In the second part of our highlights from High End Munich 2016 we have Q Acoustics, Advance Acoustics, Quadral, AEquo Audio, Kawero & Kondo, Living Voice, Wilson Benesch, Viva, Way Cables, Tune Audio, Trafomatic, Rockna, Computer Audio Design and Boenicke and finally Silbatone. More highlights from High End Munich to come in the coming days.
The High End Show isn’t just about uber high-end systems, DACs that cost more than a car and turntables that weigh more than a house, there’s also a whole load of budget oriented kit which will touch on in a later article, but one of the brands that have a reputation for producing really stunning sounding loudspeakers at prices that won’t make you wince are Q Acoustics.
Steve from the company took us to one side to talk to Hifi Pig about the soon to be launched Concept 500 loudspeaker…and it’s a cracker. We’ve had the smaller models at Hifi Pig Towers in the past and have been impressed, but the new Concept 500 is aiming a little higher. The Chassis architecture uses a dual-layer Gelcore construction which is designed to provide damping and ensure minimal colouration. Visually the two way loudspeaker is rather beautiful in an understated kind of way and it will be available in white or black deep gloss finish which flows seamlessly into a lovely wooden finish round the sides and back. Prices and launch date are to be confirmed but our brief listen to the pre-production model suggests that it’s going to offer a real value package, delivering both aesthetically and sonically. The room Q Acoustics were in had been treated with GIK Acoustics room treatment and we thought this helped a good deal with less than perfect surroundings the MOC allows.
These are a company based in Paris but I must confess to this being a new company to me, though their logo does look oddly familiar.
The kit on display certainly looked the part with its huge oversized VU meters and the speakers appeared to be an interesting take on speaker design, but the tiny listening area was a bit cramped and the volume was so low as to make any kind of opinion all but impossible. I think this is one that, whilst interesting, needs to be a bit braver in the way they present their products to the public as it would have been great to hear what they could do.
Aurum by Quadral are a German brand that seem to be able to produce loudspeakers and electronics that punch well above their weight when considering their price-point. At this years Munich Show they had the new Aurum Titan 9 on demonstration with their own electronics. The Titan 9 is the latest iteration of the Titan speaker and uses Quadral’s own Atlima technology where the driver uses a composite of Aluminium, Titanium and Magnesium. Sounded great! The company also do a range of active speakers which, having heard several times, offer great value.
Hifi Pig were invited along to a private demonstration of the company’s Ensis loudspeaker and we’re really pleased we took a bit of time out of our packed schedule to do so. The Ensis is a very elegant and modestly sized loudspeaker that really does look rather beautiful in an understated kind of way.
It has a “time-coherent” tweeter with an acoustic lens which is fully in phase with he mid-bass and the powered subwoofer. The idea here is that they provide a realistic, 3D soundstage with a very wide sweetspot…and they do, we were really impressed by the soundstaging! Having the 500Watt active sub they are a nice and easy to drive loudspeaker. The subs, of course, can be individually tuned to give the best in room response possible.
The guys in the room asked us what we would like to hear and we requested a bit of techno which they duly provided but something was not quite right! The files they were playing were high quality MP3s and such was the resolution of the speakers it was immediately apparent. Putting on hi-res files the clarity and definition, even in the small booth, was fabulous and a real treat. If I remember correctly the speakers were around €20 000 a pair which is a pretty penny. However, for your money you get a very attractive package that is easy to position and sounds fantastic. Something of a high-end lifestyle statement with audiophile credentials I think and will appeal to those wealthy enough to appreciate the design and build but also not wanting the hassle of a half dozen boxes of electronics cluttering up their space.
Kawero & Kondo
There is no doubting that the Kawero loudspeakers look the absolute dog’s danglies with their highly polished and beautifully veneered cabinets and, given they were partnered with what many consider to be the holly grail of audio, Kondo, I was somewhat excited about this room. However, despite the uber-price tag of the electronics and turntable in use I was left a little underwhelmed by the whole sonic experience. There was nothing inherently wrong at all, but nor was their anything that grabbed me and demanded my attention. Perhaps this is the point of truly great high-end audio though and maybe I missed the whole philosophy of this system. It was a pleasurable and agreeable aural experience without being exhilarating and electrifying.
No trip to High End would be complete without a visit to the Living Voice room and a listen to the stunning Palladian speakers. They never play music I really like when I go in the room, invariably they’re in opera mode, but I never fail to feel moved and connected with the music playing.
Yes this loudspeaker system is one for the fabulously wealthy but who cares. For a few minutes each year ordinary punters like you or I are treated to a glimpse into the world of what pure luxury is all about. Of course the Palladians look beautiful and are beautifully finished, but they are certainly no style over substance monkey and deliver emotion and passion to the listener like little else I’ve ever heard. The Palladian looudspeakers have many of the design traits of Living Voice’s Olympians but are more wallet friendly. The Palladian has a simpler cabinet construction and finish. This example is made from quilted maple, mazur burl details and patinated bronze; also a different crossover, internal wiring, and super HF unit, Vitavox LV4. This is made specifically for this project by Vitavox, who also manufacture the bass and mid range drivers.
Needless to say I was gutted when I hear that later on in the show they’d been playing some tunes a little more up my street. Never mind, I’ll be along again next year for my Living Voice fix!
Wilson Benesch, Viva, Way Cables
I love Wilson Benesch! They’re from the same neck of the woods as from which I hail and they are continuing the long held traditions of that region by being innovative and using the latest material technologies available. Of course all this is for nought if the products themselves don’t deliver the sonic goodies. I’m glad to say I’ve never had issue with them when I heard them…and I’ve even owned one of their Circle turntables.
However, I’ve heard folk moaning about the sound in their rooms at some of the UK shows, with people claiming the sound was harsh and cutting…but then others have said it’s the best sound of the show. Just goes to show there’s so much subjectivism in this game. So, what about at Munich? I can happily say that I reckon the Viva amps and Way Cables in use in this system, along with the Wislon Benesch gear, really did deliver the sonic goods…and in spades. Add to that the system looks about as cool as you could wish for and you’ve got a winning combination.
Tune Audio, Trafomatic, Rockna
I’m a bit of a convert to Tune Audio. I didn’t enjoy their small speakers a few years ago but have thoroughly enjoyed their Marvel speakers in the past as well as the speakers on demonstration at this year’s High End, The Animas. They’re bigguns and they’re horny and today, with electronics by Trafomatic and Rockna they’re really on song. One of the absolute highlights of the show for me with my only regret being I couldn’t stay longer and enjoy.
If the Animas are bigguns as far as speakers go then the Trafomatic Elysium amps are downright gargantuan. I love the company’s attitude in producing a cost no object, flagship product that you can’t help but look at and go wow! The amps are monophonic, using Eimac 250TL output tubes and pop out their first 20Watts in Class A with the remaining extra 50 Watts being Class AB. They weigh 85KG apiece and look absolutely gorgeous, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Computer Audio Design and Boenicke
I’ve hear the Computer Audio Design gear a good deal and it’s never failed to impress. Scott that runs the company clearly knows a thing or two about how to get the very best from audio files on disks and his products are accessible and easy to use for the non-techy among us.
I have also enjoyed Boenicke in the past and have been blown away by their diminutive W5 and W8 loudspeakers in the past and so I was very interested in hearing the company’s new offering, the W11. The W11 sports, unusually, a wooden mid driver and to say it looks cool is a bit of an understatement.
The sound in the room is relaxed and self-assured without being overblown and overly flashy and it’s a rather pleasant listen.
Silbatone are utterly nuts but in the very best way possible. They never fail to bring a smile to our faces at high End and always go well beyond the call of duty to bring something outstandingly mental to the proceedings…and this year was no exception.
As well as the vast array of Silbatone valve electronics they also bring along a classic horn system from the days of yesteryear. It’s invariably massive and it’s always pretty impressive.