In part 3 of my coverage of the Munich High End there were a few surprises in store for me and not least in the guise of the Living Voice room which completely turned around my opinions on the company’s loudspeakers, so perhaps this is where I should start.
For those that don’t know Living Voice here’s a brief introduction as to who they are. Living Voice is owned by Kevin and Lynne Scott who also own the retail business Definitive Audio. The company is based in Derbyshire in the UK, was founded in 1991 and makes the Vox Olympian Horn Loudspeaker, the Auditorium series of loudspeakers and the G8 Equipment table. Their retail business includes brands such as Kondo KSL and Trafomatic Audio, so you know that their room is going to be special right? Well no actually. I’ve heard loudspeakers from Living voice a few times at the Hifi Wigwam show and I always found them lacking a bit – very nice and polite but not just my cup of tea… but I’m well aware that many people heaped praise on them in the same listening environments. With this in mind I was prepared to be under whelmed. Playing in the Living Voice room when we went in was the company’s OBX – RW loudspeakers. Electronics in this system included the Kondo M77 pre, Kondo Kegon amplifier, Kondo Ongaku Pre M77 and Kondo KSL M7 Phono. Sources included an SME 30 (I think) turntable, Wadia CD and DAC and a Canary Audio CD-300 CD player (Again I think the model number is correct).
The source when we were in the room was the Canary CD player and I have to say I was blown away with the sound that this system made and without doubt one of the standout systems of the show. Words I scribbled down in the notes I made were – natural, unforced and taut. To be honest I didn’t make many notes as I was too busy just listening to the music – and isn’t that what hifi is about? It just goes to show you how wrong you can be about kit in a specific environment and I urge anyone with the money to spend on a system at this level to consider a properly conducted audition of this beautiful sounding hifi.
Also in the room were the Vox Olympian Horn Loudspeakers and matching bass horns. These weren’t playing again until the following morning but sadly, due to time constraints, we just couldn’t make it… one of my major regrets of the show! Hopefully next time we are in the UK we’ll have the opportunity to visit Living Voice and take a listen to what must be one of the most painstakingly crafted bits of hifi ever conceived.
Silbatone are Korean and they are completely bonkers judging by what they had on show at this year’s Munich High End show. The photographs really don’t do justice to the Western Electric Mirrophonic horn loudspeakers…they are huge…P.A huge! Originally built in 1936 the Mirrophonics were made for use in cinema theatres and you would need a sizeable listening hall (yes hall, not room) to do these loudspeakers justice. Silbatone also had a wide range of their own electronics on display but the real stars of the room had to me the Mirrophonics.
Playing in the room when we went in was Autobahn by Kraftwerk – not really what you expect to be playing on a pair of loudspeakers that predate the Second World War. However, all that can be said is that these were stunning and possibly most realistic presentation of the music we heard at the show. The bass was visceral and you really did feel it in your body. It was loud, controlled and fabulous. The room certainly was driven by these loudspeakers. Next on music-wise was a piece of music that was simply human voice – beautiful.
Not much to say about this room other than breathtaking, simply breathtaking and definitely a company I will make more time for when we next have the opportunity to hear them. If you ever have the opportunity to hear this lot in action then grasp it with both ears – you will not be disappointed!
The turntable you can see is the company’s Ginga II, loudspeakers were the Biyuras which use field coil drivers and a horn tweeter. The Kagura monoblocs, using a pair of 211 tubes per channel for their output, can be seen on the floor – they are huge, impressive and, although not announced yet, very expensive (though I suppose given the heat these give off what you spend on these you could save on heating your house).
As well as being visually stunning the room exuded quality sonically too. Yes it is expensive and yes it is not to everyone’s taste but playing the light jazz that was plying whilst we were in the cabin it sounded effortlessly musical and right. I’d best get out my piggy bank and get saving up.
Absolare are located in New Hampshire USA and make their kit to a specification rather than a cost and it shows. Their products are manufactured in USA. They have just four products in their range and all of it looks to be exquisitely built and finished. We spoke to Karem Kucukaslan and he was very enthusiastic about what the company has achieved and quite rightly so in my opinion.
Absolare kit being demonstrated in their room was as follows:
- The Absolare Passion Preamplifier was using two Mullard 12au7 tubes, has three RCA inputs with the option of changing this to one RCA and 2 Balanced XLR inputs. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of hifi being convered in leather and having just two knobs on the front. The price of the pre is $25000
- The Absolare Passion 845 Single-Ended amplifier. This is a 52 Watt monobloc amplifier was using two Nature Series 845 and two Sophia Electric 6SN7s per amplifier. Again it’s finished to the very highest standards and I know that our photographs just don’t do this justice! Price is $37500 for a pair.
- Absolare Bybee purifier does its thing with the mains and costs $7250
The analogue front end was a Steve Dobbins Kodo The Beat turntable with a Reed 3P tonearm, Lyra Atlas cartridge and an Allnic H-3000 phonostage. The analogue front end comes in at $52400.
Digital front end was CEC TL-OX belt drive CD transport ($20 000), MSB Diamond DAC Plus with FEMTO Second Galaxy Clock ($38950) and an MSB Diamond Power Base ($5995)
Speaker bullets were Absolare’s own (($3750 for a set of four)
So that’s a lot of $ signs but what does it all sound like. Well it clearly moved me somewhat as my notes at the end simply say “WANT!!”. The sound was huge with great imaging and sound stage. It was tight, incisive and mellifluous. The company’s idea of having less technology and more music certainly seems to be working.
Daniela Manger is the person behind the Manger brand and she clearly knows a thing or two about creating great sounding loudspeakers. She was also very attentive and took the time to sit with us and explain a few things about the system they were using at Munich High End.
Loudspeakers being used were the company’s MSM S1 Actives (€15 000) being fed with an M2 DAC which was itself being fed with a laptop. The speakers use the company’s own MSW transducer paired with a Visaton TIW 200X 8” woofer.
The room was very homely and set out very much as you would set a listening space out at home – pictures on the wall and nice lighting. Both myself and Linette liked this attention to detail as it made you relaxed and comfortable whilst listening to the music.
Now this is the first time I’ve heard Manger loudspeakers and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The system was played quite quietly (not something I’m used to, as previously mentioned in an earlier report) but this sounded very nice indeed: Lots and lots of detail, definition and dynamics and the whole system had great tone. Music was by an artist called Wende and very nice it was too.
The one word that is underlined in my notes is balanced and I think that the word sums up these loudspeakers perfectly.
Given that they are active you don’t need to worry about amplification and as such these great sounding loudspeakers will appeal to many who simply do not want the clutter of lots of boxes and wires all over the living area. If you have €15 000 to spend and are looking for a loudspeaker with great design and great sound then you really should put Manger on your list! Manger are made in Germany.
This was a bit of a departure from the other kit mentioned in this instalment of the show report. Illusonic are a German manufacturer of the Immersive Audio Processor. Basically this is a box of tricks that sets out to unleash the spatial information on a recording (or film soundtrack) to everyone in the room and not just the person sat in the sweet spot. It’s basically a very sophisticated multi-channel pre/dac which is hugely flexible and apparently simple to use. The guy carrying out the demonstration went on at length about the benefits of the technology and it did feel a little bit like we were being lectured.
Loudspeakers in the room were Focal with there being a centre, front left and right, and back left and right…there was also a huge sub at the front of the room. During the demonstration they turned the effect on and off so that people in the room could spot the difference. To be honest you’d have to be deaf not to spot the difference. The whole recording seems to open up and become three dimensional – it’s a very impressive thing to listen to and somewhat beguiling… absolutely amazing imaging with even simple two channel recordings. It’s not a natural sound in my opinion and wouldn’t be my cup of tea for listening to music, but on film or watching a music DVD I can imagine that it would be absolutely brilliant and very much add to the AV experience.