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At my disposal I had 2 x 350 watts compliments of Tenor Audio’s mighty 175S monoblocks. The speaker’s back panel sports single-wire terminals and a treble contour facility for flat, +/-2dB and +4dB hinged at 8kHz. This allows for room-matching adjustments. My room and ears preferred the flat setting. Increased DDD output overemphasized the ‘hall effect’ by having the reverberant field over-dominate direct sounds. Meanwhile lower settings dulled the sound.

Often overlooked, the vital element of the room on the overall sound becomes even more influential here. These speakers must play the room as I heard it demonstrated at the company’s brilliant show set-up in Munich. In my space however, the right and left speaker see a quite different surrounding. As I confirmed many times over the years, this never unduly influenced classic speakers. Even the omni-directional Duevel Planets and mighty Bella Luna worked well in the usual spots. Not the German Physiks. These I had to move farther away from room boundaries. This was best observed with mono records whose cymbals didn’t originate in the middle but from the sides as though in stereo. Hence the HRS-120—and for that matter all models from this company—must be very carefully auditioned in one’s own space and not merely in an audio salon.

I will merely add that this review didn’t rely on my usual Luxman M-800A but the aforementioned Tenor Audio 175S amplifiers, the Avid  Acutus Reference turntable with Miyajima Labs Waza pickup plus London/Decca Maroon and Jubilee cartridges and D/A converters from Naim and CEC.

Sound: 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 Sessions/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 180g maxi-SP LP; Diana Krall, All For You. A dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio, Impulse!/Original Recordings Group, ORG 006, 2 x 180g LP; Diorama, Cubed Deluxe Edition, Acsession Records,A 114, 2 x CD;  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, 180g LP (2009); 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 180g LP; Yamamoto, Tsuyoshi Trio, Midnight Sugar, Three Blind Mice/Cisco Music, TBM-23-45, 45 rpm, 2 x 180g LP.

This review came to pass for one simple reason. I was enchanted by what I heard in the German Physiks exhibit during the High End 2010 show in Munich. Their new stand-mounted PQS-100 Plus powered by Vitus Audio electronics was so spectacular that I singled it out with a High End 2010 Best Sound award. I suddenly could no longer view these speakers as peculiar. I began to appreciate them in an entirely new light. This begged for closer investigation of course.

Whilst in Munich, I already knew the sound of other omnipolar speakers like the Duevel Bella Luna but still was unprepared. Leaving aside timbre, the German Physiks-style holography was simply incredible. We kicked off with an old recording and the loudspeakers brought the studio acoustics into the difficult and quite cold exhibit room - quite literally transported it there. I had a completely different world in front of me that was coherent and brilliantly layered between what was closer and what was farther away. I did not expect that from an omnipolar, even one as expensive as this.

First I must explain that these aren’t perfectly linear loudspeakers. Without doubt a part of the spectrum is slightly emphasized, another slightly shelved down but I believe these bands to be quite narrow. From an audiophile purist perspective it’s clearly a departure from neutrality. Fortunately I do not have to write about hifi but music reproduction. Without special ado I can thus say that those elements influenced the music playback to become outright spectacular in certain aspects. I shall of course begin with space since that’s what differentiates the HRS from all other loudspeakers I’ve previously experienced at home.

What they render is true space and not merely a soundstage. We no longer deal with instruments and their acoustics but with the room the instruments played in – big or small but always a space surrounded by walls with its own reverb, character and timbre. Instruments and voices behave completely differently than on a soundstage as conventional speakers present it. Here they are perceived as though we sat in a live concert. The German speakers bring the recording space to us such that it seems completely unrelated to the loudspeakers or our own acoustics. Their space is far bigger than the actual size of our room would suggest or could contain. With concert recordings like the 1985 live version of Strangers In The Night by Frank Sinatra or Bob Dylan & The Band’s Before The Flood, I saw huge venues in front of me. Such adrenaline and feeling of ‘being there’ I have not enjoyed for a very long time.

The way these speakers draw space quite specifically was unexpected. Sound sources weren’t presented as points or small razors pointing their edges towards us but rather, as discrete spaces of cubic volumes. There were no image cutouts over against a blackground. There was no pin-point imaging as is so beloved by audiophiles. This was far closer to reality where sounds become amalgamated of reflections and direct sounds only act as a kind of pilot around which the rest becomes organized and focused. It was very apparent how differently these speakers interact with the room and how that interaction will impact the final result. First one must get acclimated. Most of us are ‘poisoned’ by the presentation of classic speakers which tend to condense and refocus the sound to solidify the point sources of emanations as strongly as possible. The HRS is different. It too condenses the sound but only up to a certain point. Beyond that the sound ‘decompresses’ before it reaches us.