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This way of organizing space naturally combines with timbre. Again the tonal balance wasn’t very even and part of the upper midrange obviously stronger. Initially we might confuse this with brightness. After the necessary perceptional adjustment, our response should be completely different. Parts of the timbre then absorb into the reverb and leave behind a darker base sound. But to hear it as such requires time. We won’t understand it during a quick demo. At least I didn’t. In the end it’s neither brightness nor sharpness but rather a specific sense of aliveness.

It never crossed the borders of good taste—not even remotely—but did imprint itself on all music I played. So-called atmospheric albums became phenomenally so. This was the case with the 7 souls and Blade Runner soundtracks but also Laurie Anderson’s Bright Red. How nicely everything fit together. Out-of-phase elements that should be placed at the listener’s sides or behind his back came off in spectacular fashion. It felt like listening to a refined surround-sound recording over a large 5.1 system set up according to ITU guidelines. Here was true space behind me. Even the best conventional speakers I know only manage this in pinpoint fashion for one single head position. Here it mattered not where I sat. I could even wander across the room and the effect stayed put. Marvelous!

To repeat, a section of the midband was emphasized while the lower midrange was slightly recessed. This meant less solid anchoring of vocals than my Harpia speaker do it or the Hansen Audio Prince v2 which is brilliant in that regard. It’s the one area that could be improved but clearly doesn’t have to. The DDD/woofer transition was inaudible, great news since that’s usually the Achilles heel of hybrids like the HRS 120. I could not detect where the drivers changed hands. Perhaps the midrange depression was related but that would only be indirect evidence.

Bass quality was high, coherent, well articulated and reached shockingly low. I confirmed this with a vinyl Kraftwerk reissue. It proved how these slender Germans produced bigger, more powerful and saturated bass than far bigger designs. The range was both quick and dense to make particularly older recordings where the upright bass still played a lead role—John Coltrane’s Coltrane, Doris Drew’s Delightful Doris and Laurie Allyn’s Paradise—beautifully coherent.

The sub 40Hz band meanwhile wasn’t as resolved or articulated. This is no oversight. We simply can’t expect everything from such a compact design. Electronically generated infra bass as on Diorama’s Cubed and a disc by Anderson had less clearly rendered articulation and phrasing. That’s life. The room is a key contributor to success again which in this instance would clearly favour larger rather than smaller spaces.

In conclusion, these are obviously very unconventional loudspeakers. Because they are expensive, we expect of them to nail certain general speaker goals by definition. Here the HRS 120 both exceeds and misses. On one hand its frequency response is less linear than many far cheaper conventional speakers. On the other hand it presents such a compelling mix of performance attributes that one questions very seriously why other speakers must lack them. Chief amongst those special virtues is spatial holography. While I know perfectly well that ideal speakers don’t exist, I’ve never heard anything like these for subjectively subtracting the listening room from the equation and overlaying it with the real recorded ambiance. Once you hear that, you want it. Being accustomed to traditional speakers, I completely forgot that the instruments were behind the speaker, that the stage was only a few meters wide and that the sound was only in front of me. This was space unplugged.

True, neither was the tonal balance ideal nor the bottom octave super resolved. The slightly recessed lower midrange also suppressed dynamic range. With electronica and heavy metal, these were no dynamic demons. That’s simply the price to pay for their special and rare virtues. It’s not about a deceleration of the sound by the way which instead was almost instantaneous like the best electrostats. Attacks were neither veiled nor blunted. In truth we can’t even speak of attacks per se as they become supporting agents of a greater whole to not draw any attention to themselves.

To listen to these speakers becomes mandatory to appreciate where and how other speakers fail. Even if you decide that ultimately this sound isn’t for you, the encounter will leave you enriched with a completely new experience and wiser and humbler for it. That’s something audiophiles and music lovers perhaps need more than anything else.

Description: The German Physiks HRS-120 are nominal 2-ways but closer to a subwoofer-assisted widebander because the DDD drivers cuts off at 240Hz. That’s far lower than most all two-way speakers which traditionally cross in their tweeters between 1kHz and 3kHz. Unassisted the DDD will actually make 120Hz as I heard at the Munich show. Or it can be paired with a woofer like the HRS-120’s 250mm impregnated paper-cone unit with rubber roll suspension. This woofer works in a sealed alignment and fires down. I couldn’t inspect the crossover because the speaker was solidly bolted together and I had no inclinations to foot a repair bill. The materials reference the filters as 12dB/octave electrical slopes.

The octagonal cross-section enclosure is made from MDF and in the version as reviewed bonds to that substrate a carbon-fiber skin which rapidly sheds rather than stores transmitted energies. At 95.000zł in Poland, this carbon-fiber version is significantly costlier than the 64.000zł wood-veneer and 84.000zł high-gloss lacquer options. Yet carbon fiber’s impact on the sound is pronounced. The plinth bolts to the cabinet and spikes to the floor on four points. The woofer output radiates through the plinth vents. The speaker cables plug into a single gold-plated terminal pair on a metal plate on the back of the speaker. There’s also a treble balance adjustment from –2 to +4dB in 2dB steps accomplished by repositioning a gold-plated jumper.

Technical data (according manufacturer):
Impedance: 4Ω
Frequency response: 29-24.000Hz
Nominal power: 110W
Peak power: 170W
Recommended amplifier power: minimum 100W/4Ω
Crossover frequency: 240Hz
Efficiency: 87.2dB (1W/1m)
Drive units: one carbon-fiber DDD, one 250mm woofer
Dimensions: 1145 x 320 x 320mm HwWxD
Weight: ca. 32.6kg/ea.

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