Robert Harley’s Munich Show Highlights

Show report
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Tubed power amplifiers
Robert Harley’s Munich Show Highlights

The Munich show has become the “must-visit” show on of the year for manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and journalists. One American manufacturer told me that if you’re not exhibiting in Munich, you’ll never break into the European market. That’s not surprising considering that this year more than 5200 trade visitors from 71 countries attended the show, not to mention the additional 11,000-plus consumers.

Munich has become the show for world premiers. Highlighting this trend, David Wilson of Wilson Audio was in Munich to personally present the new Duette Series 2 loudspeaker. The original Duette, an 8” two-way, was designed to fit in applications where a traditional Wilson floorstander wouldn’t—on a shelf, turned sideways, or on a stand positioned against the backwall. After six years of feedback on how customers actually used the Duette, Wilson redesigned the speaker to optimize its performance for the most common applications. For example, after discovering that the Duette was virtually never turned on its side, the new Series 2 was optimized for traditional vertical placement. The new Series 2 looks similar to the original, but with more elegant lines and a sloped front baffle for better time alignment. In addition to new drivers and an all-new cabinet made from X-material, the Duette Series 2 features the “low-jitter” crossover topology found in all Wilson speakers since the Sasha. The stands, which house the crossover, are also more attractive. The Duette Series 2 with the optional stand is priced in the same range as the Sophia Series 3—$15,000 without stand and $17,000 with. Wilson’s advice is simple; if you can position speakers on the floor out into your room, the Sophia 3 is the better choice by virtue of its larger cabinet and deeper bass extension. If your only placement options are against a wall or on a shelf, the Duette Series 2 will bring Wilson performance to that application.

Focal has replaced the popular Chorus line of entry-level loudspeakers with entirely new versions. The Chorus line encompasses five models from the bookshelf Chorus 700 ($550) to the floorstanding Chorus 726 ($1849). Focal developed a new tweeter for this line that features a suspension system previously found exclusively in the Utopia series. The woofer/midrange units are Focal’s Polyglass, in which a cellulose diaphragm is coated with tiny glass spheres to increase stiffness while adding very little mass. The drivers are all manufactured in France, and were designed specifically for each product in the Chorus line. An optional new finish, called Black Style, combines high-gloss black with a textured black for a striking look. We’ve been big fans of the original Chorus line and expect great sound at affordable prices from the new series.

In other Focal news, the popular Scala Utopia (more than 1500 pairs sold of this $30k loudspeaker over five years) has been updated to the Scala Utopia 2. The new model features an entirely new woofer with a number of technical refinements that reportedly improve the bass performance. The price remains the same.     

The German company AVM is on a roll, introducing 14 new products in Munich. The most interesting is undoubtedly the Music Library ML8T. This music server incorporates a whopping 1.2TB of SSD (solid-state drive) storage. The benefit? No hard drive, no hard-drive heat, no hard-drive failures, no moving parts, and the superior sound of solid-state memory. This drive is coupled to AVM’s top-of-the-line Ovation tubed linestage preamplifier stage and AVM’s Ultra DAC circuitry in the same chassis. The ML8T is controlled via an iPad app. It’s an interesting combination—1.2TB of solid-state memory coupled with a tubed output stage. AVM’s CD8T CD player combines the analog and digital sections of the ML8T, but in a CD player rather than a music server. The player also adds seven digital inputs with source switching, including a 192/24-capable asynchronous USB input. Five new streaming DACs also join the AVM lineup. The upper-end models incorporate the Ovation tubed linestage described above. Some of the DACs are identical except for the choice of a tubed or solid-state analog-output stage.

AVM hasn’t forgotten about its analog customers; the company showed the new P3.2 and P5.2 phonostages. Both tubed-based units have variable gain accessible from the front panel to accommodate a range of moving-coil and moving-magnet cartridges.