HIGH END MUNICH 2019 SHOW REPORT AND GALLERY - PART 4
Welcome to the fourth instalment of our High End Munich 2019 reportage. This episode contains some of our favourite rooms as well as hovering turntables, awesome portable audio and some impressive home cinema kit.
Voxativ Absolut Hagen and Ampeggio Due
Voxativ from Berlin brought its €7,900 Absolut Hagen all-in-one system to Munich. Included in that price are the 5-inch Hagen full-range monitors and integrated Absolut Box. The Absolut Box sports a wireless DAC/Custom DSP. The Horn-loaded monitors certainly put on quite an impressive show. However, there was no escaping the flat-panel TV-esque Ampeggio Due.
The latest version of the AC-XHF hybrid field-coil driver sports leather surrounds and enhanced paper cones. Driving the Due was Voxativ’s T211 SET integrated amp, along with Weiss Engineering’s Medua DAC and MAN 301 server. The complete system can be yours for €140,000. Here we had another ‘have to stop and listen some more’ moments.
Astell&Kern SP2000 and Kann Cube
Time for something portable and something reasonably compact - but we want both! After seeing pictures of the wonderfully angular A&Ultima SP2000 (£2,999), we could not wait to get some ears-on time with it. Believe us when we say that it looks and feels even better than you’d think. Naturally, the sound quality was as you would expect from the new flagship player. Not so sleek, but every bit as desirable is the Kann Cube (£1,499).
The weighty hi-res audio player will drive any headphones without needing additional amplifier back-up and sports a pair of 8-channel ESS Sabre ES9038PRO DACs in a dual-mono configuration, providing a wider soundstage and better stereo separation. You also get 32-bit/384 kHz PCM and DSD256 playback support. Furthermore, the KANN CUBE features a 5-pin Mini XLR connector so you can hook it up to your 2-channel hi-fi.
If you have previously read our report of the IsoAcoustics demo at the Bristol Hi-Fi Show, this one is pretty similar, just on a larger scale. For those of you who missed that one what you have here are two pairs of Focal Scala floorstanders attached to the same Naim source – one set fitted with IsoAcoustics’ GAIA Titan Theis isolators, and one set with standard factory spikes. On the fly, listeners will be able to switch between the two sets to hear the difference that GAIA Titan can make. It really is something to behold and proof positive of what good isolation can do for your kit. Also, making its European debut, was DELOS, the brand’s newest line of isolation platforms developed for turntables and such. DELOS is made up from of a real-wood solid walnut or maple platform and ‘iPuck’ attachments. Maple DELOS models will begin shipping over the next month, while Walnut DELOS models will arrive by Summer 2019.
Now, typically (always) we prefer less Swarowski crystals on our turntable yet something was drawing us to these controversial turntables. Perhaps we’re part magpie? Whenever we’ve seen the floating platter of a Mag-Lev there hasn’t been a record playing; however, due to the magic that is Munich, there was such a thing happening in the demo room and, well, it didn’t sound bad.
The main thing we wanted to check was speed stability, and it appeared good enough for us. Did we rush to buy one? Nope, not even the black crystal one. Cool looking and indeed a talking/bragging point - but not for us.
Wilson Benesch GMT ONE System turntable
Thirty years after launching its debut product, the WB-One Turntable, and two decades after its Full Circle turntable follow-up, Wilson Benesch introduced its brand new, built-from-the-ground-up GMTONE turntable system which was equipped with an Etsuro Urushi Gold cartridge at the show. The GMTONE uses a system they're calling Omega Drive which uses magnetic gear tech that's similar to Direct Drive but isn’t. Electromagnets create a rotational field that spins a platter which then spins the playing. Additionally, the turntable system features a Piezo VTA control that allows adjustments via the touch of two buttons using a piezo motor, which can even work via remote control.We are looking forward to the Yorkshire-brand’s new turntable becoming available in Q4 this year.
Renowned Swiss company CH Precision provided electronics in the room including the M1.1 monos. In the rack each piece of CH Precision kit was plugged into external power supplies and doubled up to run in mono. The result was transparent without becoming clinical; however, we think we may have heard more detailed presentation elsewhere but this was still a highly competent and, more importantly, an very enjoyable listen. Finally, room treatment was handled by GIK Acoustics which brings us nicely on to…
What a seamless segway that was. It could almost have been planned.
It was easy to spot GIK Acoustic treatment in many of the rooms at the Munich show, but the stand was where to head if you were looking for no-nonsense advice. Dave Shevyn and Lukas Rimbach were consistently busy whenever we passed the stand, and with the range of treatments available at reasonable prices, it’s understandable. Moreover, these guys will happily talk about how best to go about treating your room and seem to be an endless source of advice.
Stand-out pieces for us were the Gothic diffuser and the photo art panels, which are a smart way of disguising your acoustic treatment. Just in case you’re wondering, those are Dave’s lovely hounds.
Vitus Audio Vitus SIA-030 Integrated
We had been looking forward to hearing the Vitus SIA-030 ever since spotting ‘spy shots’ of the casing a while ago. Needless to say that the 200W amplifier (the first 30W are pure class A) did not disappoint. We also liked that this was one of a few items we spotted at the show sporting a distinctly orange hue - we’d like to think that this was partly in our honour. Connectivity includes a brace of RCA inputs and three balanced XLR ins, as well as a phono preamp stage.
There is also an optional digital module including DAC and streamer that brings with it USB, optical, SPDIF and Ethernet. The MSRP is €35,000 for the ‘basic’ amp without options with the DAC/Streamer and phono modules adding somewhere between €5-7,000. We can’t pretend that’s not a lot of money but, as Hans-Ole Vitus said, “it will make a minimalistic uber-performing system”, and we would have to agree.
Naim Mu-so Second Generation
Naim has been working through its Uniti, and dedicated streamers and Munich saw the Mu-So get more than a refresh. The Mu-so second generation keeps the fundamental aesthetics of the original but adds functionality as well as a new hue. Most crucially, as it is soundbar-shaped, is the addition of HDMI ARC for use with TVs. The Mu-so second gen also gets Naim’s new streaming module that’s pretty much the same as you’ll find in the more expensive models. You also get Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and onboard support for Tidal and Spotify. The unit is also packing revised speakers developed in partnership with Focal. For the £1300 asking price, you do get a great-sounding flexible all-in-one system. We are hoping to spend more time with one soon.
Vivid Audio Giya and TechDas Zero
The unmistakable shape of Vivid Audio’s Giya G1 Spirit loudspeaker was the first thing we spotted here which is notable as, on the left side of the room, sat TechDAS’s new flagship Zero turntable. The main unit of the Air Force Zero comprises of a 100 kg, stainless steel base frame and a 35 kg platter base.
Atop that are five platters weighing in at a total of 118 kg. Driving those platters is a belt-drive with a polished and nonflexible polyurethane fibre belt. The drive motor itself is a 3-phase 12-pole AC synchronous motor manufactured by Papst, Germany. If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford one. The Giya G1 Spirits are a four-way, five-driver (in an exponentially tapered bass-reflex enclosure) design and proved to be very effective at the end of the almost ubiquitous CH Precision electronics. We were very fond of this room and rated it as possibly one of the best.
Audio Physic, X-odos and Lyngdorf
Audio Physic was showcasing their new Midex and Classic 25 floorstanders. The Midex uses Audio Physic’s Sandwich Cabinet tech with the enclosure reinforced by open cell ceramic foam. Alternatively, the Classic 25 uses a ‘glass-sandwich’ construction, which doesn’t sound appetising at all. It also borrows technical features from Audio Physic’s larger models, such as the Dual Basket Drivers and an invisible woofer inside the cabinet. Source for the demonstration was the xo | stream from X-odos. As the device’s name suggests, it is an audio streamer. However, the xo | stream has the HighRes streaming service Virtual Vault from HIGH RES AUDIO integrated as well as TIDAL.
Additionally, the xo | stream will take audio from a NAS, PC, USB or directly from the company’s xo | one music server. The xo | stream will play gapless, via S/PDIF up to 24 Bit/192 kHz as well as DoP (DSD over PCM). The X-odos unit was plugged into Lyngdorf’s handsome TDAI-3400 integrated amplifier with 2x200W RMS @ 8Ohm on tap. The ins and outs on the amp include 2x standard RCA and 3x high-end RCA inputs as well as 1x balanced XLR. The optional HDMI module is home to 1x HDMI out and 3 x HDMI Inputs (PCM and ARC 192kHz/24bit). Finally, digital inputs are 1 x AES-EBU (192kHz/24bit), 2 x Coaxial (192kHz/24bit), 3 x Optical (96 kHz/24bit), 1 x USB B (384kHz/32bit, DSD128, DXD). Finally, on the bottom shelf, could be found Lyndgorf’s CD-2 player. A well-matched system from source to speakers we thought.
Atlas brought a variety of new cables over from Scotland. Amongst the Munich debutantes were the Mavros Luxe USB and Ethernet cables, EOS DD power cable and Mavros tonearm and turntable cables. Martin took us through the various selling points, and we are very interested in taking them through their paces back at SNUK HQ.
Company President Lars Johanson has arguably brought the old Miller & Kreisel company from the brink even though the brand’s history is like a who’s who of high-profile studio engineers including a certain George Lucas who insisted the mixing studios were kitted out with M&K monitors. We took time out to sit a while in the mini-cinema demonstration and were very impressed and intrigued to find out more. In the cinema demo, was the in-wall version of the S150 and X10 speakers being pushed along by Krell with the larger S300 also on display.
Roksan and Monitor Audio
Roksan’s newly announced £1,799 SARA tonearm was doing its thing as part of a rather well-sorted concert that featured a Xerxes 20 Plus turntable and Shiraz phono cartridge. The analogue source was plugged into Roksan’s Caspian VSC2 vinyl system control which handled the speed and preamp duties.
Digital audio came by way of a blak CD Player, and all went into the blak Integrated Amplifier. At the other end was Monitor Audio’s Gold 300 loudspeakers priced at £3,999. Also noteworthy given Monitor's recent acquisition, it was a Blok rack supporting all the kit.
The German audiophile team lead by Udo Besser was proudly demonstrating their very first active speaker to significant effect. Also noteworthy was the appearance of the Ovation A 8.3 flagship Class A/AB amplifier (€9,990.00 to €12,490.00) that, amongst other features, includes “AVM 803 T Tube Technology”. Joining those on stage was the attractive Rotation R series turntable we first met in Bristol.
Marten Mingus Orchestra and Oscar, Jorma Design
CH Precision electronics (D1, C1, L1, P1 and M1.1 monos) were driving the €185,000, three-way, seven-driver Marten Mingus Orchestra. Sporting four 8-inch aluminium-sandwich woofers, 7-inch ceramic midrange, 2-inch diamond mid/tweeter, 0.75-inch diamond tweeter all wrapped up in a typically lovely-looking bass-reflex enclosure, the new Martens sounded incredible, especially with male vocals given the brand’s slightly darker nature. The new SAT XD1 turntable provided the source of the demo, and everything was attached using Jorma Statement cables with the power source being the Stromtank 2500.
The show also witnessed the premiere of Marten’s new series: Oscar. Oscar is “powered by new technology but has the same Marten sound at a more accessible price point.” The floorstanding Oscar Trio is a three-way with 2x 7-inch and a 1-inch tweeter all of which are custom-designed ceramic drivers whereas the Duo is a two-way stand-mount also utilising custom drivers. These weren’t playing, but we’re hoping to get ears-on with the Oscars as soon as possible.
Finally, and this makes perfect sense when you know that the Swedish company Jorma Design also supplies the internal wiring for the Martens, Jorma and Marten buddied up so that Marten displayed Jorma's cables in its room whereas Jorma had one each of Marten's new offerings on its stand in one of the halls. Nice.
Technical Audio Devices Laboratories Inc brought their Reference One E1TX three-way loudspeakers being pushed along by their Evolution M1000 500W power amps with a D1000MK2 for the CD source. The components were sat on a beautiful Rogoz Audio Anti-Vibration stand. The new E1TX-K loudspeakers boast a 9cm CST and a pair of 16cm MACC woofers that use a laminated woven aramid fabric along with other non-woven materials. The voice coil uses a highly-rigid titanium bobbin that provides high-level heat dissipation. Bolstering the bass are bi-directional ADS ports.
Joining the growing ranks of super integrated amps is the newly-announced SA30. Here is a Class G design that boasts an output of 120 watts into eight ohms. Around the rear are four analogue line inputs, including a moving magnet and moving coil capable phono stage. The digital section is built around an ESS Sabre DAC and includes wired and wireless streaming including Roon endpoint smarts, AirPlay2 and MQA support. We currently have the SA10 and SA20 in for review and no doubt will follow these up with the SA30.
Esoteric featured in several rooms, but it was the Grandioso D1X monoblock DACs that we wanted to experience. Yes, you read that correctly. Further boggling the mind was the additions of the company’s P1X Transport and N-03T Network Audio Transport. This new Esoteric system has been designed from the ground up to showcase two unique innovations: a completely new VRDS-ATLAS transport and a new in-house designed discrete DAC circuitry. As you can imagine, there’s a whole bunch of tech involved with this lot starting with Esoteric’s ES-LINK digital interface that uses HDMI cables for signal transmission.
With the P1X and D1X, they’ve upgraded ES-LINK to v.5 which supports Max. 22.5MHz DSD and 768kHz/48-bit PCM. The choice of HDMI, we’re informed, is due to its multi-conductor structure permitting full balance transmission of audio data and LR clock and bit clock signals, in case you were curious. Also on the spec list are separate power supplies using four independent toroidal transformers, multi-layer chassis construction, low-feedback DC regulators, EDLC supercapacitors and more. However, the most important thing is this system retrieved so much detail and had such an uncoloured presentation that we sat agog for a while. This performance was achieved in a small and unforgiving room as well.
AMG Viella V12
The AMG (Analog Manufaktur Germany) Viella V12 has been around since 2012, but Munich saw a refreshed version which you can just about make out on the right of the tonearms. We weren’t aware of its significance until we started chatting with someone on our way out. The new Forte Plinth is CNC milled from solid aluminium billet and measures 70 mm thick and tips the scales at 23 kg. The platter bearing housing, motor housing, and feet are also machined from 70 mm aluminium billet providing higher rigidity and mass damping. The Forte Platter is CNC machined in house using aircraft-grade aluminium with a decoupled spindle and inlaid PVC platter mat. That platter itself weighs 14 kg, the Forte Arm Base is also CNC machined from the same material. The new Viella Forte is available in both black anodised (€23,000), and an Engraved version (€24,500) featuring a CNC machined geometric pattern and includes the AMG 12JT Turbo 12-inch tonearm. If you already have a Viella, you can upgrade to the Viella Forte complete with 12JT Turbo tonearm through a special scheme or just the Forte turntable you already own the 12JT arm. Additionally, AMG offers upgrade kits to existing Viella owners to add the Forte platter, clamp and Power Supply.
Blumenhofer, Aqua Acoustic, KR Audio
Big tubes and square horns were the order of the day here. The heavy-duty hand-cranked supports for the huge KR Audio Kronozilla monoblocs ($44,000 each) seemed the right fit. The digital end of the system was taken care of by Aqua Acoustics, including the freshly launched LinQ network interface. However, jostling for attention with the valve monos were the sweet-sounding Blumenhofer horn loudspeakers.
Auralic and Spendor
Auralic launched two new products. Firstly, the Altair G1 is a streaming preamp, built around the company’s Lightning infrastructure. The G1’s onboard decoding is capable of handling all flavours of DSD and PCM, and it also has a bay for a 2.5-inch hard drive enabling it for integrated server duties. The price tag is £1,900 and is a fair price in our book. The Sirius G2 is an FPGA-based device designed to upsample and reclock your digital source and match it to your DAC’s ‘sweet spot’, anything up to DSD 512.
The Sirius is a bit more specialist as is its £5,499 asking price. The whole system sounded wonderful going through Nagra amplification to the Spendor SP 200 three-way sealed floorstanders. The loudspeakers use a pair of 300mm woofers each for the low end partnered with a 180mm mid and 22mm tweeter. At 1.2 meters tall they look the business and with a range down to 20Hz they do grab your attention for all the right reasons.
Zellaton, Schnerzinger and YS
Zellaton’s €147,950 Reference MkII three-way five-driver loudspeaker sports a 2-inch cone tweeter, a 6-inch cone midrange, and a trio of 9-inch cone woofers. These dynamic performers were driven by a YS preamp and a pair of monoblock amplifiers. Up at the top were the Reed Muse 3C and Muse 1C turntables equipped with a Top Wing Red Sparrow and DS Master One cartridges (respectively). Schnerzinger cables and conditioning pulled everything together. In fact, ‘pulled together’ is precisely what this system’s strong point was. We really got the feeling that all the equipment fell away and only the music remained. There may have been more nuanced and dynamic performances at the MOC, but this was one of the most cohesive.
That's it for episode four. As usual, there are more pictures in the gallery below that cover the rooms mentioned here.
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Catch you in episode 5!
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: munich2019 high end munich 2019 voxativ astell & kern astell kern isoacoustics mag-lev wilson benesch vitus audio naim vivid audio techdas audio physic x-odos lyngdorf atlas atlas cables roksan monitor audio m&k avm gik acoustics tad arcam esoteric amg blumenhofer aqua kr audio spendor
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