HIGH END MUNICH 2019 SHOW REPORT AND GALLERY - PART 6
Here we are, this is the final installment of StereoNET's High End Munich 2019 Show Report. We hope that you've enjoyed our virtual walk-around.
We haven’t mentioned massive horns for a while it seems. Well, we are confident that the ESD Dragon system will not disappoint. This five-way design packs in the S30 Subwoofer+E20 Horn, S100 Woofer Driver+E100 Horn, S500 Mid-range Driver+E500 Horn, S2000 Tweeter Driver, S8000 Super Tweeter Driver, D08C-1B Field Coil Power Supply all supported by the Opera Frame. It did sound rather good, but our main takeaway was that if they could get it in this room then assembling it in a home should be no problem. If you were wondering, this system is supplied with its electronics and unique crossovers, but you are in ‘money no object’ territory. The good news is that if you have a regular-sized home ESD produces loudspeakers such as the Crane Horn Floorstanding Speaker and the Panda Field Coil Bookshelf Speaker either of which we would gladly test in our homes.
Another company which produces goods for the pro audio market, as well as the domestic one, is the Dutch-based Grimm Audio. They have a good spread of kit on offer including cables, players, master clocks and, of course, some rather fine-looking speakers. The €23,750 LS1be is Grimm’s latest flagship and features a new wide-dispersion Beryllium tweeter they co-developed with Seas. The tweeter joins a Seas magnesium woofer. The active speakers also feature improved power supplies, including silver wire and lower jitter. All you have to do is add a source, and the NCore D power amps will do the rest. The Grimm LS1be’s USB interface will accept 64/128 fs DSD and DXD. Naturally, they were using their Roon-friendly MU1 player that sports an in-house designed FPGA interface board and ultra-low jitter clock. We loved both the look and sound of these components.
The Japanese optical cartridge specialists brought along their new ION-001 Vinyl Ionizer (the slender tower in the background). The ION-001 removes static electricity from the surface of the record board by generating and emitting both negative and positive ions over your records as they play. As this is a fanless design, it is also silent.
The demonstration showed how the measurable charge around the playing surface reduced dramatically. We are very intrigued.
It was the sight of more StereoNET-orange-hued accoutrements that drew us over to Graham Audio initially. And then, the range of classic BBC-styled monitor speakers had us hooked. At the stand was none other than Derek Hughes. Derek started at Spendor – well, he would do being the son of SPENcer and DORothy Hughes.
Furthermore, he has been involved with BBC monitor design for more than 50 years now and has been working with Graham Audio for the past few. However, it was the LS5/5’s unique design that intrigued us as the baffle partially covers the larger drivers. There was also a touch of the Spendor SP100 about it too with the tweeter sat ‘tween woofer and midrange driver. Also of note were the LS3/5-based powered mini speaker and a floor standing version of the LS5/9.
Cabasse had a demo running a pair of their new Pearl speakers (£2,599 each) in stereo. The sound was huge in this room and proved what these compact speakers could do. It was also interesting to be able to peer inside one of these speakers thanks to the cool cut-away model on display.
Forty for Focal
The French firm turned forty and celebrated by producing a plethora of special editions. Largest and commanding the stand were the Spectral and one of only four pairs of the limited edition Scala Utopia. You could even shove some Focal at Forty in your jalopy thanks to the special ed in-car audio kit. Rounding things off were the Solo6 Be monitors which also got a chic black jacket and anniversary stamp. Finally, there was even a collectors case for your Utopia and Stellia cans and all the requirements for portable listening in style.
Yup, the German company builds speakers out of concrete - it is as straightforward as that. The N1 floorstanders are single-pour cast cabinets and cost from €11, 900 a pair depending on finish. The B1 bookshelf speakers start at €3,490. The choice of material is down to there being no joins, no interfering resonance and literally a rock-solid base for driver expansion. An interesting concept we might have to look into further.
The Panasonic-owned Technics brand debuted a new multi-room wireless speaker, the OTTAVA S SC-C30 which features in-built room calibration via an internal microphone and five drivers in a 2.1 configuration. For analogue-lovers, you also had the SL-1500C which launched earlier this year, and it’s hailed as a premium class direct drive turntable. Here you get a built-in, but bypassable, phonostage which, along with its Ortofon Red cartridge-equipped tonearm, makes for instant plug and play right out of the box. Of course, at the other end of the scale is the £14,000 SL-1000R.
The British firm, Bespoke Audio, makes some rather fancy-looking hi-fi equipment. As the name suggests, it’s all custom and hand-built to your requirements in any finish you want. It is eye-candy of the highest order.
Nordost could be found connecting many components in a variety of rooms at the MOC this year. Additionally, the cable connoisseurs were previewing three new products. Firstly, the freshly redesigned Valhalla 2 Tonearm Cable, now dubbed the Valhalla 2 Tonearm Cable +, as well as the new QRT Power Product, the QPOINT Resonance Synchronizer. Nordost’s newly redesigned Valhalla 2 Tonearm Cable + sports four, silver-plated, solid core 99.999999% OFC conductors, arranged in a twisted pair design to create a left and right channel, which are individually wrapped in a silver, braided shield, to eliminate inter-channel cross-talk. The conductors implement Nordost’s proprietary Dual Mono-Filament technology, reducing insulation contact by 85%. The construction also includes a separately shielded, silver-plated bond wire which runs alongside the left and right channel. Then, to eliminate noise, Nordost adds two, detachable, silver-plated ground whips, complete with Micro Mono-Filament technology. We also had a peek at the QSOURCE Linear Power Supply, which is due to be released later in the year.
LampizatOr, AudioNec and Nodal Audio
Lukasz Fikus of LampizatOr and AudioNec’s Francis Chaillet and Hervé Brasebin teamed up for this relatively compact albeit eye-catching system.
AudioNec were promoting their new line of speakers, the EVO, and supplied the smallest of the range, the EVO 1. The EVO’s modular design boasts a nifty Duopol DS full range driver that acts as tweeter and midrange. You can then upgrade the speaker to become an EVO 2 by adding a bass unit; the EVO 3 is the addition of another unit until you get to a quad-cabinet system.
Amplification was by way of a pair of Jadis JA 80mkII. A LampizatOr Pacific DAC source fed the Jadis which dish out 60W in class A. Nodal Audio provided their LMP-1 Opera power block and cables from the top-of-the-range Rhapsodie line. Overall impression of the system was good bass for its size with nicely extended high frequencies. However, we would be very interested to hear the same LampizatOr set-up plugged into a larger EVO rig as we are confident we haven’t listened to the best from this yet.
Theory and Application, that’s what T+A stands for, and their range of audiophile kit includes everything from mains cables and distribution strips through their highly acclaimed digital components right through to their latest statement loudspeakers, the £46,000 40th anniversary celebratory edition CWT 1000-40. The build quality of T+A’s kit is tank-like but wonderfully sculptured. We fell in love with the statuesque T+A Elektroakustik M 40 monoblock amplifiers, a hybrid design with tube gain-stage input and discrete solid-state after that. The new SDV 3100 HV DAC will play nice with 32-bit / 768 kHz for PCM and DSD 1024 for bitstream data and has special powers to convert at a rate of 3.2 Billion conversions per second. But, it was, of course, the Solitaire CWT 100 40th Anniversary Edition line-array design loudspeaker that stole the show. The “cylinder wave transducer” is bolstered by four eight-inch woofers on each cabinet. There are also a further eight drivers per side rounded off by an electrostatic tweeter. Don’t let their size fool you, though. The 40th Anniversary Solitaires are nimble with neck-snap-fast attack and gentle decay where needed. Up close, the system is keen to give you as much information as possible. Perfect for critical listening sessions. However, I found that moving back from the Solitaires gave a far friendlier and analogue-like presentation with an expansive soundstage.
We couldn’t stay long as we had to be over at the other side of MOC in short order; however, the STST turntables in the Soundsmith demo room looked too good to turn away from. Both decks featured Frank Schröder-designed Alto tonearms ($5,999) with one equipped with the Strain Gauge ($8,599) cartridge, the other with a Hyperion Mk. II ($7,995).
Through Soundsmith amps, the beautiful sounds emanated wonderfully in the small room via Soundsmith Monarch ($7,995) 2-way bookshelf speakers and the small Dragonfly standmounts ($5,995). We did return only to be able to snap some photos of the stand, but the sound of that room remains with us.
PLiXiR were showing off their Elite and Cube power conditioners thanks to Sound Affairs out of Singapore. The eight-outlet PLiXiR Elite BAC 3000 power conditioner (£5,400) looks an excellent power conditioner for a hi-fi system and features a top-class power transformer from Noratel, the inventor and premier toroidal power transformer manufacturer. However, less spendy at €1,150 is the PLiXiR Cube 4. The Cube 4 still features a Noratel audio grade balanced transformer core and many other technologies borrowed from the Elite range. Well worth checking out.
JBL and Mark Levinson
We can never resist an opportunity to hear JBL’s £4,000 three-way, ported, stand-mounted bookshelf L100 loudspeakers. It can be tricky to convince people that these are new speakers as their thick foam grilles (love the orange ones, naturally) are straight out of the 70s. However, these L100s were being driven and sourced by Mark Levinson electronics and proved no slouches with impressive depth and ambience.
Emotiva was showing off their bang-for-buck products with a surround sound system centred around its RMC-1 Controller (£5,499) and XPA amplifiers (£1,300-£2,150) going out to multiple speakers. An immersive performance without breaking the bank.
The rack-maker extraordinaire unveiled its Hybrid Wood series. The new aluminium corner pillars are dressed in solid wood both on the front and on the side, giving the supports a less industrial look. The solid wood part is available in cherry, oak and walnut. Solid Tech recommends the new pillars to go with the veneered shelves, or concrete shelves also found in the Hybrid rack series. These looked remarkable, but we still have a soft spot for the Rack of Silence, especially in Walnut and Silver.
The well-known French hi-fi brand had brought their new wireless portable AIO to the show. Additionally, alongside their Elara range of speakers, was the entry-level Altea Borea that features a titanium dome horn-loaded tweeter with a phase plug which works in a compression chamber. The midrange has drivers made from 100% natural white cellulose paper membrane combined with a half-roll suspension made from foam and treated rubber. The BR07 floorstanders are front ported too, enabling them to be easily placed in any room. We didn’t see much that made them look entry-level. We hope to get ears-on very soon.
PureAudio Project are purveyors of modular open baffle loudspeakers which not only look the part but, after hearing their Quintet15 using Voxativ AC-4a Alnico drivers we were quite smitten. Also in the room were Thomas Mayer amplifiers loaded with German Elrog tubes and some rather lovely-looking Hanss turntables.
KEF, of course, had innumerous LS50s on display in both passive and active flavours. Also there, were the newer LSX wireless speakers. Both compact speakers still make a fantastic sound for the price. Additionally, KEF was featuring their R11 (£4,000) floorstanders in the main demo system. Again, great value for money, and even though the R11 are relatively skinny, they gave great depth and richness from their slender towers.
Manning the B.Audio stand were the Monsieur Bermann trio - brothers Sébastien and Cédric and their father, Gérard. We were told that the B.audio B.amp class AB bridgable power amp is nearly ready, which is pretty exciting. Additionally, their now renowned B.dac which makes use of the break-through in-house technology called SJR, or Source Jitter Removal, now has an enhanced sibling, the B.dpr, that integrates an analogue pre-amplification stage.
The Andrew Jones-designed Elac Carina ($1,200) two-and-a-half-way loudspeakers feature an AMT tweeter and dual 6-inch mid/bass drivers in a dual-ported box. These were pushed along by the neat Peter Madnick-designed Elac Alchemy electronics. All together the system comes in at under $8k US but produced a sound that most of us would expect, and be happy to, pay more for as it had speed, power, detail and expression on tap. That said, it is hard not to fall in love with the brand’s £53,000 Concentro with its dual-concentric 127mm midrange with JET-5 tweeter, front-firing 177mm crystal membrane mid-woofer, and a pair of side-firing 250mm woofers on either side of the enclosure. The bass units boast stiff aluminium-sandwich diaphragms and fire in a push-push/pull-pull configuration that delivers maximum energy and accuracy, down to the lowest octave. Additionally, the back of the cabinet features twin ports for the bass drivers.
Lansche Audio, EMM Labs
The first thing we noted in this room was the Lansche No. 7.2 flagship loudspeakers. Hard to miss when they measure 68.9-inch x 12.6-inch x 23.6-inch (HxWxD) and weigh in at 130kg - these are not compact speakers. However, the amount of finesse and scale produced by the Corona plasma tweeter, 2 x 6-inch coated papyrus mids and pair of 10-inch aluminium woofers was breathtaking. The No. 7.2s were powered by EMM Labs’ PRE Reference Pre-amplifier and MTRX2 kilowatt monoblock amplifiers. Also in the chain was the TX2 Reference CD/SACD Transport, DV2 New Integrated D/A Converter and DA2 Reference Stereo D/A Converter. However, debuting at High End Munich, was the EMM NS1 Network Streamer. Although small in size this network-streaming component features an Ethernet input, and outputs through AES/EBU, S/PDIF coaxial, TosLink, and EMM Optilink - the latter being an EMM Labs propriety connection for their DACs. Resolution tops out at 24-bit/192kHz PCM and DSD64, plus the unit is MQA-capable and is compatible with Tidal, Qobuz, and Roon from the get-go.
Yorkshire-based Sugden Audio was found in one of the halls and was home to the Masterclass ANV-50 which first appeared last year to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. This model sits between the A21 Series of products and the larger Masterclass products. Naturally for Sugden, you get a pure class A amplifier; however, this one is coupled to an advanced ‘ideal’ final output stage. The unique two-stage amplification system guarantees pure class A sound with the ability to drive the vast majority of loudspeaker systems. It might not have any digital inputs and a price of £4,000, but it is certainly a great performer. We also liked the four-faced amp that showed off some of the custom finishes available.
MSB and Magico
We could not but love the design of the Californian-designed components. Some might say they are kinda plain-looking, but we say that they are stylish, contemporary and timeless. Powering the Magico M6 loudspeakers are the $118,500 per pair M500 mono amps that will effortlessly produce 500 Watts of power into 8 Ohms, double that into 4 Ohms. Alternatively, the S500 stereo amp is also available for $58,500. The MSB rack (yup, they make those too) supported The Select Transport, The Select Transport Powerbase, The Select DAC, and The Pro USB. The latter converts USB to MSB’s proprietary Pro ISL interface to full electrical isolation. Additionally, a Roon Nucleus+ was used in the chain.
High-end German outfit, Lehmann, are well known for their headphone amplifiers and phono stages. Although they would undoubtedly be fingerprint magnets, we were strangely drawn to the highly-polished chrome finishes on offer.
Einstein and Newton
Some great-looking kit in here and we were drawn in thanks to the use of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ‘Couldn’t Stand The Weather’. Unfortunately, by now, time was against us.
There was just time to hare around and take a few more photos before heading back to base to pack. You can see where we went in the gallery below, as well as more photos from the brands mentioned earlier.
High End Munich 2019 Conclusion
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Munich and catching up with all the usual suspects. Furthermore, it was all the new friends that we made while visiting the show.
Next year we hope to work it that we spend some more time at each stand - this will probably mean adding another team member to the landing party or, heaven forbid, we get more organised!
Til next year Munich - we are already missing you.
If you have missed any of our High End Munich 2019 episodes, take a look 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: munich2019 high end munich 2019 esd acoustics grimm audio ds audio graham audio cabasse focal concrete audio technics bespoke audio nordost lampizator audionec nodal audio t+a soundsmith plixir jbl mark levinson emotiva emotiva audio solid tech triangle triangle art pureaudioproject kef b.audio elac lansche audio
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