The Munich High End Exhibition is positively huge: there’s so much to see that one really should take two days to properly see and hear everything
This is the third time that I attended the show, and still I thought I could cover everything in 1 day. It seems I just never learn. Next time I’ll go two days, for sure, but it was not my intention to provide complete coverage anyway. Below I’ve highlighted the things that interested me most.
Listening buddies Niels and Jan Willem standing in the entry hall. To the left are two lovely ladies that would have been captured on this photo if my buddies had not moved so far to the right;-)
Magnetic bearings, schmagnetic bearings. Full magnetic levitation is what it’s all about.
Yup: it truly floats. But would it result in floaty sound?
Hypex and Mola Mola stand. This demo attracted my attention due to the Vivid Audio B1’s playing warmer and smoother than I had ever heard them before. Turned out that they were driven by Hypex amps.
Mola Mola preamp looking impressively high tech
Lumen White speakers with very similar driver arrangement as the Marten Mingus Quintet that I reviewed recently. Elsewhere on the show I also heard them play and indeed I heard some mutual qualities, but also some notable differences. I can’t rule out running in, setup and room environment, but I’d say that the Lumen Whites sounded more forward in the midrange while I remember the Martens to be more relaxed.
Creative styling by Metaxas Audio
The Taiwanese gentlement from Telos were making measurements of the power filtering units while I was observing how similar their “milled-from-solid-aluminium enclosures looked like those from Jeff Rowland.
See what I mean? This could well be a Jeff Rowland model 102 amplifier.
There were several monster-sized turntables on show. Pictured above is the Acoustical Systems the APOLYT.
Shown above is quite possibly the most kitsch turntable and rack ever: shiny aluminium/chrome with inset “jewels”.
An audiophile-to-be listening to electrostatic headphones.
Some more creative styling by Metaxas Audio. Niels is quite the headphone afficinado and so JW had to amuse ourselves elsewhere while he checked out the Headphones Listening Bar.
D’Agostino amps in Meridian-red? Hmmm, not sure if I like it, but it sure is distinctive.
This photo just does not do justice to the exquisite styling of the D’Agostino Momentum amp. It is truly drool-inducing.
Just as drool-inducing yet even more interesting is the D’Agostino phono preamp.
Hey, an 800-series amplifier by Meridian! This is the new 857 stereo power amp.
Cessaro horn system in a very nice setting, sounding very slightly, forgive the pun, horny (as all horns do) but incredibly engaging and, in a way also very coherent and upbeat. The system sounded very musical and less “in your face” than typical Avant Garde systems when demoed on shows.
McIntosh is all about blue lamps. The photo above doesn’t really show it, but the room is surrounded by screens and bathed in a spacy blue glow.
Part of the surrounding screens, with the McIntosh world in the center.
Interesting mod for Artesania Exoteryc racks. I have yet to receive confirmation regarding the specifics and availability but these groovy-looking metal cylinders are a new product called Master Kyo that Artesania will be starting production for soon. These, alas, are still the prototypes.
This Brinkmann system with HRS rack and Vandersteen speakers was set up sideways. Entering the room you would be standing next to the left speaker and this way the system sounded boomy and seemingly not great, but when seated it was a different matter and the music was highly engaging and rhythmic.
The Wadax digital components looked stunning, as did the Stenheim speakers. In this room they sounded a little boomy but I have heard them before at the 2015 or 2016 Munich show, where they sounded amazingly coherent, fast and transparent. They were in fact one of my favourites then.
Kawero Chiara and Vivace speakers with Mundorf AMT tweeters and very interesting looks. Driven by an integrated Kondo amp, the small Chiaras produced a fast, transparent and detailed sound. In spite of the openness there was no harshness whatsoever and the tiny woofer (together with a larger passive radiator on the back) produced way deeper and more powerful bass than you would expect based the the speaker’s size.
The bigger Vivaces naturally deepened the bass response but also sounded a little heavy to me. I kind of missed the open expressive character of the Chiaras. Another amp and another room might yield very different results though.
Kawero Vivace in a very luxurious finish
I still have a thing for horn speakers. Even though they often have a certain horn-ness, there is always this inescapably irresistive quality to them that makes you sit down and just enjoy the music. Pictured here are TuneAudio horn speakers with huge Trafomatic Audio Elysium power amplifiers.
The sound was a little uneven tonally, but very emotionally involving. In spite of the tweeters sounding a little different in character than the mid horns, the system played music in a coherent and unified manner. Bass was quick and very much in tune.
No matter where they are demoed, TAD speakers and systems always sound fantastic. They seem to do everything right while avoiding sounding the slightest bit mechanical or clinical. I would explain their character by calling them characterless but that paints the wrong picture entirely. Rather they sound colourful, dynamic and super-involving and as emotionally engaging as the recording permits, while never sounding agressive or harsch when the recording is so-so.
My personal favourites are the smaller Reference CR1 but these Reference 1’s have a very similar character and do provide deeper and more sonorous bass.
Lars Kristensen of Raidho Acoustics is throwing his hands in the air as if indicating how large the soundstage is even when listening to the very small D1.1’s. It’s a neat trick coming into this room at first thinking that the big’uns are playing, to be surprised to find out that it was in fact the D1.1’s that sounded so large.
Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio played an analog tape that was only 2 generations removed from the actual master. The recording was of Hugh Masekala, the coal train song. Most audiophiles will have heard this song before, usually from analog record, and so have I. However, I have never before heard this song sound so natural yet so dynamic. Entirely stress-free, rich in colour and yet totally unrestrained dynamically, this system gave me goosebumps three times in a row.
The last Wilsons I heard still used those very peppy sounding (modified) Focal tweeters, but this Nagra system with Alexx speakers sounded very natural and relaxed, quite smooth even.
Very impressive looking system with von Schweikert speakers, VAC amps and Artesania racks. The sound was full and super-smooth.
mr Marten: Leif Mårten Olofsson. The speakers listened to were the Marten Contrane Tenor 2. Having reviewed the Mingus Quintet, the sound was very recognisable: open yet nicely relaxed.
In another room were the fantastic Marten Coltrane 3’s.
Engstrom Eric Statement power amps.
This was an odd-looking but very engaging sounding system: TechDAS AirForce 2 on top of an Artesania rack with Krion platform and Einstein amplification and speakers. The sound was not at all typically hifi, and perhaps also not as refined and some other systems, but very, very coherent, natural and convincing. It reminded me a bit of Audio Note speakers, which also sound very normal, but very involving at the same time. I’m sure that the TechDAS also had something to do with it…
In the second room Einstein had a smaller system using the -ahum- more affordable TechDAS AirForce 3. This system had a similar positive feel but the smaller speakers were just a bit too small to sound really convincing in terms of bass and dynamics.
This was perhaps the most fun time of the entire show: a system using Trinnov amps (and very good sounding multi channel audio) using Vivid speakers. The fun, in this case was injected by a super-enthusiastic Laurence Dicky explaining the principles behind his Vivid speakers, as well as answering, at length, any questions from the audience. Laurence is very witty and eloquent and also extremely knowledgeable. He kind of stole the limelight from the Trinnov guys but I think they forgave him:-)
As he is constanly moving his arms and hands, this is one of those rare pictures where Laurence Dickie is entirely in focus:-)
Laurence did not make it a secret that he loves ribbons, even going so far as to saying that if things went different (him meeting a different manufacturer) he might well have been designing ribbon speakers. I must say that the Vivids share many of the characteristics that I value so highly in my Apogee Diva magnetostats, free from cabinet sound, they sound utterly transparent yet fluid and friendly.
Another monster-size turntable, this is the Ultimate made by Refent Audio.
There is something interesting going on with this arm, but I’m afraid that I don’t know what the red light is for. If you do know, by all means do comment!
Very slick looking speakers by Zellation. They had a very open and airy sound with lots of detail.
The CH precision room also had Vivids, and a quick listen confirmed that I really like these speakers. They really sounded much like the original Nautilus, although you really can’t compare the surrounding setups (4x Devialet 800 with the Nautilus versus stacks of CH equipment in this case). Judging from what I heard at this show it seems that the Vivids sound very uniform no matter how they are set up or driven, although their bass did excite some room modes (no doubt not the speakers’ fault).
Here are the lovely ladies I wrote about at the start. You have to forgive them though for not looking so spritely anymore. I asked, and they really had been standing here all day!
Munich really is lovely, even if you’re not hunting for sausages, baked potatoes, onions and beers. But besides the audio show we only had one more goal: eating and drinking to our hearts contents!
This is a beer-garden, where everybody (boys + girls) is happily drinking excellent German beers in 0,5 or 1 liter (!) glasses.
This cozy photo of the beer garden concludes my report of the Munich High End 2017 audio show. The photo is a little fuzzy, but then again at this time, so were we.