Normally, I have a special interest when I visit Munich High End. Turntables, Horn Speakers, or something else that has my current focus. This time, however, I went in without a particular goal. And, as it turns out, that’s when you can expect some pleasant surprises!
Although this is a five-part report that covers a lot, it is by no means complete and more an impression of the rooms and systems that I liked most.
We decided to be bright and early this time. At 09.30 the main MOC hallways were still relatively empty. At that time the show itself was not officially open yet and many stands were still being given the final touches but we were allowed in nonetheless.
It was a good thing that we were early as the crowd started piling up before the entry doors quickly!
Atrium – second-floor listening rooms
Rather than dwelling over the first floors for the best part of a day, we went straight to the Atria where the listening rooms are and were pleasantly surprised to find lots of space in the normally crowded hallways and most rooms still offering plenty of available listening seats.
Raidho showed their new TD3.8 speaker that use larger woofers than they used before and indeed the sound was much more fulsome than I am used to from this brand.
Joseph Audio demonstrated with Alluxity and while the sound was certainly spacious and relaxed and overall very pleasant coming from a tape source using Doshi EQ, it wasn’t quite as engulfing and goosebump-raising as the sound that I heard in the Joseph Audio room in 2016 when he used Zesto tube amps. Of course, the source and music selection were also different.
I much liked these interesting looking horn speakers by German company Odeon Audio. The new Carnegie speakers use a 38 inch woofer cone in a bass reflex design and they sound very natural and relatively uncolored for a horn speaker design. Electronics were from Russian brand NEM. These are definitely on the HFA list of show favorites.
The Spendor room with Classic 200 Cherry speakers had an easy-going and smooth sound with very deep, yet unforced, bass.
These Stein Topline Bob XL speakers look like they want to kiss you! They sounded fabulously lively and dynamic in the midrange (as expected) yet also fast and articulate in the bass which is absolutely not a given with hybrid horn systems, let alone with a system as complex as this one. In this case, the speaker has a multitude of woofers placed in the enclosure on 3 sides and to top it off these speakers are accompanied by two extra huge bass towers. This was a really great and natural sounding system with incredible coherence. The only thing against the system is the same as with all horn systems, which is that vocals can sometimes really pop out in loud parts. On the other hand, I am aware that many people actually like that aspect of sound reproduction. Regardless, they will go on the HFA list of Show Favorites.
Wharfedale showed their new Elysian model alongside the retro-styled Linton Heritage model that promises classic sound.
I only heard the Elysian and noted that they sound very modern and not in any way similar to what I know this brand’s classic speakers to sound like. The new sound is fast, clear and punchy and very well-controlled.
I don’t find them to be particularly expressive or exciting but Harbeth never disappoints musically, always sounding pleasingly sweet and soothing while having excellent transparency and detail retrieval.
Shortly after arriving on the listening room floors, we were greeted by Raphael Pasche from CH Precision.
With much enthusiasm, he told us that many brands were using CH Precision amplification to showcase their products and that he would like to show us all the rooms in which CH Precision amplification was used for demoing the systems. Before we knew it, we were taken on a tour from room to room, using “secret” hallway shortcuts that I had not been aware of until that time!
The first room that we visited used CH Precision M1.1 monos with Wilson Benesch and this resulted in a forceful and colorful delivery that appealed highly to the sense of live-music, more so than hi-res, high-end audio. In this system, I did not hear the extreme low-level detailing and sublime transparency that I know CH products are capable of but it was always musical and never did the sound ever become overly technical.
With every CH product outrigged with external power supplies and doubled up for mono use, this was the almost full stack of CH products.
In this room, Wilson Benesch showed a prototype of a new record player by the name of GMTONE that uses a so-called Omega Drive system which uses a magnetic gear technology that seems like Direct Drive but isn’t. Rather, the electromagnets create a rotational field that spins a platter which itself spins the topmost platter. Wilson Benesch has also developed a Piezo VTA System that allows adjustments via the touch of two buttons using a piezo motor, which works even via remote control! They also developed three new tonearms and a dedicated new cartridge.
The Wilson Benesch turntable was not yet ready for production but the 350kg-heavy TechDas Air Force Zero was also massively impressive.