Robert Harley’s Munich Show Highlights

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

Danish loudspeaker giant Dynaudio used the Munich show for the world premier of the new Excite line. The four new models replace the well-regarded original Excite series. These are the X14 stand-mounteed monitor, X34 and X38 floorstanders, and the X24 center-channel. North American pricing has yet to be finalized, but I was told that the line would range from about $1500 to $4500 per pair when the products begin shipping in the third quarter. The line is based on all-new in-house developed driver technologies. A coated fabric-dome tweeter is coupled with woofers whose cones are made from ultra-light and rigid MSP (Magnesium Slicate Polymer). The Excite series was designed to present an easy load to an amplifier. Real wood finishes include walnut and rosewood, along with satin white and satin black lacquer. Visually, the new Excite looked considerably more modern and elegant when seen next to the outgoing models.

I got my first look at the stunningly gorgeous new Momentum preamplifier from Dan D’Agostino. The preamp is designed to complement D’Agostino’s well-regarded Momentum power amplifiers. The large illuminated front-panel meter indicates the output level, but it’s really there to visually match the power amplifiers and because it’s just plain cool. The large volume control, which surrounds the meter, has an amazing tactile feel. It’s one of those products you have to see and touch for yourself to appreciate.

BMC introduced several new products, the most interesting of which is the PureDAC. The first in the PureLine Series, the PureDAC brings BMC’s high-end design techniques and build quality to affordable price points. The PureDAC combines a DAC, headphone amplifier, and preamplifier. The preamp’s digital inputs include USB, AES/EBU, TosLink, and coaxial SPDIF. Analog output is available on both balanced and unbalanced jacks. The preamplifier stage is integrated with the DAC’s current-to-voltage converter, eliminating the active gain stages of a traditional preamplifier. From looking at the features, technology, and beautiful build quality, I guessed the PureDAC’s price at $4000. I was way off—the PureDAC will sell for $1600 when it becomes available next month. BMC plans to introduce other high-value products in this series, including a phonostage and monoblock power amplifier.

The single most interesting new product at Munich was undoubtedly the Zero 1 loudspeaker from Avantgarde Acoustics. The German company has married its core technology of horn loudspeakers with advanced new digital signal processing to create a very décor-friendly, attractive, and affordable active horn loudspeaker. Available in a wide range of colors, the Zero 1 looks from the front like a small version of the monolith in 2001, but with drivers recessed into the front surface. Standing 41” tall and nearly 20” wide, the Zero 1 is a three-way system with a 12” subwoofer operating up to 250Hz, a 5” horn-loaded midrange driver, and a 1” horn-loaded tweeter. The crossovers, implemented in the digital domain on a field-programmable gate array, have extraordinarily steep slopes—100dB per octave. The DSP also corrects any amplitude and phase errors, resulting in a perfectly smooth and time-coherent response at the listening position. The filtered bass, midrange, and treble signals are converted to analog by three BurrBrown 24-bit DACs (one per frequency band). The three analog signals then drive three power amplifiers, 400W for the woofer and 50W each for the midrange and tweeter. Note that in this architecture there are no inductors or capacitors between the amplifier’s output and the speaker’s voice coils—a major advantage. The Zero 1 is meant to be driven by a digital signal; inputs are USB, TosLink, SPDIF coaxial (x2), and AES/EBU. Analog input is an option. Avantgarde reportedly spent four years and more than one million euros developing this product. We’ll have the first English-language review of the Zero 1 later this year. No US price was announced, but expect it to be about $16,000. Remember that there’s no need for an outboard DAC or power amplifiers—just a digital source and the pair of loudspeakers. Avantgarde’s huge room was packed to capacity, so I had to settle for a quick listen standing off to the side. From what I heard, the Zero 1 is quite promising.