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.
Amphion loudspeakers have been making music since 1998 in Finland and this is still where the speakers are designed and manufactured today. The key to the sound of Amphion is their controlled dispersion technology, which enables their speakers to achieve a very musical sound which is more repeatable in a variety of rooms. They have had success with this technology in the studio-based, professional arena.
We have selected the Argon range as these models offer a high level of sound quality and are extremely well made for their price point. During our listening tests, we found the soundstage to be expansive and their tone and timbre very natural. They deliver excellent detail and resolution but, since they are well balanced at all frequencies, there is no listener fatigue due to excessive brightness. Bass is extended, well controlled with no exaggeration. Due to their unique technology they integrate more easily into rooms than most. These are characteristics we look for in all loudspeakers but is rarely achieved within these price points.
The tweeter and its waveguide is an obvious differentiator from the pack. This ensures consistent, wide dispersion and, as the tweeter is semi-horn-loaded (with the wave-guide surround), the diaphragm does not need to move as much to deliver the same volume levels as with more usual designs. There is less likelihood of distortions in the high frequencies and less of a sweet spot for the listener. Indeed, even the tiny grills over the tweeters themselves have treatment to aid in their characteristic dispersion traits. Some of the models have an adjustable high frequency output level to assist in tailoring their sound to your room, or to electronics they are partnered with.
For the low frequencies, the Argon range utilises customised units from the world-renowned company, SEAS. The cabinets of the Argon range start with bass-reflex enclosures and then move to unusual passive-radiator designs from mid-way up the model line. In these more complicated designs, a passive (non-driven) speaker cone is used to cover the frequency range where the port would effectively be on a bass-reflex cabinet. It is then driven by the air-pressure changes within the sealed cabinet, from the front facing active driver. This unit is designed to work in conjunction with the active (driven) bass unit located on the front and is tuned to a lower frequency, giving greater extension. The additional advantages of using a passive-radiator design are significant and again a real differentiator from more conventional dynamic designs. The problems with bass port ‘chuffing’ and proper integration are eliminated and room placement is far easier. Bass is delivered in a much tighter and more controlled fashion. These bass reflex systems are not usually employed as they are costlier to design and manufacture. To experience these designs in the Argon range at the prices offered is exceptional.
The range starts from the truly tiny and very impressive Argon 0 at only just over 10 inches tall (259mm) with bass from 50Hz, then moves to the Argon1 at just over 12 inches tall (316mm) with bass from 45Hz. Whilst it would be more conventional to use these models on a shelf, or wall mounted, with a modest integrated audio system, even in free space on rigid stand they can deliver an impressive large and deep sound stage without serious loss of bass authority. The top stand-mount speaker in the range the Argon3S at 15 inches tall (380mm) which has the passive radiator, tweeter adjustment, upgraded binding posts and bass from an impressive 38Hz.
There are two floor-standers, the Argon3LS, at only 1 metre tall which is similar to the 3S model above but with a larger cabinet, producing bass from 30Hz. Finally, there is the range-topping Argon7LS at 47 inches tall (1192mm) which has two active and two passive bass-radiators and bass from a low of 28Hz.
All are available in a choice of Standard White, Full White, Black or Walnut finishes. Coloured grilles available for most models.
Argon0 std white, full white, black £720, walnut veneer £800
Argon1 std white, full white, black £1040, walnut veneer £1200
Argon3S std white, full white, black £1720, walnut veneer £1880
Argon3LS std white, full white, black £2520, walnut veneer £2760
Argon7LS std white, full white, black £3600, walnut veneer £3840
Argon5C centre channel speaker £880, walnut veneer £960
I first heard a loudspeaker from this manufacturer of omni-directional 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 introduced a lower priced, entry model based on an early design called the Unlimited MkII. Now available only in a high gloss polyester finish and now called the Unlimited Ultimate.
This employs the same DDD driver as in all their other more expensive models, notably the HRS-130 and Borderland, a carbon fibre cone suspended vertically (upside down) using technology that allows the sound to radiate 360 degrees. This technology is unique to German Physiks, developed over 10 years, which encouraged bending motion in the thin cone radiating sound from a large surface area. The Unlimited has a 4 sided cabinet whereas the HRS-130 and Borderland have a significantly stiffer 8 sided cabinet. Some clever technology (Hawaphon sheet) is employed to dampen cabinet resonances, another reason why these loudspeakers sound far better than any other omni-directional design, and produces 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 around 200 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 that is very pure, very transparent and open 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. These phase problems exists where crossovers are in the mid band range, almost inevitable with more conventional speaker designs. Our ears are most sensitive here and can pick up these distortions very easily, along with any poor integration of multiple drivers. Having a crossover point well outside of this sensitive mid band region results in a better sound, far more precise image focus than might be otherwise expected from any speaker, let alone an omni-directional design.
The lower frequencies are supplemented by carefully selected bass drivers built into the bottom of the sealed cabinet firing downwards. The integration between the two drivers is excellent resulting in a seamless sound without any delay of bass behind the super fast DDD driver. Bass extension is deep and powerful for the size of cabinet, 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 types of 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 sound stage, the focus of the stereo image is very precise, and the lack of distortion immediately apparent. An exceptionally coherent sound with a natural tone that closely mimics that of the live event.
There is no sweet spot in order to obtain the "best" stereo imaging. The image focus, the large sound stage 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 the highest level resulting from the lack of cabinet resonances 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 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 Ultimate 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
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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
– high-polish polyester in black, white, red or yellow £12400
– veneer or paint in satin finish £15200
– veneer in high-polish finish £17500
– high-polish polyester in black or white £17500
– carbon fibre £18500
Borderland Mk IV
– veneer or paint in satin finish £25500
– veneer in high-gloss finish £27000
– high-polish polyester in black or white £27000
Carbon Mk IV
- carbon fibre £30500
As part of an ongoing re-evaluation of our speaker portfolio, we are currently investigating Kerr Acoustic loudspeakers. The charming father and son team has combined the talents the father, who is a cabinet maker, and the son as the designer and an ex-professional drummer. After hearing many speakers available in the audio world and being disappointed with what was on offer, Jes Kerr’s design goals were to manufacture speakers with the visceral bass impact and speed to accurately render drum transients. They use some of the finest drivers in the world including the use of True Ribbon high frequency units, and Scanspeak or Volt units supporting midrange and bass duties. Their birch-ply transmission line cabinet further differentiates them from the pack.
We are currently working with them on the voicing of a future iteration of one of their existing units and hope to report more on their models soon.
Kudos Audio, a long-established UK company, create of some of the finest sounding speakers in the world. They tune all their loudspeakers systems by ear, rather than relying on computer measurements and component values to decide on the sound, which in our experience is the correct way with any audio design.
Kudos have a neutral tonal balance, are very precise in imaging, and have high resolution of finer details, without being aggressive in the high frequencies. Soundstage is broad and reasonably deep, giving life-like presentation. They specialise in various paper-based cone drivers as they believe this gives the most realistic reproduction of voices and instruments.
Kudos use highest quality components in their speakers and crossovers, with special care and attention given to the choice of the main drive unit and tweeter. They have developed a long-standing relationship with SEAS the world-renowned driver manufacturer in Norway. Working closely with SEAS, they have developed drive units not to be found in any other commercial speakers and some have been designed for specific Kudos models.
Along with the exceptional driver compliment, the cabinets are also finely constructed and finished in a range of real wood veneers, satin and high gloss polyester finishes. Crossovers have the highest quality of components in all models, including capacitors from such manufacturers as Mundorf and Clarity caps, after listening tests proved their obvious sonic advantages. Some models can work in an active crossover configuration when coupled with suitable electronics.
Bass loading uses either bass reflex or Isobaric loading. With reflex loading they offer two variants: the stand-mounters (except for the TITAN 505) use traditional reflex ports; the floor-standers use either fixed-boundary bass reflex loading, or fixed boundary Isobaric loading. With fixed boundary the reflex, the port vents downwards and exits into the room through the gap between the plinth and the bottom of the cabinet. This means the floor surface is irrelevant and room placement is easier.
The flagship TITAN line utilises Isobaric loading. This is a more difficult and expensive type of bass reinforcement but when done correctly, produces exceptional bass performance in both impact and extension. Isobaric loaded speakers have two mid bass drivers, one on the front as normal and another inside the cabinet, back to back with the first. Both drivers are actively driven and the air pressure between the drivers assists with control, speed and lowering distortion. It also increases the amount of air that can be moved producing superb dynamics.
High frequency is handled by high quality units utilising, from the Cardea range upwards, the SEAS excellent Crescendo K2 tweeter. This 29mm fabric dome tweeter, driven from a six magnet array and with a moulded alloy back chamber was developed by SEAS with Kudos. This is one of the finest tweeters in the world, able to accurately reproduce high frequencies without smearing of fine detail or compression. For the flagship TITAN range, this tweeter has been further improved with SEAS to produce the K3 unit. This tweeter has undergone significant development to precisely tailor its capabilities for the Titan design, including an improved magnet system with copper shorting rings, a completely new resonance chamber and a new face plate profile to deliver effortless “highs”.
After a long audition, we have decided to stock the following models from their three ranges:
From their entry X series, we have the X3. This compact floor-stander (less than 85cm tall) is an entry point into the Kudos sound. Utilising a high quality 18cm paper/reed bass driver with a large 39mm voice coil and copper shorting ring. The X3 is available in a range of finishes, including real wood veneers for £2,250.
From their Cardea series, we chose the Super 20A compact floor-stander. At less than 93cm tall and with a power handling rating of 300w, this speaker is impressive. It comprises of a very high quality 18cm hand treated paper mid-bass driver with copper shorting ring and aluminium phase plug, coupled with a Crescendo K2 fabric dome tweeter (both SEAS units developed for Kudos). The Super 20A is available in a range of finishes, including real wood veneers for £4,550.
Finally, from their flagship TITAN series, we selected the most compact floor-stander, the TITAN 606. This range incorporates all of Kudos’s experience developed over the years. This model incorporates a pair of ultra-high quality 18cm reed/paper mid/bass drivers. These are in an isobaric bass-loaded enclosure with the two mid/bass drivers back to back, creating superior impact, extension and texture from bass than with more conventional designs. These bass drivers, along with the Crescendo K3 tweeter were specifically developed for this speaker model and are not used in any other. The 606 is available in a range of finishes, including solid wood side panels for £9,000, or in white and black high gloss polyester lacquer finish at £9,900.
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.