Manufacturers from around the world are featured with quality gear to fit all pocket books. Well over 500 exhibitors are expected at this year’s’Munich show and the theme is “Listen to the Music”. Fantastic opportunity to audition so many products!
The show begins May 10, so look for coverage from our SECRETS team of 3: Carlo LoRaso, Senior Editor, Doug Pyper, SECRETS Team Member based in the UK and Cynthia Johnson-St Denis, Managing Editor. We’ll be posting on SECRETS Google + and on the SECRETS Website.
Hello Secrets readers. It is with great excitement that Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity announces that we will be providing our first ever, complete coverage of the upcoming High End 2018 International Audio Show in Munich, Germany.
From May 10th to the 13th our crack team of journalists will be roaming the atriums, halls and showrooms of the MOC convention center to bring you the latest news and impressions of what has become one of the largest and most important audio shows on the calendar. Our team on this trip will consist of “Yours Truly”, Managing Editor Cynthia Johnson-St.Denis and, he who we affectionately refer to as our “European Bureau Chief”, Staff Writer Doug Pyper.
As this will be the first non-North American show that I have ever attended, I’m looking forward to seeing what will be different or unexpected from comparable shows here, such as RMAF and AXPONA. High End Munich is supposed to be a huge production, so I am expecting to get an eye and ear-full, from both the big players in audio along with the smaller and more obscure brands. Be sure to keep a weather-eye on Secrets for the show report updates or sign in to Google+ and navigate to the Show Reports section of our “Secrets Cave” for any up-to the minute postings that we may have. This is sure to be an exciting show and we hope you enjoy following along!
Good morning from sunny Germany (or should that be guten Morgan?)! It’s day one of High End Munich 2018 and I can’t wait to get in there. The show’s promising to be quite special, with some seriously impressive-looking kit awaiting show-goers.
Carlo, Cynthia and I will be roaming the halls, talking with manufacturers and treating our ears to some of the finest products hi-fi has to offer. With so many exhibitors at High End it’s difficult to know what to look forward to most, but I’m definitely excited to see the unveiling of PMC’s new flagship speaker. I also can’t wait to hear Wilson Benesch’s new Eminence – a cost-no-object speaker marking the firm’s 30-year anniversary.
Stay tuned here for our show reports as High End progresses!
One of the highlights of day one of #munichhighend2018 had to be the unveiling of PMC’s new flagship Fenestria. The cabinet’s distinctive central module houses a ‘nest’ where the mid and high frequency drivers sit. The nest is milled from a billet of solid aluminium, with the aim of isolating the mid and high-frequency drivers from the speaker’s bass drivers and transmission line. The Fenestria stands a monumental 66.9” with a 23-25kHz response, with 86dB @ 1W, 1m sensitivity.
DALI’s impressive Callisto wireless active speakers, premiered at #munichhighend2018, promise to be show favourites. The Callisto range comprises the 6C floor standers and the 2C standmounts, both featuring DALI’s distinctive combination of soft-dome tweeter, ribbon tweeter and wood fibre woofers. The speakers connect to a sound hub, into which source equipment can be hooked up via an array of connections and Bluetooth 4.2 (AAC, Apt-X, AptX HD). The soundhub’s also modular – adding an element of future-proofing to the system. The first module is Bluesound’s BluOS multi-room platform.
And so it begins….
Munich High End Audio Show – from the floor…just a sample, more to come
When turntables are house payments. JR Transrotor
Dan D’Agostino Audio Reference
Pancin Art Technology
What’s in the box!?!
I began my journey into the Munich High End show this year with some blatant “turntable porn”, courtesy of JR Transrotor. They are a German company with a surprisingly broad array of turntable offerings ranging from the sane to the practically obscene. Prices range from about 2800 Euro for the fairly discreet Transrotor MAX model to about 125,000 Euro for the statement Transrotor Artus FMD model. There are a total of 19 different turntables in the entire line, each looking incredibly overbuilt and with an almost dizzying array of available options.
Some of JR Transrotor’s accessories and options included the Phono Studio and Phono II MM/MC phono preamps. Both seemed very simple on the outside but possessed internal jumpers to set the various loadings. These two were RCA output only. The flagship Phono 8.2 MC is a dual chassis phono preamp having the power supply in it’s own housing and XLR inputs and outputs. Customers could also choose from a selection of Goldring and Transrotor cartridges for their future platter-spinner.
JR Transrotor even had a cool looking headphone amplifier tucked in the display case.
We stumbled into German manufacturer Audionet’s room early on and it had to be one of the best sounding rooms that we heard on the first day. The stars of the show were the Audionet STERN preamplifier playing through two Audionet Heisenberg monoblock power amps. These elegant but potent electronics were powering a pair of Dynaudio Evidence Platinum loudspeakers. The Heisenberg mono amps each put out 530 watts @ 8ohms, 1050 watts @ 4 ohms, and 2100 watts @ 2 ohms according to the manufacturer. The components oozed that minimalist “Apple” visual style but with the obvious nod to Germanic build quality. The sound of the combination in that room was decidedly effortless on the tracks we sampled. Depth and detail were there for days, no doubt assisted by the fact that the room seemed decently acoustically treated.
US pricing for the Audionet gear is roughly $45,000.00 for the STERN preamp and $105,000.00 for a pair of the Heisenberg mono amps. The Dynaudio Evidence Platinum speakers are $85,000.00/pair and have a claimed frequency response of 28Hz- 25kHz =/-3dB.
In the category of “Holy Mother of What?” I present to you the Relentless Monoblock power amplifier from Dan D’Agostino. With a case machined from solid aluminum with copper inlays, it has a claimed 5.5-kilowatt power supply feeding 100 output devices. It also incorporates something called the Super Rail concept involving higher voltage rails in the sections prior to the output stages. The end result is supposedly improved dynamics and lower overall distortion. It is rated at 1500 watts @ 8 ohms, 3000 watts @ 6 ohms, and 6000 watts @ 2 ohms. Needless to say that it requires a dedicated 220 volt line to operate. The thing resembles a drag racing engine block with a cycloptic eye power meter.
A pair of these bad boys will set you back $250,000.00.
A personal local power grid is not included.
Arcam were showing off their new HDA line at #munichhighend2018. The HDA range marks a departure from the company’s FMJ series, with a distinctive new curved styling and slightly lighter silvery grey finish. Going forward, Arcam’s hi-fi offerings will adopt the HDA design, with the FMJ approach reserved for AV products.
The new HDAs comprise the SA10 and SA20 integrated amps, and the CDS50. The SA10 uses a class AB amp rated at 55W, while the SA20 employs the firm’s excellent class G amp, rated at 80W, with a slightly improved DAC. The CDS50 CD network player plays SACDs and is compatible with a range of streaming services, including TIDAL, Qobuz and Napster.
Pricing on the SA10 is $999, SA20 $1499 and CDS50 $1299. They should be available in Europe in June, with an estimated US launch in July.
Wilson Benesch introduced their new flagship Eminence at #highendmunich2018, and they are certainly up there among the best the show has to offer. The 78” towers sounded sublime during the demonstration we heard, lending an utterly lifelike, in-the-room-with-you quality to female vocals, without a hint of harshness or sibilance. Wilson Benesch credit this transparency in no small part to the latest iteration of their Fibonacci tweeter design. The silk-carbon hybrid tweeter is encircled by a carbon-fibre faceplate, forming a waveguide tailored to the tweeter’s output. Both the faceplate and the motor are decoupled from the rest of the tweeter chassis, helping the tweeter achieve what Wilson Benesch claim to be ruler-flat frequency response with ultra-wide dispersion characteristics.
As with every component of Wilson Benesch speakers, the Eminence’s tactic 3.0 midrange driver (below the tweeter) is built in-house at the firm’s factory in South Yorkshire, England. Having total control of the design and manufacturing process allows the Eminence to operate a crossover-free midrange driver, coupled directly to the amp, shortening the signal path in the critical midrange area.
The Eminence sits on some seriously well-engineered solid aluminium feet, weighing 38kg each. The firm say each foot “requires a quarter of a million lines of CNC code and 16-hours of machining, reducing a 100kg solid billet of aluminium by more than half”. The Eminence should retail in the US for around $235,000.
This is a 50” subwoofer. Need I say more?
OK, you want specs. The Ascendo Immersive Audio SMSG50’s powered by a 6000W SpeakerPower amp, has ethernet connectable DSP for tuning its installation via a network, and can dig down to 1Hz, with a claimed “over 100dB” at 5Hz. All for a mere $70,000.
A delightful discovery at #highendmunich2018 came in the form of Taylor Acoustic’s Concert 120 stand-mounted speakers. Aside from producing almost unfathomably deep, punchy bass from their rear-ported enclosure, and a beguilingly natural sound, their solid wood cabinet just shouted high-quality craftsmanship. Unfortunately, like most things at High End Munich, they don’t come cheap: 28,000 Euros a pair (roughly $33,500).
Sennheiser were showing off their new HD820 closed back headphones at #highendmunich2018, retailing at $2,399. The 820s feature a glass transducer cover that Sennheiser claims minimizes resonances. I found they had a surprisingly spacious sound for a closed back design, lending an airy quality to the tracks I listened to: Jackson’s Billie Jean and the (ubiquitous-demo-track) Eagles’ Hotel California. Very impressive. They’re available for pre-order now and should be released worldwide in July.
Rogers British High Fidelity
ifi Project Glastonbury
“All right campers, lets get to it!”
Staying on headphones for a moment, Doug and I sampled the Technics EAH-T700 Premium Stereo Headphones. These cans features dual drive elements, a 14mm super-tweeter and a 50mm dynamic driver, in each ear cup. I found them to be supremely light and comfortable with a notable transparency to their sound.
Ever wondered what the inside of a KEF Blade loudspeaker looks like?
Well wonder no longer!
Paid a visit to Chord Electronics to see what was new and exciting. Our man, Doug Pyper, immediately latched on to one of the available Chord Mojo portable DAC/amps that were equipped with the Poly streaming modules. The Poly is made expressly to work with the Mojo. It features the ability to stream your audio content from a wide variety of network devices. It is DNLA and AirPlay certified, ROON ready, supports Bluetooth 4.1, and can stream from computers, NAS boxes and the like. It is also equipped with an SD card reader that has no capacity limit, allowing one to load a huge library of music directly into the Mojo/Poly combo, all from a small memory card. Supported file formats are all the usual suspect and include up to 768 kHz PCM and DSD256. Doug sampled all this goodness over a pair of AEON Flow closed-back headphones from MrSpeakers. Doug seemed quite pleased with what he heard and I can confirm that he had good reason to.
Chord also had a new product that was mysteriously under wraps the first time we passed by. It was later revealed to be a new Class AB stereo power amp called the Choral Etude. It is rated at 150 watts of power, per channel, into 4 ohms. The new amp is also bridgeable to 300 watts in mono operation.
Also being introduced was the HugoTT 2 tabletop DAC/headphone amp. Said to have more than 5 times the processing power over it’s predecessor, it can decode up to PCM 768 kHz and DSD512. The amp section has an output of 5 amps and 9.3V RMS and AptX Blutooth connectivity is also thrown into the mix.
ATC has been well known as in innovator in the pro audio world for years. But beyond that, they produce a robust line of speakers and electronics for the home audio market as well. On demonstration were the ATC SCM100ASLT SE, 3-way active loudspeakers. Each speaker includes three on-board amplifiers of 50, 100 and 200 watts to drive the tweeters mids and woofers respectively.The supporting electronics were an ATC SCA 2 preamplifier and a prototype EAT turntable based off their Forte model. Quick musical impressions of the room were of a clean sound, without getting too lean and excellent, impact-full bass. No US pricing was available yet, but 23,000 Euro for the pair of speakers seemed to be the going rate this side of the pond.
While there was a CAN JAM event going on in a separate venue apart from the MOC convention center, there was a “headphone bar” area near the main entrance. There attendees were allowed to sample a variety of different headphone models at various price points. A few of the models that I came away most impressed with were the Focal Clear, the Focal Elear, Sennheiser’s new 820S and the Pioneer Master 1. The Focal Elear, in particular, reeled me back in for a few rounds of listening.
Focal had a huge room with everything they make apparently!
I particularly like the ostentatiousness of their Assassin’s Creed Headphones!
As the folks at the Ortofon stand were busy with meetings, I just went ahead and video recorded the display of all of Ortofon’s current Phono Cartridges for your viewing pleasure.
Next door to Paradigm, we also heard some sweet sounds coming from the Martin Logan room. In there we experienced the Impression ESL 11A Electrostatic speakers being fed by Anthem’s new 2 channel STR preamplifier and power amplifier. The system was sourced by the TX2 disc transport and DA2 DAC provided by EMM Labs. Big, open sound stage was the order of the day here.
While Doug has already given you the lowdown on PMC’s new Fenestria loudspeaker, I’m posting some additional shots I took of the speaker itself, the crossover board and a spectral analysis display focused on the speaker’s midrange driver.
Paradigm’s Blake Alty shows off the Premiere 700F which is part of a new line of speakers for the Canadian manufacturer. Comprised of two towers, two bookshelf sized and two center channel speakers, the new Premiere line features elements taken from their Persona and Prestige series, such as ART over-moulded surrounds and PPA driver lenses, and brings them to a more affordable price point. The speakers will be available in 3 different different finishes, Gloss Black, Gloss White and Espresso Grain. US pricing is TBD.
We paid a visit to the good folks at Paradigm and got a chance to demo the Persona 7F loudspeakers in a new striking black finish with anodized black aluminum woofers, black PPA lenses and black aluminum baffle. I got a chance to review the Persona 7F a while back and came away mightily impressed. Judging by the reactions of other attendees, the feelings seemed mutual!
Here’s a little video of the TAD room. Please pardon the challenging lighting.
There are few constants in life. There is death, there are taxes and then there is TAD’s uncanny ability to have a stellar sounding room. No matter what audio show I have attended, if TAD is there, you are guaranteed a good performance and Munich was no exception. This time around we were treated to the TAD-R1MK2-Reference 1. These exceptional speakers were controlled and sourced by equally exceptional TAD electronics. In short, this was one of the best sounding rooms that I heard at the show and would qualify as one of my dream systems if I was a man of such means. The speakers alone were about $80,000.00 for the pair.
A visit to the Harman listening area brought us face to face with a demo of the upcoming JBL L100 Classic loudspeaker. Once you get beyond the retro-cool foam grill (available in safety orange, blue or black) you are met with a very 70’s looking driver layout. But that’s where the nostalgia ends because speaker tech has come a long way since then and JBL has updated all the components to reflect that. The 3-way L100 Classic comes with a 1″ Titanium dome tweeter, a 5″ pure pulp cone midrange and a 12″ pure pulp-white cone woofer with a cast basket. The speaker also comes with adjustable L-Pads for he mid and high frequencies mounted right on the front baffle. Projected MSRP will be $4000.00/pair and initial impressions from the demo were quite favorable. A review pair may be coming our way in the near future.
Auralic had a lovely sounding room at the Munich High End Show. They were introducing newly updated versions their Aries Streaming Transporter and Vega streaming DAC (the products that essentially gave them their start) along with the brand new Leo GX Reference Master Clock. In a nutshell, the new Aries G1 ($2199.00 USD) and Vega G1 ($3799.00 USD) have been updated with similar case design, features and technology from the more expensive G2 models to keep them relevant in the marketplace while keeping their prices at an approachable level. The Leo GX (Basic version $6899.00 USD, Premium Version $7899.00 USD) is a whole new component that acts as as a “One Clock to Rule Them All” for all your digital sources. This intended to ensure that all incoming digital signals are re-clocked with such precision as to ensure almost no distortion and jitter, no matter the source.
The demo system consisted of the higher line Aries G2 and Vega G2 along with the Leo GX, a pair of what looked like prototype Auralic monoblock amplifiers all connected to a pair of handsome Ryan S840 loudspeakers. The Ryans are a set of 3-way towers with a frequency response of 28 Hz – 35kHz =/-3 dB and feature a 1″ Beryllium dome tweeter. The overall impression was one of warmness with plenty of detail and great bass extension. It would have been easy to while away the time there.
I completely echo Doug Pyper’s earlier impressions of the Dali Callisto Wireless speaker system. The sound quality was unmistakably good, but what impressed as well were the smart design touches and thoughtful integration as a whole package. Here are a few pictures of Dali Lead Engineer, Lars Jorgensen, as he walks us through some of the Callisto’s features.
A “Stack of Mac” for your viewing pleasure!
Just an amazing array of cool looking turntables and tonearms from German manufacturer Acoustic Signature.
ELAC had a significant presence at the Munich show which is not surprising considering the 90 year old company is indeed German. A few of the things that caught my eye as I toured the room were the cut-aways of the Andante AS-61 bookshelf speakers and the recently revealed Argo B-51 wireless active speaker. The Andante cut-away was particularly enlightening as it gave a clearer sense of how the internally mounted woofer coupled with the visible passive radiator. There was a Miracord 90 turntable, in a rather attractive wood finish, and a newly revealed baby version of the top of the line Concentro speaker.
ELAC was also showing newly redesigned and updated versions of their Alchemy series (formerly Audio Alchemy) of electronics. The new components are now standard width and are 1RU in height for easier integration into most equipment racks and gone are the optional separate power supplies of yore.
The three updated components are: the DDP-2 DAC/Preamplifier/Streamer, the DPA-2 Power Amp and the PPA-2 Phono preamp.
Some of the top line features of each unit are:
– Dual 32 bit/384 kHz DACs operating in balanced mode.
– Configurable signal up-sampling up to 384 kHz.
– DSD decoding up to 4X.
– MQA capable.
– Discovery, Spotify Connect, Roon, Bluetooth, AirPlay.
– Home Theater bypass mode.
– Select-able High/Low gain for better preamp matching.
– Fully Balanced design.
– Class D PWM output stage.
– 350 wpc stereo output.
– Bridgeable to 650 watts mono output.
– RCA and Balanced inputs.
– Fully discrete balanced FET topology.
– MM or MC with switchable gain for each channel.
– Adjustable MC loading range from 5-ohms to 999-ohms.
– Stereo or Mono operation.
– Rumble filter.
– LCD front display.
– RCA and XLR inputs and Outputs.
Prices and release dates TBD
This was just one of those over-the-top rooms that just made you grin. Partly because the music reproduction was entertaining and partly due to the sheer grand absurdity of it all. The craftsmanship alone of all of this equipment was a marvel to behold.
The horn speakers were the Trio Luxury Edition 26 with the giant chromed Basshorn, all from Avantgarde Acoustic of Germany. The preamp and power amps were also from Avantgarde. The gold and black colored digital transport, DAC and server were from Wadax of Spain. The “Rube Goldberg-esq” turntable is the Statement V2 from Clearaudio of Germany.
You really can’t get a sense of the tactile quality of this equipment until see and handle it in person. And let me assure you that every item in this room was overbuilt to a level that borders on the obsessive. Turning the knurled knob on that preamplifier alone was an incredibly satisfying experience. And it better be as we are talking about well over half-a-million dollars worth of gear in this room alone.
Crazy? Inspired? Possibly. But it’s oh so much fun!
So one thing that caught me completely by surprise at High End 2018 was the presence of Panasonic. And they weren’t just there to support subsidiary Technics, they had their own large room with an assortment of OLED TVs in 55, 65 and 77-inch sizes. They also had their newly announced UB9000 series 4K Blu-ray player. The TV’s themselves had that trademark OLED picture with excellent image quality and inky blacks. The Blu-ray player features all the bells and whistles including a few features that I only have seen on models from the recently departed OPPO. Namely things like, dual HDMI outputs (one for audio and one for video), Stereo balanced XLR outputs and the ability to play a multitude of music files including DSD. I could not get a straight answer from any of the Panasonic reps whether the OLEDs or the Blu-ray player would be available in the US anytime soon. Panasonic has been gone from the US TV market since the phase out of plasma televisions several years back. This could, and IMHO should, set up a beach head for their return here. Panasonic has also been an innovator in the development and refinement of both DVD and Blu-ray technologies. With OPPO now out of the picture, they could legitimately position themselves as the audio and videophile’s choice for home theater solutions. We shall see…..
The utterly mad Avantgarde Acoustic Room.
I was happy to see Luxman well represented at this show. I know they have been officially out of the US for quite some time now but still alive and available in other parts of the world. I’ve always loved the quality and sound of the gear they make and have fond memories of my Luxman R-117 receiver that I scrimped and saved for in college. That receiver was probably the most powerfull 2-channel receiver at the time and it sounded just awesome. I’ve always kicked myself for selling it. So, it became a happy day indeed when I learned at the show that Luxman recently officially returned to the US setting up full operations again. And apparently all Luxman equipment is still designed, built and tested completely in Japan. Huzzah!
It was a very comfortable and relaxing experience sitting in that room listening to all that gorgeous equipment being played back through a pair of new Quad ESL loudspeakers of all things. Life felt good!
Speaking of ostentatious, we had that wallpaper in our living room in the 70’s!
Gorgeous looking Kharma speakers, the sound quality was, unfortunately, less convincing.
Audio Physic had a multitude of models on display in their room. One thing that I have always noticed about their designs is that they seem to excel at getting great sound and solid bass out of cabinets with a small overall footprint. Lead engineer Manfred Diestertich brought me over to a cut-away display and explained a number of the design and construction techniques the company employs on their speakers. Using materials like rigid carbide foam serves a dual purpose in adding strength through bracing and critical damping through it’s texture. Outer and inner walls are not made of traditional heavy MDF, but instead use a plastic honeycomb sandwich material that is backed with a dampening layer on one side and a thinner MDF layer on the other. These techniques allow Audio Physic to use thinner, lighter materials while maintaining or increasing strength and rigidity and keeping the desired internal volume of the speaker for best acoustics. Any exterior glass panels are separated from the substructure by an additional constrained layer material which helps deaden any resonances and the binding posts and plates are mechanically de-coupled from the enclosure. In terms of the drivers, the midrange driver cone, spider and magnet are mounted in a special 2-piece 3D printed basket (versus a stamped or cast metal basket) for better overall performance and control in its operating range. These were just a few of the details that Manfred discussed with me, but his overarching point was that these innovations have all found their way into every model that Audio Physic produces so that the entire line reaps the benefits of these advances.
I mentioned at the outset of this Munich adventure that I was looking for surprises and stumbling across the Derenville Modulaire Turntable by AVDesignHaus surely fit the bill. The brainchild of a very affable retired German engineer by the name of Rainer Horstmann, he describes it as a multi year DIY project that he started off in his garage. The Germans must have a very different definition of DIY than I do because what Rainer has produced is a fully modular turntable with the slickest looking linear tracking tonearms that I have ever seen. His display unit had 3 mounted tonearms. One was a high-quality SME style straight arm while the other 2 were custom linear tracking tonearms and assemblies of his own creation. The linear arms were microprocessor and servo controlled for precise positioning and each used its own internally mounted laser to maintain exact alignment at all times. The Modulaire even has a built-in precision VTF scale so tracking force can be set for each arm with almost just the touch of a button. Throughout his demonstration, all the features, including auto-return worked so seamlessly that I just had to marvel at the skill and know-how that had to be involved for one guy to put this thing together. He said that, as displayed, the turntable would cost about $140,000.00 complete. Apparently, he has already sold 3 to some US customers. A well-deserved tip-of-the-hat to you Mr. Horstmann!
Video of the Derenville Modulaire turntable in action.
European Audio Team (EAT) is a name that I am quickly becoming more familiar with. They make some truly elegant and stylish phono gear with a level of performance to match the visuals. I am currently reviewing their B-Sharp turntable and there is definitely a lot to like about this entry level gem. But here at High End 2018, EAT had a significant presence both in their own display area and for being used as sources in other manufacturers rooms. In terms of turntables the bulk of what they were showing here were evolutionary changes and design explorations with existing product. There were some seriously bold design choices on display too. A turntable with a sealed concrete plinth and sub-chassis trimmed with carbon fiber? It was there. So was another, painted sea-foam green with white leather trimming and a chromed tonearm. Another one of their Forte turntables was rendered in a more masculine piano black with coffee colored leather trim and a carbon fiber tonearm. This is the sort of customization that you see on collector guitars and such and, frankly, it’s fun to see a manufacturer play with bold ideas to gauge public response. Looking at real-world new product, EAT was premiering the new Jo #5 MC phono cartridge. There is a good chance that I’ll be getting one in for review and it’ll be interesting to see if it shows up in the sea-foam green color it was wearing at the show!
The other interesting new product was the EAT E-GLO Petite hybrid phono preamp featuring both solid state and tube stages and a thorough array of loading and gain adjustments right on the top face. Expected price will be $1499.00.
Pro-Ject had a large, spacious area at the show to display their wares. Among their products, they’ve always had a big selection of turntables that range from the affordable to the statement and each one that I’ve ever come across has seemed well engineered for it’s price point. What has always caught my eye though are Pro-ject’s “Special Edition” tables that are produced in conjunction with bands like The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, etc. The Beatles Yellow Submarine Turntable with matching yellow Ortofon cartridge made me laugh out loud when I happened across its underwater display. While certainly not rated to be waterproof in real life, I’m sure it’s an excellent quality standard turntable that a Beatles fan or collector would be excited to own.
The Magico room was demonstrating their M6 tower speakers powered by equipment from a manufacturer called Soulution for who there was no information. I’ve always liked the way Magico speakers looked and sounded and these were no exception, very open and spacious. They also had their new, more affordable, A3 model on static display with an accompanying cutaway model so that everyone can marvel at the all aluminum construction.
Raidho Acoustic. Gorgeous looking speakers, and they are nothing to sneeze at in the sound department either!
Video of the Raidho Acoustics speakers.
German manufacturer Lyravox was demonstrating two systems of fully active speakers in their listening room. Each speaker set was essentially a series of angled, minimalist white rectangular boxes, with Accuton ceramic drivers and Scanspeak woofers. Very IKEA. The “Karl” model was the larger of the two with a bigger complement of drivers versus the smaller “Karlina” model. Each model had multiple Class D amplifiers on board along with built in DSP and room correction capabilities. They could accept up to 24-bit/192 kHz digital signals along with the standard analog variety. AptX Bluetooth streaming along with network and smart-home connectivity and streaming from various internet services is also baked in. Any finish under the sun is apparently available.
How did they sound? Well it’s hard to make anything with Accuton and Scanspeak drivers sound bad, and that was certainly not the case here either. Sound was big and vibrant from both systems. The strings that I heard play were exceptionally clean and clear and the bass drum hits were quite potent. Neither system seemed to stress at all when the volume was turned up. A very elegant and clean sounding choice. Karlina costs 17,800 Euro for the system while Karl is a pricier fella at 50,000 Euro.
It’s big, it’s bold, it’s Burmeister.
Built to survive the apocalypse and look good while doing it. If you have to ask how much it costs…well….just don’t ask!
Ifi audio had a great display at High End 2018. They were showing off their new xDSD portable DAC/ Headphone amp which I currently have in for review. It an impressive and feature-rich little unit that not only decodes DSD but is MQA certified, has AptX Bluetooth connect-ability, USB input and enough juice to drive some more demanding headphones. Also premiering at the show was the xCANN. A similarly overachieving portable headphone amp/ DAC unit but with about twice the amount of output current than the xDSD for really challenging cans.
They were also showing their Pro stack of gear which included their iDSD PRO desktop DAC, iCANN PRO headphone amp and the iESL PRO electrostatic headphone amp. Finally, ifi was showing an interesting powered network speaker that was a work-in-progress. The speaker had a novel looking bamboo exterior that was inspired by Japanese design and architecture. I can’t tell you much about the speaker’s details, but I can tell you that it put out some serious room filling sound at a public demonstration. More to follow!
Bryston had a fully active version of their Middle T speakers on play. The system consisted of the BP-17 cubed preamplifier, the BDA-3 DAC, BDP-3 Digital Audio Player, BAX-1 Active DSP crossover and two 21B cubed three-channel amps powering the whole thing. This is the first time I’ve heard an active Bryston setup and I can certainly see why it has its advantages. Very clean and resolving, with a great sense of seamless integration from top to bottom. I’ve rarely heard Tony Bennett sound better!
Mola Mola are makers of a gorgeous looking preamp, DAC, a phono stage and Class D power amps. Designed by Bruno Putzeys, the same guy who helped develop the Kii Three Speakers. Nuff said.
The Kii Three active loudspeakers have received a lot of praise and attention since their launch a few years back and rightly so. On their own they produce a fantastically clean sound with prodigious amounts of tight bass from relatively small enclosures. At the show, Kii debuted what they called the BXT extension module for the Kii Three. It is a fully active bass section that turns the Three from bookshelves to towers adding 17 additional drivers and all the necessary amplification and electronics.
I was looking forward to hearing this system when I heard that it was going to be at the show. The first track that was being played was some techno music that I was unfamiliar with and it did not leave a good impression. I asked if he could change up the music to some blues and he selected a newer vintage BB King track for me. Ah! Now that’s more like it. Big image, clean vocals with a boatload of detail, Lucille’s womanly tone rang so clear that it could have been live. The bass lines were thick and punchy and drums had the right kind of weight and impact. The Kii Three with the BXT modules look to be the kind of speakers that will give you back very much what you put into them, no arguments. I would love to review a set of these!
The Almedio Optical Linear Tracking Turntable. A turntable that reads your vinyl with “frickin’ lasers”! Who knew! Your records will officially last forever now.
I loved the look and design of BMC gear, with that big central VU meter or control dial. Everything looked exquisitely well made and their Art-Deco looking speakers didn’t sound too shabby either.
German Pro audio specialist SPL has been offering some of its studio bred equipment for home use and, conveniently, they had a couple of neat little stacks of it at the show. I like the mini size of it all and they seem to offer every component, shy of a source, that you could need. I found the combo preamplifier/headphone amp that I listened to be clean and dynamic sounding with the headphones they had on hand. I’d definitely like to have a closer look at this stuff through a review if it can be arranged.
Gobel High End
Another big-buck statement system was available courtesy of German manufactured Gobel High End. Standing like two black monoliths were a pair of Divin Majestic loudspeakers. They each had a modified AMT tweeter set behind an aluminum waveguide, dual 8-inch midrange drivers and a pair of 18-inch woofers to round out the driver compliment. The speakers had a claimed frequency response of 21Hz – 24 kHz, a sensitivity of 98 dB and a nominal impedance of 6 ohms. Price for the speakers alone was 449,000 Euro for the pair. Amplification, control and sourcing came courtesy of CH Precision of Switzerland. The equipment itself was all very understated in aesthetics and just reeked of quality construction throughout. Very Swiss.
The turntable was a Kronos Limited Edition.
Beyond being visually entertaining in its sheer excess, this system displayed some impressive sonic chops, rendering vocals with a palpable presence and bass was brilliantly powerful and deep. Sound stage was also suitably huge. Impressive overall and not a bad system if you’ve got the scratch.
Metaxis and Sins
Metaxis and Sins. I hate to say it but this stuff looks cooler in the ads than it does in person….
“And the prize for the craziest looking diffuser goes to….”
Triangle Art Electronics & Eggleston
Loudspeakers. Lovely sounds coming from this room too!
Totem are known for producing surprisingly full-bodied sound from relatively diminutive loudspeakers. The Tribe Towers ($5,500 a pair in satin, $6k in gloss) on demo at high end munich 2018 do just that. Standing at a mere 37” with a tiny footprint, they produce a prodigious amount of bass punch, depth and scale from their two 4” ‘torrent’ drivers. The Tribe Towers lack any crossovers in the low frequency path, relying on unusually large magnets to control the 4” drivers way up into the frequency range.
One of the stranger speakers at #highendmunich2018 (and that’s saying something!) were the Volya Bouqets. We didn’t get a chance to listen to them given their position out on the show floor, so we just admired their unique design.
Japanese firm Cotodama were showing their Lyric speaker at #highendmunich2018. Stream music to the Lyric and it syncs the metadata with a database, then displays the song’s lyrics on a translucent screen. Somewhat of a gimmick – and pricey at $4,500 – but pretty cool to look at. The square panels sitting to the left of the Lyric are a prototype for a new speaker that will display lyrics on its black panel, and should be priced around $1,500 when launched (launch date TBA).
I was really excited to see French firm Trinnov’s room at #highendmunich2018. The Trinnov Altitude 32 is well-known for its capabilities as a high-end AV preamp, but less known for its two-channel chops. Trinnov set out to prove that they can do two-channel just as well as, err, 32-channel. Well their room certainly sounded impressive. No doubt much of this was thanks to the pairing of the Altitude with 2* 600W two-channel Bohne Audio power amplifiers (3,900 Euros each), bi-amping the mammoth Bohne Audio BB18s (24,000 Euros).
Released to celebrate Ken Ishiwata’s 40th anniversary at Marantz, the SA-KI Ruby SACD player and PM-KI Ruby integrated amplifier had their world premiere at high end Munich 2018.
The SACD player contains a new Marantz DAC, Marantz proprietary “SACD-M3” mechanism and plays CD, SACD and data discs. It also has a USB-B input for HiRes-Audio in PCM/DXD up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD up to 11.2MHz. The PM-KI Ruby puts out 100W per channel into 8 Ohm, makes use of Marantz’s HDAM SA3 circuitry and has MM/MC phono input.
Both units sport Ken Ishiwata’s signature and have a gorgeous champagne finish. Pricing isn’t 100% settled at this early stage, but they’re expected to retail for about $5,000 each when they’re released in September.
Swiss firm CH Precision released their new cost-no-object integrated amplifier and media streamer at high end Munich 2018 (the one here last year was a prototype). Approximately $45,000 buys you a 100W per channel (8 Ohm) amplifier with pure class A input stage and class AB output; digital, analog, phono, USB and Ethernet streaming inputs; upsampling to 368kHz for digital audio inputs and a host of other features. It’s also modular, so upgraded cards can be installed as they become available. The I1 integrates with a phone or tablet app with a rather sleek interface. One of my favourite features is the ability to save customised EQ curves. As you can see in the (out of focus!) photo of the app, EQ curves can, for example, be tailored to the particular sound associated with individual record labels.
Stopped by the Monitor Audio room to listen to their Studio stand mounted speakers (about $1,500 a pair). They had a clean, tight sound that did a great job of the Serge Gainsbourg demo tracks. I really liked them so stayed listening for far longer than I’d expected. I’m going to have to listen to these again. Paired with a good sub, I think they could be rather special.
Winner of high end Munich’s ‘most sci-fi speaker’ award has to go to the Estelon Extremes, as snip at $240,000 plus tax. One of the most peculiar features of the Extremes’ design is a fully adjustable top half. As a result the speakers are height adjustable between 69” and 81”.
British manufacturer Falcon displayed their interpretation of the legendary BBC LS3/5as. I loved the attention to detail with the retro design, keeping faithful to the originals right down to the velcro cover attachments, secured to the speakers by staples!
Cambridge Audio’s beautiful new Edge series was on display at High end Munich 2018. I loved the understated simplicity of the gunmetal gray casing, with styling reminiscent of Classé equipment. The combination of the Edge NQ preamp and network player, Edge W power amps and B&W 802 D3 looked – and sounded – very lovely indeed.
Pro-audio favourites Genelec have a well-earned reputation for making outstanding speakers. I’ve heard the G-series a few times and have been impressed by their ability to tease out the tiniest nuances of tracks I know well, reproduced with uncompromising clarity. While I love Genelec’s no nonsense ‘accuracy is everything’ approach, I’ve never been quite so sold on the G-series aesthetic. So the Genelec Ones – which I think look rather nice – were a must see for me at #highendmunich2018. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint.
As with other Genelec speakers, the Ones are active, containing separate Class D amplification for their bass, midrange and tweeter. They feature a coaxial tweeter and midrange driver arrangement, located in a waveguide that spans their entire front section. Hidden behind the waveguide are twin ‘race track’ bass drivers; one by the top port and one by the bottom. Genelec claim that the combination of a coaxial approach along with a large waveguide results in even dispersion characteristics and flat off-axis response. Due to this, they’re orientation agnostic, meaning they’re perfectly happy on their side as, say, a center speaker in a home theater set up. And what a home theater that would be!
We listened to the 8351, 8341 and 8331 in that order; i.e. from the largest of the Ones to the smallest. When the Genelec rep fired up the 8351s Carlo and I were treated to what was, so far as I could tell, a flawless reproduction of female vocals, accompanied by a punchy bassline with no discernible overhang or boominess. The 8351s are only (H x W x D) 17 3/4” x 11 1/3” x 11”, yet the scale of the sound they produce is simply staggering. Next up, the 8341s. Although smaller, with smaller bass drivers (6 5/8” x 3 ½” versus 8 ½” x 4”) they sounded largely identical to the 8351s, with a similarly impressive soundstage. After that, the baby of the trio, the 8331s. As expected, they lacked the scale of their larger siblings, but still produced a beautifully full, uncoloured sound.
I left the Genelec room exactly as past Genelec experiences had led me to expect: seriously impressed! US pricing on the Ones is around $4000 for the 8351, $3000 for the 8341 and £2,500 for the 8331.
I stopped by German manufacturer Nubert’s room, lured in by the Tron lightcycle scene on demo. Nubert produce a range of active speakers geared towards home theater. They’re only available in mainland Europe at the moment, with no US pricing available. EU pricing ranges from 1700 Euros per speaker for the floorstanders, to 775 Euros each for the stand mounted speakers. Each speaker has its own onboard DSP, which can be disabled automatically, for example, when using an AVR’s own room correction software.