Munich High End 2012 | Best Sounds

10.05.2012..

Year by year, the Munich High End plays for the first place as the most important international high-end trade fair.

The other contending is the CES in Las Vegas. Munich, however, has on its side the selection at the entrance, the one revealed in its name: only high-end, even if popping sometimes in the consumer sector.

ReMusic had to be there. First of all we are audiophiles. Passion moves us, meaning that it forces us to clock up a lot of mileage only to listen to something interesting. But we wanted to be there also to contribute - we, the last to come - to pickaxe a small-big taboo of the hi-fi magazines.

 

We expressly intended to bring to your attention the best performing rooms, according to our opinion.

 

Munich High End 2012


Ta-daa!

 

We know, we know. It seems a dangerous and politically incorrect initiative. Nevertheless, we want to share with our readers, even only one note of the great emotions we have experienced. This is the way we interpret the need of information of our sector and of any enthusiast of good audio.

 

Here the definitive figures of the High End 2012: 483 accredited journalists, about 15.000 visitors, more than 4.400 commercial operators and, what counts more, 360 exhibitors.

Not everyone with a playing system, many of them just displaying. I have made a shortlist of every single room with a functioning and exhibited system, without setting me a precise limit. Fourteen have come out. A number that does not mean anything. They are in alphabetical order, not according to the merit. They have been inserted in this brief list because all, for various reasons, have said or made listen to something significant in their own interpretation of hi-fi and playback music. These are personal choices, tasting reports, not absolute values. But, for some reasons, we consider them as coherent and articulate interpretations and - in their own operating range - the most possible complete in the sound reproduction. Who has put together these rooms, these systems and has taken care of the set-up, is like a good cook. However, you cannot cook well every day. Even the top chefs can have a défaillance. For who has not been inserted in this short list, goodbye to the next occasion or edition.

 

Mit freundlichen Grüßen / With kind regards / Meilleures salutations / 敬祝商祺 / 敬具

 

Clarification

Taking notes during a show is not easy. Re-elaborate them after few hours or days is also more difficult. Everything has been listened and described with our whole attention. But some mistakes can miss. For any clarification or amendment, the manufacturers or distributors responsible for the demonstration rooms or the described components, can write here. We will take your considerations into account. That is the business of being online.

 

Warning

The names of the rooms are those inserted in the official list of the exhibitors.

 

 

Akamai

Notwithstanding the name, we start with the strength of an Italian brand, which manufactures in Italy all the pieces. Unbelievable to say and also to see that. The Florentine Goldenote – brand well known abroad and property of the Akamai Group – set out some novelties and a big selection of its wide catalogue in one of the two pavilions at ground level dedicated to the “static” exhibitions. So, how come that it is here, in the shortlist of the best sounds of the fair? Because its listening room was worth getting to know better. For refinement of the sound, certainly, but also because, if someone had not told me…I would have miss it! Sorry. I passed by several times thinking it was a meeting room for commercial people.

Instead, it hid a refined system based on the XS-93 loudspeakers. I do not hide my predilection for the horn systems, one/two-way, with high efficiency in general. But here the 93 dB three-way, even though in acoustic suspension, put on the best of the two worlds. In my opinion a sound audio chain, with a great tonal balance and great performances, made by technicians with technical motivations. Furthermore they had not leaved you longing for any achievement easily called “eso” and, maybe, sometimes pointlessly “pushed”. Bravo!

 

For further info: to Goldenote website

For the room card: click here

 

Auditorium23

An acoustic baffle rounded on the sides, horn-shaped top, cone-shaped bass. In this room what stood out were some modern dipole loudspeakers with historical Siemens Klangfilm Eurodyn components, originally thought for a movie theatre. Do not let them fool you. The sound does not come from the space between the loudspeakers: they are very cumbersome, yes, but only at sight. Close your eyes. Only then, you will “see” the music hovers in the air without any effort, with lightness and precision.

A modified Verdier turntable, a Shindo cartridge, MagAmp and Line-Magnetic power amps – endstufen, bitte – together with a series of electronic devices, cables and accessories of the purest German and international high-end. Solid at the appearance but delightfully graceful and well performing: a rare union of strength, rapidity and delicacy in disentangling also the most complicate musical passages.

What a historical competence, what a sound civility, here you enter on tiptoe in the purest listening quality.

 

For further info: to Auditorium 23 website

For the room card: click here

 

Cessaro

TW-Acustic German turntable, Tron (UK) amplification and cables, and, obviously, two gigantic Cessaro loudspeakers – the Beethoven – a 107 dB five-way horn system TAD motorized also in the low range, frontloaded, supplied by four Class AB amps. Specifically, the turntable was a BlackNight with two TW tonearms and an Ortofon SPU Royal cartridge. Tron Syren II preamp and Tron Discovery stereo power amp: a 300 B single ended.

Which result for such a demanding room? Cessaro succeeds in training the high efficiency. Like a real lion tamer, it forces these beasts to be polite, presentable in society.

Ralph Krebs, Cessaro’s owner and designer, will give us the honour of writing some technical articles in order to describe some starting assumptions and basic choices of his own production. At your disposal, Ralph, gratulieren.

 

For further info: to Cessaro website

 

Entreq

Why not? Our selection is without any prejudice. Even if it was a room prepared by a cables manufacturer, it was a high-class room. Both cables and accessories for the power supply were Entreq, of course. The Solid Tech Rack of silence F1 Reference racks in carbon fibre, the MSB electronic devices and the SW loudspeakers completed the system.

Entreq is very attentive and sensitive to the natural components, to the way things grow in nature. You can catch that in the displayed system. Naturalness was the word I wrote down on my notepad. And this before finding out that the main activity of the Entreq’s owner and designer, was… farming. Well, yes, you are right, Entreq: nature is the best maker, ever.

 

For further info: to Entreq website

 

Lawrence Audio

Room centred on the Taiwanese loudspeakers that are having an increasing commercial success and of audience too. The Lawrence Audio are always limited editions, outcome of the research and commitment of their designer, Lawrence Liao, who is also an interior designer and a multi-instrumentalist musician. The sound is very complete, aerial and bodied at the same time. It privileges a reconstruction with a great presence effect. The loudspeakers disappear during the listening session probably thanks to the careful work made to reduce the first reflections on the baffle. You can notice that from the cabinet profile, which has been reduced as much as possible.

 

For further info: to Lawrence Audio website

 

MBL

You can love or hate them, but no one can make perform their radialstrahler like MBL. For this reason, having listened to them for a long time and in a correct way, I always suggest the entire chain. Most of all considering their first interface with the loudspeakers: their amps.

A big room with a double system, from the top downwards, everything or quasi in a white livery, very fashionable. They can afford it, they must. Their omnidirectional speakers exalt themselves in the big spaces. The systems offered the typical sensation of extreme sound immediacy, of an almost tangible sound bubble and of a pulsing music, quite measured by a metronome, without any rigidity. A system that always “pursues” a bit the music, that does not relax you, but that has in its game of acoustic illusion its winning move: no one before has made such an effort to get the idea of an omnidirectional speaker.

 

For further info: to MBL website

For the room card: click here

 

NuForce

A sincere, open, present sound, without exaggerating, warts and all. For us, cunning old foxes of the hi-fi, maybe sometimes a bit digital, but in a good sense. I mean defined and not screeching. In a strict sense, this room would not strive for the top of the top of the high-end achievements. But the quality of their system was its accessibility, its user-friendliness, its opening to the new: an ideal bridge between the PC/iPad music and the big scene of the real hi-fi. A great contribution to help reaching a listening quality for the small budgets of the young people. Excellent setting up made, if I am not mistaken, by the Swiss distributor. Go on with it, NuForce.

 

For further info: to NuForce website

 

Reimyo

When you think of having listened to everything, here it comes the system that unhinges your certainties. Reimyo performs well in every listening parameter. It digs into music. It respects the real dynamics. It gives back the pianissimo and supports the fortissimo. Without being missing and without getting flustered. It succeeds in being highly expressive while keeping the music “filigree”, without spoiling it with any approximations.

Complete chain Reymo, starting from the ALS-777 AC line stabilizer. A particular interesting device because it is operational also in the field of the resonances conditioning. A must for the brand, born with the Harmonix resonators, up to its coaxial monitor based on Gradient Finland’s Finnish technology and Norwegian SEAS.

A paradoxical system, especially for the interpretation of the emotional part of the bass, of the visceral punch. But it keeps the promises of a clean, rich and powerful sound. It does not happen every day that you can listen to such a hardliner music version. In Munich, we all have been lucky. Hats off to them.

 

For further info: to Combak website

 

Silbatone

Homage to the vintage high efficiency. A room capable of giving back the never ending immanence and the high easiness of emission of the most classical components, originally thought for the sounding of the big rooms like the movie theatres. The Korean Silbatone is the standard-bearer of the recovery of these big horns, big in all senses. The original since 1939 Western Electric 15A wideband horns were playing together with many historical restored and upgraded front-ends and with the most recent Silbatone amplifiers.

Curious note: when on the platter was played Autobahn by Kraftwerk, the room filled up with many rough hulks, all deeply moved. Me too.

 

For further info: to Silbatone website

For the GIP Laboratory info sheet: click here

 

Soulution

The always more shining star of the Soulution products, from the digital to the amplifications, drove a pair of Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers. A couple of days before we had given to the Soulution 540 Digital Player one of our Sparks, a small but sincere award we confer to the devices that can provoke unexpected emotions, out of the box. We seized the opportunity of listen to a complete Soulution system here in Munich. Key concept: apparently unlimited dynamics, even though very progressive, and extreme understatement. If they were not Swiss, they would be English. Never let them see you bleed, as Bond, James Bond uses to say.

 

For further info: to Soulution website

 

Swissonor

A breath of fresh air. A Swiss room, by name and by nature. Order and minimalist aesthetic also in the sound, always composed even if immediately gratifying and without filters.

The historical Thorens TD124 turntables and other models have been modified and upgraded by Juerg Schopper whose family business, precisely with the grandfather, sold the first Thorens turntable in 1926. To follow, the Swissonor’s devices by Urs Frei, with an AM tube modular amp and Coax/coplanar horn loudspeakers, which allow the wall positioning in order to create a great sound wall that does not bind the listener to the classic sweet spot.

An oasis of good, sensible and balanced sound, without useless surplus and never tiring. The maximum with the minimum, so to speak…

 

For further info: to Swissonor website

For the room card: click here

 

TAD

Force action. A room with a flood of TAD devices designed to feed the voracity of the homonymous loudspeakers: Reference One and Evolution One. Power, dynamics, stage width, even a correct rendering of the instrumental dimensions. The only drawback, as pointed out by my friend Dal Basso (Ethos, Rome), were some resonances on the mid, maybe due to the room. Apart from that, a system with the capital “S”; fulfilling and deeply involving, capable of suggesting when required, but never imposing. The only fault of the top systems is to be expensive, but if you listen to a TAD one, you forget this small detail…

 

For further info: to TAD website

 

Tannoy

For the sound quality, you do not have to hang on a high-flown name or to prefer the dimension of the system. Among many big shots, a system with a human face, accessible, although I use this word with circumspection, considering the times.

Teac CD-3000 SACD player, Unison Research S6 integrated amp, new DC10A Tannoy Definition loudspeakers and HMS Elektronik German cables.

A sound of great integrity, extended, open and coherent. A system in my opinion easily to be set. 

 

For further info: to Tannoy website

For the DC10A Tannoy Definition info sheet: click here

 

Viola Audio Laboratories

The Viola amplifications - designed by Tom Colangelo and Paul Jayson, former collaborators of Mark Levinson - drove two Ocean Way loudspeakers: to be breathless… If you like the muscular and energetic side of the music, this is your pairing. Endless dynamics, total control, great expressivity and passion of the system. A deep unexpected experience coming from many experts, also from the “pro” sector, absolutely unquestionable. For example, the Ocean Way are systems that reveal from the very beginning their monitor structure. Their designer is Allen Sides, sound engineer winner of several Grammy Awards. More than 500 records to his name and experiences in George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, in Trevor Horn’s Sarm Studios of London, in Walt Disney’s Studios of Hollywood. Very impressive the list of artists he has collaborate with: among them Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Green Day, Faith Hill, Mary J Blige, Alanis Morissette, Neil Diamond, John Williams, Andre Previn and Ry Cooder. Need to say more?

Very first European appearance of the AS1, 30 Hz flat loudspeakers. Remarkable setting up of the room, made by the local Actem, with their AMA 1, Air Motion Absorber, acoustic panels.

 

For further info: to Viola Audio Laboratories website

 

Zellaton

Last but not least. Zellaton stands out for the extreme class of its set-up. Not only the components alone, it was the global ambience that took your soul. An authentic lounge of classic good taste and sober welcome. Not only the devices - however bent to these loudspeakers which have been made around components that stand alone – but the sound that struck for balance, velocity, fullness of the listening experience which, to someone, could be even disappointing since “it was there”, available, hic et nunc. Nothing more and nothing less. It could be the Zellaton advertising payoff. What innovation and hard work to get such a disarming outcome.

 

P.S. I will thank in particular Dr. Schwab who sent me the pics; mine were undoubtedly worse…

 

For further info: to Zellaton website

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Munich High End 2012
Munich High End 2012
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Munich High End 2012 | Akamai
Munich High End 2012 | Akamai
Munich High End 2012 | Auditorium 23
Munich High End 2012 | Auditorium 23
Munich High End 2012 | Auditorium 23
Munich High End 2012 | Auditorium 23
Munich High End 2012 | Auditorium 23
Munich High End 2012 | Auditorium 23
Munich High End 2012 | Cessaro
Munich High End 2012 | Cessaro
Munich High End 2012 | Cessaro
Munich High End 2012 | Cessaro
Munich High End 2012 | Entreq
Munich High End 2012 | Entreq
Munich High End 2012 | Entreq
Munich High End 2012 | Entreq
Munich High End 2012 | Lawrence Audio
Munich High End 2012 | Lawrence Audio
Munich High End 2012 | Lawrence Audio
Munich High End 2012 | Lawrence Audio
Munich High End 2012 | MBL
Munich High End 2012 | MBL
Munich High End 2012 | MBL
Munich High End 2012 | MBL
Munich High End 2012 | MBL
Munich High End 2012 | MBL
Munich High End 2012 | NuForce
Munich High End 2012 | NuForce
Munich High End 2012 | Reimyo
Munich High End 2012 | Reimyo
Munich High End 2012 | Reimyo
Munich High End 2012 | Reimyo
Munich High End 2012 | Silbatone
Munich High End 2012 | Silbatone
Munich High End 2012 | Silbatone
Munich High End 2012 | Silbatone
Munich High End 2012 | Silbatone
Munich High End 2012 | Silbatone
Munich High End 2012 | Soulution
Munich High End 2012 | Soulution
Munich High End 2012 | Soulution
Munich High End 2012 | Soulution
Munich High End 2012 | Swissonor
Munich High End 2012 | Swissonor
Munich High End 2012 | TAD
Munich High End 2012 | TAD
Munich High End 2012 | TAD
Munich High End 2012 | TAD
Munich High End 2012 | TAD
Munich High End 2012 | TAD
Munich High End 2012 | Tannoy
Munich High End 2012 | Tannoy
Munich High End 2012 | Viola Audio Laboratories
Munich High End 2012 | Viola Audio Laboratories
Munich High End 2012 | Viola Audio Laboratories
Munich High End 2012 | Viola Audio Laboratories
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
Munich High End 2012 | Zellaton
by Giuseppe Castelli
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