutionary driver fittingly retains hisname, the Dicks Dipole Driver (DDD).Put simply, traditional cone and domedrivers are like pistons, pushing soundenergy broadly in the same directionthe voice coil actuates, leading to thenorm of rigid drivers that pointtowards a listener. The elongated coneshape of the DDD still has a voice coiland magnet assembly (pointing down)to drive it, but this cone is engineeredto move, resonate and flex in fourhighly complex ways. It still acts partlylike a pistonic driver, but the majorityof its operating range is derived by thevoice coil pushing against a stiff, nearrigid suspension that causes the driverwalls to bend, flex and ripple,propagating sound waves up to nearright angles to the direction of theactuating voice coil that creates aradiating sound pattern in 360°. Theinnovative driver design is precisionmanufactured using a very thin carbonfibre foil (only 0.15mm thick) that isrelatively rigid at rest, but can beexcited into complex but controllablewaves. This is able to reproduce a vastrange of frequencies from 220Hz up to24kHz. Thereafter, the lowest octavesare handled by a 10in woofer firingdownwards within the base, claimedto reach an impressive 29Hz. This lowcrossover point promises a coherentsound as it"s way below the traditionalmidband area, where human hearing ismost sensitive to phase errors.I use a Veracity Mystra DAC (HFC416) and Shanling CD-T100 transportvia Missing Link Dark Art 75ohmdigital connector and start by poweringthe HRS-130 with the Cyrus ONE (HFC417) connected via Black RhodiumSonata VS-1 RCA interconnects (HFC398) and Black Rhodium Foxtrotspeaker cable (HFC 412). I know theCyrus ONE has very strong currentdelivery that may suit this design.Usefully, there is a system for adjustingthe high-frequency output of thespeaker if you have a very large orsoftly furnished listening space.Room positioning takes a littleexperimentation. Too close to rear orside walls and reflected sound canupset the musical communication.Conversely, the downward-firing basswoofer can be reinforced by proximityto a wall, so it is relatively simple tomove the speakers until the qualities ofthe DDD and woofer reach a happybalance. This equates to a little over ametre from the rear wall and slightlymore from side walls.
Playing You"re The One by Kaytranadagives me a direct comparison betweenmy reference Cadence speakers andthe HRS-130. The opening clicktrack/clap is rendered with real snap andspeed. There"s already extra ambiencearound this incisive beat that tells methe speaker is bringing somethingextra to the party. The bass line entersand the HRS-130 handles the lowestregister with consummate ease.Deep bass has fantastic agility andis portrayed in an entirely musicalway. Some speakers stretch their basscredentials, performing at the edge oftheir limits, but this just delivers thedeepest frequencies without blinking.Warm but richly detailed vocalsshine out from a totally immersivesoundscape as a shaker or afuchecabasajoins the mix, positivelyglistening with sweet, high-frequencysparkle. There is a “projected” quality tothe sound image, akin to a stage actordelivering a subtle soliloquy to the backof an auditorium. Communication iscompletely unforced, with music justflowing through the whole room, notovertly emanating from the drivers.The omnidirectional design propagatessound in a way that means I can walkaround the room with little or nodegradation to the image. Even peoplein the next room can be drawn in tothe performance, in a way that otherspeakers simply can"t match.The HRS-130 presents a 4ohm load;not tough by high-end standards, butdemanding a certain amount of power,or more likely current dynamics, toperform at its best. I connect a pair ofAcousticimagery ATSAH 500monoblocks (HFC 404) to the Veracity
Marketing manager, German Physiks
CW: What are the musical benefits of the German Physiks"design?
RK: Having one compact driverproduce almost the full audio rangegives much greater coherence thansplitting the sound over two or moredrivers in different positions withdifferent radiation characteristics.This gives better timing as thereis no time delay distortion. Mostconventional speakers find it verydifficult to make the join betweentwo drivers seamless. We avoid acrossover point in the midrangewhere hearing is most sensitive toachieve improved transparency.You"re no longer tied to a smallsweet spot. You can enjoy a stereoimage with even frequencydistribution from a broad range ofpositions in the room, just as youwould in the real concert, so severalpeople can enjoy high-quality soundtogether and long-term listening ismore relaxed. In a live environment,much of the sound you hear isreflected, so you sit in an envelopingsoundfield. This reflected soundhelps to give the stereo image itssense of solidity. Omnidirectionalspeakers, with a similar envelopingsoundfield closely mimic the liveevent and are able to produce amore natural rendition of the originalstereo image. This has excellentdepth and focus, but without theoverly sharp or artificial imagedefinition that some speakersproduce, which you will rarely-ifever -hear at a live performance.
What"s special about the approach to engineering and construction?
Work is done by a small number ofhighly dedicated people working onsmall volumes to maximise personalpride and attention to detail increating a very high-quality product.If something is not perfect, it doesnot get shipped. Cabinets have beenbuilt using a local quality furnituremaker in Germany for many years.They understand the high levelof quality demanded and will evenmatch a veneer or a shade of paintto a sample approved by thecustomer, so speakers canmatch furniture or décor.
Mystra DAC, using its gain control toadjust volume. I now have a mighty700W to see what more the GermanPhysiks can give.I press play on the same track and thespeaker shifts up two gears. I"m drawninto the music and forget to take notes.The soundstage is huge and it"s asthough I can wander through theperformers. Dynamics top and bottomextend and sound quality of themidband becomes translucent,transcending the black towers in theroom. Bass quality becomes a set ofpure notes with extra texture and apunch that is visceral, but doesn"t seemto aggravate room modes. Everyindividual hi-fi quality has improved,but the effect is complete musicalityand unbridled communication.It"s important to underline that this isnot a function of brute amplificationpower. More that this revolutionaryspeaker design deserves never to be lefthungry for the current and control forit to fully perform. It"s similar to an F1car engine; it can be driven at lowerrevs, but it really comes on song whenbeing worked in a kind of power bandthat enables all of that engineering tofully optimise.I switch sources and spin MikeValentine"s direct cut vinyl of Too DarnHot performed by Clare Teale and theSLO on my vintage Townshend RockElite turntable via Timestep T-01MCphono stage (HFC 371). The openingrasp from the brass section is utterlycompelling and the kick drum is as fastas a gunshot. The responsiveness andability to handle fast transients is nearthe speed of an electrostatic speaker,but without a panel"s bass limitationsor a "beamy" sweet spot. Clare"s voicehas a honey richness and electrified airand every acoustic performer seems tohave extra room to breathe, with hugedynamic swings and dense detaileffortlessly conveyed. This "one take",live performance is delivered withstunning top-to-bottom "live" coherencethat completely communicates themusical prowess, emotional power andimmediacy of this highly dynamicrecording. It really doesn"t get anybetter than this.
The HRS-130 combines the speed andimaging qualities of an electrostaticpanel with the coherence andcommunication of a full-range driver,along with the air shifting qualities ofa dedicated subwoofer. Huge, wide,tall soundstages are continuoussweet spots that permeate even largelistening rooms in an entirely naturaland unforced way with fast transientdynamics, pure bass notes and densecomplexity simply flowing as musicshould. Acoustic music feels live andmesmerising, while electronica is ableto transport you to another world.Add another pairof monoblocks to bi-amp each speakerand it could well be a giant slayer
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