Audio Physic STEP 35 HiFi Speakers Review
For this review I am working with Elite Audio UK who are the UK distributor and exclusive retailer for Audio Physic products please contact them for more details.
Audio Physic are a high end speaker manufacturer based in Germany and all of their products are also manufactured in Germany and they have been in business for over 35 years which is really something. They have two lines of speaker the Classic and Reference and the Step 35 are the only stand mount speaker in the Reference range.
They are very compact stand mount speakers measuring a mere 175mm wide, 320mm tall and 250 mm deep. Priced at £2440 they have huge amounts of competition from lots of other very good stand mount speakers at all kinds of price points so they need to stand out in order to justify that price tag.
One way they definitely stand out is visually their cabinet shape is very different to the commonly used rectangular design we see with most other stand mount speakers around this price point. The Step 35 have a tear drop type cabinet shape, very stand out for a speaker at this kind of money and Audio Physic say the shape and the slightly tilted back baffle are for performance reasons as much as aesthetic. This unique shape definitely helps with the aesthetic as does the very high gloss paint finish of this black pair and this obviously forms part of the premium you pay for them. The Step 35 are available in black white and several different wood finishes.
A long list of technical features sounds impressive but what does any of that mean for sound quality well it means Audio Physic are designing their speakers to be as transparent as possible and that is definitely something to be mindful of here. I think the Step 35 is a speaker designed for either Audiophiles with smaller rooms or for Audiophiles who will be using a subwoofer or two with them, they are a speaker that I think would definitely benefit from using subwoofer(s) and REL’s new TX range spring straight to mind. Either the T5 7 or 9X depending on your room size I think would be ideal to use with the Step 35 because you will want a fast subwoofer where the bass doesn’t hang around too long and can keep up with a fast speaker like the Step 35 and the REL is one to consider for sure.
I think the second important thing will be careful system matching because upon my initial listening I felt the Step 35 were definitely a transparent sounding speaker they would therefore shine a a fairly bright light on the HiFi system before them, however measuring them in my room I could see they do have a bit of their own character, nothing sinister and lets he honest system matching is always important to get the sound just right for your tastes.
Recently I reviewed two tube amplifiers the Octave V40 SE and the Manley Labs Stingray II and both would be fantastic choices with the Step 35 and I think amplifiers with a bit of heart, soul and warmth of character would be where I would start my search.
Lets start with the big strengths of the Step 35 and the first one is sound stage, they present music with a very open feel to it, there is a lot of space in the sound stage and elements and layering within music are presented very precisely but without sounding analytical or overly dry. They very cleverly create dimension or 3 dimension to music by at times having some music come forward and other times it goes away from you, in some music it does both at the same time. By this I mean maybe vocals are presented a little forward and then backing layers are very clearly presented behind or out to the sides, I am sure you get the idea.
Vocals and intricate details within music are presented very clearly and easy to track because again there is a real sense of openness all the time and the Step 35 maintains their composure and very good timing regardless of the music complexity. Vocals sound very crisp and precise and there is a quality to them, a resolution to them that is beyond a lot of other stand mount speakers that cost less and the mid range and treble and upper bass dynamics are also impressive.
I particularly like the treble from the Step 35 because it has a nice balance of smoothness, liveliness and extension and the extension is important because it helps to create that sense of space and a sense of dimension and ambience to music that adds that little bit extra but I did have to spend a bit of time playing with the speakers toe in to try and get the sound balance right so the treble wasn’t too prominent but beyond that I was impressed by the tweeters lack of stridency considering its lively character.
Bass however is one area where the Step 35 do come up a little short hence the comments earlier about subwoofers, not so much for quality more for output and extension. Their bass is probably in line with what most audiophiles expectations would be for a speaker of this size. Their bass extension in my room was rolling off a little earlier than ideal in the 50-55hz which is not quite deep enough, its ok for some music but not deep quite enough for others and I don’t mean pipe organ music I mean general mixed music. They are also not that big in the bass output for the bass that they deliver which could be great for you in a small room or in certain situations but in my room I was pushing them reasonably hard for more bass impact. In some music they sounded reasonably punchy but in the main the bass was a little less impactful or substantial than I personally like.
Here is the thing you can buy stand mount speakers of similar size that will give you more bass that cost less money if that is what you’re looking for so I don’t think big bass output is what Audio Physic designed the Step 35 to do. They have designed them to sound very precise from top to their bottom and they do sound very precise for their bass, its very articulate and on point and the bass delivery definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome. I think this plays a big role in the soundstage being so open sounding all the time and for some audiophiles that would be how they prefer to listen to music.
This does effect how the speakers sound for tonality though and overall they have a pretty neutral tonal balance so if you want a sound from them with a little more saturation, fullness or richness in the vocals for example well then that needs to come from the HiFi components you put before them, again hence my comments on system matching being important and my recommendation for the two valve amplifiers. The good news is I found the Step 35 very easy to drive so masses of amplifier power is definitely not needed.
I think to summarise this review the Step 35 will undoubtedly appeal to a lot of audiophiles because of their form factor being very nice and I think the rest might be attracted by the clever technologies behind their design. For anyone left their sonic strengths will likely appeal with a bit of careful system matching to get things just right for how you like it. The bass aspect will be personal but I think adding a good sub or two could really elevate things and make the sound achievable from the Step 35 really grow up in scale.
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential.
For the full Specification of the Audio Physic Step 35 Speakers
See the website here