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COVERAGE

HIGH END 2017 EXHIBITION
Munich | Germany

Time: 18 - 22 May 2017
Venue: M.O.C., Munich

Organizer:
HIGH END SOCIETY MARKETING GMBH
Hatzfelder Straße 161-163 | 42281 Wuppertal - Germany

Contact:
Renate.Paxa@HighEndSociety.de

HighEndSociety.de

GERMANY


laughterhouse is the word that I used to describe the High End exhibition in Munich last year. What I had in mind was the fact that the number of visitors per square meter at that time exceeded human perception capabilities. As Kurt Hecker, the Chairman of the High End Society (the organizer of the exhibition), said, the whole exhibition area offered by the Munich Order Center was used then. This year there were even more exhibitors willing to participate in the event. As I had predicted, the only possibility left for the organizer, i.e. the High End Society, was congestion – both in halls and in open areas in the so-called Atria, i.e. areas between rows of rooms on the first floor.

If there is demand, it is easier to control supply – by raising prices, for example. This year they rose by 15% for exhibitors. However, no one made any special complaints – the fact was accepted with dignity and/or resignation, because, as an owner of a famous brand told me: “In fact, we have no choice. High End is the most important audio event in the world. We have to be there.”

It must be a coincidence, but the rise was accompanied with a change of the Managing Director of the High End Society – during the 36th edition of the exhibition that originated in 1982, Stefan Dreischärf was appointed to replace Branko Glisovic. As we read on the Society’s website, he is responsible for “organizing the High End exhibition and the relationship with our partners and exhibitors” as the “project manager” (The Team [accessed: 22.05.2017]).

As I knew beforehand that the two days that I had were not enough for me to see everything, i.e. were enough to see just a little part of the exhibition, I gave up running, barging and hunting – that would have resulted in nothing good, anyway. On Thursday I only went to the presentations and meetings that I had planned to attend, while on Friday I just had a cursory look at the whole exhibition. So, I only saw a fraction of the stands and systems, and I hope you will forgive me that. Then we also awarded the Best Sound High End 2017 awards.

PRESENTATIONS

Audionet STERN | HEISENBERG

I will start with a presentation that I was late for and only managed to take a picture of the Stern model through glass – I am talking about the Audionet Stern preamplifier and Heisenberg power amp. I talked to engineers later and got some literature, so I know something about the devices. They are intended to become top high-end products, embodying all of the company’s knowledge. Apart from a lot of interesting system and mechanical solutions, it is worth paying attention to the design, which almost always constitutes the weakest aspect of audio devices.

In this case, the person responsible for the look is Hartmut Esslinger from the Cupertin studio, one of the most famous German designers who had worked for Sony and Apple, among others. It was a good idea – Heisenberg got the National Design Award, one awarded in the USA to the best designs, and then his work was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution. The devices look amazing and produce organic, almost warm sound. I must listen to them at my place, but I can already say that they are the current top high-end.

Dynaudio SPECIAL FORTY

The premiere of the Special Forty speakers, as you can easily guess, was intended to honor the 40th company anniversary. Dynaudio decided to celebrate with speakers that are small, relatively cheap and available to everyone – i.e. it is not a limited edition. The Special Forty are standmount two-way speakers that crown the whole series of such a type of products, with the Special One, Special Twenty-Five, Crafft and Contour 1.3SE in the lead.

There are two exclusive finishes available for the speakers: Grey Birch or Red Birch. Veneers are cur cross grain, so they look different than usual. Both the woofer and tweeter were made especially for this model – the former is a new version of a bass-midrange speaker with a diameter of 170 mm and an MSP cone, while the latter is the latest Esotar version. It has a hybrid magnet, which allows more space in the rear chamber, thanks to which more damping material can be packed in.

They are connected using a first-order crossover that is complex as it incorporates 6 Ω Impedance Alignment and Phase Alignment technologies. The suspension of the woofer is asymmetrical in order to improve the linearity of membrane excursion, while the AirFlow Basket, i.e. asymmetrical basket arms are to help air flow freely.

The speakers were connected to a NAD system, with a file player as the preamp and a D-class power amp. The sound we heard can be described as dark, large, full, dense and detailed. It is unbelievable how fast audio companies have moved from “detail” to “general”, maintaining all the advantages of both reproduction methods. The thing is that high-end sound now is sound which is dark at first sight, until instruments operating in the treble enter, as then it becomes strong and detailed.

“Darkness” tells us about minimizing noise that used to create the impression of “openness” and “detail”. It was fake. Real sound reproduced in home conditions and from any medium is, in my opinion, more similar to what I heard in the Dynaudio room than to sound from hypercorrect, hyper-clear systems where you seem to have everything, but the listening experience is just unbearable.

The Special Forty speakers produced very big sound. They created a lot of space in a few dozen square meter high-ceiling room, with very low bass (as for standmount speakers). Its lower edge was not clearly controlled, but, in the end, that was an exhibition. Anyway, the Special Forty are beautiful speakers that sound “my” way.

dynaudio.com

Crystal Cable | THE ULTIMATE DREAM

International Audio Holding, the company behind the Crystal Cable and Siltech brands, had two important premieres this year: speaker and power cables from The Ultimate Dream (Crystal Cable) series, and power cables completing the Triple Crown series (Siltech). The Ultimate Dream series is the greatest achievement of the company. Each cable consists of seven different conductors: a monocrystal silver and gold alloy, a silver and gold alloy, a gold-plated one, monocrystal silver on the outside and a silver-plated monocrystal copper screen. The Triple Crown Power is a cable made of monocrystal silver, using the latest Furutech connectors from the NCF series.

The CEO of Siltech, Mr Edwin van Kley (a member of the Krakow Sonic Society) and the presenter, Mr Lincoln Cheng, the editor-in-chief of the “Audiotechnique” magazine published in Hong Kong.

However, the presentation that I participated in included both cables and electronics (the Crystal Cable Integrated amplifier and the Crystal Cable Minissimo Diamond speakers with a special top, minimizing diffractions) in the background. The sound source was the dCS Vivaldi transport with an external clock. The main theme of the meeting were so-called “glass discs”, i.e. CDs made not of polycarbonate (ordinary CDs) or plastic used for LCD production (SHM-CDs and HQCDs), but of glass.

The production of such CDs is very expensive and time-consuming, so they cost a lot – from 2000 to even 6000 PLN per CD! The presenters were: Mr Edwin van der Kley (Siltech) and Mr Lincoln Cheng, the editor-in-chief of the “Audiotechnique” magazine published in Hong Kong, the owner of the CDs. As he told me after the presentation, he has 45 of them...

However, it was enough to listen to an ordinary version of a given CD and to its glass counterpart just for a moment to understand the whole thing and see how much is lost between the mastering studio and the consumer. It is a thing that I have been repeating for years, presenting Master CD-Rs burnt at a studio. Glass discs have incredibly filled sound and a very silent “background” – it seems that their sound is velvety and soft, but only because we get plenty of information. In contrast to them, an ordinary CD seems to be very euphonic and colored.

All of this was clear and obvious from the beginning, since the Crystal Cable system that we used to listen to music is both characterized by incredibly high resolution and wonderfully “musical”. The latter means that we did not focus on details, but synthesized the overall picture in our heads, without a loss of information or blurring the differences, exactly because of the fact that these differences were so perfectly clear. So, I had no choice and the Crystal Cable & Siltech room received the Best Sound High End 2017 award.

crystalcable.com
siltechcables.com

TechDAS AIR FORCE (almost) ZERO

However, in an alphabetical order, the last of the four described presentations, held by Mr Hideaki Nishikawa, the head of designers, opened the whole exhibition. On Thursday, the day intended for the so-called “industry”, at 10 o’clock I sat in the first row next to Michael Fremer (“Stereophile”), with Ken Kessler (“Hi-Fi News”) on the left and Robert Harley (“The Absolute Sound”) behind.

The topic of the presentation was supposed to be the latest and the most expensive (two times more costly than the Air Force One) turntable from the Japanese company TechDAS. The presentation was untypical in the sense that Mr Hideaki Nishikawa talked in Japanese, which was interpreted into German by one of his colleagues and from German to English by our friend, Volker Bohlmeier, the owner of the Einstein company and the German distributor of the TechDAS brand.

Michael Fremer (“Stereophile”) is trying to hold the upper part of the plate, made of tungsten.

It was supposed to be a presentation of the Zero model and it was, but not completely, as only the Zero motor module was delivered to Munich. So, the listening session made use of the Premium model, i.e. an improved version of the One, with the Zero motor. We could learn what the complete Zero is supposed to look like by looking at pictures from a tablet. Not much can be said about details, but it is known that the artistic design is a lot different from earlier TechDAS devices. It is also known that the plate will be the same as in the Premium model, i.e. with the upper layer made of a tungsten alloy. “Tungsten” seems to be one of the new “magical words”, replacing “titan”. The thin thing was so heavy that Mr Nishikawa-san’s assistant (just like Michael Fremer) could hardly carry it in both hands.

However, we could see the most important element – i.e. the motor – live and listen to what the Premium model sounds like with it. In fact, the motor resembles a highly advanced turntable, as it has a large-diameter plate floating on an airbag, just like the main plate in TechDAS turntables. The whole thing is large and looks like, let me repeat myself, a small turntable standing next to a big one. The motor got another box with an air pump – the same as the main plate. Pneumatic decoupling is to eliminate speaker vibrations (their impact on the motor) and motor vibrations (impact on the main plate).

The turntable operated in a full, top-of-the-line CH Precision system, with enormous Vivid Audio Giya G3 speakers having a brilliant yellow color. It appeared very quickly what the greatest advantage of the new motor is – after a few bars of the first musical piece, one metal woofer grille fell off – the woofer excursion was simply incredible. Then, another one fell off and the remaining two were quickly removed by Mr Nishikawa-san’s assistant.

It is all about incredible dynamics. It is a turntable that produces unbelievably clear sound, characterized by almost as good resolution as a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Anyway, dynamics was number one. Takeshi Inomata’s album The Dialogue, released in 1977 by a Japanese specialist in “absolute sound”, Audio Lab Record, was played at the end of the presentation. The percussion sounded live. What I always hear while listening to recordings, i.e. compression and a characteristic “microphone” sound did not exist there. It was real, live percussion – one of its best reproductions I have ever heard.

techdas.jp

BEST SOUND

  • HIGH END 2017

    NAGRA | WILSON AUDIO | KRONOS | TRANSPARENT | AIR TIGHT

    A visit in the Nagra company room is always an important event. This time, René Laflamme chose top-of-the-range Nagra HDamp power amplifiers and Wilson Audio Alexx speakers. There were four sound sources: the Kronos Pro turntable, Nagra T R2R reel-to-reel tape recorder, Nagra Seven file player and Nagra CDT CD transport. For me, the most beautiful sound was produced by the tape recorder, but it was closely followed by… the CD player.

    It was coherent, but also incredibly dynamic sound. I did not even hear a shadow of what the Wilson Audio speakers usually sound like at exhibitions, i.e. sterility. What we decided to give our award for this year was this sound from a classic CD. What is interesting, when we were placing our sticker on the door frame, we found a sticky spot that remained there after our sticker from last year was removed :)

    René Laflamme with our sticker :)

    • Power amplifier: Nagra HD AMP ($82,500)
    • Digital-to-analog converter: Nagra HD DAC ($30,000)
    • Power amplifier: Nagra ClassicAmp ($17,000)
    • Phono stage: Nagra VPS ($7,650)
    • Compact Disc transport: Nagra CDT ($14,000)
    • Reel-to-reel tape recorder: Nagra T R2R
    • Digital recorder: Nagra Seven
    • Speakers: Wilson Audio Alexx
    • Turntable: Kronos Pro http://highfidelity.pl/@main-2968&lang=
    • Cartridge: Air Tight Opus 1
    • Cables: Transparent Opus; all prices in US dollars

    LYRAVOX

    Lyravox, a company with a seat in Hamburg, came across as brilliant when it offered integrated music systems completely different from any other ones (at least at first sight), during the High End 2015 exhibition two years ago. Perfectly made and designed, they were a sort of “soundbars” for people with imagination and money. In systems hung on walls, there was a CD player, a Bluetooth receiver, a set of amplifiers with DSP correction and speakers. The sound was simply charming.

    This year, when I was going to a meeting with Mr Götz von Laffert, who founded the company with Mr Jens Wietschorke (Wieczorek in Polish maybe?), I thought that he wanted to show me another version of the concept. Imagine my surprise when I saw enormous floor standing speakers at the entrance to the exhibition room. Karl, accompanied by its smaller version – Karlotta, is a technologically advanced active system based on ceramic Acuton speakers and a Scan Speak woofer. The system is equipped with an audio file streamer, eight D-class amplifiers, (500 W each) and a DSP system, correcting the phase, amplitude and crossover filters.

    Mr Götz von Laffert at the entrance to the Lyravox listening room

    Of course we know such systems, for example the already iconic Beolab 90 speakers, but Lyravox added sound to technology and design – sound that was surprisingly mature. “Surprisingly”, as we are talking about a company that was set up in 2013 – one that has not had any experience with such projects so far. What a surprise! The sound resembled what we get from high-class tube amplifiers and a good turntable. If this is what digital audio is to look like in the 21st century, we are at home… The system costs €43,000.

    AEQUO AUDIO | AUDIOPAX | SOUND GALLERIES | TELLURIUM Q | INFINIT!

    I happen to know almost all the components of this system – except for the server and the rack – from tests in my system. In Munich, the Aequo Audio Ensis speakers produced free, spatial sound with really few colorings at the bottom end, which is a nightmare in all exhibition rooms, especially such ones (with thin walls).

  • It shows how well the bass correction system in the active part of the speakers and the midrange/treble system work. The amplifiers were more than good as well, guaranteeing coherence, a breeze of warmth and density. The Tellurium Q cables prevented speed and resolution from being lost.

    Gentlemen (from the left): Ivo Sparidaens (Aequo Audio), Paul Rassin (Aequo Audio), Silvio Pereira (Audiopax)

    KONDO | KAISER ACOUSTICS

    It is another room that we gave our award to for the second time in a row, officially giving our Statement Award 2016 for the Kondo OnGaku amplifier at the same time. It was impossible to do it in a different way. Ongaku electronics in combination with speakers, a rack and Spline diffusers made by the German company Kawero! create a show that is going to be difficult to forget. Beauty, a story, flow – these are the first words that came to my mind.

    A moment for a selfie with the “High Fidelity” award – Mr Reiner Weber, a constructor from the Keiser Acoustic company (on the left) and Mr Masaki Ashizawa, a constructor and the CEO of Kondo

    • Turntable: Ginga
    • Cartridge: Kondo IO-M
    • Preamplifier: G-1000
    • Power amplifier: Kondo Kagura
    • Speakers: Kaiser Acoustics Kavero! Classic C3 (Kondo)
    • Rack: Kaiser Acoustics Leading Edge

    AYON AUDIO | LUMEN WHITE

    It is not that Gerhard Hirt is able to prepare a system worth awarding the Best Sound Award for each exhibition, at least not in Munich. In Warsaw, however, he seems to have a patent for preparing one of the best exhibition systems. The problem with exhibitions in Munich is a very small room with thin walls. This year, however, everything was very, very pleasant, mainly thanks to “the smallest” speakers from the Silver Flame series. “The smallest” because they are still quite large five-speaker speakers, based on ceramic drivers. Anyway, they are the smallest in the series.

    The sound was so good, i.e. coherent, dynamic and characterized by very high resolution also thanks to the source – the CD-35 player, the Conquistador preamp and Orthos power amplifiers. However, the speakers themselves let the system sound in such an open and unconstrained way. The Lumen White are one of those constructions characterized by the highest resolution that I know, showing every error on the way. They clearly found nothing in this system. It was interesting, at least for me, that Gerhard placed all his devices on Harmonix decoupling feet.

    Mr Hartmut Roemer (Lumen White)

    • Super Audio CD player: Ayon Audio CD-35 ( €10,000)
    • File player: Ayon Audio S-10 (€7,500)
    • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Conquistador (€60,000)
    • Power amplifiers: Ayon Audio Orthos (€25,000)
    • Speakers: Lumen White Kyara (€48,800/pair)
    • Cables: Ayon Pearl Cables

    ayonaudio.com
    lumenwhite.com

    SOUNDSMITH | VPI

    Mr Peter Ledermann himself

    In this tiny room, where the Soundsmith company celebrated its birthday, Mr Peter Ledermann presented the most expensive cartridges incorporating the Strain Gauge technology, using the VPI turntable and the Alto tone arm designed by Frank Schröder, built under a licence by Soundsmith. The sound was presented using speakers designed and built by Peter Ledermann himself. These tiny devices produced fantastic sound. There was everything that I already know from cheaper designs of this manufacturer, i.e. warmth and almost no crackling sounds, with an incredible insight into a recording.

    All the best!

    • Cartridges:
      Soundsmith Strain Gauge 810 Signature with the SG6 needle (Schroeder)
      Soundsmith Hyperion (VPI)
      Soundsmith Paua Mk. II (VPI)
      Soundsmith MIMC Star (VPI)
    • Turntable: VPI HRX + VPI JMW 12" + Schroeder Reference
    • Phonostage/Line preamplifier: Soundsmith MCP-2 Phono
    • Power amplifier: Soundsmith HE-150 Signature Amplifier
    • Speakers: Soundsmith Monarch + Dragonfly
    • Cables: Transparent Cable
    sound-smith.com

    SFORZATO | FIDATA | SPEC | HARBETH | SINE

    The room I am talking about was mainly occupied by Japanese companies, with Sforzato – a manufacturer of top high-end file players and Fidata – a manufacturer of top high-end servers in the lead. They were supported by the SPEC company whose amplifier was being used, and Harbeth speakers from a new anniversary series. Let me add that the speakers stood on really beautiful TonTräger Audio.

    I still have reservations about files played at home (in contrast to files played at a studio from a computer system in which they were recorded or mastered), but if this sounds like in the system with Sforzato and Fidata devices as the sound source, I’m in. That was incredibly communicative and cultural sound – very transparent, with a lot of information, but unbelievably smooth at the same time. There did not seem to be a lot of bass or treble in it, but only until a moment when something hit and rang – then it all sounded almost like from an analog mother tape. Bravo!

    Panowie Omata Kyochi-san (Sforzatto, CEO) oraz Tomoyoshi Sugimori (Fidata, szef sprzedaży)

    • Audio file player: Sforzato
    • Server: Fidada HFAS1-XS20U
    • Amplifier: SPEC RSA-F33EX (Polish)
    • Speakers: Harbeth Super HL5+ Anniversary Edition

    sfz.co.jp
    iodata.jp/

    EINSTEIN | TECHDAS | ARTESANIA AUDIO

    Volker Bohlmeier and Annette Heiss are two sides of the same golden medal: the Einstein company. Volker is responsible for the inside of their devices, while Annette is in charge of the artistic design and the company’s finance. Together, they create something special that I was able to witness during this year’s exhibition. The system that they compiled was very similar to that from the last year, but something must have changed in it, because the moment I entered the room, I instantly heard very good sound on the right.

    The source in the system was the TechDAS Air Force Two turntable with an Einstein cartridge and arm, an Einstein preamplifier and power amplifiers, but mostly the company’s speakers prepared in cooperation with the creator of the AudioMachina speakers (Polish). It was fast dynamic sound in which an important role was played by warmth given by the amplification system. The bass was excellently controlled, even in such a small room.

    A perfect duo: Volker Bohlmeier and Annette Heiss

    einstein-audio.de

    PYLON AUDIO | FEZZ AUDIO

    Pylon Audio and Fezz Audio are companies that I tour Poland with, conducting workshops that aim to explain my way of testing, my choices and “biases”. At the same time, I try to talk about how recordings are made, how one is supposed to listen to them and what to look for. So, it can be said that I know the sound of these companies’ products. Each time I hear sound as good as I heard in Munich, I get confirmation that it is possible to prepare an audio system which won’t ruin a home budget, but is absolutely satisfactory – as the one in the photo above.

    • Amplifier: Fezz Audio Mira Ceti
    • Speakers: Pylon Audio Opal 20
    • CD player: Lector CDP-7T
    • Rack: Pylon Audio Elegance T3

    MONITOR AUDIO | ROKSAN

    At the end of the list of awards given during the High End 2017 exhibition, I have left some space for a big surprise: the new Monitor Audio speakers from the Silver series. I must say that the new series is much better than the previous one, in every respect. First of all, it looks better, but it mostly plays better. It is assisted by electronics from the Roksan company that has recently been bought by Monitor Audio, but, mostly, it is driven by new thinking about sound, which could be felt. The sound is open and fast, but it has depth, good resolution and selectivity. At the time when I was there, the sound source was the Roksan K3 player.

    • Electronics: Roksan K3
    • Speakers: Monitor Audio Silver 200
    • Rack: Blok

    THE WHOLE REST

    If I were to summarize this year’s exhibition somehow, I would have to refer to a few different trends. On the one hand, it is visible that audio is fashionable again and important in people’s lives. It was possible to see when one looked at visitors, but mostly due to the fact that a lot of money has been injected into the industry. The money comes from a few different sources, mostly from big companies and capital funds, etc. that are buying individual brands – e.g. Samsung that acquired the Harman company, or D+M Holding, i.e. a company which includes Marantz and Denon (among others), acquired by the private fund Sound United, a part of DEI Holdings. This is real money and if there was no development potential in audio, nobody would even think of investing.

    So, one should expect more acquisitions and a concentration of brands under one “roof”, but also the emergence of new ones. Apparently, banks and investors now believe that it is possible to get a return on investment here. Therefore, many talented engineers are looking for a seat at our table. Good examples of companies that have successfully entered the audio industry are Lyravox and Aequo Audio. I think there will be more such companies in the future – ones with excellently qualified constructors, money and ideas. It is also important to us that their products look great, which differentiates them from 20th century designs.

    Another strong trend is connected with headphones. Every single manufacturer wants (must) offer headphones, a headphone amplifier or a DAC with a headphone amplifier. On the one hand, the mobile aspect is developing, with the Astern & Kern company in the lead – one that exemplifies a successful combination of audiophile ethos and a pragmatic approach to products. It demonstrates that mobile audio can cost as much as or more than non-mobile devices, which was confirmed by the Audeze company offering magnetostatic “earphone” headphones.

    Another variation of this trend are stationary headphone systems. It is closely connected with what is happening in classic audio, i.e. audio with a focus on prices. Thanks to it, we get such incredible creations as the HiFiMAN Shangri-La system, the Edition 8 EX Ultrasone headphones, or the new Octave V16 amplifier. They are great, sound excellent and are slowly creating a separate top high-end category in the headphones domain. However, it does not change the fact that prices offered by companies in the lead are growing faster than one could have expected, compared to other firms in the peloton.

    It is something that was much more visible in Munich when one looked at classic systems – something that could be called “gigantomania”. It is because audio devices are becoming larger and larger, while their prices are also growing. The prices of top-of-the-line audio devices have rocketed with the speed of light and finally left Earth. It is true that many of these audio stratosphere products sound brilliant. However, their price is connected with a new vision of the audio industry as a luxurious niche rather than with companies’ overheads. In the past, one could dream of slowly progressing on the price and quality scale, and perhaps one day reaching the top in a given company’s offer, now “Abandon all hope – Ye Who Enter Here”, it will never happen.

    How about the source issue? I have been attentively following trends in this domain for years, since it particularly interests me and, as I think, I know something about it. This year I could observe no regularity. CD, SACD and file players, streamers, reel-to-reel tape recorders and turntables were presented on an equal footing. There were a lot of turntables, some of which cost very little. Among the rooms we awarded there were ones where CDs, LPs and files were played, so no ultimate opinion can be formed on this basis. It seems that, at least for now, we are dealing with a plateau, i.e. stabilization of the situation. It is fantastic news for clients – everyone will find something for themselves, adequate to their beliefs and habits.

    I wonder whether this will change next year – perhaps the exhibition itself will change. As I heard at the backstage, the possibility of moving it to a different venue is being considered, where all willing exhibitors could be accepted. I do not know whether it is going to happen or not. However, I know that the audio industry firmly stands on its feet and, if it does not stumble because of exaggerated prices, it will return to the entertainment mainstream for good. See you next year!

    • Our friends from the HiFiPig.com portal – Stuart (hidden behind the camera) and Linette.
    • The presentation made by Mr Hideaki Nishikawa from the TechDAS company attracted journalists from all over the world.
    • Mr Hideaki Nishikawa (to the left) and Robert Harley, the editor-in-chief of the American magazine “The Absolute Sound”.
    • A view of one of the Atriums. Listening rooms are located on both sides, also on the first floor.
    • Dragana Zirkel, responsible for the promotion of the Ultrasone company, with its Go model. I tried it myself – the Bluetooth connection range is several meters with no signal loss.
    • People say the most important thing is to leave your own mark somewhere – we left ours on the stairs of Atrium 3.
    • Enormous Azzolina Audio The Sfera horns and equally big Deutsche Elektronenröhren Manufaktur amplifiers. The latter make use of Elrog triodes.
    • The Polish company hORNS by Auto Tech prepared completely new speakers that do not look like horn speakers at first sight. Only after a moment one can see the tweeter and midrange driver horns.
    • Another Polish brand, My Sound, this time with the new Pre preamp.
    • A beautifully prepared and good-sounding Kharma company room. Number one were the Veyron EV-4 speakers equipped with new Kharma Omega-F drivers. The cables used were the new Enigma Veyron. There were two sources – the Clearaudio Statement turntable and the Vivaldi SACD dCS player.
    • The new Tri-Planar U-12 arm.
    • One of the most interesting presentations – Mr Giulio Cesare Ricci, the owner of the record company Fonè in the Blumenhoffer room. Mr Ricci records classical music and releases it on LPs as a limited edition of 496 copies, as well as on tape. The presentation compared the two formats. The speakers in the photo are the Gran Gioia Mk2 model.
    • One of Fonè productions: “Paganini Accardo”.
    • Fonè tapes were played using the TEAC A-7300RX tape recorder.
    • An unexpected novelty: a limited edition (250 pieces) of the integrated dCS Vivaldi One player. The player was created on the occasion of the company’s 30th anniversary. As Raveen Bawa told me, effort was made to include exactly the same components in it as in two-piece elements.
    • Boenicke is a Swiss company specializing in unusual speakers. The W-13 model is based on a 3” full range speaker and a company’s own 6” midrange driver with a wooden membrane. On the sides there are two 13” woofers with D-class amplifiers.
    • One of the most important premieres of the exhibition: the Marten Coltrane Tenor 2 speakers. Their characteristic features are diamond tweeters, as well as ceramic midrange drivers and woofers. The housing is placed on special stands. The inner cables were manufactured by the Jorma Design company. 
    • Marten Coltrane Tenor 2 speakers were powered by the Engström Eric amplifier. The sources were: a renewed Thorens TD124, the Nagra IV-S reel-to-reel tape recorder and the MSB Select DAC II.
    • Such a view is becoming more and more popular among manufacturers and specialists.
    • The enormous Zellaton Reference ONE speakers and giant YS Sound YS 5-772JP power amplifiers (1500 W per channel…). YS Sound is a company with a seat in Japan.
    • On top of the Diapason Dynamis speakers there is a special van den Hul supertweeter.
    • The awaited, smaller version of the Helix turntable, the Helix 2 model, still with the Minus K system.
    • A novelty from Thrax Audio, a transistor integrated amplifier.
    • Mr Paul Messenger, the editor-in-chief of the “HiFiCritic” magazine, on the left and Mr Rumen Atarski, the owner of Thrax Audio, on the right. Between them there are new integrated amplifiers – a transistor one on the right and a tube one on the left.
    • Mads Klifoth with his latest creation, a special version of the Audiovector QR3 speakers. Their housing is finished with a thin layer of concrete (it looks incredible), the tweeter has been replaced with an Avantgarde version, phase correctors are now gold-plated, cables have been changed, etc. The aim was to show what these constructions can do.
    • An Advance Acoustic system with large X-L1000 speakers accompanied by little devices from the Smart series – the D/A DX1 Blanc converter and power amplifiers that had their premiere in Munich.
    • A very beautiful Thorens TD 907 turntable – a sentimental return to the past, but in a new form.
    • A percussion mini-concert with an electronic instrument connected to the Avantgarde Acoustic Trio speakers with six Basshorn subwoofers. To be honest, these horn speakers are among the few ones that can show the dynamics, attack and strike needed to reproduce the right sound of the percussion.
    • Avid HiFi, a brand that has been known for years only for its turntables, has been producing complete systems for the last two or three years. The photo presents aluminum Reference Four speakers. Behind them there is the Ingenium turntable with a fantastic finish (polished stainless steel).
    • Conrad Mass (on the right), the owner of Avid, explaining the advantages of the new electronics to Ed Selley from AV Forums.
    • Avid HiFi had been using arms manufactured by other companies (mostly by SME) for years and now it offers its own three arms with the most interesting one in the centre. The most expensive of them is 3D-printed and made of titanium!
    • At the times when physical media are being given up, such a big CD player – the Gryphon Kalliope – deserves special attention.
    • The system in the FinkTeam company room, with two sources – the enormous Telefunken reel-to-reel tape recorder at the back and a small file player. Karl Heinz Fink had prepared the WM-4 speakers powered by Octave electronics. The speakers weigh 135 kg and cost €65,000.
    • The abovementioned Telefunken tape recorder, the Magnetophon 15A model. At the backstage in Juliusz Słowacki theater, where I used to work, we had two such tape recorders with the company’s own stands.
    • Another CD player, this time from the inside: the Audio Exclusiv P 8. As it can be seen, it uses the Philips Pro 2 CD drive, has got three separate amplifiers and a tube output; the front is made of marble.
    • The Kronos company did not present a turntable this time, but something based on it – a phono stage called the Audio Reference Tube Phono that it had prepared in collaboration with a Greek specialist, the True Life Audio company (Velissaries Georgiadis). The whole thing constitutes a complete analog source.
    • A very elegant (as usual) presentation of the Nordost company, using Moon Audio electronics (with a CD player in the main role) and the Audio Physic Avantera speakers. What attracted our attention were the three QX systems produced by the QRT company distributed by Nordost, placed before the main system. Their task is to clean the power network.
    • Another example of a new (to me) CD transport: the Magnifico manufactured by the Italian company North Star Design. It uses Stream Unlimited CD100 mechanics dampened using Technogel dampers. Signal from the CD is upsampled to DSD256 or PCM 384 kHz and only sent in this form to the DAC (using the I2S connection).
    • This year, Soulution surprised us with the cheapest ‘3xx’ series. The photo shows the 330 integrated amplifier. The series is based on solutions used in the ‘5xx’ series. The 330 model is equipped with a 1200 W amplifier and offers 100 W at 8 Ω, and 200 W at 4 Ω. Two ohms? Here you are: 400 W, although only of musical power.
    • The Swiss De Baer company and its Sapphire turntable with an Onyx arm.
    • Another CD player presented at the exhibition – one out of three offered by the German company MBL. The photo shows its Reference Line 1621A transport which costs €21,600.
    • Two McIntosh products that I had not known before: the MP100 phono stage (on top) and the MB50 file player (streamer). The latter is equipped with a headphone amplifier and the DTS Play-Fi circuit which makes it possible to play music from mobile devices, using a home Wi-Fi network.
    • Another tasteful discreet system with Denon devices and Definitive Technology speakers.
    • Mr Masaki Ashizawa and me, giving the award for the OnGaku amplifier.
    • Metaxas & Sons with the Marquis Memento Mori headphone amplifier, this time in different colors.
    • Many companies offer aluminum milling, while the Taiwanese Telos Audio Design company goes further, offering devices with housings milled out of one copper block. The photo shows a device used to minimize noise from the power grid.
    • Two looks at the same product: the aged Dynakit Stereo 70 and…
    • The Dynaco ST-70x, tube amplifiers.
    • The Neodio Origine S2 is a CD player. The device weighs 25 kg and is based on a DVD-ROM transport modified by Neodio.
    • A very beautiful system: the Snail Project – the starting point for the Sonus faber company. Franco Serblin only made 20 pairs of these speakers.
    • A system with the RD Acoustic Euphoria horn speakers working with the KR Audio Kronzilla integrated amplifier and Polish LampizatOr devices – the Golden Gate DAC.
    • The Korean HiFistay company presented its anti-vibration feet.
    • Dr. Hyunc-Min Cho from the Hungry Audioz company and Mr. Naiwon Pyun from HiFistay.
    • These fantastic shapes are Stark speakers. They cost from €19,900 for the Jane model (on the right) to €98,000 for the Emma model (at the back).
    • This year, Mytek offered a new element for the Brooklin series – under the D/A converter there is a Brooklin amplifier. As we can read in the company’s materials, it is to be “a D-class amplifier which sounds like a triode A-class amplifier” – it has the power of 300 W per channel. The device is a little deeper than the DAC.
    • I spotted the Wren phono stage that I had not seen before at Mr. Feickert’s stand.
    • Mr Chris Feickert himself.
    • In Japan these are almost iconic speakers, manufactured by the German company Musikelectronic Geithain aimed at the professional market, with coaxially arranged drivers.
    • The German Volya company and the Bouquet model with ceramic drivers and an incredible finish.
    • One of the characteristic features of the anniversary Harbeth series (the photo shows the M40.2 40th Anniversary model) is special veneer. The matching stands are manufactured by the Hi-Fi Racks company.
    • One of the special Pro-Ject turntables, 175 The Vienna Philharmonic model, with an adequate logo on the top.
    • Another special model; this time – the Essential III Stg. Peppers Drum.
    • The Furutech company offered heavy, precisely made stands where we place power cable plugs.
    • The turntable attracted many visitors – Mag Lev Audio had prepared a device with a plate levitating above the base, turning as any other turntable plate!
    • Mr Maurizio Aterini, the owner of Gold Note, next to his largest speakers.
    • The small but interesting Gold Note PH-10 phono stage with a large readable display.
    • One of the most interesting turntable arms this year: the 5T manufactured by the Lithuanian Reed company. Although it has classic gimballed suspension, the place of support constantly changes, thanks to which the arm pipe is perpendicular to the grooves, similarly as in tangential arms.
    • SME company merchandise.
    • Novelties from the Ayre company: the “Digital Hub” QX-8 and the AX-8 integrated amplifier. The QX-8 is a DAC/streamer/headphone amplifier, the successor of the QB-9DSD model. What is interesting, the amplifier also has a streaming function and digital inputs.
    • Friday, noon, a moment of relaxation with people from Kondo (from the left): me, Mr. Masaki Ashizawa (Kondo), Wojtek Szemis (Szemis Audio Konsultant) and Charles Tse (Kondo).
    • Patrick Miller, the CEO of Sugden Audio, next to the company’s iconic amplifier – the A48 from the year 1976. Last year, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary.
    • Another nostalgic example – the latest incarnation of the classic LS3/5a speakers, this time under the Falcon brand. It differs from the previous versions as it uses exact replicas of the original KEF drivers.
    • New/old KEF drivers – the Mylar T27 dome, the so-called “stadium” and the B110 with a Bextrene membrane.
    • One of the professional devices that can find their place in the hi-fi world: the RME ADI-2 Pro. It is a two-in-one AD/DA converter and headphone amplifier. The device makes digital tone adjustment possible and the results are shown on a colorful display.
    • This is what a disassembled plate of a top-of-the-line Acoustic Signature turntable looks like. The pucks presented in the photo are the so-called “silencers”.
    • A few years ago, the Acoustic Signature company did not manufacture its own turntable arms, while today it offers 16 different models.
    • Zu Audio, an American specialist offering speakers, and a classic American look of its stand…
    • Townshend Audio seismic pods that serve to decouple speakers.
    • Townshend Audio also offers the DC47 preamp based on matching transformers and supertweeters.
    • Mr Max Townshend, the owner of Townshend Audio.
    • One of the most interesting examples of cooperation between a Polish and a Japanese company – an Audio Philar anti-vibration stand with a color matching the Triode TRV-A300 amplifier.
    • Mr. Rajmund Stodolny (on the left) and Dawid Dąbrowski, with their new speaker in between – the Germano Acoustics APS AEON 2 that we are going to test in HF.
    • The little wheeled cupboard is the Hannl Washing Station system which automatically washes vinyl discs.
    • Mr. Tomoyoshi Sugimori (Fidata, the Head of Sales) and Omata Kyochi-san (Sforzatto, CEO) standing in front of the system that we awarded.
    • A cross-section of the Monitor Audio Silver 200 speaker.
    • New speakers in the renewed Silver Monitor Audio series, the Silver 200, Silver 500 and Silver 300 models.
    • Do you like it? I do – a lot. It is an integrated amplifier based on Art Décco Acoustic KT150 tubes. The company’s name reflects the look of its amplifiers and speakers well.
    • A new version of the Tivoli Audio classic – the Model One Digital. It picks radio FM signal like the classic Model One, but also digital Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals. It can be used to stream music from streaming platforms, e.g. Tidal.
    • The Norwegian Hegel company has a rule that any color is good, provided it is black. Introducing silver-colored devices onto the market was a big novelty, but the real breakthrough was the white Röst model. As it can be seen, Hegel amplifiers can now have any color, even the color of copper, providing it is called Jazzy Blue, Signal Yellow, etc. As regards Röst, there is a black version…
    • Even though it looks like any other Hegel amplifier from the outside, it is a novelty, believe me! The H90 integrated amplifier offers 2 x 60 W (8 Ω), digital inputs and the DTS AirPlay system.
    • And this is a novelty from Métronome Technologie, the DSc1 streamer, which is the first device from a whole new series. It offers digital inputs and is equipped with four power transformers, and two of the latest AKM D/A converters, the AK4497 model.
    • Mr Jean Marie Clauzel, the CEO of Métronome Technologie, next to an enormous new speaker that he designed. This year, the company is celebrating its 30th anniversary!
    • A CEC system which includes a novelty – the company’s own speakers. They are special as they are magnetostatic speakers in a closed housing! What is interesting, amplification was provided by amplifiers from the Polish company Amplifon Audio.
    • One of the novelties, the EAR Acute Compact Disc player by Mr. Tim de Pavaracini.
    • Another new CD player, this time from the Luxman company, the D-380 model, with the ECC82 tube on the output.
    • One of the most beautiful amplifiers at the exhibition – the hybrid Absolare Hybrid Mono Amplifier with a lacquered leather finish.
    • A new Transrotor amplifier – the Massimo model. It is powered by two motors and the shape of its base resembles the TechDAS Air Force Three turntable.
    • Even though they look the same, we are looking at the MkII version of the CD Blu transport and the Chord D/A DAVE converter. They had their premiere in Munich and they will soon be tested in “High Fidelity”.
    • Totally unexpectedly, Octave presented its first single-ended V16 amplifier. However, they had a very good excuse – it is mainly a headphone amplifier. Even though at the back there are binding posts, it is a secondary function. The amp offers 2 x 8 W power and is equipped with KT150 tubes. The projected price is €8,500.
    • As it can be seen, Dan D’Agostino also offers its amplifiers in red color – you can see Progression Mono amplifiers with aluminum instead of copper heatsinks.
    • However, a more important novelty was the new Progression preamplifier. It seems that this is going to be the cheapest one of this manufacturer.
    • Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi-san with our magazine’s award for the Taku converter.
    • Reimyo and Harmonix are Mr Kiuchi’s companies. He exhibited his products this year at a Marriott hotel during a complementary High End exhibition – the hifideluxe 2017.
    • Another presentation from hifideluxe 2017 that impressed me – JMF Audio.
    • The signal source in the JMF Audio system was the multi-format DMT 3.7 player which plays CDs, SACDs and Blu-ray Pure Audio discs. The company was set up by Jean-Marie Fusilier in 1985 and changed its name to JMF in 1996. Congrats on the 30th anniversary!
    • The active Kii speakers that we awarded at the exhibition in Prague produced excellent sound again!
    • One of the most interesting presentations in Munich, again in a room at Marriott, organized by the FM Acoustics company. The photo shows the reference XS-1 speakers and the 1811 monoblocks.
    • Mr Manuel Hubner, the CEO of FM Acoustics, explaining how his anti-crackling system for LPs works.
    • In the FM Acoustics room, one could see the premiere of a CEC product, the CD TL2N transport.
    • Even though it does not look like this, you can see a complete CD player here – The Stream made by the Italian company Omega Audio Concept: the “bowl” is the CD transport and underneath there is a converter and a power supply unit, everything placed on a unique stand.
    • Another novelty at the hifideluxe 2017 were Totaldac speakers with a small full-range driver at the center of a large wooden horn. Vincent Brient, the CEO of the company, treated us to a herbal liqueur – its power took our breath away for a moment :)