Loudspeakers

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.

…what is spectacular is the sheer size of the sound, and the wonderfully accurate way that instruments are placed within the soundstage. There is very little sense that music is coming from the Unlimited at all; it’s just there like a part of the furniture, and suddenly when you put some music on the room comes to life.

David Price HiFiChoice July 2015

…the spatial properties of the sound seem more natural and unforced… once you get it, then it's more like you moved the concert hall into your living room.

Alan Sircom, Review of the HRS-130, HiFi Plus, Issue 123

Positive Feedback, a US web based magazine gave us one of their Audio Oasis awards, which they give to rooms at shows that they judge to have an especially good sound.

The editor of Positive Feedback, Dr. David Robinson commented:

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, and the Merrill electronics really synergizes well with the German Physiks.



HRS-130 review by Alan Sircom, HiFi Plus, Issue 123 HRS-130 review by Alan Sircom, HiFi Plus, Issue 123 (205 KB)

Examples of prices

Unlimited MkII
– acoustic vinyl in black, white, grey or brown £9600

Unlimited Ultimate
– high-polish polyester in black, white, red or yellow £11700

HRS-130
– 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  

German Physiks website


Unlimited Mk II
Unlimited Mk II (left) and HRS-130 (right)

Coming soon

Larsen website

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.

Mandolin £5990
Violin SE  including dedicated stands(pictured) £8900
Cello £17900
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.

Lawrence Audio website


Violin SE
 

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

MarkAudio-Sota website

Viotti One
Viotti One

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.

Our demonstration pair of the NEW 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.

Products on Demonstration

 

Response DB3 - standard finishes £1475
Ebony/Rosewood £1697

Response DB1 - standard finishes £1900
Ebony/rosewood £2187

Response D2 – standard finishes (pictured) £2100
Ebony/Rosewood £2415

Response DT8 - standard finishes £1950
Ebony/Rosewood £2350

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
Ebony/Rosewood £5451

Response D48 (dome or ribbon tweeter) - standard finish £6125
Ebony/Rosewood £7038

 
Other models can be made available for audition with notice. Please ring for details.

ProAc website



Response DB-1

Response D30R (left) and Response D30R (right)
Response D30R (left) and Response D20R (right)