LA Audio Show 2017: German Physiks, Merrill, VPI create aural hologram

Behold… the aural hologram.

laas7The high-end seems to have a variety of holy grails. One of them is building a speaker that radiates in more than one direction to widen the sweet spot, but still delivers precise stereo imaging and focused vocals. A number of designers and engineers bravely have gone on this quest, with some finding more success than others.

One company that has journeyed down the sometimes-bumpy road is German Physiks. The brand has developed what it calls its DDD driver. It looks like a piston driver — but longer and narrower than usual — that’s been angled downward. In reality, though, it’s more complex than that,

German Physiks says the radiation pattern of the DDD actually allows the speaker to serve as a point source and an omni-directional transducer.

Take me to your leader.

“It’s called an omnipole,” said Larry Borden of New Jersey-based retailer Distinctive Stereo, a German Physiks dealer. He co-hosted a room at the Los Angeles Audio Show with Merrill Wettasinghe of Merrill Audio Advanced Technology Labs.

The reason most conventional speakers don’t image well is that they are using multiple drivers,” Borden told me. “With German Physiks, the DDD driver has a wide bandwidth and no electronic crossover, so there’s a high level of cohesiveness.”

If you’re still having trouble wrapping your head around how this works, the simplest way the German Physiks folks can describe the DDD’s action is by comparing it to a jellyfish. As the fish swims, its bell sends out waves in the water in all directions.

Imagine a slender, down-facing cone doing the same thing — but in air — and you have a rough idea of the design’s goal.

The final countdown…

The advantages German Physiks claims for its omnipole speaker include: 1) Predictable performance in a variety of rooms; 2) Reverberation patterns that mimic a larger space, such as a concert hall; and 3) Low mass and high acceleration, creating superior linearity.

Engineering theory can be fascinating — and there is much more to study on the German Physiks website — but to me the proof is in the performance. So, I settled in to audition the distinctive loudspeaker.

In LA, Borden was showing the German Physiks Borderland Mk. IV ($36,500/pair USD). The Borderland, which stands 48.4 inches high, has a DDD driver on top and a 12-inch woofer in a cabinet below. The two are connected with a passive crossover.

The system’s front end contained several of Merrill Audio’s flagship products, including its Veritas class D monoblocks ($12,000/pair USD), Christine line stage ($12,400 USD) and Jens phono preamp ($15,449 USD).

VPI Avenger Reference.

The turntable was a VPI Industries Avenger Reference ($20,000 USD), with a VPI “Fatboy”, a 12-inch, 3D-printed tonearm ($TBD) and a Lyra Delos cartridge ($1,995 USD).

Also in the rig was an Aurender N10 server with 8TB of storage ($8,500 USD) and an EMM Labs DAC2X ($15,500 USD). Holding everything was a Solid Tech Rack of Silence ($3,000 USD). Speaker cable and XLR interconnects were from Merrill’s ANAP line.

The first cut I heard, from the server, was the title track from Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky LP. The guitars seemed especially textured, Jeff Tweedy’s vocals were dead center in the mix and the music flowed with a good pace.

What was really surprising, though, was that even though Distinctive Audio and Merrill had rented a rather small upper-floor room, the soundscape was both wide and deep, with reverb trails drifting far back while staying on pitch. This is exactly what Borden said I’d hear, although since we had that conversation out in the hall after the demo, I can’t accuse him of planting that in my mind.

The Wilco recording was followed by several jazz selections on vinyl. One featured Earl “Fatha” Hines performing “Birdland” from the M&K Super Sampler, and the other captured bassist Ray Brown joining guitarist Laurindo Almeida on a medley of “Mondscheinsonate/Round About Midnight,” from the album Moonlight Serenade.

The Hines cut showed the German Physiks-Merrill combo could produce a very convincing piano sound, which is no mean feat. On the intimate Brown-Almeida selection, the DDD driver not only placed the two men precisely in space but the separate woofer did a fine job reproducing the virtuoso bassist’s gorgeous bowed low frequencies.

laas-2017-triode-banner6All in all, it was an impressive demo for a very unusual speaker design. The German Physiks Borderland Mk. IVs seemed to be a good match for the Merrill gear, which itself offers extremely low noise, exceptional refinement and its own 3D holography. A very intriguing system that you should try to hear for yourself.

About John Stancavage 196 Articles
Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile