I also took my time to test a variety of power amps, both tube and solid-state. It didn’t take me long to realize that this speaker had a clear preference for solid-state amplification for best bass control and detail resolution. Both my Pass Labs Aleph 30 and First Watt F7 amps sounded very nice, but I felt that I needed at least 100Wpc to meet the HRS-130’s power demands. Larry Borden of Distinctive Stereo, and the U.S. distributor of German Physiks, suggested the Merrill Audio Veritas monoblocks as a good match. Merrill Audio was kind enough to loan me a pair of the Veritas amps—a fully balanced design powered by the Hypex Ncore NC1200 Class D power modules. Power delivery into a 4-ohm load is 700 watts with a damping factor of 2000. Being a tube guy, I was a bit skeptical at first. But I have to confess that I found the Veritas to be a fantastically musical amplifier. Its level of harmonic purity is nothing short of amazing. And in concert with a natural yet detailed presentation, it won me over in spades. Truly, it is one of the most impressive power amps I’ve ever auditioned.
The Veritas elevated the HRS-130 to a performance level that kept me glued to my listening seat for hours on end. It was first and foremost about coherence, giving my auditory system a chance to relax, as in not having to work at assimilating the sound of disparate drivers. Slicing and dicing the music for consumption by several drivers has a major consequence, namely the loss of coherence since most instruments are reproduced by multiple sources of sound on a baffle. By contrast, the DDD sings with one voice—just like the real thing. The driver is literally positioned outside of a box, which allows for its 360-degree radiation pattern and is responsible for its outside-of-a-box spaciousness.
There is much more to the HRS-130 than imaging prowess. This is not a dynamically polite speaker. Microdynamics popped right out of the fabric of the music, making it a breeze to connect with the music’s emotions and drama. Note that there is a limit to the macrodynamic range of the DDD, evident when it is pushed from loud to very loud, but in a moderately sized room this was nothing to worry about. Transients benefited from the DDD’s coherence and phase fidelity, both the attack and decay portions being exceptionally well controlled. The lower midrange and upper bass were well integrated, improved in this regard over the performance of the Unlimited II. Midrange textures were exceptional pure, due to low levels of distortion through the upper midrange—the frequency band that is problematic for so many speakers with a tweeter crossover around 3kHz. Driven by a neutral amplification chain, the overall presentation was generally faithful to the program material. For the record, no frequency response peccadilloes were evident; there was no presence-region lift or gratuitous brightness to complain about. These are the sorts of “sins” of commission that may well prove attractive in the short term but quickly lead to buyer remorse. The HRS-130, on the other hand, was easy to live with over the long haul.
What you get here is a world-class wide-range driver that is exceptionally well engineered and superbly integrated into a speaker that is almost perfect for a small-to-medium-sized room. In my estimation, the carbon-fiber DDD is one of the top five driver innovations of the past 40 years, delivering the coherent phase and uniform power response first envisioned by Lincoln Walsh. 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.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Two-way omnidirectional
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Frequency response: 29Hz–24kHz
Power handling: Nominal, 120W; short term, 200W
Minimum amplifier power: 70Wpc @ 4 ohms
Crossover slopes: DDD section, 12dB/octave electrical and 18dB/octave acoustic; woofer section, 12dB/octave electrical and 18dB/octave acoustic
Sensitivity: 87dB 1W/1m
Dimensions: 12.8" x 49.6" x 12.8"
Weight: 75.9 lbs.
Price: $18,775 (satin veneer or paint); $22,500 (high-polish polyester or veneer); $23,000 (carbon fiber)
Power amplifiers: Merrill Audio Veritas monoblocks
Analog source: Kuzma Reference turntable and Stogi Reference 313 VTA tonearm; Clearaudio da Vinci V2 mc
Digital sources: DiDit Audio 212se DAC; MacBook Pro laptop running Amarra V3.04 software; ModWright modified Sony XA-5400ES SACD player
Preamplifiers: Lamm Audio L2.1 line preamp; Nouveau Flamingo (DIY) and Aural Thrills Audio phonostages
Cables: Acrotec, FMS Nexus-2, and Kimber Select interconnects; Acoustic Zen Hologram II speaker cable
A/C power: Monarchy Audio AC-Regenerator, Sound Application power line conditioners