Why, you may well be wondering, would I pack up half-a-dozen LPs, fifteen or twenty CDs, a thumb-drive full of high-res downloads, and a steamer trunk full of clothes, and hie my way a third of the way around the world to Munich, Germany, simply to attend yet another high-end trade show? Well…that’s a damn good question, and the quickest way to answer it is to pose a few questions of my own--to you.
The Munich Show's got oodles of stuff that hasn't yet been highlighted in the States. Some of it, such as those humongous Cessaro Gamma 1s with P8 bass horns in the second photo above, may never make it to an RMAF or a CES due to size, shipping costs, and, in Cessaro's case, an inexplicable lack of American distribution, but some of it will inevitably find its way to our shores. The German Physiks PQS 302, in the third photo, will doubtlessly pop up in Denver or Vegas, especially on the heels of being named a reference loudspeaker by the excellent German audio magazine Stereoplay. I'd bet that the AudioNec "Answer" speakers, in the first photograph, which use an ingenious, high-sensitivity, dual-cylindrical, AMT-like (it squeezes the air out between the two cylinders) driver from 200Hz up to 45kHz and a square, flat, dipole bass panel in an open baffle cabinet from 200Hz down to 15Hz--all of it actively DSP'd for perfect coherence and room response--will probably make it to CES, too. Be they rare, brand new, or merely odd, Munich gives you the chance to hear certain things for the first time--and others for the only one.
Manufacturers take chances in Munich--trial runs, if you will--that they aren't prepared to take at CES. Here, for the first time in my memory, Magico is showing with (gasp!) an analog source! A Dr. Feickert Woodpecker turntable and Soulution 750 phonostage! When Yair Tammam, co-designer of Magico speakers, asked me what difference I thought the 'table made in the Q3's presentation, which I'd found overly warm at CES, I said: "Outside of the 100% improvement in realism, not much." To which he replied: "You're 100% right." (Though I didn't get the chance to hear them due to a previous commitment, the Magico Q1s, on static display only at CES 2011, were also actively debuted at Munich--to great acclaim, judging by what my colleague Alan Sircom has written in his Munich blog. Also making its world debut was the new Soulution 530 integrated amplifier.)
As for what's sitting between the Tidal Sunray T-1s, that would be another world debut--Constellation Audio's new, more affordable "Performance" line products: its Vega linestage preamp, Lyra photostage preamp, Cygnus digital music server/DAC, and what looks like a trio of Centaurus 250Wpc stereo power amps (playing speakers and woofer towers, I assume, in bi-amp mode).
In the next installment of this blog, which I hope to post tomorrow night,I will go through the rooms I visited, comment on the sound, and pick my Best of Show winners (several of which may surprise you--they certainly did me). Keep in mind, however, that I'm just one guy at a show that's very nearly as large as (if not larger than) the high-end portion of CES. I didn't hear everything--I couldn't. And I didn't listen as long or as critically as I do to the ultra-high-end speakers at CES, although I did play my own music in several of the most promising rooms.
BTW, if you have any interest in seeing some of the non-show-related sights in and around Munich, take a look at my Zenfolio gallery at jlvalin.zenfolio.com/p553407145. All of the pix, at the show and outside it, were taken with the Nikon D7000 that I blogged about at www.avguide.com/blog/nikon-d7000-mini-review-sample-shots.