German Physiks & Vitus Listening Session
by Josh Ray on April 10 '08
German Physiks is, quite possibly, one of the most unusual speaker companies on the planet. And, quite possibly, one of the most lust-worthy. With no normal drivers and swaths of carbon fiber, German Physiks speakers are the exotic of the exotic. Check out our German Physiks gallery for more high-rez pics.
The Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society had a big shindig over the weekend showing off the new German Physiks Carbon MKIV speakers with a Vitus integrated and EAR CD player. Signals SuperFi, US importer of up-and-coming exotic Euro brands, hosted the event while Signal's Chris Sommovigo, a class act if ever there was one, walked us through what these strange German speakers are all about.
The LAOCAS, for those that don't know, is the nation's largest hi-fi society, run by one Bob Levi. From the number of Ferraris, Bimmers, and Mercedes in the parking lot, it's clear this is the club to showcase the latest and greatest gear. Latest and greatest means big bucks -- the German Physiks Carbon speakers are $40k while the Vitus amp was, likewise, $40k. Cabling was provided by Chrois Sommovigo's own Stereovox brand.
So what is a German Physiks Carbon speaker? What you see in the picture above is an omni-directional, direct-radiating, point-source driver -- DDD for short. The DDD driver, in either titanium or carbon, transitions over to a lower woofer anywhere between 80Hz and 200Hz (depending on model) and goes above 20kHz. Definitely exotic.
For those familiar with omnis and bi-pole speakers, you're probably asking what's with Germany and omni speakers? MBL, Duevel and German Physiks all tackle this omni game in different ways. German Physiks' DDD driver, made entirely in house, is a mad scientist's brew of hi-fi driver tech. So much tech, it's almost impossible to define just how the driver works. In fact, Chris Sommovigio admitted he barely knows how it functions -- the German Physik's designer, classically reserved in his German way, doesn't depart with his secrets easily.
Needless to say, the driver is something amazing to behold (to me, at least). The Carbon MKIV speaker doesn't only have the carbon driver, but a cabinet crafted from woven carbon. The lows -- and low they were -- emanated from a down-firing 12" woofer using a sealed double Helmholtz resonating chamber. Double Hemlholtz? Again, so bizarre and proprietary I couldn't sweet talk out a single detail.
Of course, all the strange technology in the world doesn't mean it sounds good. So how did it sound? Somewhere between "fantastic" and "superb." Because the speakers are omnis, firing music in ever direction, the soundstage was wall to wall, front to back and ceiling to floor. The bass, rated down to 28Hz, was amazingly full for the incredibly large conference room. A fellow reviewer had the speakers in his place for a couple days and, where his quad 10" woofer speakers are a fine match for the room, the Carbon's bass completely overwhelmed the space.
Referencing our Sonic Circle, the speaker's sound was in the Precise or Intense camp and, with the EAR tubed CD player, the entire system leaned more into the Vivid category. As the tube CD player warmed up, the sound became really sooth and everyone I talked to was really loving the sound. The Vitus Amp, a 50 watt pure class-A powerhouse, sounded very much in the super accurate Precise category. Overall, the snap and pop of the instruments was amazingly fast. My initial prejudice was that the Carbons, sans tweeter, wouldn't cut it up top. But that wasn't the case at all -- having the highs seamlessly blend with the rest of the frequencies was a wonderful experience.
And so here's the point where I complain about the weak dollar -- the entire German Physik's range, from $12k Troubador to the $280k Gaudi, isn't for mere mortals. That said, Chris Sommovigo pointed out that the Troubador 40, at $5995 each, is simply the DDD driver without a bass module. The same driver, in fact, as the big house-priced speakers. Add a powered sub or two and you have the German Physiks magic for a lot less.
I can't wait to hear these speakers again -- word is Signals SuperFi will have two rooms at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October.
If you're in LA, check out the LAOCAS website for future hi-fi events. And word on the streets is Ray Kimber, of Kimber Cables, will be the guest of honor at the LAOCAS annual gala in December. Be there!