German Physiks Unlimited Ultimate Speakers Review
A High End Audio Christmas
I was very fortunate to spend the Christmas and new year of 2018 with a very nice system on loan courtesy of The Audio Consultants. One of the main elements of this system was a pair of very interesting and new to me pair of German Physiks Unlimited Ultimate Speakers. The three weeks I spent with these speakers was very interesting for a number of reasons, they showed me new things and new technologies that left a lasting impression.
A speaker design a very long time in the making
German Physiks have a very unique technology that is used in every speaker they manufacture, an omnidirectional speaker transducer that was invented by Peter Dicks in the 1970’s. It wasn’t until the 1980’s where Dicks joined with Holger Mueller and the two worked closely together over a two year period to create what is now called the DDD Driver. The first speaker to use it was created in 1992 and was called the Borderland MK1 and this speaker is still in production today in its MKIV iteration.
What makes the D.D.D driver so interesting
One could write an essay on the German Physiks DDD driver and still only scratch the surface of the technology. For those that want a really in depth explanation luckily German Physiks have you covered with this website article about the DDD Driver development and this website article about the DDD Driver technology benefits.
For those who want it kept a little more simple I will try and explain what I found interesting, actually quite fascinating about the DDD Driver. Firstly the drivers frequency response of 200hz-24khz means it is responsible for creating all the sound from the very upper bass / bottom of vocals right up into the treble. That means there is no need for the typical crossover used in the approx 2khz region when a driver hands over to a tweeter, there are no negative effects of the inefficiency of a crossover and any distortion it may add. Secondly having one driver to create all those frequencies naturally aids with the overall cohesiveness of the sound created. This is aided by the DDD driver being placed at the top of the speaker cabinet with no baffle allowing it to radiate its sound cleanly in an omnidirectional fashion.
How does one Driver act as two or three
The DDD driver in its modern iteration is made from 0.15mm thick Carbon Fibre, its very rigid and light, its a totally hand made transducer in a process that takes approximately 6 hours.
Thinking about how this driver works had me scratching my head in amazement and disbelief, how can one driver do the same job as two or sometimes three or more others. It does so by working in three different modes of radiation.
Where the driver cone moves back and forward like the piston in a car engine.
Bending wave radiation
Where the driver cone flexes and a wave is made to travel down its side.
Where the driver cone is allowed to go into break up and areas of excitation are created on the cone surface. In a simplified form we can think of these areas as looking like the pattern of waves we see when a stone is dropped into a pool of water. In reality the patterns will be more complex and they will change with frequency.
It works in all 3 ways, simultaneously, with complete control and precision required for high performance audio and all invisible to eye.
Big bass, Small driver, Small foot print
The German Physiks Unlimited Ultimate is an unusual shape for a high end speaker, its a diminutive in size upright rectangle. Breaking the design down its actually quite simple, the Unlimited Ultimate has a sealed box subwoofer sat beneath the DDD Driver. The speaker measures less than a square foot and stands just over a metre tall. The speakers weighs less than 30kg so wont break your back when setting them up.
Hidden in the underside of the speaker is a down firing 8 inch bass driver, which in its self doesn’t grab the headlines, and German Physiks don’t say much about the driver. I like its very chunky and rubbery surround, I am sure this helps with both the speed of the bass from the driver and its incredible in room bass extension. In my room with some room gain I was getting bass in the 20’s of hz making the Unlimited Ultimate a true full range speaker.
Inside the rectangular cabinet there is quite a lot going on, far more than you will find within the majority of other speakers. As you might expect the German Physiks Unlimited cabinet is made from heavy panels of MDF, with internal reinforcements fitted at critical points, however if I was to tell you Military born technology was used in the cabinet you might think I had forgotten to take my pills today.
I was told that Hawaphon was a technology designed by the military to act as a noise reduction system so that important and top secret conversations couldn’t be over head by people outside of a room. Sounds like a lovely story except as a technology it has been developed and is used in many applications where structural sound reduction is essential. In a crude explanation of how the technology works many steel pellets are encased and fitted along the structural surface and move a tiny amount as energy passes into them, dissipating that energy into heat. Where is the relevance to speaker design, well inside a subwoofer enclosure, especially a sealed box the ability to prevent resonance making its way into the cabinet walls, and preventing the cabinet walls resonating is a huge advantage to stopping the cabinet adding colouration to the sound. Hawaphon is said to reduce structure-born sound transmission by -50db, which is very significant number.
Hawaphon is applied to each panel inside the Unlimited Ultimate which also has the benefit of adding mass to each panel, on top of this the whole of the inside of the cabinet is lined with a thick layer of high-density felt to damp air resonances.
WBT nextgen™ binding posts are used to provide an excellent connection between the loudspeaker cable and the loudspeaker.
What do all these new technologies sound like?
I think one of the greatest compliments you can give to a piece of hifi equipment is in your desire to listen to it and I listened to more music on the German Physiks Unlimited Ultimate speakers than I have done for any other piece of review equipment thus far. I wanted to get back in that listening chair day after day and was forgoing everything else to do so, that is a true sign that I was liking what I was hearing and liking it a lot. Let me break that down and be more specific.
The German Physiks speakers are designed with the recreation of a concert hall experience in mind and intended to create a 3-dimensional sound field. Steve from the Audio Consultants had positioned the speakers in my room using some mathematical calculations based on my room dimensions and they were placed out into the room, I would never had considered this as a good spot. With the speakers here their overall bass response wasn't wonderful but their imaging and sound stage depth was absolutely fantastic and addictive to listen to after I had used Dirac Live to balance my room negative effects out. The Unlimited Ultimate speakers were creating a "look onto" sound stage that went beyond the speakers, above them out to the their sides and to me with clarity and precision.
DDD Driver is phenomenal
Its very hard to imagine a speaker transducer as complex as the DDD driver actually achieving all it promises but in reality it really does and its a phenomenal technology to listen to. Vocals are clear and uncoloured and presented with just the right amount of presence, size and soul. The integration of the whole speaker, but in particular the mid range and treble integration is outstanding, the DDD driver is fast and allows you to enjoy an incredible level of detail and insight into the music production, and even its recording. This was true for all music styles, I couldn't find any music that troubled the DDD driver and that didn't sound fantastic being played back on these speakers.
Bass is deep, throbbing and fast
The Integration between the German Physiks DDD driver and the 8 inch sealed subwoofer was not quite as perfect as the DDD in isolation but its close, the speaker is extremely coherent as a whole. I was particularity impressed with how musically insightful the speakers bass was, double bass string plucks with body resonance were the clearest I have experienced them so far in songs like
I think more impressive was the smooth bass extension and the deep and powerful bass notes that were being created by the 8 inch driver. Its taken some excellent engineering to achieve this deep bass from what is essentially a small sealed subwoofer, bass extension that rivals much bigger products. One great thing about smaller bass drivers is their speed and ability to stop and there was absolutely no overhang or fattening of notes with the Unlimited Ultimate speakers, the immense power and control of the Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary integrated amplifier was definitely a helping factor with this.
One chink in the armour
If I was to point out one chink in the Unlimited Ultimate speakers armour it would be with their bass punch. They were fantastic with deep and smooth pulsing bass but bass impact and punch was definitely lesser compared to other speakers I have had in my listening room, and how I like it. There is a few factors here to pay attention to, an 8 inch driver will only move so much air and a smaller subwoofer designed for extension can often be at the expense of some punch. A bigger factor was definitely the speakers placement in my room, I had some severe bass nulls in the 50-100hz region which is the region where bass punch comes from so I am mindful of this influence on the overall result.
What I took away from this is an important reminder, one for all audiophiles and especially those who think an omnidirectional speaker is easy to position in a room. With the Unlimited Ultimate speakers its important to pay attention to their positioning from a bass response point of view to ensure the correct overall sonic balance. The DDD driver is so fast and dynamic there needs to be the right level of bass to balance with it in order to fully hear what the overall speakers are capable of. I think an 8 inch driver is on the lower limit of what is needed to balance with the DDD driver, but it is enough as long as there is the correct response at the MLP (main listening position). This is true with all speakers but can be less obvious with bass heavy speakers.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time reviewing the German Physiks Unlimited Ultimate speakers, they really are a fantastic pair of loudspeakers. They are not cheap with an RRP of £11,700 and you can get a lot more physical speaker for your money, but you can also pay a lot more and not get anything like the clarity, cohesiveness and 3-dimensionality. For these to be an entry level product from a speaker manufacturer really makes a statement of intent that the company are here to deliver outstanding performance and more.
Difficult to catch on camera in my "bat cave" listening room the paint finish was exquisite quality as you would expect with a speaker at this price point. There are several colours available and I am particularly fond of the all Carbon Fibre version of the speakers, how cool is that.
The German Physiks Unlimited Ultimate have raised my expectation bar from I want from a speaker, they are the best speakers I have had in my listening room thus far and some of the best speakers I have heard in a lot of ways. They were really very surprising and I can see them putting huge smiles on many audiophiles faces who wisely invest in them
A Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price