THE HIGH END 2015 EXHIBITION
Date: 14-17 May 2015
he sound of a fast-moving train is already audible in the room where Dirk Sommner has set up his mastering system. You have already seen it in a photo in the interview which Dirk gave for “High Fidelity” in August 2013 (read HERE). I cannot believe so much time has passed! Since then, we have already met the editor-in-chief of hifistatement.net a few times. Together with his wife, he is also in charge of Sommelier Du Son record label (more about Dirk and Birgit HERE).
Similarly to all previous meetings, the last one also turned into a long session. It all started with excellent beer served at the lovely Haderecker pub. I am talking about Märzen – beer brewed by Thoma Bräu at a local brewery, owing its name to Ludwig Thoma, a poet and writer who wrote in the Bavarian variety of the German language. We cannot forget that the High End exhibition, which was a pretext for our, i.e. me and my son’s (Bartek) visit in Munich, is located at the heart of Bavaria.
Anyway, after another round of “Thoma”, we all moved to the Sommners’ flat. It was hard to stand up, as both the food and the beer were excellent, and the company was extraordinary. Apart from the hosts, other guests at the table were Wolfgang Kemper, a journalist for hifistatement.net, and Peter Banholzer with his wife. Peter was the only one to know the Bavarian dialect and he translated the names of dishes for everyone. Haderecker is a place visited by locals, situated outside Munich. Apart from the fact that local dishes are served there, its official language is Bavarian, just like the outfit. Fortunately, we did not have to wear it – it is good to be “strangers” sometimes :)
Two representatives of producers also raised the glass (or rather beer mugs) with us: Volker Bohlmeier with Annette Heiss (his wife) and Karl Schuemann. Volker, who is going to visit Poland in some time, is the owner of Einstein company which manufactures high-end tube devices, but mainly OTL amplifiers. Dirk uses them in his mastering system, although his acquaintance with Volker dates back many years, when they were young and played together in a band – Dirk on the bass guitar and Volker on the guitar. They say it would be hard to estimate the amount of wine that was drunk at that time.
The last guest we met was Karl Schuemann, the owner and designer of AudioMachina speakers. We used speakers manufactured by this company, the semi-active GSE model driven by Einstein amplifiers, to listen to music played from master tapes on a Studer tape recorder (one of two that Dirk has in his room), with the recurrent accompaniment of humming trains, rushing towards their destinations behind the window. It was simply a wonderful time.
The exhibition in Munich is, first and foremost, a place to meet – the only place in the world where you come across almost everyone seriously involved in the perfectionist audio industry, in each of its aspects. Although audio exhibitions are normally regarded as places where you can LISTEN to audio devices and formulate your opinions about them on this basis, reality is completely different. Exhibitions are an opportunity to MEET and are a place where you can SEE audio devices and talk to their manufacturers.
However, playback as the basic assessment tool and listening to music (conceived as the reason for the whole fuss and as the aim of the audio industry existence) are deeply encoded in us – in those who do care whether the guitar sounds like the guitar and the violin like the violin, or whether it is just inharmonious noise with a melody line in the foreground and mechanical rhythm. So, I am aware of the dissonance between experience and knowledge, and the atavistic urge which forces us to sit on chairs and armchairs and listen to what exhibitors have managed to set up in their rooms.
To feed, or even tame that primeval part of my nature, I will try to describe a few systems that seemed especially interesting to me. As usual, it is a very subjective selection. It is because the sound in rooms often changed hour by hour, not to mention the following days. It was often the case that music was the deciding factor when it came to perception. So, what I liked is a combination of many factors. However, there must have been something good in those systems, as otherwise they would have been as mediocre or bad as the significant majority of the remaining presentations.
I will write more about that later on. Here and now, what seems more important to me is what I was able to gain with regards to the whole exhibition, by distilling what was most important from it. I am talking about trends – the direction that the audio industry is heading towards and is going to follow in the next few years.
TRENDS A.D. 2015
A few things are clear. First of all, files have permanently settled in in the high-end audio world (including its extreme corners), almost always in the hi-res form. However, there is still no single main method of reproducing them – some companies use computers and external digital-to-analogue converters, and some use specialized file players for this purpose.
Among the former, it was worth seeing the presentation of Devialet company which powered the icon of our industry, the original Nautilus Bowers&Wilkins speakers, with eight bridged amplifiers. It is known that these constructions do not have in-built switches, so they require external filtering. It is provided in different ways – the French company has chosen active filtering, using a correction circuit applied in its amplifiers. Signal was sent through a USB cable from a laptop.
Other companies opt for integrated file players – both very expensive and surprisingly cheap ones. As for the former ones, I stopped for a longer while to look at a new device produced by the Swiss company Orpheus Labs – the Absolute Mediaserver player. It has been constructed with as much attention to detail as other products of the Swiss manufacturer and it looked great. Let us admit that it looked as well as The Beast, which is very popular, looks like a small tank and constitutes the main source in the Vitus Audio system.
At the other end of the price range there are devices which are many times worse on an absolute scale, but subjectively seem to give us as much joy. A system with the new Paradigm Concept 4F speakers (semi-active ones, with the Anthem room correction system) delivered exceptionally good sound. Even more emotion was connected with listening to the Pioneer budget system which consisted of the A-70 integrated amplifier (which powers the Dynaudio speakers) and the N-70A file player, with Dynaudio speakers. That was really good fun, especially because most visitors despised this inexpensive system, which was a mistake!
It seems that almost all manufacturers nowadays, both small and large ones, offering their products to both high-end users and beginners, want to have a file player in their offer, or at least a DAC with a USB input. Some manufacturers have been more successful in this field (for example, Cambridge Audio with the new CX series) and some – less successful (let us not elaborate on that…). Here we can mostly rely on proven manufacturers, such as Aurender. The company has prepared its smallest player so far – the N100X, which is a step towards the medium price range. An excellently fine-tuned user interface (i.e. a tablet application) is also a strength of this manufacturer.
However, the way musical material is delivered to a player is becoming more and more polarized. Until recently, the most popular method was to download files onto a device and play them at any moment. As statistics show, the situation is changing rapidly – the number of files that people are buying is decreasing quickly, while streaming, i.e. playing files as if from the radio, has become very popular. So, what does the future hold for us? It seems that, as the name would suggest, streaming signal from external music services such as Tidal, also in hi-res quality, will become the mainstream, but “professionals” will hold on to “their” files.
Companies such as Fidelio are dedicated to these professionals. 2xXD, a new brand of the company’s founder, Mr. René Laflamme, is a good example. While Fidelio deals with releasing new material recorded by the company itself, 2xHD aims to publish material from other companies, starting with Naxos. The record label offers musical material on the web only, instead of characteristic USB flash drives of the size of a credit card (Masterflash) that are avl. with Fidelito music.
René and I have known each other for years, but only via email. However, he accosted us in the corridor, apparently recognizing the High Fidelity logo, and asked us if we were interested in listening to the sound of a new sampler and then, perhaps, other recordings. We were, of course. We will soon try to prepare a separate article on the new undertaking of the friendly Canadian.
The analogue domain
Analogue sources: the turntable and the reel-to-reel tape recorder have gained equal importance. The number of available tapes is still not impressive, but recently some fantastic tapes have been released by such record labels as Deutsche Grammophone, Parlophone and Decca. I have also seen Diana Krall and many, many more tapes, with both classical music and jazz. This is perhaps the next step that companies will have to take – obtain catalogues that are really valuable.
So, there were a lot of tape recorders at the exhibition: from enormous Studer devices, through their smaller “cousins”, up to tiny Nagra and Stellavox recorders. Believe me – the sound of such a machine is completely different from what we have got used to while listening to vinyl records. You have to get used to it. Perhaps this is the reason why some record publishers, critics and music lovers are so enchanted by DSD files. A direct comparison with a master tape shows that DSD best reflects its specific character, especially in 2xDSD, and even better in Quad DSD quality.
If we look at the matter without emotion, it will quickly appear that this is fun for rich people and for those who are ready to accept problems related to this format. Tapes need to be rewound to the end before being put on a shelf, so that there is no print-through. Before listening, you have to rewind tapes back to the beginning. However, at the same time, a top high-end system without a reel-to-reel tape recorder (especially a big studio recorder) seems incomplete nowadays. The trend had already been visible earlier, but nobody knew that it would have so much impact on the audio industry. It looked like a fad that would pass quickly, but it became a top trend – perhaps an unattainable one, but still present. When it comes to our imagination, it is mostly influenced not by what we can touch, but by what we can dream of, isn’t it?
Vinyl, in turn, is now an “almost mainstream” source. I have seen turntables with amplifiers on eBay that cost 60 American dollars. They are made of plastic and devoid of sense, but this shows that music lovers are very interested in the ‘black disc’. Vinyl discs are present everywhere nowadays. So, the number of turntables shown in Munich was incredibly big.
You will see some of them in the photo gallery, but let us say something more about a few of them. Mark Doehmann is the man who was responsible for the iconic design of the Continuum Audio Labs turntable. Having completed that project (the company does not exist anymore), he came with a completely new turntable in which he has used a unique suspension mechanism. He put the device on a flimsy Ikea-type table, but without proper assembly. I moved the table and the turntable base stood still – a miracle! It was possible thanks to a special construction which decoupled the whole device from the surface on which it stood, like an anti-vibration platform. Another novelty was a new arm created by Mr. Doehmann, which was mounted next to the Schroeder arm that you had an occasion to see in the test of the TechDAS Air Force Two last month.
The Lumen White turntable also looked amazing. The company is known for its speakers which took German audio magazines by the storm twenty years ago. The speakers were regarded as the absolute top by all the (five) magazines and they have almost constantly remained “number one” ever since. The company is now returning with their new version, the 15th Anniversary, but I will say more about that in a moment.
However, if I were to give awards for the most heart-moving turntables, then I would also place the latest TechDAS turntable, the Air Force Three and the Polish JR Audio next to the Muse 3C. The AF3 is tiny and lovely, but it still has four arms. Although it does not include the most important technologies that we can find in the previous versions, it still looks great, just like the turntable made by Mr. Józef Radzimski. Mr. Radzimski attended the exhibition and explained how both the turntable itself and the original arm that he had invented work. The Polish turntable played music in the “Polish” room, with horn Autotech speakers, a Zontek phonostage and My Sound amplifiers. I think that was one of the best looking rooms – the products looked as if they had been made by the best craftsmen from Japan and Scandinavia.
Compact Disc Redux
The influence of modern high-resolution digital signal reproduction systems, as well as the triumphant comeback of analogue sound sources in the role of the ultimate standard are things that we have known for years. This year we have simply witnessed the confirmation of their status and the formation of status quo.
Renewed interest in CDs and CD players could be a complete surprise for some people. I was quietly satisfied after manufacturers had told several times how good sound obtained from a well-prepared CD can be and how good it is to have a CD around, as it is the quickest way of obtaining sound from a device which neither requires any special preparation, nor holds any unpleasant surprises. Compact Disc has proved to be a kind of a solid basis and relief after dancing around files, vinyl discs and tapes.
Looking at what is happening, I think I can say that a little renaissance of the format is going to take place. It will naturally be limited, as it will never be the dominant format again. However, it will have a similar status to turntables and reel-to-reel tape recorders.
Of course, signal sources were not the dominant topic of the exhibition, because its most visible element were new speaker models. However, it seems that the most intensive processes are taking place at the very beginning of the audio chain and this is where I would look for the most interesting phenomena.
When it comes to amplifiers, things have stabilized – we can choose between tubes and transistors, class A, AB and D devices, linear and switch-mode power supplies, in any combination.
The absolute high-end is still dominated by tube devices, and there are some transistors in A and AB class with linear power supplies, but switch-mode devices can also be more and more often found there, and this trend will continue. It is similar in the case of speakers. Paper, plastic, metal, ceramic and even diamond converters can be found in most price ranges. I would pay attention to how popular Dr Heil’s AMT converters have become – they are being used by more and more companies, with good results.
However, there is a direction that speaker manufacturers seem to be heading towards: using active room acoustic correction systems and speaker correction systems. Devialet company which equips its amplifiers with programs that correct specific speaker models has had clear influence on that. I have already talked about Paradigm speakers with the Anthem correction system, but most companies offered something similar.
BEST SOUND HIGH END 2015
Remembering what I said at the beginning, i.e. how the nature of such exhibitions suits me (as a place for meetings), I also have to write about a few places where the sound was simply perfect – exactly as it should be.
PIONEER A-70 | N-70A | DYNAUDIO FOCUS 260
Me and Bartek (who is in charge of the news section in HF) entered the Pioneer room located at the Atrium level without any special expectations. We asked the company representatives to play some music in the system which they had set up in the corner and they asked us what we wanted to listen to. That was a huge plus that became even larger when we answered: “AC/DC” and were asked which song we wanted – of course, we chose Back in Black!
LUMEN WHITE | AYON AUDIO
The fact that there is something special about Gerhard Hirt’s hands and that he knows who to choose to work with, is known to anyone who has had the opportunity to get acquainted with his amplifiers or digital devices. There are some examples of really outstanding engineering craft among them. However, we have not forgotten that Gerhard used to be involved in another project – the Lumen White company. Its offer only included a few speaker models based on ceramic speakers, operating in a special housing. It had a characteristic shape which resembled an ocean ship and it was open, with a long slot in the “keel”, i.e. at the back of the speaker.
The Ayon owner told me: “It was a good time to come back when we decided to design the new White Light version to honor the 15th anniversary of the original creation.” He was talking about Eton converters with the “honeycomb” diaphragm that were introduced for sale some time ago.
I do not know whether it was because of these converters or whether that was a stroke of genius, but the speakers, powered by the new Ayon Audio Crossfire Evo monoblocks and headed by the Lumen White turntable, delivered fantastic, dense, saturated, muscular and memorable sound. That was neither hi-fi, nor high-end, but just music. So, it is not strange that the speakers which Dirk Somner has been using for years in his mastering and testing system are Lumen White speakers.
As regards the latest HiFiMAN headphones, one might say they are a small thing, but give a lot of joy, except for the fact that they are much bigger than all the earlier company designs. However, they are also much nicer, more elegant and simply have a much better look than all the previous versions. They also deliver exceptionally good sound. What struck me in the sound which I heard after putting on the headphones (I have been using different headphones of this manufacturer for years) was its richness and simultaneous purity. I liked the sound very, very much and I cannot wait to hear it at my home. The headphones were powered by the latest company amplifier – the EF-1000.
AMG | AESTHETIX | VERITY AUDIO | HARMONIX
A system with an AMG turntable has probably been awarded by us every year. This year we listened to a new cheaper Giro model with Aesthetix electronics. I listened to music from Harmonix speakers for the first time in such a combination and I liked what I heard. A part of the system were Harmonix cables.
YPSILON | PERFECT8 | BERGMANN
As I have written in the photo description, that was one of the better-sounding rooms of the exhibition. It was prepared by the Greek company Ypsilon. Either the company’s CD player or the Bergmann turntable that I once tested played music at its front. However, its most interesting component were the glass Perfect8 The Point Mk III speakers with a ribbon tweeter. The people in this room knew what they were doing.
WOLF VON LANGA | THOMAS MAYER | PRIMARYCONTROL
It is all about the incredible Wolf von Lang Swing speakers with electromagnets instead of magnets, with Thomas Mayer electronics and a PrimaryControl direct-drive turntable. Huge packages in a small room are a recipe for a failure – but not in this case. There was no chance factor here, but a consciously finalized vision of soft, dynamic and tangible sound.
TRILOGY | BOENICKE AUDIO | ISOL-8 | CAD
Although it was hard to expect anything of the exhibition for sure, I could be sure that one system would deliver excellent sound. It was a system whose heart was the Trilogy 925 amplifier combined with Boenicke Audio speakers (the W8 model). The amplifier had been created by Nic Poulson – I had known his products for some time, whereas the speakers had been my favorites since they got our award at the Audio Show 2014. Anyone who knows Mr. Poulson, is aware that he is an incredibly modest and warm person. His designs are like him, too – they have a beating heart that we can hear in the music that they reproduce. However, I am unable to explain how such little speakers can provide such full-range sound so well and completely. The source was a CAD file player.
TOTEM | ATOLL
That was a surprise (and a very nice one). It happens very rarely that something reproduces music so well that I am able to hear it in the corridor and then feel like looking for the sound source. It was Pink Floyd from The Wall, something that is known and liked, but here it was all about the sound! The drive, density and energy were coming from Totem speakers powered by Atoll electronics – wonderful, wonderful!
The room prepared by Gabi van der Kleij-Rynveld assisted by her husband Edwin wins my recognition every year. This year we listened to a complete Crystal Cable system in which (apart from the company cables, which is rather obvious) we had the Cube amplification system and a DAC, as well as the Minissimo Diamond Edition speakers with Absolute Dream cables inside, assisted by a prototype – the Crystal Cable Deep Bass – a bass module.
We met Michael Fremer (“Stereophile”, “analogplanet.com”) in the room. He told me that his “fan base” includes many HF readers. Nice :) A moment later I was able to invite Gabi and Edvin to a Krakow Sonic Society meeting in Cracow, and my invitation was accepted. So, it might seem that one of the factors which influenced my choice was the good atmosphere. However, listening for a while is enough for an audiophile to learn that we are talking about a very serious system here. These tiny speakers assisted by the subwoofer delivered crystal-clear sound of a “honey” tone color – a combination which is hard to beat.
AUDIO PHYSIC | PRIMARE
It is an example of how to combine devices from the medium price range in order to, simply, obtain nice sound. The system that I am talking about was very nicely set up using, as it might seem, very different elements. The main source and the amplifier was the Coctail Audio X30 file/ CD player. It controlled a Primare power amplifier, which, in turn, controlled the Audio Physic Avanti speakers. An alternative signal source was the Acoustic Signature Wow XL turntable.
KEF | ARCAM
A few years ago I witnessed the first public presentation of speakers in a carbon fiber housing, with an external crossover. When their production started, they were called “Blade”. The solutions that were used in their design turned into the new excellent Reference series, and now into their smaller version – Blade 2. Oh, how beautifully they played music with Arcam electronics, the C49 preamplifier and the A49 power amplifiers! That was full-blown sound characterized by outstanding dynamics and subtlety. I also liked the Reference series very much, but the Blade 2 speakers were simply the best.
A FEW FINAL REMARKS
I partly have to give up my opinion about the dominance of what is happening in the domain of sound sources over anything else. In the end, something else proved to be more important to me – new speakers. Harbeth presented a new version of monitors that I have been using for years – the M40.2. As Trevor Butler, the company’s PR and marketing specialist told me, the difference between the new and the previous version lies in the crossover – so, it is both a small change (in just one component) and a big change (in the outcome). The prototype of these speakers, the BBC LS5/8, was designed to monitor recorded broadcasts. To compensate for track deficiencies, part of the speakers’ bass range was a little :) boosted :). Now, as Mr. Butler says, it is not necessary. Therefore, the crossover has been redesigned and the “peak” has been eliminated, while the effectiveness has been increased and impedance has been linearized.
I am not sure whether I should be happy or worry – I will have to check it personally. When someone becomes so attached to an audio product, any change of its sound may appear unacceptable. Time will show. The same question emerges in the case of the new version (the LS5/9) of the iconic LS5/8 monitor, prepared by Graham Audio: will it be better than the original? When the new speakers were placed in a system with Tim de Pavaracini’s DPS Ear Yoshino electronics, the Ear Master Disk turntable and a Denon reel-to-reel tape recorder, they were impressive when it comes to their tone color. However, exhibition conditions are not favorable for the speakers and it is necessary to listen to them in proven conditions.
See you next year!
- A new Thales turntable, the TTT-Slim model with the Easy arm, still battery-powered.
- Knowing the offer of the Swiss EMT company, as well as its history, which is almost synonymous with the history of vinyl, it is hard to believe that it also used to offer digital devices, such as this studio CD and file player EMT 986 – so ugly that it seems beautiful.
- The retro formula at its best. However, one needs to know how to combine modernity with the past to create something unique. Apparently, Thorens can do that – the photo shows new turntables from the Reference series: the TD 903, TD 905 and TD 907 models. They looked amazing.
- As always, the sound of music in the Avantgarde Acoustic room was dynamic and full-blown. The system was later replaced with another one. Here we can see the Duo model with the XA-Pre preamplifier and the X-Power power amplifiers.
- In the Avantgarde room there was also a list of the most important awards, including the High Fidelity Special Award 2013 for the Zero model.
- Something for those who value good looks and good prices – the Advance Acoustic brand. The picture shows a novelty – the X-Cd3 player, i.e. a comeback of a good, proven CD player. The X-i60 amplifier is situated below.
- Mads Klifoth, a representative of the Audiovector company (the owner’s son) standing next to the SR3 Avantgarde speaker, with Dr Heil’s AMT speaker.
- Another example of how to prepare good-looking and functional products that deliver good quality sound for a little money – the “mini” Denon system with the PMA-50 amplifier and the DCD-50 CD (!) player. What is interesting, all the components (including the CD player) can be placed vertically.
- Another very interesting Denon’s novelty – the portable DA-10 DAC/headphone amplifier which costs 1450 PLN.
- Tour the force of modern technology: Phantom – an integrated sound system manufactured by Devialet. So many new solutions have been applied under its beautifully designed cover that I would need to write another article to describe them. What is interesting, it played music like a god audio set consisting of separate components.
- The photo shows what a complicated product Phantom is – woofers on the sides and Devialet amplifiers in the centre with a digital sound correction system.
- KEF’s company wall of fame: (from the left) Muon, Blade, Blade 2 and Reference 5.
- We awarded this presentation of the KEF Blade 2 in an attractive blue metallic color, with Arcam electronics – the C49 preamplifier and the P49 power amplifiers. The source was the CDS27 SACD/file player with the D/A D33 converter. An excellent combination!
- Bartek with enormous Mudra Akustik power distributors/filters – the largest one belongs to the EX series.
- Chord electronics with the CD Red Reference MkIII player as the main source and enormous Fischer & Fischer SN 770 AMT speakers. This is a version with the AMT tweeter manufactured by Mundorf. It delivers good, mature sound. It is also worth paying attention to the top-end pre-amplifier and Chord power amplifiers – it is a powerful combination!
- The Western Electric TA 4165 A speakers of the year 1933 have the size of a big wardrobe and similar depth. They were originally designed for cinemas in the USA and now cost an incredible lot. These unique products are brought to Munich by representatives of Silbatone company – wealthy vintage sound enthusiasts from Korea.
- The subwoofer in the Western Electric TA 4165 A speakers is not powered by a permanent magnet, but by an electromagnet powered by the Western Electric 274A tube.
- The Duo Avantgarde Acoustic speakers in another interesting set, with the XA-Power power amplifiers manufactured by the same company and the brand new two-piece Hermes pre-amplifier/file player – both manufactured by the Wadax company. The preamplifier may operate with linear and turntable sources, and it is also an acoustic corrector. The beautiful Muse 3C turntable manufactured by the Lithuanian company Reed was the source and Fono Acustica cables were used.
- And this is the Reed Muse 3C itself – a beautiful device which can operate as a “belt drive” or an “idle drive” – we choose the mode that we want.
- And this is the new, cheaper Giro turntable manufactured by the German AMG (Analog Manufactur Germany) company. Its platter is made of POM and the base is made of aluminum.
- A system which delivered really good sound, with the AMG Giro at the front, Aesthetix electronics, Verity Audio speakers and Harmonix cables.
- A system that we awarded, consisting of the Audio Physic Avanti speakers, the Acoustic Signature Wow XL turntable, the Coctail Audio X30 CD/file player and a Primare power amplifier, with a Furman mains filter underneath.
- 2.1 systems used to be very common – it is enough to mention the first Sonus Faber design. In a studio, such a division is a norm, so it is simply obvious for PMC: the photo shows the standmount Twenty•21 speakers and a new subwoofer, the Twenty•Sub.
- The Twenty•21 speakers may be small, but their design is not simple – PMC is a company whose trademark is a transmission line which is used in all its products.
- Touraj Moghaddam is known as the founder of Roksan company. However, he sold it some time ago and started dealing with what he loves most – turntables. His products, manufactured under the Vertere brand, look fairly simple but in reality are not simple at all, which is reflected by their prices. The photo shows the Record Player turntable with the SG-1 TPA arm.
- You probably remember Bravo! and the only speakers manufactured under this brand, made by Mr. Kiuchi. The series has recently been changed into Encore! – the photo shows the ENC-5 model. However, it is still equipped with a coaxial converter and custom-tuned housing.
- As always, also this year it was possible to spend time pleasantly in Harman room. It is where I saw the white-lacquered Everest DD67000 speakers for the first time. Now they are available in a few different colors.
- It was a good opportunity to see and listen to new Magico speakers, the S7 model, prepared on the occasion of the 10th company anniversary. The system that powered them was outstanding – models from the second highest Constellation Audio series, Performance; Centaur Mono power amplifiers, the Virgo II preamplifier and a Cygnus file player. The monoblocks that weigh 150 kg deliver 500 W to 8 Ω, 800 W to 4 Ω and 1000 W to 2 Ω.
- The photo shows the Paradigm Concept 4F speakers standing in a corner. However, they had also been included in the main system. As we read in the press, they are the outcome of 30 years of active work in the field of speaker technology. The F4 are semi-active speakers with the Anthem room correction system. A 1” beryllium dome operates on the top, below there is a 7” midrange driver which is also made of beryllium, and at the bottom there are four 8.5” woofers with a 700-Watt amplifier. They were officially premiered in Munich.
- That was something I had not expected: eight conceptual Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus speakers powered by ultra-modern Devialet electronics (an amplifier/DAC), but also with the DSP 2 turntable. Each amplifier powered a separate converter that was filtered in a digital process which is part of the company’s concept of frequency correction.
- A turntable was standing next to Devialet amplifiers on a small shelf. However, for most of the time, music was played from a computer. You can see an elaborately designed remote control of the amplifiers on the laptop.
- These excellent Epoque speakers manufactured by the German Goebel High End company are based on the enormous Carbon Excellence converter which has a lot in common with NXT converters. It is the outcome of fifteen years of work of specialists from the company.
- Munich is a meeting place, so I was finally able to meet the wizard who can extract so much music from black boxes – Vincent Brient. Behind Vincent there is his most high-end system – the totaldac d-Twelve which we have tested, with a server. However, signal was also supplied by the Jadis Calliope CD transport. Well-done!
- This is a room which is mostly devoted to amplifiers manufactured by Audio Exclusiv, a company from Switzerland. As regards their shape, they resemble Polish Delta Studio amplifiers and break up with a “yesterday” look.
- Older Audio Exclusiv models have a characteristic front panel made of marble (they are visible in the background). In the foreground there is, among others, the ET2 integrated amplifier with the 300B EML tubes, and below there is the PA1 preamplifier.
- That was one of the most interesting presentations in Munich, given in Nordost room where visitors could test the new top-end Odin 2 cables and compare them with older models. The presenters are specialists in their field, as the differences were very clear. This is how you should convince others that “the cable is important”!
- In the Nordost system, apart from the Audio Physic Cardeas plus speakers and a Moon CD player, there was also the latest Jeff Rowland’s product – the Daemon. It is an amplifier which the company calls the “Super Integrated Amplifier”. It has 1500 W per channel and a whole range of digital inputs. Information is displayed on a touch display here. It looks cool.
- A very interesting system with very expensive Lansche Audio Cubus Mk II speakers and Danish Mola Mola amplifiers operating in D class. Just like last year, the source was a two-piece EMM Labs SACD player. The element that Lansche company is particularly proud of can be found in the speakers – it is a plasma tweeter which does not have a classic diaphragm – the air is moved by a plasma film.
- That was one of the better-sounding rooms of the exhibition, prepared by the Greek company Ypsilon. The most interesting element were the incredibly looking Perfect8 The Point Mk III speakers that are made of glass and have a ribbon tweeter. The mysterious cubes covered with material are crossovers.
- The Perfect8 speakers once again – their design is better visible here – the open midrange section and the closed woofer section.
- This is the room where I found a few products that I have been dreaming about. First of all, there were the Soulution 701 monoblocks, the 755 phonostage and the 760 DAC. There was also the 746 SACD player with a new amplifier and the wonderfully-looking Magico Q7 Mk II speakers.
- Cyril Hammer, the CEO of Soulution, standing guard.
- I had not heard anything about D. Klimo company for a long time. In Munich, I was able to listen to and see its Kent Gold amplifiers.
- In D. Klimo system the source was the very interestingly looking Tafelrunde K.Labor turntable with the very long K.Labor Lancellotto arm. The system was set up by the Italian company Suono e Comunicazione.
- These are the incredible Wolf von Lang Swing speakers with electromagnets instead of magnets, with Thomas Mayer electronics and the direct-drive Primarycontrol turntable.
- The photo shows an almost all-Polish room with Autotech horn speakers, My Sound tube amplifiers, a Zontek phonostage and a JR Audio turntable. The system made a great impression on the visitors. The only foreign element was an Ayon CD player. It is a pity that Polish manufacturers seem to be giving up this format.
- Mr Józef Radzimski with his JR Audio turntable and the unique Impossible arm which emulates the operation of a tangential arm – see: Thales.
- The jewelry-resembling device is the incredibly sophisticated MSB Technology Select DAC. It looks amazing in its new finish! The new reference company converter is a combination of a design, user interface and modular structure known from the Analog DAC (with a possibility of upgrading) and with sound from the DAC V.
- A very nice show with live music. Lyn Stanley sang through the Classic Audio Loudspeakers.
- That was one of the better-looking rooms, housing the electronics of the German Einstein company and Blumenhofer speakers. The source was my dreamt-of turntable – the TechDAS Air Force One. As it is known, it was Munich where Albert Einstein started his school adventure around the year 1886.
- Einstein electronics stood on wooden boxes in which it is transported, while guests sat in armchairs resembling Gerrit Rietveld’s Red and Blue Chairs of the year 1917. These chairs can be found in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
- The top-end Albedo Axcentio Mk II speakers with Audia Flight electronics from the Strumento series.
- Metronome Technologie are French specialists in digital technology. At the exhibition it was possible to listen to music from the Music Center file player and the DAC8 S. These huge speakers (Master 2 model) are a product of Canadian Focus Audio and they are powered by the company’s new Liszt Concerto amplifiers.
- The Metronome Technologie Music Center – a file player offering the possibility of CD ripping.
- If I were to call someone a “guru” that would be Mr. Hideaki Nishikawa who used to work for Microseiki and now represents TechDAS. In Munich he presented his latest and cheapest Air Force Three turntable with four arms which costs exactly a half of what the Air Force Two costs.
- Joint forces of Vivid, Ch Precision, TechDAS and Artesania Audio – speakers, electronics, a turntable and racks from the Republic of South Africa, Switzerland, Japan and Spain.
- Kavero! has always impressed me with an uncompromising approach to details – the photo shows its top-end speakers with powerful crossovers. There were also other elements in the system: a Kronos turntable, a Totaldac digital-to-analogue converter and Engstrom & Engstrom amplifiers.
- Avid HiFi, a company known for its turntables, surprised me with the reference monoblocks of power amplifiers and with a preamplifier.
- And this is the Avid HiFi Reference Mono Amplifier itself – an enormous black cube.
- That was one of the better-sounding rooms, with Trilogy electronics powered from Isol-8 filters and cables, a CAD file player and Boenicke speakers. In the background there is Srajan Ebaen from 6moons with a tripod.
- Manger speakers are now available in different colors – the Z1, S1 and P1 models (from the left).
- Colors from a car paint colors palette were one of the most popular ways of refreshing the offer for many manufacturers – even for German Physiks which is a very conservative and technically-oriented company. The photo presents the Unlimited Mk II model.
- And this is Nic Poulson, the owner of Trilogy Audio Systems and Isol-8 – a super-friendly person.
- My dream (I have a lot of dreams, as you can see) – the complete dCS Vivaldi system. It was combined with VTL monoblocks and Wilson Audio Alexia speakers.
- Although they may not give such an impression, the Zellation Reference Mk II speakers were among the most expensive columns at the exhibition – they have reference Duelund components inside. It is worth paying attention to their Schnerzinger bases.
- Mr. René Laflamme – the CEO of the Canadian Fidelio company. Within the 2xXD company, he has recently started offering high-resolution files (including DSD) of other companies.
- A system with Van den Hul electronics – the photo shows The Excalibur cables. A Van den Hul preamplifier and cartridge are placed outside the frame. New VHD discs (Beets Brothers - Lils Mackintosh - Hans Dulfer: “A Tribute to Analogue”) are leaning against the speakers.
- And this is Mr. Van den Hul himself.
- Davis Acoustics speakers – the smaller ones are the Cezzane HD model. The bigger ones are prototypes.
- The wonderful all-in-one Aura Note V2 system produced by the Korean April Music company. The transparent disc cover moves to the side.
- One of the most interesting listening sessions – the Crystal Cable room. The Cube system is placed on a bass module, with the top-end Absolute Dream cables. The tiny Arabesque Minissimo speakers produced excellent sound!
- A unique photo – Michael Fremer from “Stereophile” in the foreground, Edwin van der Kleij (the owner of Siltech) on the left, and Gabi van der Kleij-Rynveld (the owner of Crystal Cable) in the background on the right.
- There is so much sophisticated metallurgy and technology in the new top-end Siltech Triple Crown cables that the company had prepared an interactive video in which everything is described step by step.
- Eight Esoteric Grandioso M1 monoblocks with AudioGrade Calora speakers.
- This beautiful turntable was prepared by Sperling company.
- Another interesting person – Mr. Paul McGowan, the owner of PS Audio company.
- The PS Audio system with Magnepan speakers – yummy!
- Nagra lastest products are the Classic Amp amplifiers (bottom, in the middle) and the HD Amp – on the sides.
- The Kodó turntable manufactured by the Turkish company Absolare is all leather, metal and fantastic workmanship.
- The Tune Audio Anima speakers with ModWright electronics, Skogrand Cables and the VPI turntable.
- New models of Skogrand Cables – the Beethoven in the photo.
- A real Viking! The CEO of Skogrand Cables, Mr. Knut Skogrand, who was taller than anyone else.
- The Vermeer Audio Two amplifier – the company calls it the “Universal Control Center”.
- A minimalistic Auralic room with Kavero speakers and a Kavero rack! Stein Audio cubes behind.
- The new Auralic Aries Mini streamer. The music that we listened to came from the Tidal streaming service, playing music in CD and hi-res quality.
- Vitus Audio with the Gauder Akustik Berlina RC 9 speakers. Vitus presented its new SS-025 integrated amplifier with the SCD-025 player as the source. Alternatively, visitors could listen to music from the Transrotor Turbilion turntable with a Vitus phonostage.
- Oh, it looked so great! The new Acoustic Signature Invictus turntable with four arms and an integrated base in which LEDs have been installed.
- Peter Ledermann from the Soundsmith company which offers unique Strain Gauge cartridges.
- The Stabi S turtable manufactured by the Slovenian company Kuzma may be tiny. However, as you can see, it can be ordered in any combination – with one or two arms of different lengths. The photo presents the very characteristic turntable base, which looks like an element of the hydraulic system of a state-of-the-art kitchen.
- We have already written about this turntable, but we also saw the Reed Muse C3 in the main hall – the turntable was opened. Here we can see a version with two idler wheels.
- Munich exhibitions focus on “serious” systems. However, Dared brought in something that was absolutely the opposite – a Bluetooth receiver with a little speaker. The whole device is smaller than a CD box.
- Design plays the leading role here, but there are also interesting sound solutions – coaxially arranged converters and a horn for the bass-midrange speaker. Manufacturer: Once Custom Sound.
- Beautiful products from Italy: Trinaudio electronics and a turntable.
- Three gentlemen – our friend Yoshi Hontai in the middle, his son Elia Hontai on his right and my son, Bartosz Pacuła, on his left. Family businesses :)
- Omnipresent reel-to-reel tape recorders need tapes and a wide range of music was offered at the exhibition – plenty of options to choose from!
- They look familiar, don’t they? They are just like my Harbeth M40.1 speakers, but it is a new version which was presented in Munich: the 40.2 model with a redesigned crossover.
- Diapason Dynamis – enormous speakers from Italy, the most ambitious of all the company designs.
- The photo shows Atacama hifi racks that I had not seen for a longer time. The ECO version, i.e. racks made of fast-growing bamboo, have been made available recently. This is the Evoque Eco 60-40 Special Edition model.
- The enormous Well Tempered Lab Royale 400 turntable with a 16-inch (!) arm.
- The Air Tight room with WolfVonLang speakers and a Transrotor turntable.
- Friends: Mr. Miura, the owner of the Air Tight brand (on the left) and Mr. Jean-Claude Kei Tago. Mr. Tago has been Mr. Miura’s friend since the Luxman company was founded, where Mr. Tago was the chief manager dealing with sales outside Japan. As regards Air Tight, he has been involved in the brand promotion since the very beginning.
- Another amazing example of passion and genius – Yamamura Crawley Limited products.
- The latest Soundkaos SK16 (skiny) speakers, with a single broadband speaker and an additional dome.
- My private top of the top of the exhibition – an Ayon Audio system with two accessories: a turntable and the Lumen White speakers. A divine thing!
- Very nice sound in Onda Ligera room and our award from three years ago, as well as a High End award on the wall.
- A Soundkaos system again, with two subwoofer-aided systems – organic and coherent sound.
- “Boys will be boys” – Mr. Suchy, CEO of the Clearaudio company, with his motorbike.
- The Italian Tektron company and the handmade TK211S-I-REF integrated amplifier with the Emission Labs 211 tubes at the end, and a tube rectifier.
- In the description of the reference system under each test there is a note at the end: Tivoli Model One. It is my greatest pleasure:) Little radios in a variety of colors were shown in Munich, also with Bluetooth modules, with names including the “BT” abbreviation.
- Cambridge Audio has changed its logo and prepared a whole range of new devices in the CX series. It is one of the most effective audio companies that I have ever known.
- GMO? Not really, although it also emits light… The acrylic base of the Pro-Ject turntable with a characteristic glow.
- Dr Goetz Martin von Laffert, sales manager, with the wonderfully-looking, fantastically equipped and excellently playing all-in-one Lyravox system which is hung on the wall.
- The stand of the Polish Sounddeco company with the beautifully-looking Alpha F3 speakers. “High Fidelity” and “6moons.com” awards on the wall.
- These little things are the wonderful Sigma 2 Sounddeco speakers.
- Who said that a record cleaning system must be ugly and boring? – Pristine Vinyl proves it does not have to be like that. The photo shows the Vivac model.
- Analogueworks is a British turntable-producing manufacture.
- Very friendly Norwegians caught us in the beer garden :) Marius (or Lasse – I am not sure, for which I am sorry!) is showing us the Little Fwend – The Automatic Tonearm Lifter. This little device lifts the turntable arm after a record has been played – it is a simple and really good-looking solution.
- Little Fwend – The Automatic Tonearm Lifter came to Munich straight from Oslo.
- We will soon be able to test the new product of the Cracovian company Abyssound – an integrated amplifier with the DAC board in a special finishing element of the front panel.
- A very “tasty” room with Audiopax tube amplifiers from Brazil, Tellurium Q cables from the UK and the Lampizator file player from Poland. There was also an Antelope Audio DAC from the USA.
- Ms. Eunice Kron who rules the KR Audio company with an iron hand, with one of her company distributors.
- A whole range of KR Audio tubes, with the most famous enormous T-1610.
- The Klarischnättra clarinet sextet under the enormous Realhorns speaker horn.
- Mr. Andreas Hoffmann with his latest amplifier – the Octave V 80 SE. Two prototypes were brought to the exhibition from Karlsbad.
- The same Octave V 80 SE, but now placed in a system, with a Black Box amplifier.
- Here, in Pioneer room we had the best time – the A-70 amplifier, the NA-70A file player and the Dynaudio Focus 260 speakers proved to be an excellent combination.
- Mrs. Jozefina Krahulcova, the CEO of EAT company (Mr. Lichtenegger’s, the Pro-Ject owner’s wife) attracted the attention of all men – and not only. She has incredible knowledge of her products – turntables and tubes.
- The colorful Sonus faber Chameleon speakers.
- A high-end file player, an amplifier and a DAC in one – Dan D’Agostino MLife.
- The new Dan D’Agostino Momentum phonostage – in its prototype form and not yet illuminated, but already impressive. The settings will be illuminated.
- The latest Micromega product – the M-One 100 integrated amplifier, DAC and streamer in one, with the digital M.A.R.S. acoustic correction system in the package.
- Ansi Hyvonen, the CEO of Amphion, is showing new bass modules for monitors. A short demonstration was enough to confirm what every mastering specialist knows: it is impossible to live without bass in the long run…
- A special edition of Dali speakers with photographs of Metallica band members.
- It is one of the best-looking systems of all – a Burmester stereo system which looks as if it was made in the 1960s.
- Sitting in this room was very pleasant for me, because of the vintage-like devices: the Sperling L-2 turntable and Thöress electronics. Paralyse Audio racks and AMS Jäger furniture also looked great.
- Lars & Ivan is a great combination of design and electronics. The THA-21 headphone amplifier is tube-based and operates in class A.
- Another “first time” – a meeting with the editor-in-chief of “The Part-Time Audiophile” who I also interviewed some time ago in “The Editors” series. His colleagues are standing behind…
- Colorful shirts are the trademark of my friend, Dirk Somner, the editor-in-chief of hifistatement.net – one of the most important audio magazines in Germany. Behind Dirk there is the owner of Chord Electronics company, Mr. John Franks.
- A system in which there could only be one king: an American one, but with Polish roots and connections: the Mytek Manhattan DAC produced by Mr. Michał Jurewicz.
- One more look at the Sounddeco stand – it is a really serious company which knows what it is doing.
- The Super Deck Grande manufactured by Funk. It is nice and has two arms. It needs to be listened to.
- Furutech had prepared something that should become a standard in most heavy power cables: a rotating angle plug.
- Another successful Polish company – the cable manufacturer Albedo.
- The stand of the legendary British company Talk Electronics. However, at the exhibition there were only devices sold under the Edwards Audio brand, which were presented by Mr. Kevin Edwards. Talk products will go on sale soon.
- Edwards Audio TT2SE – a turntable which costs 700 pounds and looks really interesting.
- The Ikon Akustik o-m-p turntable in white lacquer.
- The Gauder Akustik Berlina RC 9 speakers once again, this time with AVM electronics.
- The KEF Blade 2 speakers in a hugely impressive Audioneta system.
- Ypsilon electronics and a Bergmann turntable were placed on a completely new series of the Finite Elemente Pagode APS furniture – Advanced Positioning System.
- Bryston with three-way Mini-T monitors and Vicoustic acoustic panels.
- Wonderful cappuccino in Bryston’s room.
- An absolute novelty – a premiere presentation of the Focal-JMlab Sopra speakers.
- One of the most important components of the Sopra speakers is the tweeter.
- There is only one statement: Naim. My review of this amplifier in “EnjoyTheMusic.com” moved the readers considerably :)
- Mr Ishiwata’s presentation was perfect, as always. The photo shows Definitive Technology speakers, impossibly bolted from the inside.
- I returned to the room with Western Electric speakers a few times – as it can be seen, other people did, too.
- Aavik U-300 is an amplifier manufactured by specialists from Raidho. The D-class amplifier of 300 W of power was designed by the Pascal company. A phonostage and a DAC are also placed “on board”.
- The presentation of Silberstatic panels made a great impression on me. The speakers (much taller than an adult person) created an incredible amount of space independently of where you were standing or sitting.
- Alluxity has prepared a premiere this year – the INT-ONE integrated amplifier of 200 W of power at 8 Ω.
- Swissonor offers phonostages that look as if they were made in the 1950s. The photo shows the Historic 8910 model.
- It is an absolute novelty and great news – Graham Audio has produced a new speaker – the LS5/9, which has similar dimensions to the Harbeth M40.1. The difference is that here we are talking about a two-way construction.
- Graham Audio LS5/9.
- New Mark Doehmann’s arm mounted in his new turntable. Mr. Doehmann is known for the design of the Continuum Audio Lab.
- This is Mark Doehmann’s turntable.
- And Mark Doehmann himself.
- Proud, but for a reason – Rumen Artarski, the CEO of Thrax Audio, next to Lyra speakers.
- That was a really interesting experience – the Kharma Exquiste Classique speakers were powered by unique Auris amplifiers from the Titan series.
- Unexpected joy in Atoll’s and Totem Acoustic’s room – top-quality Pink Floyd sound.
- A plan of one of the Atriums.
- The front of Marek Dyba.
- Tilmann Schneider Terzett.
- We have already seen Mr. Hontai, but here we can see him again with Mr. Satoru Murayama, the CEO of Oyaide (on the right).
- Aurender N100X – the smallest file player of this manufacturer, but still with a 2 TB hard disk.
- Sine offers very good-looking filters and power distributors. It is a company from Hong Kong.
- A brilliant design of the new HiFiMAN HE-1000 headphones.
- A phonostage manufactured by the German company Gruensch. An external amplifier and the change of cartridge loading are a standard here.
- Jico styluses. The company was set up in 1959 and its manufactory is located in Hamasaka city.
- High-end Jico styluses from the Urushi Series.
- Lyrus Audio Model Nine planar magnetic headphones. The conductive traces on the membranes are made of gold.
- Audio-Technica cartridges still represent the best quality-to-price ratio. The photo presents new models (from top to bottom): the AT33Sa, AT440MLb, AT120Eb and ATF2.
- HiFiMAN once again – this time the EF-1000 Reference Headphone Amplifier, here still in its prototype form.