HIGH END MUNICH 2019 SHOW REPORT AND GALLERY - PART 1
It's big. That's what everyone was telling me when I first confirmed that I would be attending this year's High End Show in Munich. However, even with that being said, I was still not prepared for it - moreover, my feet were not prepared for it.
Don't get me wrong; I have attended huge shows before, IFA Berlin and MWC Barcelona spring immediately to mind. However, up until now, I had only visited domestic hi-fi shows in little ol' England and, as I sit in Terminal 1, Gate C10 in Munich airport on Sunday night draughting this missive, I have a feeling that High End may well have just spoilt the UK shows for me.
If you have never been to High End Munich, the show is set out over four exhibition halls which each have three floors. Yeah, now you're beginning to see what I mean. Furthermore, the halls are quite roomy, and the atriums are flooded with natural light. Also, weather permitting, the beer garden is a great place to take the weight off, enjoy some Bavarian refreshments and get some air.
Naturally, I have been in Munich for the full extent of the show. I got in the day before the show kicked-off, so I could finally touch base with Marc, Sound Media Group head honcho and StereoNet boss. We have been working closely getting StereoNET UK (a.k.a. SNUK) to where it currently is and pointed in the direction we want it to go for just over a year now and yet never had a face-to-face chat over several beers until now. I think that shows the power of remote working as well as our commitment to making SNUK at least a top 5 destination for hi-fi news and reviews.
Bring your comfy shoes
The heading might appear as a statement of common sense, but I think we can all agree that it's not as common as it should be. I had *many* meetings and launches to try and attend (sorry if there were clashes) so there were times that I would spend a day in footwear that was chosen for looks over comfort. The result of that experiment is blisters upon blisters. Ouchy McOuch-Feet!
However, that oversite aside, the show is well organised with real event staff in attendance, which all goes towards making everything run smoothly. Also, a quick hat-tip to Munich public transport (trams and underground - I didn't venture on a bus this trip) as well as the taxi drivers. Faultless one-and-all.
High End Munich 2019 Show Report
All of that preamble is all well and good, but I am relatively sure that you have landed here to read about hi-fi and not a short city break review - so let me get into it.
The German high-end audio fair has become an essential fixture on the hi-fi calendar. The show hasn't only arrived at this venerated position due to the amount of brand new products launched here, but it is one of the few places that you'll find such an array of fantastic, eccentric and jaw-dropping music systems.
At High End Munich you will find enormous speakers powered by house-priced electronics, fed by sources packed with space-age tech. However, aside from those show-stoppers, you will find an unrivalled selection of brilliant-sounding hi-fi set-ups, and they're not all at the scary-end of the price list.
Fink Team Borg speakers
The FinkTeam Borg speakers were pretty much everywhere you looked on the way to, and at, the show. Being this year's poster speakers partnered by some British multi-instrumentalist called Steven Wilson, the Borg had to bring the goods. Thankfully, saying that the FinkTeam room matched our expectations would undersell how good the €24,000 Borg speakers sounded, and we think they look great too.
Welcome to horn heaven. The German-based Avantgarde put on a lovely presentation of its range of horn speakers, including the Duo Mezzo XD yours for £30,000, and the Uno XD, £24,000. It is perhaps easy to overlook that Avantgarde also produces amps and pre-amps. Powering the Uno XDs was the company's XA power amps which cost £12,500 each. However, it was the display of the various colour options that really makes the Avantgarde ranges a high-end speaker choice that can sit comfortably in any situation; well if you have the room and budget.
PMC Atmos system and fact signature speakers
PMC's introduction of the Dolby Atmos remasters of 'Kind of Blue' and 'Sketches of Spain' by Miles Davis must have cleared any doubts as to whether or not Dolby Atmos can be hi-fi. We were there for the debut playback and even though we were squeezed in a packed room and not in the best of positions; the tracks sounded superb.
Returning later, we took a good look at the fact.12 and fact.8 signature loudspeakers. As you may have guessed, these are re-engineered versions of the original fact.8 and 12 using innovations and tech developed for the flagship fenestria. Those developments include new crossovers mounted on military-grade circuit boards utilising the same hand-picked components as used in the fenestria. Additionally, audiophile grade switching is set into the solid aluminium back panel, permitting subtle tailoring of the bass and treble response of the speakers to create the perfect sound balance in the listening room. The two-way fact.8 signature and three-way fact.12 signature retains the SONOMEX dome treble unit with the fact.12 sporting a hand-made 50mm dome midrange incorporating design elements from the mid-range driver in fenestria. fact.8 features light, super-stiff, natural fibre bass drivers and the fact.12 retains its bespoke woofers made from an ultra-light alloy cone. As you would expect, both speakers have PMC’s Advanced Transmission Line bass-loading technology.
Magico M2 speakers
Magico launched its new A-Series speakers at High End Munich, but it was the larger M2 speakers, a three-way, four-driver speaker that grabbed our attention at the end of Soulution electronics and Kronos turntable using a Goldfinger cartridge and Kronos phonostage. The Magicos may not as flashy-looking as some other of the show's offerings, but do feature a layered carbon fibre cabinet and a 28 mm diamond-coated Beryllium dome tweeter. Oh, and the small detail of a £70,000 price tag. We returned later for the exclusive playback of the latest album from Jennifer Warnes. Great stuff.
Crystal Cable and Siltech
Crystal Cable's Arabesque compact speaker was doing great work, but sister-brand Siltech had an ominous presence on the room thanks to its towering Symphony loudspeaker. The five-way floorstander packs no fewer than 13 drivers in its multi-layered aluminium enclosure and tips the scales at 550 pounds. If that's not exotic enough, the Symphony comprises of three cabinets, each isolated from one another by 10mm rubies - the second best material for that job, according to designer Edwin Rijnveld (the best would be diamonds, which are cost prohibitive, obviously).
DAS, WLM and Way Cables
Digitale Audio Systeme provided its HD-Player Model 2 (€8,990), a digital audio player that can either be controlled through its high-res display or via a smart device. However, the VU meters on the right-hand side of the unit gives it a more retro-futurist aesthetic. Under the hood, the DAC section alone utilises a trio of Lundah toroidal transformers. Additionally, the two dual-mono converter boards are entirely galvanically isolated to maximise channel separation and signal-to-noise ratio. Speakers were from Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur (guess where they're based) and featured the new Ferdinand and Maximilian models. Maximilian sports a D'Appolito configuration using 2x 5-inch mid-woofers and a 7cm paper cone tweeter in a bass reflex cabinet. Ferdinand, however, is a transmission line designed and sports a brace of 8-inch long-stroke Hexacon membrane mids, a 9-inch papyrus woofer and a 12cm AMT tweeter. Way cables connected everything. It was the Ferdinands that were playing when we were in the room, and they gave a delightful presentation. We also very much liked how they looked.
Kii Audio Three BXT system
The Kii system never seems to sound bad, no matter the situation. That's thanks to the wonderful electronics packed within. Attached to the BXT extension module which turns the Kii Three active speakers into a floorstanding system with 16 additional drivers Billie Eilish's 'Bury a Friend' sounded very impressive. £28,000 is the asking price for the full towers, but the company promises that they'll sound awesome in any room.
Aries Cerat Achilleas
Another place that we were looking forward to checking out was that of Aries Cerat mainly due to the world premiere of its six-chassis Achilleas SET amplifier. Stepping into the hushed and darkened room we could make out the unmistakable silhouette of the twin-racked Achilleas, and the company's Symphonia horn speakers paired the Erevus model S bass horn. A Pink Faun 2.16x server packing the latest OCXO clock tech passing through the Aries Cerat's two-chassis Kassandra Series Signature DAC supplied digital tunes. Analogue-wise it was the Portuguese-based Rui Borges Pendulum 2 which tips the scales at 230Kg. The Pendulum 2 was hooked up to the Aries Cerat Talos Signature phono system which was also enjoying its world debut. This system was indeed a feast for the ears and the eyes (once the latter adjusted to the light, or lack thereof).
Audiodata Master One
Audiodata operates out of Salzburg and were showing off their rather elegant Master One floorstanding speakers. The three-way speaker design features a sealed housing with inner chambers filled with steel balls. The driver roll-call comprises of a pair of 220mm carbon fibre woofers, another pair of the same in passive mode and a 148mm magnesium midrange with a 25mm beryllium tweeter. The 105Kg loudspeakers have a 20-25,000Hz frequency range. Pushing the Master Ones along were amplifiers from Soulution Audio and a Toneart turntable. A nicely balanced system.
This Paris-based hi-fi company does it all - from the compact app-friendly Smart Line through to full-sized high-end power amps, loudspeakers and cables. The 133 x 230 x 325mm Smart AX-1 integrated squeezes in an excessive amount of tech into the sleek single-box system that, amongst other things, power stages that are fed by a toroidal transformer, producing 45W over 8 Ohms with voltage rectified and filtered with a second power supply feeding lower-power components. The Asahi Kasei AK4111 DAC can run up to PCM 192 kHz/24 bits and output has been limited to a still decent 2x45Watts in 8 Ohms or 2X65 W in 4 Ohms. Oh, it also manages to offer five RCA inputs, an extra set of phono inputs, a Sub out, Rec out, Pre-amp out, plus a pair of XLR ins and balanced Pre-amp outs. Digital is catered for by a trio of optical sockets and a coax. In the photo, the X-A160 is a 160W Class AB stereo power amp whereas the X-i125 is a cool-looking integrated dishing out 2x125W and features a high-performance DAC, asynchronous USB B input and many analogue inputs.
Wharfedale Elysian and Linton Heritage
We had previously seen Wharfedale's Elysian speakers on static display in Bristol, but Munich gave us a chance to hear their AMT drivers pushed along by Audiolab amps. Available in two sizes, the stand-mounted version is priced at £4,500; whereas £7,500 will get you the floorstanders. Also present was the newly announced retro-tastic Linton Heritage floorstander. However, its the new Evo 4 range of budget speakers that we're hoping do particularly well for the company.
This American company was arguably one of the first with a decent USB DAC, and their stand had a good range of kit, but it was their 8 series that they were proudly premiering. The new range includes the $5,500 QX-8 DAC and the EX-8 100Watt p/c integrated amplifier which kicks off at $6,000 and ranges up to $8k if you go with the optional DAC (with or without the asynchronous USB interface and with or without the Ethernet interface), which is Roon-ready and pre-configured to stream Spotify, Qobuz, and Tidal. While those are already available the new KX-8 preamplifier, however, should be on shelves in October for around $5,500 along with the VX-8 stereo amplifier. Finally, there's the CX-8. A CD-only transport with a tray sourced from TEAC and a DAC featuring an ES9028Q2M chip.
Q Acoustics Concept 300
We already met the Concept 300 back in February but realise that this would be a first meeting with the 2-way reflex standmounts for many of the MOC crowd. That said, we still made time to enjoy what is essentially a standmount version of the larger Concept 500 floorstander. So, you get the same Dual Gelcore cabinet construction and internal P2P (Point-to-Point) bracing found in the Concept 500. Furthermore, there's the unique and innovative Tensegrity tripod stand. Not only does this add to the overall modern aesthetic, but the stand is also integral to further reducing the transmission of vibrations and providing a stable support system for the speaker. We really appreciated some undisturbed alone time with the Concept 300 and after hearing a variety of tracks through them can see these becoming popular, particularly in modern homes.
Mission ZX speakers
Mission introduced its latest flagship speaker range - the ZX Series (not sure if Sir Clive and the Sinclair estate is aware of this). The ZX gets a new ring dome tweeter and a new DiaDrive aluminium mid/bass unit. The tweeter is formed by two rings, with a voice coil placed in the centre for a more efficient drive. The DiaDrive features an over-sized magnet and is vented to reduce resonance caused by trapped air behind the diaphragm.
Dali Katch One
We got wind of Dali's new soundbar ahead of the show so we made sure that we'd check it out. The Dali Katch One is a compact multi-room soundbar that sports no fewer than ten drivers. The drivers are pushed along by four, 50-watt amplifiers. Furthermore, connectivity is comprehensively covered including HDMI ARC, optical and 3.5mm inputs, plus aptX Bluetooth and a subwoofer output. The UK price is £649 when it hits the shelves.
YBA Heritage Streamer
The French YBA brand is undoubtedly one to watch out for as its reputation continues to grow in the UK. We are currently working through their Genesis range and recently awarded the PH1 battery-powered phono stage an Applause Award. YBA used the Munich show to debut its soon to be released R100 streaming Music Centre. The new component will be joining the brand's Heritage range. We had a good look around it and liked what we saw.
The demo room was a typically fuss-free affair from YBA. Here we had a Heritage A200 amplifier and CD100 CD player partnered with the equally fab French Mulidine speakers. It may have been one of the least complicated systems at the show, but it certainly didn't sound any less for it.
Wilson Audio Sasha DAW
The Sasha DAW takes the original Sasha and redesigns it using trickle-down tech from the WAMM Master Chronosonic flagship Wilson offering. Prices start at just under £40,000, but it was doing a decent job at the end of Aurender, dCS, EMM Labs, Pass and being driven by a Spectral amp.
HiFi Racks are all about making great pieces of wooden furniture that not only looks great but will enhance your music system at the same time. The fact that they're also a lovely bunch of people is a bonus. Their stand at Munich appeared to be nicely busy whenever we wandered past.
You might recall that we were at the launch of HEDD's Tower Mains professional studio monitors not too long ago. However, at High End Munich, the German pro audio brand was launching something much more portable - the HEDDphone. Clever wordplay aside, this is a great and accurate headset that would be just as useful in a studio environment or at home, especially when engaging in some critical listening. The speed and accuracy are in no small part due to the use of the AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tech. The VVT variant of AMT uses a variable diaphragm geometry that replaces the fixed structure of conventional AMT tweeters. You can expect the HEDDphones to appear around Q3 with a sub-£2,000 price tag.
Audionet premiered its €35,000 integrated amplifier which combines much of the circuitry of the brand's STERN preamp and HEISENBERG power amplifiers and puts them in a single STERN-sized chassis. The 60Kg Humboldt delivers 250W per channel and utilises four power supplies. It was hard not to be impressed
Gobel High End
You could not avoid the statuesque Gobel High End Divin Noblesse speakers. Somehow they almost managed to disappear the sound was so articulate. Electronics were the Engstrom MONICA preamp and ERIC mono power amps. It was great to see the Kronos turntable handling all things vinyl whereas Wadax took care of the digital side with an Atlantis DAC, Server and Transport.
Chord Ultima and Huei
We were there for the unveiling of Chord Electronics' new Ultima 2 and Ultima 3 amplifiers. The new monoblocs borrow tech from the original £30,000 Ultima which makes the £11,000 and £18,360 respective price tags of the 2 and 3 almost a bargain.
Chord Electronics also broke out its new phono stage, dubbed Huei. Slotted into a Qutest-sized casing, Huei rocks both Moving Magnet and Moving Coil functionality. Thanks to gain and impedance-matching options the phono pre-amp offers excellent compatibility with a vast array of cartridges. All of that can be yours for £990.
There's more pictures of these rooms in the gallery below.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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Posted in: Hi-Fi HiFi Show
Tags: high end munich 2019 munich2019 chord electronics gobel high end audionet hedd hifi racks hifi racks ltd wilson audio yba dali mission q acoustics ayre acoustics wharfedale advance acoustic audiodata aries cerat kii audio das digitale audio systeme wlm wiener lautsprecher manufaktur way cables crystal cable siltech magico pmc pmc speakers avantgarde
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