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Packed in heavy-grade double-boxed cardboard lined with form-fitting foam huggers and additionally protected in a cloth sack with flexible foam rings around top and bottom MDF caps, carbon DDD shielded from dust behind cling wrap, reversible spikes with point and ball ends in a separate folder with a test CD and owner's manual, the HRS-120 proved to be easy to carry and set up. Because I'd requested shipping without German Physiks' de rigueur pallet—I don't own a pallet strapper and storage is limited—a likely drop of one box had loosened the top assembly of one speaker. It fell off whilst I walked the speaker up my stairs. Apparently a first for the company, perfectionist Teutonic pride had taken a hit but the only physical damage was to the painted MDF cap. This screws directly into the DDD's top-facing magnet with one fat central bolt. The very same day the Frankfurt-based factory dispatched a replacement cap and some Ponal wood glue to have me reseal the head/enclosure seam and prevent possible leakage of the DDD's backwave which loads into its own sealed section of the octagonal pipe. Problem solved. The firm probably won't ship without a pallet ever again.

1: a conventional spider suspends the funnel's apex | 2: an inverted rubber surround terminates it on the bottom
3: facing the listening space | 4: the DDD assembly topped by the magnet with MDF cap removed

As the photos show, the DDD is a bit like a megaphone. It stands on its bigger open end with the magnet blowing in. But sound doesn't travel alongside its expanding inner wall as it would in a real megaphone. Instead the wall itself vibrates to generate sound inside and out. What's usually the rear wave firing straight back into its enclosure here first is an inner wave. For the vast majority of the driver this inner wave reflects off its own membrane multiple times before it migrates into the heavily stuffed upper portion of the octagonal enclosure proper. This reflective action of the inner wave is bound to interact with the outer wave unless the oscillating funnel sat atop an absorptive inner pointy hat like a Zu Griewe cartridge.

Setting the HRS-120 up where all other speakers tend to go, the first sonic thing to strike this listener imprinted and conditioned by conventional monopole sound was how differently the omnipolar HRS-120 energized the room. Thinking about it beforehand I knew perfectly well that it would. Yet the actual experience of just how loudness would register differently was still novel. That's because here the sound was just as loud to the outsides of the stereo triangle—behind and around the boxes—as it was between and in front of the speakers. This telegraphed even with the preamp set for at-ear loudness at my normal level. The sound pressure inside the space was higher. As such it also was far more even. So what? All that matters is what arrives at your ears, let the ants crawling up the front and side walls have their own party? Arguably so. Even so this denser room fill translated as greater fullness with my ears where they've always been, about four meters from the speakers and as such not in those room areas which now got far more direct sound than before. We'll return to this.

As a consequence in this first position shown above, the HRS-120 seemed very hooded, its fine uppermost freqs overpowered by and drowned out in all these compound midband reflections. Setting the tweeter contour to +4dB to rise at 8.000Hz counteracted it only marginally. This really wasn't about tonal balance in the signal but acoustic room loading outside the signal. Tone control tweaks don't really operate there.

Setup adds significant variables and more profound than with forward radiators. That's because close wall proximity (front, sides) reduces the time gap between direct and reflected sound. Our brain sums those two actions into a singular albeit blurred event. Only when wall distance begins to exceed ~1.3m does the brain separate direct and reflected sound into two discrete events of original sound + echo/reverb. This separation strips off the blur from the direct primary sound and turns it into a secondary effect. The recorded signal gets precedence. Let's take a lesson from German Physiks' own Munich 2013 setup to see how they dealt with my very review pair.

Not only were their HRS-120 well removed from all vertical boundaries—particularly the front-wall distance should be utterly impractical for most domestic situations but even the side wall distance was quite extreme—the long walls were strategically covered by absorptive panels. That's another massive no-no for most homes. Relative to being realistic on what to expect in a standard living room, German Physiks' presentation thus was most deceptive and cheated very badly. One could rightly question why even engineer an omni speaker if one proposed to kill off half its radiation for best results (in truth less than half if we account for how their side-wall absorbers were less and less effective at lower frequencies). To lighten up my own midrange/upper bass soup meant moving the HRS-120 inward to create sufficient side-wall distance. This increased subjective clarity but didn't yet add more airiness. The sound still didn't have the desired energetic jump factor or speed. I asked Ivette to sit down and opine. She called the speakers perfectly inoffensive (translated: boring) and essentially wanted to know just how soon we could get back to our own.

As a reviewer I couldn't capitulate yet. The next order of business was increasing the front-wall distance. Having parked the HRS-120 on the ball ends of their spikes and those into Track Audio's aluminum shoes with removed felt pads to slide easily on my sisal rugs—those double as indestructible scratching post for Blondie the cat—this was child's play. Once the speakers cleared the front wall by two meters i.e. an additional 80cm from before, I had magically regained the type of depth layering and see-into finesse and lightness I consider normal for this room and what its layout and furniture will accommodate [see below].

Final position - 1.2m from the side walls, 2m from the front wall.

There's thus absolute necessity to give the HRS-120 sufficient room to bloom. This very basic adjustment transformed the speaker's initially very luke-warm reception as a sluggish polite warmish hazy old-timey performer into a super spacious fleet-footed far more resolved exciting modern speaker.