Place: Monachium, Munich Operating Centre (M.O.C.)
Time: 24.04 - 27.04.2008
Organizer: High End Society e.V.

In my opinion this was the best issue of the show. At least from the time I know it, meaning the last ten years, when I visit it regularly. Big, well organized, with lots of interesting devices and people. One has to get used to the thought, that this is not a place where one listens, for that purpose you have to visit smaller shows that are easily found in Germany but for me it was worth it. The show is so big, that walking around it, without even looking closer at anything, takes full two days. At least if we want to take some pictures and visit every booth. Or almost every – I didn’t make it to visit all of them in time. A pity… But I was everywhere where I was invited – because I knew what to expect – there where my friends told me to go, saying that it is worth it, and where I saw something interesting.

Every edition has a leading motive – last year those were the companies from Italy, two years ago from China and Taiwan. This year it was music servers. I am writing about that since some time, and I see with my own eyes that it is happening - and I informed and prepared you for this – the change in the paradigm of listening to music. We do not expect how much our habits will change, when a data stream will be used in place of the physical carrier. There will always be an offering for collectors, just like today it is in the form of vinyl, but for the mass client this format is dead since 20 years. This will happen in just a few years. There will be no stores; the artists will sell music directly from their web pages. The diversity will increase. And quality, I hope. And the next step will be servers without a hard disk that will play directly from the web – it will all depend only on the throughput of the link.

Now the servers look like a D/A converter integrated with something like a specialized computer – we have a HDD, CD-ROM and an operating system taking care of the data. And I have to say, that together with the change of habits there will be a change of quality – almost without exceptions all devices based on that “contraption” sounded at least very good. I enjoyed very much the Linn server Klimax DS that was the source in the anniversary (30 years) presentation of the magazine “Stereoplay”. The presentation had the purpose to compare five expensive loudspeaker systems coming from companies ADAM, KEF, Cabasse, Klipsh and B&W (Bowers & Wilkins). The sound, for the show, was really classy. Amplification was provided by McIntosh in the form of MC501 power amplifiers and Thorens supplied the preamplifier. The presentation was interesting, because I had a completely different opinion afterwards than most of the other listeners. They pointed to the Cabasse and Klipsch as the better speakers, and I liked the ADAM and KEF better. Both speakers had a vivid, natural sound, without pretending to be the fastest and most detailed sound. They sounded very natural and to the point. But maybe I am not an expert.

Anyway, the future is solid state memory. All my interlocutors (I prepared a series of interviews for a reportage from the show for “Audio” - please read if you can!) pointed to the drive as the biggest source of problems in all classical players. I don’t know how they handle the very big jitter of hard discs, but it seems they can handle that. Personally I am very fond of my Lektor Prime and of my discs, but sooner or later I will have to buy such a contraption, as in the Internet there are already uncompressed audio files available in 24/96 or even 24/192 format, that sound (I heard them!) just fabulous.
According to the talks the hi-end fares well. Maybe in Germany and in Italy, where they have a crisis it is worse than it was before, but it is not bad at all. Anyway audio was never a big part of the economy. However looking at the show it was not easy to believe in that – its size and interest of the visitors told a completely different story. More details, like the mentioned interviews, you will find in the “Audio”. A different set of photos will also be there (I made more than 500 shots…).

Looking at the photos one has to pay attention to a few things. One is the mentioned omnipresence of memory players, that partially pushed out vinyl, but most of all destroyed the CD players. SACD players were still holding strong, most of all in their most expensive form, from the companies dCS, Esoteric and Audio Aero. There was quite a lot of vinyl, but we already grew accustomed to that – it seems that this is the de facto standard of the hi-end, deep-rooted and few with a big stream of re-editions and new pressings. I think that SACD will take this position in time, but – paradoxically – it will influence the audiophiles in a much lesser way. The source of hi-end music will be the server, which will push out the CD and SACD. Its counterweight will be the vinyl. On the field of amplifiers the tube makes waves. This is also true for the sources, where most devices use output stages where electrons travel through gas or vacuum, but it was the tube amplifiers and/or preamplifiers that were part of almost all of the best presentations. This is the combination of the tradition (tube) with new technology (HDD). In the field of loudspeakers one can notice a trend of using ceramic speakers, what means a change of paradigm and a new deal. Splendid products from Isophon, ASW, a successful presentation of Avalon and Kharma, phenomenal loudspeakers from Ayon and related to it Lumen White, also a new proposition of Lindemann – those are just the main brand names to watch for, as there are also new ones growing silently in their shadow, like the Scandinavian Coltraine. Here the distinguishing elements are diamond speakers. And this is irrevocably related to another regularity – the companies fight fiercely to improve the reproduction of the treble and its integration with the midrange. Creaking, bright, overexposed treble are the nightmare of expensive audio. It seems that those times are over. Not fully but still, like inspector Ryba says. The Air Motion transducers in the brilliant ADAM, Burmester and Heil loudspeakers, ribbons in the loudspeakers Sonics by Joachim Gerhard and Mythos, the widespread presence of the dual-ring drivers from Scan-Speak and most of all the search for coaxial solutions, like KEF, Ascendo, Audiodata, Burmester and Cabasse (all the mentioned loudspeakers were part of splendidly prepared presentations, maybe with the exception of the “Sphere” from Cabasse, that I didn’t like). And of course the strengthening of the position of the old brands, manufacturing planar speakers, with the phenomenal Magnepan 20.1 and new flagships CLX from Martin Logan. And a reminder how music should sound in the room with the antique Quad ESL-57 speakers powered by tube monoblocs from Nagra. On this background the Avantgarde Acoustic tube speakers and new speakers with tube treble by Cain were only an addendum – a valuable one, but just an addendum. So there is much happening, we live in interesting times. For us audiophiles this is a blessing, and not a curse, fortunately.

Black Noise, an Italian company, that supplied the power filtering for AudioNemesis devices proposes also complete filter for external devices.

Turtle is the name of the monumental Chinese devices under the Lyra brand. The line carries a CD player and an amplifier. The devices are manufactured by the company Spark, the same that carries the Opera and Cayin brands.

Acoustic Solid is a relatively little known German company on the Polish market. However there is now a chance that this changes, as the company Audio Forte is taking care of the distribution.

Big return of the company Ortofon to the tonearm business. On the photo a 12 inch version, model AS-309S.

If we do think that a 12” arm is long, then we should reconsider. On the photo the tonearm Si 1.2 from Rossner&Sohn with a length of 25”, that is very easily to set-up according to the company representatives. Dynamic mass problems were dealt with by constructing the tonearm tube in a way that it is very light and rigid. It is made from two helix twisted bands.

British electronics from Leem. Designed and manufactured on the British Islands is characterized by the usage of a few (or a dozen) D/A converters in the CD player in a parallel branch design. On the photo the player Stream and the amplifier Pulse.

Ultrasone modernized the existing models, changing the lettering and adding more solid and nicer metal elements closing the shells. On the photo one of my reference headphones, the model Pro2500.

XTZ still surprises with inexpensive, competently done products. The cabinets are made in China, and the speakers (except the ribbon) are from Scan-Speak.

PSB is one of the most interesting companies. It just started with the Synchrony series, widely appraised. The loudspeakers are designed with the aid of the largest anechoic chamber in the world in the National Research Council in Canada. The company celebrates its 35th anniversary

Blacknote is the new brand from the company Bluenote. On the photo the newest products – brilliantly looking and technologically advanced players CDP-300 and SACD 300 and a novelty product, a converter named DSS 30, that can communicate with file servers, also using wireless networking (WiFi).

One of my favorite brands, the Czech Xavian. The floor standing model Mediterranea. Closed cabinet, Scan-Speak drivers.

Turntables from the German company Montegiro, model Legno with a double, decoupled chassis.

Audionemesis, hybrid monoblocs with 15W (8Ω) power. Price – 1500 Euro a pair. We are waiting for a tube preamplifier to accompany them…

We have recently tested the CD-1 player from the Austrian company Ayon Audio, and here are the loudspeakers manufactured by it. Attention is drawn by wide usage of the ceramic drivers. In the back the loudspeakers Lumen White, extremely expensive, that are a part of Ayon.

Absolute novelty – the turntable from Pro-Ject with a heavy chassis and a splendid, also new, carbon tonearm. It seems that finally the counterweight problem has been resolved…

The small digital amplifiers, Amp-Box, from Pro-Ject are now accompanied by a small tuner Tuner-Box and an input selector Switch-Box.

The Katowice company RCM Audio slowly but surely wins the western market. At the shows it is now an equivalent partner for the Dr. Feickert Analogue.

And this is a new version of the shown in Warsaw, during the Audio Show 2007, prototype of the turntable Twin with the M2 SME tonearm. And below it, the black version of my reference preamplifier Sensor Prelude from RCM Audio.

Powerful Volta loudspeakers with external ribbing taken from the top model of the company PMC.

As usual, in front of the entrance to the Transror room the visiting card – mighty Gravita TMD with the self leveling deck.

Denon prepared a Blu-Ray player. It is not really a player, as it only has a HDMI output. Hence the name HD Transport.

Jacek Dukat, still one of the bosses of KEF represents now a potentate in the area of montage speakers, the American company SpeakerCraft

The future: Naim Audio HDX server with hi-res files 24/96 and 24/192 with lossless compression. Here a demonstration of playing of such files from a pen-drive. The result is at least surprisingly good.

The boss of Ascendo, Mr. Jürgen Scheuring with the newest loudspeakers C8 Reneissance MkII with a coaxial speaker. I am amazed with the sound of those speakers every time I hear them. It is surprising they do not have a Polish representative yet.

The return of Musical Fidelity with the A1 amplifier, working in pure class A. This time with a stylistically fitting player A1 CD Pro. Still ugly, but – hopefully – still beautifully sounding…

The player from Spectral Studio Reference named CD Processor sole handedly prepared by Keitha Johnsona, the creator of HDCD. That is the reason the most advanced decoder of that type is to be found on board. As well as the Neo-VRDS transport from Teac.

A nice presentation from Esoteric. In the front a novelty – a tube integrated amplifier A-100 (KT88 in push-pull setting).

A splendid presentation with Audiodata loudspeakers. Coaxial drivers are a visiting card of them. Electronics – ESR Emitter II Exclusive (amplifier) and Acoustic Solid – Solid Wood MPX (turntable) with Ortofon tonearm.

I have not heard such dynamics for a long time – a novelty from Duevel, the loudspeakers Sirius. This is really something. The turntable is a modified Garrard Model 501.

Novelty from Transrotor, a beautiful version of the Zet1 with a milk-white plinth and special cover for the metal platter.

Denon maybe is fighting with Blu-Ray, but it still manufactures real gems – cartridges. On the photo DL-304.

Novelty from the Norwegian Electrompaniet, the power amplifier DPA1S from the new reference line of products called DP. 2 x 250W/8Ω up to 800W bridged.

New loudspeakers from Martin Logan, the CLX, powered with McIntosh MC501 monoblocs. These are full range planar speakers with a bent midrange and tweeter section Line Source XStat and a planar woofer DualForce ESL with 57” length. The loudspeaker was designed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the company.

McIntosh MT10 turntable with acryl platter and a characteristic blue lit meter.

Tube power amplifier, the monobloc MC2301 from McIntosh – a powerful beast - 300W of power.

One of the versions of the VRDS-NEO drives from Teac.

The loudspeakers from the “Stereoplay” presentation. In my opinion the ADAM Tensor Beta won by a nose length before the KEF Reference 207/2.

Korean, splendidly made electronics Emillē with Revolver Cygnis loudspeakers (the dumpy ones), and the Marten (ceramics).

New amplifiers from Unison Research, first push-pull model in the company history, the P40. Tubes – EL34. Please note the beautiful front panel made from hand formed glass.

It seems that Castle will return to the play. After transferring the whole factory and production to China it became part of the IAD group with Wharfedale, Quad, Audiolab and Mission.

In many systems a server was used as the sound source. Here the tube upgraded transporter from Slim Devices.

Acoustic Plan prepared the CD player Vadi with the disc loaded like in Ancient Audio. This seems to be a change in the way of thinking, as many companies proposed similar solutions. Viva Polonia! Please note the brilliant display. I would like to have one like that…

A reel tape deck Nagra IV-S surrounded by Benchmark. Finally a distributor was found, so we should be able to test something soon.

A new player from Audio Research - CD5.

I mentioned that there were many players with the disc rotating free on their top – here the CD-1 from the American Bel Canto.

A further novelty, the CD player from Boulder - 1021. The signal from the disc is loaded in a large memory, reclocked and only then converted. Please note the splendid, big TFT display.

The German Sonics by Joachim Gerhard means brilliant speakers. On the photo the model Amerigo, that shares some ideas with the Polish Harpia Acoustics.

Fantastic turntables from the American company Spiral Groove. The Japanese just love them.

A splendid, just splendid, presentation of the loudspeakers Isis from Avalon. I think this is the first time that I heard what Avalon is about. The electronics came from Hovland (Stratos poweramps and the preamp HP-200) and the SACD Pagannini from dCS as the source. Really a splendid presentation!

Arcam presented a whole new line of electronics from the FMJ series. The production was transferred to China, to the KEF factories, the price fell down by a half and the quality – as the representatives say – went up.

Maurizio Aterini, owner of Bluenote.

In my opinion the best magazine in Germany is made by Dirk Sommer and it is the “Image Hi-Fi”. Recommended!

Peter Suchy from Clearaudio is a real magician – he created a turntable company in times when it seemed that he was crazy. Now he is a big fish. That explains his good mood

Martinelli Lorenzo with his loudspeakers Modello β from company EMME. Simply Italians.

This year there was no invasion of the Italians, still there were many companies from that country. On the photo the devices from the company Norma – the player Revo-CDP and amplifier Revo-50. Nicely crafted, aesthetic products. We discussed some testing.

MBL room was again dominated by big speakers composed of two 101E loudspeakers placed “head to head” and a separate bass module. All was powered by Reference series electronics.

Isophon „entered” in the ceramic drivers. Like it did show in the test of the model Vescova, it succeeded in applying them successfully. On the photo the model Arabba powered by Western Electric (!).

And this is a Western Electric Type 97-A power amplifier with six 300B tubes in push-pull. Price – almost 23 000 Euro.

I still cannot come to terms to test something from the Octave Company’s offerings. Nice products – in terms of construction and sound. On the photo the model V 70.

For the first time the loudspeakers from Kharma sounded just divine. Because the source was the 100000 USD turntable Caliburn from the Australian company Continuum Audio Labs, just like last year, so this can be attributed to the amplifiers from Tenor Audio, the model 350M. Those are quite big hybrid monoblocs with MOSFETs in the output stage. The digital source was the newest dCS system and it was also very good.

One of the more interesting CD players of the show – the player RED Reference from the British company Chord.

A room shared by Chario and Lector. The sound was saturated and full. The speakers shown are the top model from Chario - Serendipity.

Our acquaintances – Mythos Audio – with the model Olon with a ribbon driver. I would just like to remind you, that we have tested a very successful stand mount speaker Ligeia. In Munich the speakers were powered by super interesting monoblocs from Virtus Audio.

Beautiful, intriguing, overwhelming with form power amplifiers from Gryphon Audio. Dual mono, class A with adapted bias, full name: Colloseum Reference Standard Amplifier – this piece of art was repared for the 25th anniversary of the company.

Newest novelty, the D/A converter Avantgarde Acoustic Model 2 DA.

Model Trio Avantgarde Acoustic with bass modules (six pieces) BassHorn. This year those were powered by the new converter.

My favorites, the company Trigon. This year they presented the new preamplifier Dialog and fantastic monoblocs Monolog with characteristic power meters. We will have them for testing – be prepared for a sensation!

And further acquaintances, the Greek company Ysilon Acoustic. Solid state monoblocs in class A – SET-100, preamplifier PST-100 and a split top-loader CDT-100/DAC-100. Brilliant form and a quick, precise sound. We are in talks about testing of the player.

And here the boss of Ypsilon, Mr. Andy Hassapis with a new “child” – tube monoblocs SET 100VS.

In the crowd I did also find amplifiers from the Japanese company TRI. Those are the monoblocs TRV-M300SE with parallel working 300B tubes. You should read the last test of the CD and amplifier set TRI TRV-4SE and TRV-35SE in our magazine.




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