He may be old, but like his tee-shirt says, “He got to see all the cool bands”, in this report the legend that is Paul Messenger gives Hifi Pig readers his highlights and thoughts on High End Munich 2019.

Steady increases in all categories ensure that the High End show, held annually in Munich during May, goes from strength to strength, and is definitely THE place for business-to-business meetings in 2019. I didn’t make it to the rival DeLuxe show at the Marriott hotel this year, partly because the main show had grown so much: exhibitors were up by 3.8%, visitors by +6.5%, and trade visitors by +8.6%.

The sheer size of this show makes creating a comprehensive show report virtually impossible. Instead here are some personal notes on the bits and pieces accumulated by one individual, who spent a couple of days wandering the show and hoping to make some interesting observations.

Nostalgia seemed to be a strong theme, not just through the plethora of valve amps that seemed to be used by every other room, but also in the loudspeakers. As usual Korean operation Silbatone led the way with its ancient Western Electric cinema speakers, but I also encountered some classic Altec Lansing speakers in the Thrax room. Apparently the original Altec tools were first bought by Great Plains Audio in Oklahoma, and then in turn were purchased by Troy Audio, which makes loudspeakers in Guadalajara in Mexico. When I visited, a new Yatrus direct drive turntable from the same Bulgarian high end audio brand was providing the source for the Troy/Altecs.

On the BBC front, Jerry Bloomfield’s Falcon Acoustics sold 50 pairs of ‘special’ Kingswood Warren Limited Edition LS3/5as, in presentation cases with BBC inductors, polycarbonate film capacitors and a pricetag of £6,500/pair (!). They sold out in just over a week!

At Graham Audio I also encountered the first BBC LS5/5 I’d seen since the 1960s, along with a floorstanding version of the LS5/9. And the Rogers brand is also being revived, and intends to market an LS5/9 as well as the LS3/5a. The redoubtable Andy Whittle (Rogers etc) is collaborating with Kevin Edwards (ex Exposure) to open up a new factory in Virginia Water, just as the UK is becoming globally competitive in Hifi!

Not all the speakers were nostalgic. Although brands like Avantgarde and Acapella might have started a German horn trend decades back, there’s now plenty of competition, from the UK as well as Germany. I very much enjoyed a horn system that uses a single full-range driver: the latest AxsuperJet (with AER’s BD4B driver) sounds much better than an early AxJet (which used an AER MD2B) that I’d listened to some years previously. This room alternated with JoSound, where Joe Jouhal was showing a new YS Tribute loudspeaker, which combined a full range 8inch driver with an 18inch active DSP subwoofer.

Assisted by the development of Class D amplification and DSP control, active drive is beginning to spread across the show. Prominent examples include Hamburg-based Lyravox, demonstrating both its Karl and Karlotta models (with subwoofers), and the Kii models with and without bass reinforcement.

Whether a DSP-controlled single full-range driver can truly be regarded as ‘active’ must be debatable, but that’s an integral part of a new ‘Absolut Hagen’ system from Voxativ, featuring a very compact full-range speaker along with a Class A/B plus DSP/streamer amplifier unit. An alternative complete system was the tube-powered example from LaMusika, known as the Prelude and developed by Acapella-shareholder Alfred Rudolph. This came complete with furniture and wiring, and used loudspeakers with two full-range drivers – one facing forwards, the other upwards!

Finally I ought to at least mention the wi-fi-linked single-box Aurora from iFi, which is very competitively priced, but I know team Pig have mentioned it a good number of times already in their reports from High End.

Although its main activity is in cast iron (and a new and rather larger unit has now been developed, along with some impressive looking subwoofers), JERN also recycles the sand used in its casting activities as wall mount speakers called (not unexpectedly) Sandit. These actually sounded very good indeed.

More conventional large passive loudspeakers that impressed me included a pair of recently redesigned Wilson Sasha DAWs, where the crossover is now housed in the bass section to make more room in the midrange enclosure. Son Daryl Wilson has now taken over from his recently deceased father, and the initials DAW do in fact stand for David Andrew Wilson, as a tribute to the founder of the company.

I encountered a pair of Fink Team WM-4 speakers in a Sound United room, where it was driven by Marantz amplification (but managed to miss completely the new and rather less costly Borg in Fink’s own room.) I also came across a well packed room listening to a pair of very large Kawero! Grande speakers (with 15inch drivers on the rear), designed by Rainer Weber. Interestingly, these were being driven by Kondo (Japanese Audio Note) valve amps. And as usual I was well impressed by the sounds in the Boenicke room, which are built with complex solid wood labyrinths, and seem remarkably compact.

However, the most interesting loudspeaker at the show was probably 33 unit, active-drive Lexicon SL-1 speaker, seen in the Harman room alongside JBL speakers and Mark Levinson amplification. This beast has 12 tweeters, 16 midrange units, four woofers and one subwoofer, mounted in a 360 degree arrangement around an hourglass-shaped enclosure. A DSP is used to control the direction and width of the sound distribution, adjusting the ‘sweet spot’ and listening zone (in a manner that seems reminiscent of B&O’s BeoLab90). Apparently, it’s very easy to use via a mobile App (presuming one has a smartphone), and will be available in the fourth quarter for £40,000 (43,000 Euros) inc VAT, or 40,000 USD (exc VAT).

I couldn’t avoid encountering Arthur Khoubesserian of The Funk Firm, who was a bit sore that UK Hifi dealers seemed to be purchasing only Pro-Ject and Rega turntables these days. Consequently, he’s keeping himself busy with what he calls Rage I & 2: a series of modifications for Rega decks, including an Achromat, spring isolation feet and a tonearm with VTA adjustment. Other modifications apply to the Linn LP12 and the Technics SL1200.

I could go on and on, naming various components and brands. I will just mention the launch of a Wharfedale Super Linton, partly because it’s now a 3-way, yet I can remember a 2-way. (The reason seems to lie in the word ‘Super’.) I also encountered a radical GMT ONE System turntable from Wilson Benesch, which apparently uses a rather unusual Omega Drive system. Different from belt, idler or direct drive systems, it’s claimed to deliver “unprecedented accuracy and virtually zero noise”.

One of the best sounds around was a Dolby Atmos demonstration in the PMC room, based on the original (analogue) tapes of two classic Miles Davis recordings (Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue). Created by leading engineers at Capitol Studios in LA, with backing from Davis’ family, three Finestria speakers occupied the front stage and umpteen low-level Wafers added the surround and height ‘atmospherics’ to great advantage.

Chord Electronics had no fewer than three new power amps. Based on radical ‘feed forward’ circuitry proposed originally by Malcolm Hawksford and then taken up by Bob Cordell in the USA with an Etude amplifier. Chord’s contribution has been to reduce the standing power to an acceptably low figure to create three high power Ultimo models. By way of contrast, Chord Electronics also introduced a very compact phono stage that is called Huei.

Despite being strongly identified with the vinyl revival, Pro-Ject has been busy financing a brand-new CD mechanism from StreamUnlimited. The intention is that this will form the basis of a ‘best ever’ CD player. Other Pro-Ject newcomers include a ‘high end’ DAC8, and three T1-series turntables, which are claimed to be “cheap, but not as nasty as certain Far Eastern imports.”

I was intrigued to discover that Johann Coorg (a senior product manager at KEF for many years) has now taken on a marketing role for Norwegian amplifier brand Hegel. This could be part of a beautiful relationship, as Hegel is very well regarded here in the UK…I wonder if we may even be talking takeovers?

Last but by no means least, Cube Audio is starting to get its full-range 15inch driver (first seen in Warsaw) into production. This has got to be a source of temptation for myself at least, especially as a reported upper limit of 18kHz is comfortable enough for 70 year old ears…my wall awaits!

Paul Messenger

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