Ian Ringstead reports from the Munich High End Show and mentions a few things that caught his eye and ear.

It was 2016 the last time I attended the Munich High End Show, so it was with great enthusiasm that I was going again this year. The venue is the same, no need to change it as it is superb. Entry is not expensive, and the show was very well attended by families as well as enthusiasts. The size of the MOC where the show is held is massive and could appear daunting to newcomers. I feel a day is not enough if you are serious about audio and even three or four days stretches one’s limits of endurance. This time I took the approach of just checking things out that really caught my eye or interest. I had two product launches to attend on Thursday – Classe and Harman Luxury Audio with a major product launch at their recently opened Munich store. (These two events will be covered in separate articles).

I took to the main halls first on the Thursday to get a lay of the land and just see what ever caught my attention. There are hundreds of companies and thousands of products on show, so I had to be choosy and use my gut instincts. I apologise now to any companies I missed or didn’t speak to as time was of the essence.

Hall 1.

In Hall 1 Java Audio were showing off their new designs and the company hails from New Zealand. You don’t think of New Zealand as a big producer of high-end audio but when you look more closely, they have several superb companies up there with the best. Martin Bell, who is the founder, was keen to tell me all about the new range of amplifiers he is producing. For those in the know Java isn’t just a country but also a type of coffee. Martin has therefore produced the amps in either single shot or double shot strengths rather like you might have your morning coffee dependant on your mood. The amps come in a choice of finishes allowing up to 50 customisable options. The pre and integrated models should be available later this year. The units are very neat and compact but hide a lot of very clever modern technology inside them. They looked gorgeous in their luxury real wood veneer options and different coloured front panels and heat sinks. Definitely a company to look out for later this year.

Ayre Acoustics from the USA had a range of lovely models on display and some even had their tops off so people like me could drool at the quality of build and component choice. It must be a man thing like the power tool section in a DIY store where all the husbands congregate whilst the wives roll their eyes and tut. Known for high quality and reasonable value Ayre are a brand well worth seeking out here in the UK with a dedicated dealership.

SSC or String Suspension Concept are an interesting company who had a range of isolation products on demonstration. I listened to a cd player with and without the isolation platform and there was certainly a difference. What I liked as well was that the designer said that ideally you must ask your dealer to allow you to borrow the products and try them in your own system at home to see if they work for you. Good advice. Any dealer or company who doesn’t offer this service aren’t worth supporting as the products aren’t cheap and don’t work for everyone. The beauty of shows is that you get to hear new music and artists, and this was the case here as SSC played The Wailin’ Jennys, a trio of female singers from Canada I hadn’t come across before and really enjoyed. Needless to say, the album was ordered on Amazon soon after.

The Wand tonearm and new turntable from New Zealand I saw at Bristol recently was on demo with the rather nice VTL valve amps from the USA. The turntable was up and running this time as the Bristol show model had been damaged in transit and was the only one available then. The whole system was lovely, and a choice of music was played including Vivaldi, not just jazz. I am keen to try this turntable out when it becomes available here and the VTL amps are legendary and highly regarded.

Hall 2.

The entrance to Hall 2 had GIK Acoustics in pole position and it was wonderful to see familiar faces on the stand. Dave Shevyn and Lukas Rimbauch were as always providing excellent advice on their products and services. Stuart uses a lot of their panels in his home and I have a pair of their excellent bass traps to tame the bass from my Avanti’s. My wife complimented GIK on the design and look of their panels and really liked the picture prints you can have done to disguise them when on your walls. Well done GIK.

Jern had their amazing cast iron speakers on dem in a booth along with a new prototype sub-woofer. Stuart loved the Jern’s when he reviewed them recently so you can read his review to find out more. At 4000 euros I reckon they are a bargain for the sound they produce being so neat and compact. The sub is expected to retail for 9000 euros. Also, on demonstration were the new Sandit wall speakers. These sell for 1000 euros and offer a great solution if you want your speakers out of the way. The owner’s son was keen to show off their abilities and played some of my favourite music from Dire Straits first album including “Six blade knife”. The presentation on the Sandit’s was different to the Jern’s but still very impressive. The name is derived from the fact the company had a lot of sand in their foundry used in the cast iron production process and wondered what they could use it for, so up came the Sandit. A clever company who have thought outside of the box and used materials not normally associated with their new concepts for audio use. I’d like to try them out. The electronics used in the Jern booth were Dutch company Prima Luna who’s valve amps are highly regarded because of their build quality, sound and brilliant value for money. I reviewed one of their integrated amps the other year and it was superb. Prima Luna were one of the first companies that I remember to use an automated biasing circuit in their amps, so the user didn’t have to worry about manually setting it every few months and makes tube rolling a doddle.

Hall 3.

Tellurium Q had a booth to show off their cables along with Devore Fidelity’s products. I am very familiar with Geoff Merrigan’s cables and hugely admire his companies rise to fame and having achieved a Queen’s Industry award. TQ have recently been winning awards from all over the globe so keep up the good work. Devore are from Brooklyn, New York. The Orangutan O/96 speakers were being played and although I’m not familiar with their products it didn’t take long to see why they are very highly regarded. Worth seeking out if you like valve amps and need a high efficiency speaker.

Hall 4.

EAT were showing off their wonderful wares with their award-winning turntables and accessories. Jozefina Lichtenegger the CEO and wife of Heinz Lichtenegger who is CEO of Project was on hand to talk to clients and customers. It’s brilliant to see a female heading up such a successful company in what is a very tough market.

Gold Note were also showing their extensive array of products and are an Italian company passionate about their products. Not all companies can boast being able to supply you with a complete system from front end to the speakers all having that Italian style and superb build quality. I use their PH-10 phono stage that has been so favourably received and the rest of the range is spot on. For audiophiles on the lookout for brilliant quality without spending a king’s ransom Gold Note can deliver. I was hoping to chat to them, but no one was available when I passed by to take photos.

Graham Slee Hifi System Components were a welcome site to see and I chatted to John Cadman one of their product builders and technicians who happens to live only a few miles away from myself in Sheffield. I have had several products off John for review and they always sound fabulous and brilliant value for money.

Limetree Series, a subsidiary range from Lindemann, were also showing their marvellous budget range of boutique and compact sonic marvels. I’m biased as I use their pre headphone amp that is knockout for the money at £595, but they also do a phono stage, Network and Bridge units. More are to follow. Again no one was available to chat to, not my lucky day, so pictures were taken and brochures to drool over.

The last company I saw was Sugden Audio from good old Yorkshire. I have visited their factory and spoken to one of the director’s Patrick Miller at many UK shows over the years. Patrick was here again with his wife and showing static examples of their range with an eye-catching display of front panels all in different colours. New colour schemes are certainly taking off now and I for one love this option. Sugden do very well abroad, especially the Far East and Class A amps still sell extremely well.

Day two saw me exploring the Atriums on the floors above the main halls and these are where a lot of the serious kit is demoed in good sized rooms.

Atrium 3.1

TransRotor had SME arms on many of their turntables. TransRotor make a huge range of turntables (22 at last count) all finished in that classic blingy chrome plate or polished metals and acrylic the Germans love. It was like being in a sweet shop and trying to choose only one or two flavours. I took away a free calendar that was very posh and had twelve months pictures of various models all beautifully photographed. It was also very thoughtfully printed to cover May 2019 to April 2020, so it was completely useable for the whole year to come.

Chord Electronics were next door and I chatted to Toby Stephens about their dacs as Stuart and Lin love the DAVE when they had it for review. In fact, they loved it that much they hoped Chord wouldn’t ask for it back (Will buy one eventually – Ed).  Chord never stand still, and each year new products or upgrades are issued. As always, they never disappoint.

WBT make some wonderful connectors and are audio jewellery. You see their connectors on countless quality pieces of audio equipment from electronics to speakers. Proven designs, they may not be everyone’s choice, but are trusted by millions worldwide.

A product I was excited to see was next, Kii Audio from Germany. This is a newish company who have taken the market by storm and had rave reviews in many magazines all over the world. The Kii Three is a stand mount model which comes in a fabulous range of automotive colours which I loved. Each speaker has six 250 w class D Ncore amps with DSP control. A dedicated control for the speakers can be added. The Kii CONTROL turns the Kii Three into a complete playback system of highest sonic quality and usability. It offers a user interface for your speakers and works like a digital preamplifier. I fell in love with the Kii Three’s as they did sound superb, but they aren’t cheap. £11000 for the basic finish speakers, £1500 for the controller which I think most people will want and £1000 for the matching stands £13500 roughly. Fantastic active speakers I could easily live with for the rest of my life.

Dynaudio had a very large corner room to highlight all their product range, which is substantial. From the budget to the reference it was all on show and the room was full of public and journo’s keen to see the myriad of models. Dynaudio are highly regarded and their excellent drive units are popular with other manufacturers.

Zensati audio cables had a room with some stellar audio components using their exotic cables. These cables I first came across a few years ago at Whittlebury at the NAS Silverstone. They are truly eye wateringly expensive and critics claim they are outstanding. If you can’t afford them don’t disregard them as extortionate. Like Patek Philippe watches only a few will ever be able to afford them and bask in their luxuriousness.

Gato Audio from Denmark are another newish company who have hit the market hard with superb compact footprint electronics and speakers that ooze quality and value. They look fabulous with a choice of finishes and are up to the current state of the art sound wise. A company I have watched closely since its introduction into the UK they deserve to prosper.

AVM from Germany had their extensive range of again superb quality electronics, including turntables now. Beautifully made and very smart, simple elegant lines for the discerning audiophile. PMC distribute them in the UK, so they must be good.

ATC are well known to UK fans of quality domestic and studio speakers along with some solid excellent electronics. A pair of their larger active speakers were on show and sounded very accurate, a trait of ATC’s who strive for perfection and accuracy. ATC have recently introduced some new electronics aimed at people wanting more compact units. The CD2 and SIA2-120 integrated amp are two thirds width but pack a punch without making any major compromises.

In a corner of the Atrium was a larger room that was packed due to the heady product line up of Dan D’Agostino, Sonus Faber, Audio  Research, Bassocontinuo, Krell, M&K, Millennium, Stromtank, Sumiko, Velodyne, Yter and Zensati. All are world class brands, but it was D’Agostino amplifiers that especially caught my eye. They are brash, macho, beautifully constructed and designed, and sound sublime. The distinctive meter display is just like a high end chronograph watch where the bezel can be moved if required. I absolutely love them. The amps were being demoed through Sonus Faber floor standers and the packed room was in awe of the set up. I can’t blame them as few will probably see or hear a system like this very often. It was like drooling over a Ferrari.

Technics nearby had a large display of their ever-growing range which warms my heart as I sold a lot of their electronics in the 80’s and 90’s before they decided to pull out of separates for a while. Now they are creating ripples in the audio world again, especially with the revamped turntable range. There’s life in the old dog still.

Atrium 4.1

AVID HIFI Ltd were making splendid sounds again and I awarded them my favourite sound of the show in 2016. I couldn’t hang around for long but great to see them doing well.

BMC Audio are not new to me as I have read many great reviews of their electronics over the years, but this was the first time I had had any real time to see and listen to them, I spoke to the designer and owner Carlos Candeias who was passionate about the range and he showed me their speakers the Purevox which were brilliant in design and sound quality. One to keep an eye on. The electronics are eye catching and I love the old fashioned meters on the amps taking me back to the 70’s. Great value for money.

Classe are a Canadian electronics company around since the 80’s who have an illustrious reputation for sound and build quality. This year the company is introducing a new amplifier range in the Delta series arriving later this Autumn. I was privileged to hear this new series in a press launch that I will cover in another article soon.

Gryphon Audio Design from Denmark always impress with their striking designs and had a new CD player the Ethos playing. It was truly stunning in looks and sounded as good. The designers never shy away from the radical and are brave adventurers like the Viking were.

Mark Levinson were with Revel, now owned by Samsung, an alliance some might question, but when you analyse this acquisition Samsung wanted a group of top end audio companies that could bolster their portfolio in the audio market and be world leaders. With massive resources behind them Mark Levinson and Revel, along with Arcam, JBL Synthesis and Lexicon will be a force to be reckoned with. I attended a product launch which I will report on in another article.

Martin Logan had some very large electrostatics playing that were finished in a Ferrari red looking very dashing and sporty. These were the Neoliths and they certainly made a presence both in size and sound. You’d need a large room for these, and if you have then they’d make a bold statement. Being a hybrid design as most Martin Logan’s have been for years, they epitomise superb electrostatic top panels with a dynamic powered sub, A great alternative to conventional speaker designs.

I came across a totally new company to me called Tidal who are from Cologne in Germany and have just celebrated 20 years in business. Not to be confused in anyway with the streaming service the company strives for perfection with a cost no object approach and philosophy. The speakers and electronics are stunningly made with the Masterpiece series on display. Their flagship speaker the La Absoluta (meaning the absolute) at over half a ton each and 2.3m tall wouldn’t look out of place in a Chateau or mansion house. The rest of the cheaper models are all stunning and really are the Rolls Royce of hifi in build and sound quality. Attention to detail is obsessional, but at their elevated prices to most of us, they are the absolute pinnacle of perfection. I applaud companies that want to be the very best and dream beyond the stars.

Verity Audio from Canada are a company I have followed from the 90’s and they seem to be maturing nicely. They have a large range of beautifully made designs from a few thousand like the Finn and new Lakme to the flagship Monosalvat at $1,000,000!! I first heard Verity at one of the London Penta shows where Spectral amps were being used to drive them in a large room. I could have stayed for hours and so I have followed them ever since.

Atrium 4.2

Spendor and Auralic were collaborating in one room and playing some darn fine tunes. Rather than the usual jazz and female vocal Richard Bates Auralic’s European sales and Paul Clewes now representing Spendor (both old friends) took the fresh approach of something a little different. Auralic had their new G2 on dem and Richard talked me through the products and the company’s philosophy on design. Auralic is brilliant value for money and always up to the minute in design. Spendor were playing the Classic 100 at loud levels and they sounded great, in fact the best I have heard them. Spendor have just expanded their manufacturing facilities in Sheffield with another factory and I hope to visit it soon. I did a report on the Timberworx factory a couple of years ago for the magazine.

CH Precision from Switzerland are sublime electronics that I love the look of, and they are so intricate in the thought and facilities they offer. Like a Swiss watch the build is impeccable, ultra reliable and sound fabulous. I’ve heard them with Wilson Benesch speakers at Bristol and here in Munich they didn’t disappoint. If I was a millionaire, they would be on my long list of products to own.

Estelon are some of the most elegant and beautiful speakers I have ever come across. It was love at first site when I saw then in 2016 at Munich and now again, they still seduce me. Like an E-Type Jaguar you can’t help but fall in love with their shape and style. The fact they sound marvellous is a real plus and never fail to impress myself and my wife at shows.

EgglestonWorks were sharing a room with Doshi Audio, Pre Audio and Way cables. EgglestonWorks are an American speaker manufacturer who have impressed me in the past and the stand mounts they played were fabulous. Doshi Audio are new to me being an American company and specialising in valve equipment. Certainly, a company to watch out for if they come over here in the UK. The equipment was hooked up with Way cables and Miroslav has done a great job of pushing his company forward showing off the new Plus series in its distinctive yellow cotton outers. The room was sounding spot on and even at the highish volume levels it didn’t sound harsh or compressed.

Luxman had a large room with their extensive range on show and being demoed. I use some of their electronics the D-05 sacd player and dac along with an older classic model the PD300 vacuum turntable from the early 80’s. The PD171 has impressed at shows and they have recently introduced a cheaper model the PD151 which is a pared down version offering 78 as well as 33/45 and has no lid as standard. At about £2500 it looks like a bargain to me and is on my wish list.

Totem Acoustic had the enigmatic and ever enthusiastic Vince Bruzezee talking about his designs and his rooms are always very well presented. This time there were wooden totem poles and an Indian motor bike dominating a corner of the room. It took me back to the film “The world’s fastest Indian” where Anthony Hopkins played the New Zealand rider Burt Munro who at 68 years old broke the world land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah in 1967. The stuff of legends. Totem had some new designs to show off in the Tribe Towers and Kin Play. The room always sound good with Totem and has a very relaxed and natural feel about it. Well done Totem.

Vertere Acoustics make some beautiful turntables that are gorgeous to look at and touch. Touraj has a brilliant eye for detail and design and this year chose Munich to launch the new DG-1 Dynamic Groove Record Player that is designed for those who are driven by performance but are looking for a simple setup and ease of use. It’s easy to use and set up complete with a cartridge for £2850 without making compromises in material quality and reducing tolerances, as this is not Vertere’s way. Another item to wish for.

Wharfedale were showing the new Linton speakers based on the legendary model from the 70’s. I was most impressed by their big and relaxed sound for a modern twist on an old classic. Wharfedale must have sold thousands of these back in the day and as a brand are much loved by us oldies.

Vitus Audio from Denmark are beautiful electronics that just tug at my heart strings both visually and audibly. The new integrated amp was finished in a striking orange that said take me home. Normally conservative in my tastes, these new colour schemes manufacturers are introducing now have really piqued my attention and interest. Black and silver are rather passe now. As Sugden showed you don’t have to be boring anymore. The sound was, as expected, brilliant.

Audiovector were the last room of the show on the Saturday we attended as the show was quietening off and it was nice just to sit in the room with a few others having a coffee and listening to the CEO and owner Mads Klifoth. He played various models as there was a young gentleman with his mother interested in buying a pair, but he couldn’t make his mind up. They all sounded great and I particularly liked the striking blue finish of a larger floor stander.

Conclusion

Munich once again surpassed itself. Still the best audio show in the world for me personally it showed that hifi is still alive and kicking. Apart from the variety on show the standard was exceptional. Old and new technologies co-existed together like a family and got on well, showing you can embrace old and new in equal measure. Colour is in and black and silver are  boring now, a bit like teak used to be the only wood finish in the 70’s. Even fancy veneers are being overshadowed by RAL colours now.

Images from Around The Show

High End Munich 2019 Newcomers

Bird’s Eye View Part 1

Bird’s Eye View Part 2

Bird’s Eye View Part 3

Stuart’s High End Munich Report Part 1

Stuart’s High End Munich Report Part 2

Stuart’s High End Munich Report Part 3

Stuart’s High End Munich Report Part 4

High End Munich 2019 Show Report 5

High End Munich 2019 Show Report 6

High End Munich 2019 Show Report 7

Janine’s High End Munich 2019 Report

Hifi Deluxe 2019 Show Report

High End Statistics And Dates For Munich High End 2020

And all the news from the show here!

Ian Ringstead

Real Time Web Analytics
error: Naughty, Naughty. Content is protected !!