To detail out pertinent differences between the HRS-120 and Borderland models, I asked marketing manager Robert Kelly to get all the facts from designer/owner Holger Mueller. "Sonically the Borderland is a little smoother but the bass is very much more powerful and goes much deeper (12-inch vs 8-inch woofer). The Borderland woofer is of better quality and thus more expensive. The Borderland also plays a lot louder. The HRS-120 has the same basic sonic characteristics and was developed as a smaller version for smaller rooms. The Borderland has separate input terminals for the DDD and woofer to allow bi-amping or biwiring. The HRS-120 has a single set of inputs. The Borderland has a much better crossover with higher quality more expensive parts. It is also a more elaborate filter design for improved dynamics and resolution. Due to its complexity, the Borderland crossover is split into two boards. It has one for the DDD, another for the woofer. One can see this in the Italian review here. The Borderland crossover has been revised at least twice since that review was published. The internal cabling on the Borderland is also of higher quality and sourced from a major German cable manufacturer without being a silly-expensive exotic. The Borderland and its special Carbon version sound basically the same. The Carbon simply has slightly cleaner bass due to the even stiffer carbon fibre re-enforced cabinet. The Borderland cabinet is also far more expensive to make than the HRS-120’s. This is partly because it is larger, partly due to the transition piece between DDD driver and main cabinet being more complex to make. I am afraid we do not have any waterfall plots. They are not really useful for comparisons unless they were measured in exactly the same way." [German Physiks Engineer Harald Knoll at right.]

At this juncture one should pause and reflect on speakerdom's status quo. Conventional dynamic drivers dominate. Even very expensive very established brands do nothing of note to really advance the state of this art. They continue business as usual. It's disguised behind fancy cabinet shapes and hi-tech enclosure materials. Meanwhile the actual sound producers remain tied to a pistonic vintage driver concept. Its samples are routinely sourced from the same makers which supply their competitors. Nothing new under the hifi sun is a common associated complaint. It's precisely here where companies like German Physiks make an actual tech contribution. Regardless of what one thinks of their presentation; or positioning in the market as it relates to price; that fact should be acknowledged separately. When it comes to innovation, German Physiks are a cut above from some of the biggest most famous names in the field. Their website does a good job of explaining the four different operational modes which their DDD driver undergoes across its bandwidth to be a de facto mechanical (crossover-less) 4-way.


What still is of note? The first production speaker based on the Dick's Dipole Driver licensed by Holger Mueller and perfected over a few years before deemed ready for prime time was the 1992 Borderland MkI shown at left. It's the model which launched German Physiks the brand. In a most direct way, the Borderland MkIV is thus today's expression of the company's maiden product and core concept. All other models are either attempts to lower cost by scaling down the associated woofer and enclosure; or to scale up output and bandwidth by paralleling DDD drivers in various ways whilst mating them to more and more ambitious bass systems. But if one had to distill their entire catalogue down to just one model for the quintessential German Physiks, it unquestionably would be the Borderland MkIV under review.


Inherent in the by necessity freely spaced driver is lack of enclosure coloration (there is no box associated with it); and ideal employ in a simple 2-way configuration which merely must fill in the lower 3+ octaves where the DDD's bandwidth stops. Here hi-tech is in the service of simplicity, not complexity. And most would agree that when it comes to crossovers, simpler is better. Fewer filter points or 'ways' are preferable to more.


This leaves cosmetics. German Physiks offer the below furniture-grade veneers; flat Nextel paint; Carbon fibre; and high-gloss lacquers in black and white. Custom inquires are entertained.


The top-mounted 360° driver obviously must be in plain view. Hiding it behind a grill sock à la vintage Vandersteen—or the optional 'inverted trash bin' of early Alon by Acarian—would be unsightlier than the actual driver. Though a knee-jerk prediction might be a thumbs down from the fairer sex, my wife and numerous lady visitors to our digs have given our white HRS-120 a major thumbs up on appearance. Most people in fact have never seen anything like it. They tend to relate to the exposed DDD as more of a sculpture than a mechanical transducer that ought to be hidden behind the usual grill. On that count too German Physiks have done their homework with the HRS-120 and Borderland. When it comes to their very large models, opinions are far more likely to diverge. But the Borderland is still a simple octagonal column with invisible woofer and open top assembly that looks less than a speaker than most. When it came time to pick a finish option for review photography, I was told that I could have black or white polyester in satin or high gloss; and Macassar or ebony in satin or high polish as cabinets that were in inventory just then. I opted for satin white. Holger Mueller also agreed to ship the pair on split pallets, making it easier on the delivery service who could now use a smaller truck up our narrow windy road. And because I'm without a proper pallet strapper, they'd also use light-duty straps I could retighten for the return voyage. With bigger stuff, sweating practical delivery details beforehand makes all the diff.


Even so I still wasn't entirely psyched up for the actual weight of the boxed speakers. I duly managed to break the pull on my usual foot truck whilst yanking the first man-sized carton in mini heaves up our outdoor stairs. My back too got wrenched a bit and it was clearly time for a new toy. A so-called stair devil version foot truck with three overturning wheels per side did the tight-bunned stairmaster trick on the second box. Being slippery customers in their flawless matte paint skins, a pair of nicely sticky leather gloves prevented any mishaps once in our loft. After standing them upright and carting them into position, all that was left was remove four bolts in the plinth, replace them with dull-tipped spikes, set those into our British Track Audio protective metal shoes and set up proper toe-in. Not. I nearly smacked myself whilst, out of old habit, I actually began rotating the first speaker. Duh. As omnis, toe-in so isn't part of their vocabulary. All I needed was path-length equality to the listening chair. Old dog, old trick and all that. Woof.