Munich High End 2018 Show Report 3/3
As always, the Kharma room was lavishly decorated. The sound was ultra-smooth, highly refined and luxuriously rich, but not really what I’d call acoustically convincing.
Very nice Gabel turntable.
This humble system consisting of Apertura Audio speakers, a CH Precision I1 integrated amp, and Grand Prix Audio racks and turntable, provided truly well-balanced sound, nicely qualifying for a fifth place in my top 5 best sounding systems of this show.
Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur showed an impressive looking speaker.
Look, a Cassette tape machine! wait, no, it is a music server by DRS, serving as one of the sources in the WLM room.
Thrax always sounds great, this time around just falling outside of my top 5, although that could have been down to the software that was played.
Joseph Audio is another brand that never disappoints. While I don’t think that the Alluxity amps are the best partners for these speakers, the sound was nevertheless well-balanced, spacious and smooth, especially when using tape.
Technics reel to reel machine with outboard Doshi amplification and equalization.
This cabinet contains a pair of speakers…
… as well as a built-in iPad!
There were long queues lining up for the burgers and beers.
Buddies Niels and JW enjoying a nice Paulaner HefeWeizen.
A pretty girl at an audio show is always a very rare sighting…
Niels has decided: he’ll get a Transrotor Artus.
Another deck that seems to be inspired by Micro Seiki, this time by Transrotor.
Hmm, yes, well, this AVM turntable is not for me, but I’m sure that it will appeal to the younger crowd.
Mr. Dan D’Agostino himself once again attended the show. Here he is showing off the enormous Relentless amp.
Brand new Audio Research Reference 160M mono’s.
These brand new amps have an interesting design feature: the watt meter needle is placed against a transparent background through which you can see the tubes sitting behind.
For me, this is a bit too gimmicky. I actually prefer the simpler design of the GS150, but many people seemed to like the design. From what I could hear in the noisy environment, the 160M’s sound great and while not cheap, are actually good value.
A last breath of sausage and sauerkraut and a last look at one of the Bistros at MOC marked our departure from the show, but still more was to come!
Hifi Deluxe at the Marriott Hotel
Every year, there’s another show at the Mariott Hotel usually showing nice alternative systems in a different environment. The best part: entrance is free!
These Stark speakers really sounded great – relaxed, smooth, refined. The show at MOC had been very crowded and so the serene environment in the Marriott hotel made for a welcome change.
Quite rare: the Snail Project by Franco Serblin. Only 10 of these were made.
More planar magnetic speakers! Like the models on page 2, the bass was impressive, as was treble, however, the crossovers were a little bit too audible.
Kroma Audio is a new speaker brand that I first encountered in Bilbao, Spain, on my visit to the Enosound show 2018. As I noted, there were some room-modes in that particular room of the Hotel Convent San Roque, but this room in the Marriott Hotel had no issues whatsoever. The sound with the big Elektras was glorious, full, rich, smooth, yet tonally highly accurate and incredibly dynamic, with bass to die for. No matter how loud they played, though, the midrange and treble never became aggressive. The tweeters are quite special. They do not sound like ribbons, but they also do not sound like typical dynamic tweeters. The combined performance of these speakers was quite simply utterly life-like. At their cost, one would expect them to be, but I’ve heard several other speakers in this price range at this show that did not stir me at all, meaning that cost alone is not much of an indicator.
The VAC preamp and Analog Domain P-75 power amp matched incredibly well with both Kroma speakers.
Here’s Kroma’s Miguel Castro, cueing a record on the Tech Das.
The big surprise came in small packages: these new Mimi stand mount speakers produced a sound that truly belied their proportions. Cut from the same cloth as the larger models tonally, they succeeded in providing an immersive delivery with unbelievably solid and powerful bass, given their cabinet size. The speakers, as well as the stands and racks, are made from a combination of Panzerholz and Krion. Needless to say, this system scored very highly in my top 5 best sounding systems at the show, regardless whether the large Elektras were playing or the new small stand mounts.
If all goes according to plan, I will be doing a review of Mimi’s soon.
Here’s a young audiophile in the making:-)
Personal Top 5 best sounding systems
I have not heard all the systems – some rooms were simply too crowded. Other rooms just played way too loudly, and some systems probably had potential but were playing less than ideal records at the time when I visited. So, the list is not to be regarded as an absolute, just an overview of the systems that I encountered, which I found to sound very good.
- Wilson Alexia with a host of Nagra equipment and Kronos turntable. This system with solid state Nagra HD mono power amps sounded big, full, sonorous, dynamically capable, lifelike as well as live-like and very engaging while remaining relaxed. I should note that I am biased toward Wilsons. So if you don’t like these speakers, then your mileage may vary.
- Wilson Benesch with Ypsilon Audio amplification. Every time I heard Ypsilon equipment, I liked the sound and this event is no exception. These tube-based systems seem to always make music in a relaxed yet very engaging manner. When combined with the fast-paced and articulateWilson Benesch, I think the combination is perfect. The balance was not as neutral or as transparent as in the other systems in this list, but the music does come through in an utterly convincing manner.
- Kroma Audio is a new speaker brand that I first encountered in Bilbao, Spain, on my visit to the Enosound show 2018. The VAC preamp and Analog Domain P-75 power amp in this system matched incredibly well with both Kroma speakers. There are some Wilson traits in the Kroma sound which is probably partially why I like them. It’s the sense of solidity and the feeling of listening to a live performance that is very convincing. The new Mimi stand-mount speakers produced a sound that truly belied their proportions. The large, 100K, Elektras naturally provided a deeper-reaching and more sonorous bass, and mostly retained the upsides of the small stand mounts. The small Mimis, costing a “mere” 7000 euro, however, as far as I am concerned, take the prize.
- CH Precision electronics and Stenheim speakers. This is an extremely expensive system but it certainly does cross all the T’s and dots all the i’s. In spite of the multi-driver speakers, the presentation was so utterly coherent, even-handed, transparent and clean that it came across almost like a “normal” sound. But this is a deceptive thing, as going from this system to almost any other system immediately highlights certain aspects, such as an overall feeling of compression, boomy, uneven bass, shouty midrange (boy did I head that a lot elsewhere on this show) or forward treble. In being so utterly correct, this system is just slightly too neutral for my taste, which is why I’ve not placed it higher up in this list.
- Apertura Audio speakers, a CH Precision L1 integrated amp, and Grand Prix Audio racks and turntable. This system was not groundbreaking in any single area but so coherent and well-balanced, fluid as well as articulate, airy and precise, that in an ocean of boomy or uneven sounding systems, this was just a very pleasing sound.
This time, we took 2 days to attend the shows. Still, we were exhausted. Even as the high-end audio is becoming ever more a niche market, the amount of brands is positively exploding, and show attendance seems to be ever-expanding. Next time I’ll go three days I guess!