Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Actually there is very little listening in Munich. Surprised? If you are with me and if you have read the coverage I wrote in Audio, as well as for the magazine you are reading (year 2006; year 2005), then this year’s report should not be surprising. The move of the show from Frankfurt was received with mixed emotions by the environment, mostly due to the new location – exposition halls and glazed “rooms” of the M.O.C. expo center in Munich. To keep it short – such surroundings do not influence the listening conditions in a positive way. So the reportages from previous years, not only authored by me, were soaked by the search for the answer to the following question: how do the cuddled, sometimes incredibly expensive, systems sound in the new surroundings. It turns out, that this was probably not necessary. This year’s High End pointed to a “third way”, that seems to be the best solution. The show, sometimes laughed out as a second IFA, became more of meeting place between manufacturers and distributors, press and potential clients, a place, where in short time, in a condensed way, one can see what is happening in the hi-end. A vast amount of new companies, many seen every year and waves of people streaming through the M.O.C. suggested with a high probability, that this is the right way. Just remember, that each review from a show of that type, regardless of it’s location, contained many remarks regarding bad acoustics, that a given system did not show it’s full potential, that a known brand went down, and similar. So it was assumed, that show listening sessions should be taken with a grain of salt, something that can only arouse curiosity and stimulate a later visit to a dealer. And if so, the natural consequence of that is a further reduction of listening sessions for the benefit of discussions, lectures, etc. This is what happened in Munich this year. And even if I would want to, then in 90% of the cases the crowd (and I was there on a day open only for the press and distributors/dealers) in the demo rooms did not allow physically for any kind of listening, not even thinking about leisure ones. So for the grumblers it’s good news: your prophecies were fulfilled, and Munich transformed from a show in a kind of “fare” (but please not the interchangeability of those two descriptions in relation to such gatherings). But… But only in that way, in my opinion, there is a chance to show to the people, that there is something more available than junk home theater systems, that there is a choice from thousands of companies, concepts, visions, and not only the adverts of large companies must be believed in. And what if the visitor does not listen to it? It is maybe even better that he does not – exposition conditions (also hotel based) would only disgust him and throw away from audio forever.

And what is going on besides that? Besides that everything is OK! This year Munich was invaded by companies from Italy. I counted about forty companies, I never heard about, and about the same amount of companies I already knew. Maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but only minimally. The presence of the Italiano was visible at every step, mostly due to perfect design of their products. And in addition to that, it seems, that in the fatherland of Monteverdi and Vivaldi, people really know how to listen and have and open heart for music. And this transfers to the equipment used for music reproduction. Companies from Greece had a similar strong entrance. And companies from China almost completely – with one exception – disappeared. It seems that this year they focused on CES and Las Vegas. It is a pity, as they introduced some unrest, but the Italians compensated for this with added value. Anyway – I liked it. I saw so much, that it should be enough for the whole year, and the contacts I made, should allow for tests and interviews for long time. More about the show you can find in the July edition of Audio, together with more photographs.

1. at last KEF showed the new XQ series – with seemingly the same drivers as the iQ, but with much better enclosures. But in reality the time from the appearance of the iQ series was used wisely, and many solutions were added, that were not available in the older series, among others the linearity of frequency response in the treble range was vastly improved.

2. I am not sure if I saw anything like this before – KEF Muon is the most beautiful speaker I know. And though, the whole knowledge of KEF related to acoustics is behind this design…

3. You should remember that face – this is our Man in KEF, one of the company bosses, Mr Jacek Dukat.

4. And this is the most important person in the Israeli world of hi-end: journalist, editor, Mr Ran Levy.

5. This is the way new loudspeakers from Avance will look like, here the model K3. Maybe not new? At least I have seen them for the first time. Thanks to the tweeter on top in a droplet shaped enclosure they resemble B&W speakers.

6. Not many people know, but since years, the company Avance produces class electronics. The design points quite clearly to the top models from Marantz. Interestingly Anna Maria Jopek was strongly promoted there – the Germans almost went mad about her.

7. I heard, that Polish distribution of the Japanese Luxman is to start shortly. Tube amplifiers tell about the company's roots (Luxman was founded in 1924). Two gurus of that area come from Luxman – the owners of the companies Leben and Air Tight.

8. Luxman goes for class A – on the photo beautiful integrated amplifiers with 30W power. They look a bit like Accuphase. Or is it the other way...

9. Phenomenal design is not only the domain of Europe and USA. On the photo the amplifier of the Chinese company Opera Audio from the series Forbidden City.

10. The Finnish Penaudio prepared many novelties, including very nice looking loudspeakers Chronos from the Ambient series. Authors of the artistic project are the Finnish designers Mikko Ryyttyy and Matti Kokkonen. Electronics – integrated player from EMM Labs and Soneeter Bronte amplifier.

11. Holfi means not only wooden front panels (on top), but also, and now maybe primarily, multichannel devices. On the bottom shelf we see a multichannel preamplifier (it can be purchased in stereo version and upgraded), and on top of it the multiformat player Xandra.

12. The Italians from Audio Performance debuted last year, and now they showed what they are capable of: beautiful design and perfect workmanship (inside and outside). On the photo the integrated amplifier Sphera 80.

13. Volent is an Italian brand. Treble is handled by a ribbon tweeter known from other designs, but doubled here (it claims a frequency response up to 100kHz), and a splendid driver from AMT with a sandwich type membrane with titanium coating on the lower frequencies.

14. Good acquaintances from the German company Marker-Audio prepared something on a high level – mono power amplifiers Art Audio Lab with 300B tubes, Tamradio and Tango transformers and line/phono preamplifier with an external tube power supply. The system is called Phalanx 300B.

15. Monoblocks Art Audio Lab Phalanx 300B use 300B-XLS tubes from the company Emission Labs and can deliver 13 W in class A SET.

16. Do you remember Radmor loudspeakers? Those were based on Davis speakers. Besides drivers, this French company offers also very interesting loudspeakers. On the photo models Sisley i Dufy.

17. Italians again – Mel Audio. Closest to us is the power amplifier Nefesh II with an external power supply, and behind it the preamplifier Logion. Mel Audio amplifiers work in class A, have a dual mono setup, S/N at an incredibly high level 118V (unweighted!) and a frequency response DC-50MHz. And the damping factor – 1000.

18. The Italians from Mel Audio besides intriguing amplifiers propose also the beautiful CD player Rechav II shaped as a flying saucer.

19. I mentioned Air Tight while talking about Luxman. This company was founded by a coworker from Luxman (privately son in law of one of the founders of Luxman), Mr Miura. The devices are characterized by a beautiful classic construction, so perfect, as only the Japanese and Swiss can make. On the photo the first model, ATM 1, still in production.

20. Who could design something like this? Yes, for you 100 points – Italians! The company Absoluta prepared the brilliantly designed (at least from the outside, although the interiors are not shy of the audiophile eye) amplifiers. One can change their enclosures – even for a marble one... On the photograph the preamplifier Talia and the Janus power amplifiers – class AB, 150W/8Ω i 300W/4Ω. Frequency response – 5 Hz – 400 kHz.

21. Mobile Fidelity is not only responsible for splendid re-editions of discs, but also for this very expensive turntable element C15 – price: 4500 Euro.

22. The newest “child” from Thorensa, gramophone TD 550. With decoupled chassis, a possibility to mount a 12” tonearm (on the photo SME), with an ultra-silent, electronically regulated, synchronous AC motor, equipped with RCA and XLR (!) outputs.

23. A further Italian… Oops, my mistake – one of the characteristics of this years show was the striving to a beautiful form, what is the domain of the Italians. However on the photo are products of the German company Fonel – loudspeakers based on Scan-Speak drivers and a tube integrated amplifier.

24. This should be interesting for tube lovers – the Dutch-Chinese company Prima Luna offers a new amplifier named DiaLogue. Tubes – EL34.

25. The company EAT sells tubes, being among the best I know. Equally interesting are the tube dampeners/radiators.

26. These gigantic, majestic amplifiers Reference – 90W in class A SET (based on the 845 tubes), were created in Athens, in the company TLA. Although this cannot be seen at first sight, those devices are really big – the dimensions are: 50x26x70cm, weight – 90kg. A piece.

27. Tubes like tubes – hence the combination of the Duo Omega tube speakers from Avantgarde Acoustic and the Greek amplifiers TLA – here a stereo power amplifier based on the 845 tubes with the line preamplifier Esence and a gramophone one. The turntable – visible on top – it is the Transrotor Fat Bob.

28. Acoustic Solid is a further German turntable manufacturer of significant size. For the show a new reference product was prepared with a chassis made from very thick block of plywood, placed on a matching table. The product is so recent, that it has no name yet.

29. I didn’t mention Italians for a while – let me catch up: the company Tound produces speakers with extremely rigid enclosures and Scan Speak drivers. During the show the model T.04 was paired with a Luxman amplifier.

30. Fabio is my old acquaintance – after the brilliant, inexpensive D/A converter DC-1 there is time for some new products – the LT-1 preamplifier and hybrid power amplifiers PA-1m. The preamplifier has only 3 active elements in the sound path, and the power amps are based on Philips tubes in the input and big Sanken transistors in the output. They offer 10W in class A SE. Did I mention that Fabio is an Italian? I didn’t have to, I think.

31. This is not an Italian product but a Greek one – those incredibly looking speakers were prepared by the company Mythos Audio

32. Power accessories are still a controversial topic. The Japanese company Oyaide is a specialist in that area, although it is run by engineers, scientists that are no audiophiles. They claim that measurements unanimously point to some solutions. Hence they offer a wide range of power plugs. The most expensive set, in titanium enclosure and rhodium plated copper conductive elements – M1e & f1 costs significantly over 500 USD.

33. I am a big fan of headphones made by the German company Ultrasone. Lately I tested the top model Edition 9, however during the show I listened to the much cheaper model Hi-Fi 220 ULE. A really mature sound.

34. Olle Eliasson, a Swede, leads the company XTZ. The company offers brilliantly looking loudspeakers based on Seas drivers, with incredibly low price tags. It turns out, that the enclosures come from China.

35. Further Italians, but this time also known in Poland – the company Chario and the model Sonnet. I don’t know, why this company does not have any luck in Poland, as both from the side of the form and the insides the products are fine. For example here a soft dome with a layer of silver was used and a brilliant mid-woofer Rohacell of the Full Aplex type, also used in the many times awarded model Magico Mini. It is worth to mention, that Chario prepared one of the best sets with press materials as did North Star Design and Mythosa.

36. I will no longer make a fool of myself – this is just another Italian company with another very interesting, nice looking loudspeakers. The company is called Sigma Acoustics, model Image SL with a mid-woofer from the Italian company ATM and a Scan-Speaka tweeter.

37. Aqvox – splendid, inexpensive gramophone preamplifier Phono 2 CI with a fully balanced sound path and the input stage adapting automatically to the cartridge (MC).

38. Did you know, that Dynaudio produces also electronics? Me neither – probably because it is only custom built and costs as much as their top loudspeakers. It looks brilliant anyway

39. A novelty from Burmester – the player CD 069. Belt drive, weight 60kg, and it is supposed to be a new reference for this company.

40. My favorites, the company Trigon, with Kersting&Mersch GbR speakers. Very good sound and nice design, and this are Germans, aften accused for the lack of taste.

41. One of the more satisfying presentations was that in the room occupied by the companies ASR (electronics) and Audiodata (speakers) – the latter with the model Ambiance, that uses a coaxial speaker. Source – Esoteric.

42. Bowers&Wilkins attacks with the refreshed 600 series, floor standers 683 and stand mounts HTM62, able to work as traditional speaker as well as in central speaker setup

43. The company EMT, founded in 1940, was a real power in the studios. Until today it produces some of the best gramophone preamplifiers. On the photo the model JPA-66 Jubilee, that allows for customizing the RIAA curve to match the pressings from different timeframes. And those did differ quite vastly.

44. Majestic turntable Transrotor Gravita.

45. Denon may rule in the cinema, but for me the sign of its greatness and history are the great but inexpensive phono cartridges. From the IFA in Berlin I reported about the DL-103R, now the version DL-103SA is available. A beauty.

46. Besides cartridges, Denon showed also a new cinema monster, 10 channel power amplifier (10 x 150W) POA-A1HD. It looks a bit like Luxman and Accuphase… But it is just one big Japanese family.

47. At last Pioneer showed a production version of their Blue-Ray player, but I was intrigued most by the small speakers accompanying the new, stereo series of this manufacturer. The 2-way speakers, with the official name S-A4SPT-PM Pure Malt Whiskey Speakers are made in limited quantities, as for their construction wood staves from scotch whiskey barrels were used. The sound is supposed to be really engulfing.

48. This was one of the most teaching presentations I witnessed - Ken Ishiwata prepared something special: to the classic Mordaunt-Short Performance 6 speakers a second identical pair was added, just put on top of the first one so that it created a kind of d’Apollito setup. The effect was surprising – every aspect of the presentation improved, with emphasis of the stage depth. Interestingly, such concept was launched a few years ago by the Israeli company Morel, but it was regarded as an oddity then. Now, besides Ishiwata, speakers of such kind (in fact the reference speaker of that company) are offered by MBL

49. his could be foreseen – everybody offers multiformat players, so why should NAD be any different? On the photo the new player T 585 decoding among others HDCD and SACD

50. I have not seen this before: the company Finite Elemente, specializing in high quality shelves for audio equipment, regarded as a reference by many people, prepared a complete system, being furniture at the same time – including speakers. The price of this furniture is hi-end – 7800 Euro

51. LINN may explore many channels, but its roots are deeply in the analog. For the lovers of vinyl it prepared a completely new version of the LP12 Sondek turntable, with a new version of the Ekos SE tonearm.

52. The new, split dCS Scarlatti player in full scale.

53. We mentioned them earlier – these are Italians from the company Eventus Audio, this time with the beautiful loudspeakers Phobos.

54. Speaking about Italians we should not forget about Pathos – the CD player CD Drive reached the show, designed to partner the Classic One amplifier, now in the mk. III version. The looks – as always – killing.

55. And this is the newest piece of Mr Gerhard, the owner of the company Sonics (formerly he was the chief of Audio Physics), model Spirit. Mr Gerhard is not bound to any line of transducers, and uses the ones he seems best fit in a given construction – here a ribbon on top and ceramic dome on the midrange.

56. eautiful sound and a showcase of the capabilities of Arcam: 3-way speakers wired in tri-amping setup with the P-1 monoblocks, preamplifier C31 and the CD36T player.

57. The beautiful preamplifier Connoiseur 4-2L of the company Lyra, better known from their turntable cartridges.

58. As usual in the WLM room one could hear real MUSIC. The speakers Gran Viola powered by the tube power amplifiers from the Australian company Melody (we shall hear more about that latter company shortly, I believe), Manley steelhead preamplifier and the brilliant turntable Artis Turntable Mk II of the Swedish company Nordic Concept.

59. And this made me loose my breath. From envy: the newest amplifier from Avantgarde Acoustic, the Model Three. I use the Model 5 since 2 years, and I think it is completely brilliant, and this one is supposed to be even better. This includes also the price – it is to cost 5800 Euro.

60. he mighty system OSS (The Olympic Sound System) from A.D.A.M., with the purpose of showing the capabilities of the company, something like the Nautilus in B&W. Active, with amplifiers of a total power of 6000W, with four separate, adjustable for all room settings, sections. The treble and midrange are new versions of the Air Motion Transformer, low midrange section is composed of eight speakers with Hexacone membranes and the bass section from 2 speakers with 51cm diameter. The sound just swept out of the room.

61. Just like every year, also this year a system composed of Kharma speakers (this time the model Exquisite Reference 1 A/E), powered on the bass by a digital power amplifier of that company EXQ-MP 350, and in the midrange and treble by the mighty power amplifiers Wavac HE-833 v1.3 (based on the 833 tubes, giving 100W in class A SET), gathered crowds. And just like every year, despite the horrendous, even for me, price (let us say that the power amplifiers cost 63 000 Euro), it did not sound as I imagined it should.

62. KR Audio and Cessaro room. The latter produces huge tube speakers CHA-Gamma, driven here by the model KR Audio Kronzilla Purist.

63. I mentioned that – MBL proposes as reference a set of two speakers put with their “heads” together. In addition there is a large cabinet with the active bass section.

64. It attracts attention, doesn’t it? And if so – then the Italians must be behind it. The speakers Labor Limae, suspended on special lines, with an enclosure made from woven carbon fiber. A similar suspension is used in the company’s electronics.

65. I would prefer to not to repeat myself, but those speakers were prepared by Italians from the company M. Acoustics. This is the model Coherence Stage II, with Heil Air Motion Transformer tweeter, Zelaton midrange and modified bass drivers from that company. Workmanship – perfect.

66. British Revolver, after revival, was only producing loudspeakers. Really nice, by the way. Now it returns to its roots and proposes something that included the company in the history – a turntable. With the Japanese arm from Jelco it looked really interesting.

67. On the floor, but in the center of attention, sat the amplifier Bonassus from the Katowice company RCM, this time in the Ferrari red color. It sells very well, as orders come from Hong Kong, Australia and whole Europe.

68. Jadis in industrial finish – I have not seen that yet. The power amplifiers and the preamplifier, although lacking the usual gold and chrome, stll look very solid. And maybe that was the reason for this.

69. The Australian company Melody and SP3 MkII – small, beautifully made and kicking on our feet with sound and very low price (yes!) tube amplifier based on the 6L6 tubes.

70. With this system I really eased down – naturalness and music Bösendorfer speakers and Lindemann electronics – among others the preamplifier 830 and SACD player 820S. I am still feeling the flesh creeps…


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