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Floorstanding loudspeakers
German Physiks HRS 120 Carbon

Price: 95 000 zł (~ 23 630 euro)

Distributor: Audio System

tel.: (0-22) 662-45-99
fax: (0-22) 662-66-74


Manufacturer's website: German Physiks

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photos: German Physiks, Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

The first loudspeakers of this German company – as you can guess from the name - German Physiks appeared on the market in 1992. The company materials state, that before that happened, many years of research were done, since 1978. That was the time, when Peter Dicks, engineer, mathematician and sociologist involved in professional audio became frustrated with available audio transducer solutions. Being a researcher and wanting to resolve this problem, he started systematic research and in 1980 a prototype of a completely new type of transducer was ready – and what is even more important – the theoretical model of its work, which was developed in parallel. To make it clear – this was not a work of an amateur-enthusiast, which often leads to splendid results, but is fundamentally limited, but a “complete” work: theory + practice + result. Thanks to that, we got a concept, that can be developed “on paper” first, and then try how it performs in practice. This maybe not much, but this is key to understand what is DDD - Dicks Dipole Driver. This is a version of a famous driver, which was constructed after WWII called Walsh Driver, created by the American Lincoln Walsh. Peter, who is convinced, he found the “Holy Grail” of audio, took his idea and went to European companies manufacturing loudspeakers. Despite his enthusiasm and “live” knowledge, nobody was interested with his idea. Everyone was happy manufacturing what they did best – classic dome and cone drivers.

So the only thing that remained open to Dicks was to make his own loudspeakers. Going from a working prototype to a product made in series – more or less, taking into account the size of the market – is an incredibly costly process, requiring external financing sources. Fortunately Peter found a man, who took the risk and invested significant money in this new company. This man was Holger Mueller, an audiophile, IT specialist, owner of the company Manhattan Akustik. At first they sold classic loudspeakers, designed by Dicks in the beginning of the 90-ties.

But Mueller was mostly interested in the DDD. This was because he valued the loudspeakers he possessed, Ohm F, which used an early version of the Walsh Driver. The owner of Manhattan Akustik bought the license from Peter and so the company German Physics was born. The engineers split roles, and Dicks started to fine tune the mathematical model, and Mueller its practical implementation, in different context, and the external design. It took them two years to work out and implement improvements and in 1992 they started to sell the model Borderland, which started the official work of German Physics.

Reison d’être of the company is the DDD driver. You can see that it is completely different to what we are accustomed to on the first glance. My first reaction to DDD, during one of the High End shows in Munich was not different to the usual one I think – it seemed to me to be just another oddity. I was assured not being alone with this opinion looking at the reaction of my acquaintances, who visited me during the test, and when they saw the HRS 120 Carbon, they uttered similar opinions. So what is the DDD – this is a long, narrow cone – from titanium, or like in my version, from woven carbon fiber, looking similar to a classic driver, but placed “on its head”, vertically. On top we have a strong magnet, voice coil and lower suspension (“lower” in terms of classic loudspeakers) made from soaked woven material, and below we have a rubber upper suspension. The top and lower parts are connected with eight pins, which take on the role of the classic spider. Its dimensions are 212mm height, 264mm and 220mm (the diameter or the upper and lower parts). Weight – 6.3kg. The upper frequency reaches 24 kHz and the lower 70 Hz (with 50W maximum power, and no cross-over). The loudspeaker is described more precisely in an article written especially for “High Fidelity” by Robert Kelly, the head of sales of German Physiks, to be found HERE.

Except for the unusual shape and a different spider the DDD seems quite similar to a standard cone driver. The first difference is obvious – this is an omnipolar driver – although it has “dipole” in the name, its function is not limited to two sides, it radiates 360° (horizontally). The second difference is even more important – except for the shape, the German driver has nothing in common with the classic cone driver, which moves the whole diaphragm when there are changes of signal in the voice coil (at least in theory, because there are not ideally rigid pistons). In contrast the DDD has four phases of work – Dicks is talking about a fourfold mechanical division. The low frequencies are described by the Thiel/Small parameters; the higher resemble a classic cone driver, higher again we have generation due to the diaphragm bulging, and finally the last phase, where we deal with standing waves and “breaking up” of the diaphragm. Please do not ask more from me – this is really high mathematics, which I do not have access to, and which I cannot translate into something less complicated. Anyway, the balance between the individual frequency ranges is achieved by using special materials, diaphragm thickness, geometry of the cone, etc. Currently German Physics offers two versions of the driver – made from titanium foil with 0.025mm thickness and woven carbon fiber with 0.15mm thickness. We test the second one. Even more – the same material was used to create the external layer of the cabinet. It has octagonal shape and its core is made from MDF.

HRS 120 is a floor standing loudspeaker with two drivers – DDD on top, and a classic 250mm woofer in the bottom of the cabinet. The latter works in close cabinet setting and is coupled to the outside world by the proximity of the plinth – it radiates through the holes between it and the cabinet. In this case the cross-over frequency was set for 240 Hz using a 12dB/octave cross-over filter (electrical and 36dB/octave acoustical) for the DDD and 12dB/octave (electrical + 12dB/octave acoustical) for the woofer. The loudspeakers have the following dimensions: 320mm W x 1145mm H x 320mm D and weigh 65.3kg (pair). The frequency response is from 29 Hz to 24 kHz. The efficiency is medium – 87.2dB (1W/1m), and the loudspeakers require a powerful amplifier – the company states a minimum of 100W at 4Ω. I used 350W (at 4Ω) coming from the amplifier Tenor Audio 175S. On the back plate we have single wire terminals and a switch board, which can be used to control the amount of the treble: -2/flat/+2/+4dB, with the center at 8 kHz. The last characteristic allowed for experiments. In my room, the German Physiks fared best with the “flat” setting. Going up the sound got too “concert like”, the “hall effect” became dominating, the reverb was heard stronger than the original sound. Going down made the sound dull.

But there is something more important: the room. This is an element of the system, which is, fortunately, more and more in the center of attention, had even more to tell here. It is most important, that the loudspeakers play in the same environment. This is the way I heard it in Munich, where the company really done its job well, but in my room the left and right speaker have different surroundings, really different. This does not influence the sound of classic speakers – I tested that many times during the last few years, and I never had problems. Even the omnipolar Duevel Planets or the mighty Bella Luna sounded well placed in those spots. But it was different with the Physiks. Placed in the same spot as the mentioned Bella Luna they missed some coherence, which I heard earlier, during other listening sessions. I had to move the loudspeakers further away from the walls to improve on this element. It was heard best with monophonic recordings, because the cymbals were not coming from the middle, but from the sides, as if those would be stereo recordings. This is also the reason, that the HRS-120, and other loudspeakers from this company, MUST happen in our listening room, and not only in an audio salon.

I will just add, that in this case the test was not with my Luxman M-800A (actually not mine anymore…), but with the mentioned Tenor Audio 175S and with the turntable Avid Acutus Reference with Miyajima Laboratory Waza cartridge. In addition I listened to some DACs, like the Naim DAC and CEC DA-1N and the cartridges London (Decca) Maroon and Jubilee.


Discs used during testing:

  • 7 dusz, soundtrack, muz. Angelo Milli, Sony/Geneon/Rambling Records, GNCE-7044, CD.
  • Acoustic Session Vol. 1, sampler Dynaudio, 2 meter Sessies/2X2 Holding, 944.A014.058, CD.
  • Blade Runner, soundtrack, muz. Vangelis, Universal, UICY-1401/3, Special Edition 3 x CD.
  • Bob Dylan/The Band, Before The Flood, Asylium, AS 63 000, 2 x LP.
  • Depeche Mode, Fragile Tension/Hole to Feed, Mute Records, 12BONG42, 2 x 180 g, maxi-SP LP.
  • Diana Krall, All For You. A dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio, Impulse!/Original Recordings Group, ORG 006, 2 x 180 g LP; review HERE.
  • Diorama, Cubed Deluxe Edition, Acsession Records, A 114, 2 x CD; review HERE. · Doris Drew, Delightful, Mode Records/Muzak, MZCS-1123, CD.
  • Frank Sinatra, Strangers In The Night, Reprise/Sinatra Society of Japan, UICY-94422, SHM-CD.
  • John Coltrane, Coltrane, Prestige/JVC, VICJ-60270, K2 CD.
  • Kraftwerk, The Man Machine, Capitol Records/KlingKlang/Mute Records, STUMM 306, 180 g LP (2009); review HERE.
  • Laurie Allyn, Paradise, Mode Records/Muzak, MZCS-1124, CD.
  • Laurie Anderson, Bright red, Warner Bros., 45534, CD.
  • Lee Morgan, Tom Cat, Blue Note/Audio Wave, AWMXR-0008, XRCD24.
  • Tomasz Stańko Quartet, Lontano, ECM Records, ECM 1980, CD.
  • William Orbit, My Oracle Lives Uptown, Guerilla Studios/Linn Records, AKH 351, 2 x 180 g LP; review HERE.
  • Yamamoto, Tsuyoshi Trio, Midnight Sugar, Three Blind Mice/Cisco Music, TBM-23-45, 45 rpm, 2 x 180 g LP; review HERE.

This test happened due to one simple reason: I was enchanted with what I heard in the German room during the High End 2010 in Munich (HERE). There the stand mount speakers PQS-101 played powered with Vitus Audio electronics. The sound of that system was spectacular, that was also the reason, that I awarded it with the High End 2010 Best Sound title. The loudspeakers could not be called “peculiar” anymore, and I started to see them completely differently.

I knew the sound of other omnipolar loudspeakers, like the Duevell Bella Luna, but I was not prepared for what I heard. Leaving aside timbre, I must say, that the holography of what I heard was incredible. It was an old recording, we started with, and the loudspeakers brought the acoustic of the studio, the recording was done, to the difficult, quite “cold” exposition room. And they brought it literally. I had a completely different world in front of me. Coherent, brilliant in balance of what is closer and what is further away. I did not expect that from an omnipolar loudspeaker, even being so expensive.

First I want to mention something else – those are not linear loudspeakers. This because – without a trace of doubt – a part of the sound spectrum is slightly upped, another part slightly downed, and I think those bands are rather narrow than wide. From the “audiophile” point of view it is a departure from neutrality. But fortunately I do not have to write about hi-fi but about music, so without special ado I can say, that those elements influence the reproduction of music, which is spectacular in some aspects. I will of course start with the space, because this is the thing, that differentiates the HRS from all other loudspeakers I heard at home. This is TRUE space, and not just a “sound stage”. We do not deal with instruments and their acoustics, but with the room the instruments play in – a room big or small, but always a room, a space surrounded with walls, with its own reverb, character and timbre. The instruments and voices behave completely different than on a sound stage presented by conventional loudspeakers. They are heard as if we would be sitting on a live concert, listening to live musicians. Like I said, the German loudspeakers bring the recording space to us, and it seems completely not related to the loudspeakers or the listening room. It is much bigger than the size of the room would suggest. With concert recordings, like with a live version of Strangers In The Night sung by Frank Sinatra in 1985, or Before The Flood Bob Dylan & The Band, I had large rooms in front of me, huge, sideways and to the top. Such adrenaline, such feeling of “being there” I have not had for long, very long. The way the space is drawn is quite specific with those loudspeakers. The sources are not shown as points, they are not small ”razors” pointing with the edge towards us, but rather a certain space, some kind of “volume”. So on one hand there is no cutting out from the background, “point” like imaging, so loved by audiophiles. This is rather something that we deal with in reality, a sound that is created from reflections, where the direct sound is only a kind of “pilot”, something, where the rest is organized and focused around. It could be well heard, that those loudspeakers cooperate with our room, and that it will have a considerable influence on the final effect. We have to get used to that, because we are “poisoned” with the different presentation of classic loudspeakers, which tend to condense and focus the sound, trying to show the source of the emanation of the sound as solid, as strong as possible. The HRS sound different – they also do condense, but only to a certain point, they allow the sound to “decompress” after it gets to us.

Such way of organizing space combines with timbre. Like I said, the sound spectrum is not very even, and we can hear, that a part of the upper midrange is stronger. Initially we can even hear, that the loudspeakers sound bright. After accommodation, after adjusting to them, we will “see” it completely differently, because a part of the timbre will “fit” in the place of reverb, leaving the darker base sound. But to hear that we need time, we will not understand that in a quick demo – at least I did not understand it. But this is no “brightness” or “sharpness”, but rather some kind of “aliveness”. It does never cross the borderline of good taste, it does not even close, but it burns it sign on any recording we listen to. So called “atmospheric” recordings sounded phenomenally, absolutely incredibly with the German Physiks. That was the case with soundtracks 7 souls and Blade Runner, but also with Laurie Anderson discs, especially with Bright Red – oh, how nice it all fitted together! Elements in counter phase, which should be placed to the side of the listener, or behind him, were shown in a spectacular way – it was heard as if we had large 5.1 system, placed according to ITU recommendations, playing a refined surround recording. This was a true space behind me. Even the best conventional loudspeakers I heard, show such sounds and space in a quite point wise, and only in one position of our head. Here it did not matter much when I sat – I could even be strolling through the room, and still the effect was repeatable. Fabulous!

I’ll repeat – a part of the midrange is stronger here. The lower midrange is slightly withdrawn, what results in the vocals not being so strongly anchored in the sound as with my Harpias, or with the brilliant in that aspect Prince v2 Hansen Audio. This is one thing, that can – but does not have to! – be better. The transition between the DDD driver and the woofer was not audible. This is splendid news, because in hybrid constructions – and HRS 120 is one – this is the Achilles heel. I really cannot show the point, where the two drivers change roles. Maybe the mentioned withdrawal of the lower midrange can lead to something, but this is indirect evidence. The quality of the bass is high. This is a coherent, well articulated sound, reaching incredibly low. I checked that using the vinyl re-editions of Kraftwerk, which showed, that the German loudspeakers have bigger, stronger and more saturated bass than even much bigger constructions. This frequency range is quick and dense, what makes all older recordings, where the contrabass plays an important role, like on Coltrane John Coltrane, on the two discs Mode Records – Delightful Doris Drew Doris Drew and Paradise Laurie Allyn – it was beautifully integrated with the rest of the sound spectrum. Just splendid! The lower part of this range, below – let’s say – 40 Hz is not as well articulated, I mean, it has not that good resolution as the upper part of it. But there is no need to worry, this is not an error, it is just, that we cannot have everything. With electronically generated sounds from the disc Cubed Diorama and the mentioned Anderson the lower bass sounded without clearly shown changes in articulation, phrasing, etc. This is life… It was clear, that also in this case, the room we are playing is the key to success – and in this case the room should be rather large than small.

Those are not typical loudspeakers, what we can see at first glance. They cost very much, and this is the reason, they need to fulfill some goals set for loudspeakers from the start. The HRS 120 go a bit across those expectations, because on one hand they do not have such an even frequency response as many, even many times cheaper, conventional loudspeakers. On the other hand, they present such an incredible mixture of elements, so that we need to think, why – for god’s sake! – other loudspeakers do not have them. I am think most of all about space, holography. I know, that there are no ideal loudspeakers, but something like that, showing real space, exceeding the boundaries of our listening room, eliminating it from the equation (I mean the final effect, and not physics), I have never heard before. And I would like to hear it. Being accustomed to classic construction I forgot, that the instruments are not behind the loudspeakers, that the sound stage is not 3 or 4 meters wide, and that the sound is not only in front of us, but surrounds us. The HRS reminded me of that. The tonal balance is not ideal, the lower bass is not super resolved, and the slightly weaker lower midrange makes the dynamics slightly quieter. So those are no demons of dynamics, at least if we are thinking about electronics or metal. But this is the price we need to pay to get what I described above. It is not about slowing down the sound, as it is almost instantaneous, so “natural” in reaching us, as from the best electrostatic loudspeakers. There is no veiling, no rounding off the attack. In reality, we cannot hear the attack at all, because here it is only a part of a greater whole, having a supportive role here, not drawing any attention to it. This is a so called “must have”, we have to listen to those loudspeakers, to know, where other loudspeakers fail. Even if it will turn out, that this is not “our” sound, then we will be richer with completely new experience, wiser, and with that more humble. And that is what we, audiophiles/music lovers, need more than anything else.


HRS-120 from German Physiks are nominally two-way loudspeakers. But they are closer to wideband speakers supported with a woofer from below, and this is because the DDD driver is cut off at 240 Hz, lower than usual for two-way or even three-way loudspeakers – tweeters are usually cut at 1- 3 kHz. I already wrote about the DDD – this is an innovative driver designed by Peter Dicks, based on the Walsh Driver, made by the American, Lincoln Walsh. It can reach down to 70 Hz – and in that form I heard it during the High End show, or it ca be paired with a woofer, like in the HRS-120. The used woofer has 250mm diameter and a diaphragm made from impregnated paper, with a big, rubber upper suspension. The driver works in a closed cabinet, and fires down. I did not manage to see the cross-over, because the loudspeaker is solidly bolted together, and I did not want to participate in repair costs… The company materials state, however, that 12dB/octave filters were used.

The enclosure, with octagonal cross-section, is made from MDF, covered in this version with a layer of carbon fiber, which transmits energy splendidly, not storing it. This version is very expensive, much more expensive than other versions – for example a version with wooden veneer costs 64000zl, a version with gloss varnish 84000zl, and the tested carbon fiber version 95000zl. The differences are huge, but in case of carbon fiber, the influence on the sound is very pronounced. Below a plinth is bolted to the cabinet, with four spikes. The sound from the woofer radiates through holes between the cabinet and the plinth. The cables are plugged into the single, gold plated terminals on the back of the speaker, placed on a metal plate. There is also an option to change the amount of treble, regulated at 8 kHz, in the -2 to +4dB range. This is done by repositioning a gold plated jumper.

Technical data (according manufacturer):
Impedance: 4Ω
Frequency response: 31-21500 Hz
Nominal power: 100W
Peak power: 160W
Recommended amplifier power: minimum 100W/4Ω
Cross-over frequency: 240 Hz
Efficiency: 86.8dB (1W/1m)
Loudspeakers: one carbon fiber DDD, one woofer 250mm
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1145 x 320 x 320mm
Weight (piece): around 32.6kg

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