Loudspeakers are very personal in taste, very diverse in design concepts, and vary greatly in cost.
We have selected a few good sounding speakers at different price levels. These are in the main dynamic speakers with the ability to great large, deep 3–dimensional soundstages similar to those from the best electrostatic designs.
Please click on the loudspeaker images for full image.
I first heard a loudspeaker from this manufacturer of omnidirectional loudspeakers about 5 years ago and was really impressed with their sound. That model at that time was a touch too expensive for my portfolio but the sound remained in my head as being exceptional. More recently, German Physiks have introduced a lower priced, entry model based on an early design and hence it is called the Unlimited MkII.
This employs the same DDD driver as in all their other more expensive models, a carbon fibre cone suspended vertically (upside down) that allows the sound to radiate 360 degrees. This technology is unique to German Physiks and, along with some very clever technology to damp cabinet resonances, is why these loudspeakers sound far better than any other omindirectional design. They also produce a sound stage that not many conventional dynamic speakers can emulate.
Because the main DDD driver operates from 24 kHz all the way down to 220 Hz, absolutely flat, the majority of the sound is generated via one single driver. The DDD driver is not enclosed in the cabinet, hence no colouration from box resonances, resulting in a sound is very pure, transparent and sweet across the frequency range.
The low crossover point minimises many of the problems associated with forward facing driver designs, the principal one being of phase integration. This phase problem exists where crossovers are in the mid band range, a fairly common occurrence with more conventional speaker designs. Our ears are most sensitive here and can pick up these as distortions fairly easily, along with any poor integration of multiple drivers. Having a crossover point well outside of this sensitive mid band region results in more transparency and far more accurate focus of imaging than might be otherwise expected from any speaker let alone an omnidirectional design. In fact the focus is superb within a very large, deep soundstage.
The lower frequencies are supplemented by a bass driver built into the bottom of the cabinet firing downwards into the plinth exiting via carefully designed ports. The integration between the two drivers is excellent resulting in a seamless sound without any lag of bass behind the super fast DDD driver. Bass extension is deep and powerful for the size of cabinet but fast and detailed too.
All German Physiks loudspeaker cabinets are damped in a unique way using a special material called Hawaphon. Developed for military use to eliminate sound resonating within solid structures. It consists of a single layer of small metal spheres housed in individual "pockets". When attached to a solid surface, in this case the different MDF material used to construct the cabinets, and that surface vibrates, they move very slightly absorbing the unwanted resonance energy. This is done so efficiently that, other than adding a special textured felt over the Hawaphon, no other internal damping of the cabinet is required. No internal bracing is used which can introduce another resonance point, no fibre filling within the internal void is required. Simple and highly effective.
The sound produced from these speakers is a very large and deep sound stage way beyond the boundaries of the speakers. Almost beyond the boundaries of the room. Within this soundstage, the focus of the stereo image is very precise, and the lack of distortion immediately apparent. An exceptionally coherent sound with a natural tone closely mimics that of the live event.
There is no sweet spot in order to obtain the "best" stereo imaging. This focus, the large soundstage and the correct tonal balance can be experienced in almost all positions in the room. More like that experienced in a concert hall.
The low level detail resolution is of a very high level resulting from a level of transparency normally only experienced in higher priced speakers. The low mass of the DDD drivers produces very fast dynamics, somewhat akin to that from the best electrostatic designs. And like electrostatics, there is no box colouration as there is no box around the DDD driver.
The sculptural looks and solid coloured cabinets will fit into many contemporary interiors and appear to be a piece of modern art rather than loudspeakers. A wide range of veneers, some of them from exotic woods, are available enabling these unique cabinets to blend within almost any interior design.
The Unlimited Mk II is a 4 sided, slim cabinet and can work well in rooms up to 55 sq m. The HRS-130 and the Borderline have 8 sided cabinets and are bi-wire capable. The HRS-130 can generate high dynamic levels of sound in rooms up to 75 sq m, perhaps as high as 90 sq m.
Once again, the holographic magic that I had heard last year was powerfully in evidence this year. I am quite taken by the very best omnidirectional designs that I have heard…Dr. David Robinson, the editor of Positive Feedback,
To put it plainly, the sound here was very damn good, with simply lovely timbre on a Bösendorfer grand, and an equally lovely sense of enveloping space. This was a better presentation than what I've heard in the past from GP, blessed with the seamless coherence of the DDD but with tighter imaging in the mids, terrific transient response and ambience retrieval in the treble, and very good integration and sock on the bottom.Senior reviewer Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound magazine
Terrific on Rimsky Korsakov and equally wonderful on Doctor John and Odetta’s version of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” this was my first Best of Show contender"Senior reviewer Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound magazine
I've always been a fan of German Physiks and here again was a perfect example as to why: the sound is open, you can sit anywhere in the room and get the same focus as you would in the sweet spot. The low-end is rich, quick and goes deep only when needed.Editor Clement Perry, Stereo Times
AV Showrooms is a US web based magazine that makes videos of rooms at shows. Their Peter Breuninger listened to the track Conversations from Anne Bisson’s album Commitments on our system and said:
…this was I think the fifth time I have got gooseflesh at the show today. It was wonderful. The detail was there, the body of Anne’s voice was there, the cello was just exquisite…
The Audio Beatnik, a new US web magazine run by a long established reviewer called Jack Roberts, who also writes for The Absolute Sound wrote:
This was one room that surprised me. I had heard German Physiks speakers before but never like this. The amount of air they moved and the space they created made for a really lifelike experience. While no system is perfect, especially at an audio show, this was the most emotionally involving room I heard at the show.
Given the right amplifier and room setup, the HRS-130 ticks all the important sonic boxes and clearly edges out the competition when it comes to palpable imaging. No wonder the German Physiks HRS-130 is currently my favorite speaker under $25k.Dick Olsher, The Absolute Sound, Issue 275
The Absolute Sound has also awarded the HRS-130 a Golden Ear Award
– acoustic vinyl in black, white, grey or brown £9600
– high-polish polyester in black, white, red or yellow £11700
– veneer or paint in satin finish £12950
– veneer in high-polish finish £15650
– high-polish polyester in black or white £15650
– carbon fibre £16200
Borderland Mk IV
– veneer or paint in satin finish £24250
– veneer in high-gloss finish £25850
– high-polish polyester in black or white £25850
Carbon Mk IV
- carbon fibre £26900
These loudspeakers are designed to play against walls as opposed to free space. This is a bonus for listening rooms of limited size or where the ergonomics do not allow conventional speakers to sit as far away from walls as is recommended for the best sound.
Larsen have 3 models none of which is particularly large; the model 8 is the tallest at 91.6 cm (36"); the other two models, 6 and 4, are 75 cm (30”) and 73.5 cm (29”) tall respectively.
The model 8 uses Scan-Speak drivers of high quality. A mid-range/bass speaker and tweeter is placed in the upper part and fires upwards and sideways. There are sideways firing bass drivers in the cabinets near the floor. Good bass from a small(ish) enclosure claimed to be down to 23 Hz measured in room. It has a smooth response across the bass and midrange with very extended high frequencies. A small drop on the presence range makes them less aggressive than many modern speaker designs.
Whilst offering good deal of transparency across the bandwidth, there is a degree of coloration, not surprisingly for a speaker using the wall to generate some of the lower mid and bass frequencies. This can be accommodated fairly easily but needs considered partnering with ancillary equipment and cables.
The soundstage is akin to an omni speaker but is not as deep, or as precise in its imaging as, for example, the German Physiks speakers. With the wall placement the soundstage can only project forwards but has a realistic illusion of 3-D depth to it. There is much wider “sweet spot” that with conventional, forward firing, dynamic speakers. The sound stage does not change much with listening position so is much more like music heard in a concert hall. The imaging is not as precise as one has come to expect with “hifi” loudspeakers but then live music does not have that precision of imaging in a concert experience.
The model 6 is smaller version of the 8 but without the side bass drivers. Bass extension from a smaller cabinet is claimed to be 26 Hz. The model 4 extends down to 28 Hz and has complete cover over the drivers making it perhaps the most attractive appearance of the three models in a room.
Finishes include veneers of cherry, maple, black and white lacquer – for the 8 and 6. Beech vinyl and Redwine MDF, white and black lacquer for the 4.
Larsen 4.2 £1195.00
Larsen 4 CS £595.00
Larsen 6.2 £2395.00
Larsen 8 £4795.00
Larsen 6/8 SC £1075.00
The Larsen 8 has been awarded The Absolute Sound Editors’ Choice Award 3 years running: 2015, 2016 and 2017.
These unconventional looking loudspeakers are also unconventional in their sound. They produce a most musical experience with fast dynamic bass, a less sterile, less hi-fi approach to sound than with many conventional box-shaped cabinet designs that are now populating the higher end of the audiophile market.
The company is based in Taiwan and has been established since 1996 but so far are relatively unknown here in the UK.
The various models deliberately emulate the shape of musical string instruments and in doing so have very few parallel surfaces. The narrowing of the shape in the upper parts which house the ribbon tweeters help to increase the dispersion of the upper frequencies giving a very open and large soundstage. The images are very precise and have a lot of air around them and the finest levels of detail are easily perceived.
From first listening, it is easy to hear that these speakers are designed by a musician with it accurate timbre, a musical presentation of rhythm and a most tuneful but fast bass.
The cabinets are very stiff with little resonance to them. The quality of the build, the finish of the veneers is of the highest order. High gloss lacquers only enhance the depth of the veneers used.
The driver compliment is a combination of ribbon tweeters and non woven carbon fibre bass speakers. The tweeters are either of Air Motion design or made from purified aluminium. The large models use several ribbon tweeters and in every model there is a small ribbon tweeter incorporated in the rear cabinet firing backwards and upwards. This adds to the sense of air and space giving great scale to the soundstage.
Crossover components are made from high quality MKP capacitors, high purity OFC inductors and metal oxide film resistors of military grade standard. Teflon insulated OCC cables are used throughout for the internal wiring.
The sound of these loudspeakers is on a par with the best brands in the high-end audiophile market. Their presentation bears a close resemblance to that of Avalon Acoustics, a high accolade from our side, but with a little more warmth to the bass frequencies. There is no loss of speed or detail in the bass but this may appeal to those who consider the bass to the Avalon models a tad on the dry side.
If you are after a high quality sound but with speaker that looks like a high quality piece of furniture, or a work of art, then these should be heard.
Violin SE including dedicated stands(pictured) £8900
Double Bass £27900
Standard finishes - Natural Cherry or Rosewood
Premium finish - high gloss piano black POA
Other models prices to be announced in due course.
This new brand has impressed us greatly with their first model of a large stand mount. Elegantly designed cabinets and featuring two drivers from their proprietary aluminium designs. The cabinets are boat shaped with a curved back to minimise cabinet resonances and incorporate a front port. Mark Fenlon is responsible for the basic concept and overall speaker design with Dr Scott Lindgren who has worked on the crossover design and port tuning. All components in this speaker are made in-house including the custom high mass stand. The drivers are Sota high grade, aluminium cone drivers, including those used as tweeters, which have a wide bandwidth and wide dispersion characteristics.
From first listening it is clear this is not the average type of sound encountered from stand mounts, especially at this price point. A large and spacious sound with a deep sound stage emanating from a relatively small enclosure. Creating such a large sound picture would normally be something generated by floor stand designs. Bass is also generous for a stand mount with a full bodied mid-range which, in part, is due to the crossover design that uses a small number of high quality components, of low order. The crossover point has been set at a lower than average frequency of 1.45kHz, placing it under the 2.5-3.5kHz range our ears are most sensitive to.
Most importantly, it is the very natural tonal balance with almost no box colouration, resulting in higher level of transparency compared to conventional box designs that impresses, and is not something that one would expect for the price. The high frequencies are very sweet due to the cone design tweeter; hence no “sizzle” and “spit” that can emanate from more conventional dome tweeters.
The cabinets are beautifully finished to a very high standard. Designed by an Italian industrial designer to emulate am elegant piece of furniture, consequently they do not look like the “usual” speaker. Four finishes are available: high gloss light and dark oak; high gloss black and white.
A very different approach to loudspeakers; a very different sound.
Viotti One, including custom stands, £2880
After careful evaluation we are pleased to represent ProAc’s latest speaker designs. The level of sound–staging and transparency has improved over earlier models. They are famously known for their precise imaging, which is very much in evidence but now produce believable depth as well as width in their presentation. Cabinet work is of the highest standard with superb quality of veneering. All speakers have bi–wire capability.
Partnered with amplification of commensurate quality, these loudspeakers produce a sound quality above their price point and hence offer superb value for money.
A NEW entry level floor standing model called the Response DT8 is now available. This uses the same size and style of cabinet as the Response D20 but with a very different driver compliment and arrangement. ProAc invests a great deal of research into the choice of diaphragm material for their drive units and have found that some materials excel at certain frequencies. Therefore it would prove logical to use more than one type of drive unit material to cover all frequencies.
This latest ProAc floor standing design incorporates these parameters for the first time in a two-way loudspeaker. Utilising 2 x 6.5 inch drivers, the pulp mica cone unit delivers exceptional bass performance in a ported cabinet with the bass loaded via side vents, and the polypropylene unit gives a smooth, detailed midrange. Both drivers work in tandem resulting in a well extended low frequency response and ProAc's signature natural sounding midrange quality and pinpoint imagery. These wider frequency ranges are then cleverly overlapped by a new, Stewart Tyler designed, crossover which seamlessly integrates ProAc's proven 1 inch soft dome tweeter which is placed between the 2 larger drivers.
Whilst the Response D20 gives a larger and deeper sound stage, the DT8 is close in performance but at a lower price saving £850. A worthy addition to the Response range.
Our demonstration pair of the Response DB-1 compact loudspeakers are now with us and fully run-in. These produce an unexpectedly large soundstage from a stand mount design, one normally associated with a larger enclosure. The newly designed, long throw bass driver produces quality extended bass that is fast and dynamic, A new crossover design give a flatter response at high levels resulting in mid range and high frequencies that are sweet and extended with no hint of harshness. The cabinets are made from different thicknesses of high density fibre board, damped with bituminous polymers. The small cabinets have a low visual impact on any room but deserve to be supported by solid, stiff stands of commensurate quality.
The Response D30R continues to impress with its excellent sound. This compact floorstander features their ribbon tweeter and a new carbon fibre bass driver. The integration between these two drivers is exceptional resulting in a virtually seamless frequency response – a remarkable achievement at this price point. Clean, accurate bass with side-vented bottom porting that ensures good extension with low colouration. A sweet and detailed treble with no hint of harshness or sibilance. The mid range is very transparent revealing every nuance in voices and natural instruments. Clean accurate bass from a medium size enclosure. A dome tweeter option is also available for the same price for those who may prefer this presentation.
Our demonstration pair of the Response D20R loudspeakers are now with us and fully run-in. This upgraded version of the D18 using the ribbon tweeter from the D30 and D40 has improvements in all areas. The cabinet has been re-designed with upgraded bass loading and new crossover. As with the D30R, the side-vented porting at the bottom of the speaker offers extended bass frequencies with low colouration.
The reaction from the customers that have heard them so far has been nothing short of amazement. These can be considered a smaller version of the D30R; same ribbon tweeter but coupled with a glass fibre bass cone incorporating an acrylic phase plug. Once again, a high level of sound quality for the money and they are likely to become a new reference for this price point. A dome tweeter option is also available fro the same price for those who may prefer this presentation.
Superb build quality as expected from this manufacturer
Standard Finishes: Cherry, maple, mahogany and black ash.
Response DB3 - standard finishes £1475
Response DB1 - standard finishes £1900
Response D2 – standard finishes (pictured) £2100
Response DT8 - standard finishes £1950
Response D20/R/D (dome or ribbon tweeter) - standard finishes £2800
Ebony/Rosewood - £3222
Response D30RS/DS (dome or ribbon tweeter) – standard finishes (pictured) £4750
Response D48 (dome or ribbon tweeter) - standard finish £6125
Other models can be made available for audition with notice. Please ring for details.