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Our Man in Munich

Our Man in Munich

In any normal year, TAS would send a phalanx of writers to cover High End Munich, the largest and most important audio show in the world. This year, out of an abundance of Covid-related caution, the magazine sent a somewhat smaller contingent: me. So, you know how every year JV apologizes to exhibitors and readers that he may have missed some rooms? Please recall that sentiment this year—times five.

Nonetheless, between inhaled schnitzels and streusels, I covered a lot of ground. Which is good because there turned out to be a lot worth covering. After a two-year hiatus, manufacturers could barely contain the pent-up flood of new product releases. Further, despite the MOC’s famously inhospitable acoustics, more exhibitors than usual managed to conjure up good sound.

Overlaying these achievements was a feeling of festivity that infused every centimeter of the MOC’s halls and every face eddying from room to room. People were in giddy disbelief that Munich was really back. Even the near-total absence of Asian attendees, who dared not risk quarantines of up to three weeks to make the journey, couldn’t dampen the mood. If that unfortunate situation lowered ticket sales by 30% compared to two years ago, you’d never know it from the packed rooms and delighted exhibitors.

And so, without further ado, here’s one man’s take on one mammoth audio show.

Most Significant New Products

The $100,000/pair Børresen M1 isn’t your average stand-mount speaker.

Børresen Acoustics will soon have a new stand-mount speaker, the M1, but this is no ordinary two way. The basket (frame) for the midrange/woofer driver is 3D-printed and made of pure zirconium. The company, which eschews the use of aluminum at all costs due to what it feels are non-musical mechanical properties, claims the cost of this single basket—about $13k—exceeds the combined cost of all the drivers in a Wilson XVX. (I suspect Daryl Wilson might have something to say about that.) The driver’s motor system contains nearly 93 pounds of silver. Finally, the cone is a carbon/Nomex/titanium sandwich. With all this technology and expensive materiel, it’s no surprise that the new model will come in at around $100k when released in the Fall.

In the Göbel room, the new Divin Sovereign subs blended seamlessly with the Divin Marquis speaker.

While Göbel’s entry model in the Divin series, the Divin Marquis ($89k) has become a familiar sight at recent U.S. audio shows, the complementary Divin Sovereign ($29.5k) was new for Munich. The huge sub consists of a single 18″ front-firing driver powered by an internal 2500-watt amp. The cabinet is sealed because, per Oliver Göbel, “at these frequencies, if you have a port, you’re mostly just hearing the port.” Oliver chose an 18″ driver to compensate for the roll-off properties of the sealed box. Also, larger surface area means less excursion, which in turn reduces distortion.

Wilson-Benesch’s Optium speaker heralds a more earth-friendly approach to cabinet composition.

Wilson Benesch made two significant introductions in Munich. First up: the Omnium speaker. Slotting between the Resonance and the flagship Eminence that was reviewed by Robert Harley, the product was over four years in the making, and was developed in concert with SSUCY, a pan-European R&D project whose members include both academic and industrial entities. SSUCCY’s goal is to develop and commercialize bio-compatible (plant-based) materials to replace carbon-based equivalents in aerospace, automotive, and other areas. The Omnium’s enclosure is partially composed of a bio-composite derived from hemp. The result is said to be extremely stiff, highly damped, and sustainable.

The Milne family of Wilson-Benesch shows off the forthcoming GMT turntable.

The English firm also went back to its turntable roots, premiering the new GMT turntable. The lust-worthy display model was a working prototype, but the production version won’t be available until early 2023. The price is yet to be determined but will likely exceed $400k—and no, I did not accidentally add a zero. The GMT strives for perfection by re-thinking every element of turntable design. For instance, the direct-drive system features a very low-torque motor said to virtually eliminate cogging. The tonearm is made of hollowed-out titanium. VTA is adjustable via remote control, and the whole shebang sits on a pneumatic suspension. I auditioned the GMT by playing Donald Fagen’s “The Goodbye Look.” Much to my surprise, the new ’table infused this familiar track with a level of energy and pace I’d never heard before. “Relentless,” I wrote in my notes.

Nagra’s 70’s Anniversary Reference Turntable is, like all Nagra products, a real looker.

I encountered another turntable of interest in the Nagra room. Not only was the venerable Swiss company’s 70th Anniversary Reference Turntable built from scratch, but it’s also Nagra’s first turntable ever. The price is $175k, including an outboard power supply and a unipivot, carbon-fiber tonearm wired with Crystal Cable. The platter and body are made of Exium, a very dead alloy (which doesn’t sound like a good thing, but it is), and there are two motors onboard, one optimized for stable speed and the other with high torque for quick startup. The suspension consists of springs bathing in a silicon oil.

Fresh off their triumphant launch of the 10-Series electronics, CH Precision was back with major upgrades to their source components. Thanks to the latest-generation DSP chips, the C1.2 DAC/linestage ($36k, September) now boasts 4x more processing power than the original C1. This enables features like full MQA decoding, DSD512 and PCM 768 support, and fixed point—rather than floating point—processing, which is more accurate. Cards from any C1 are compatible with the C1.2, and the upgrade story gets even better from there. Owners of current-edition C1s can trade them in for a C1.2 merely for the $4k price difference between the two. In other words, CH will give current-version C1 owners full credit for their original purchase toward a C1.2. You can’t ask for more than that.

Munich was also the first public showing of the CH Precision D1.5, an upgrade of the famous D1 CD/SACD transport/player. The new unit has a massive, all-new transport built in-house. It’s also the first transport/player I’ve seen that supports the new MQA CD format. The D1.5 was the mainstay of demos in the CH room, and it sounded unfailingly marvelous.

Rockport’s Josh Clark introduces the new Orion, with technology similar to the flagship Lyra but in a smaller form factor and price.

In other major news, American speaker maker Rockport announced a scaled-down version of its award-winning flagship, the Lyra (also reviewed by RH, the lucky guy). The Lyra’s enclosure is built from cast aluminum inner and outer shells with a dense epoxy between them. The new Orion ($133k) has the same construction, but the outer shell is made from carbon fiber rather than aluminum, which greatly lowers the manufacturing cost while retaining the advantages of this construction. The Orion features 3 all-new, purpose-built drivers in a significantly smaller and $50k less-expensive package. Indeed, despite a 13″ sandwhich composite carbon fiber woofer—the other drivers are a 1.25” beryllium dome waveguide-mounted tweeter and a 7” sandwich composite carbon fiber midrange—the Orion is virtually the same size as the exceedingly popular Avior.

The new Zellaton Emotion Evo (about $40k) stands next to its big brother, the Plura Evo.

Another important speaker introduction came from the bespoke Swiss brand Zellaton, which doesn’t release new models very often. In Munich, on static display, was the forthcoming Emotion Evo. Intended as a baby brother to the much-lauded Plural Evo, the roughly $40k Emotion is significantly less expensive. The two share the same soft-dome tweeter, but the 2-way Emotion has a unique 9** mid/bass unit. I predict the Emotion Evo’s décor-friendly size and shape, along with its relatively modest price (as Zellatons go) will make it a huge hit when it debuts in 1Q23.

Estelon’s new flagship, the Extreme Mk II, offers many upgrades over the previous Mk I.

In the Estelon room, visitors had the opportunity to see and hear the Estonian firm’s new top model, the Extreme Mk II ($256k). Compared to the Mk 1, the II boasts a larger midrange voice coil and a diamond tweeter revised to obviate the need for ferrofluid damping. The speaker also uses phase-linear second-order filters top to bottom, and the crossover is now housed in its own chamber to isolate it from vibrations. The Extreme II’s neatest trick is a motorized top section that can move up and down (and in and out) as needed for room optimization, while preserving time alignment.

Piega paired its new, larger Coax Series speakers with T+A electronics, with superb results.

Swiss speaker maker Piega made a rare update to its vaunted Coax Series. The coax mid/tweeter is now larger, more efficient, and stiffer than before, and its crossover point has been raised to 450Hz. That means the bass driver must handle more material, which in turn led the company to enlarge the enclosures and thicken the front panel. While the woofer is the same unit as before, Piega has changed the tuning of the passive radiators. There’s also more bracing within the cabinet. In a brief audition, the new coax driver proved effortlessly smooth and extended.

Burmester introduced two amps in Munich. They were so new the specs and pricing had yet to be finalized.

Germany’s own Burmester introduced three major new products in Munich. At about $16k, the B28 speaker slots equidistant between the B18 and the B38. The new model, like many speakers introduced in Munich, utilizes an AMT tweeter. The other drivers are a carbon-fiber midrange and two carbon-fiber woofers. On the electronics side, Burmester launched the 216 stereo power amp, a successor to the famous 911. The unit was so new its specs weren’t yet finalized. However, expect the 216 to put out roughly 450Wpc into four ohms and to cost circa $35k. Burmester also showed the 218, which is larger, more powerful, and costlier (by an as-yet undetermined amount) than the 216.

These new T+A headphones were designed with Gen XYZ in mind. They feature Bluetooth connectivity and noise cancellation.

Another hometown favorite, T+A, also had a slew of new products to show at Munich. The least expensive was the company’s new headphones. Since the Solitaire P reference ($6400) and Solitaire PSE ($3800) models have been killing it at dealers, the company felt encouraged to release another model more attuned to Gen-XYZ. The Solitaire T ($1600, available now) supports wired, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity, and is noise cancelling. In electronics premiers, the new M200 is a mono (it’s too small to call it a “monoblock”) version of the swanky S200. Available in the Fall for roughly $5k, the M200 outputs 210 watts into 8 ohms and 420 watts into 4 ohms. Another electronics release was the latest addition to the superb HV (High Voltage) series. The PSD 3100 HV is a streaming DAC/linestage that will sell for roughly $22k. Finally, the Solitaire 5540 is the company’s new flagship speaker. It’s a sealed, line-source design with a row of planar-magnetic drivers that will run $60k and is scheduled for year-end release.

Auspicious Debuts—Speakers

When Andrew Jones helmed design at Elac, he focused on bringing big sound to small speakers. Those models are still in the lineup, but in Munich the emphasis was on larger models, such as the new 5509, which will sell in the U.S. for approximately $20k. Featuring a concentric driver with an AMT tweeter, and driven by an all-Elac stack, the new speaker had a compellingly smooth demeanor.

Audiovector’s entry-level QR series has a new top model: the QR7. At just $6500/pair, the QR7 comprises dual 8** woofers, a 6** midrange, and an AMT tweeter. The speaker will be commercially available in June, and in Munich it sounded very appealing, with solid bass and smooth highs.

Next door, French speaker maker Apertura introduced the Forté (€7500/pair), a mid-range product designed to produce high-quality sound from a speaker that has low power requirements. Indeed, the new model has a very high rated sensitivity of 93dB. In Munich, the Forté was shown with a 40-watt tube amp. Unlike most Apertura models, even those below the Forté, the new speaker does not use a ribbon tweeter. Instead, with greater sensitivity foremost in mind, its designers opted for a ring radiator.

 

Goldmund’s latest entry-level speaker (about $15k) supports Bluetooth and has a trick grill cover that rotates behind the drivers with the push of a button.
The gigantic, stunning Gaia is Goldmund’s latest flagship, shown here with Goldmund’s Rodolphe Boulanger.

Uber-luxe Swiss brand Goldmund had two new products on display. The first was an entry-level speaker, the Pulp. An active unit that can either be wired or connected via Bluetooth, the Pulp resembles other Bluetooth speakers, but with several exceptions. It’s made of metal and finished beautifully; it has a trick motorized grille mechanism; and it will cost a cool $15k when it’s released in the Fall. At the other end of the product line stands a new flagship speaker, the stunningly designed, imposingly proportioned Gaia. An active eight-driver system, the speaker has one super-tweeter, one dome tweeter, two high/mid drivers, two mid/low drivers, and dual rear-mounted woofers. Bucking the current trend of populating active speakers with Class D amps, each of the Gaia’s drivers is paired with a 300-watt Class AB amplifier. The speaker can be fed either by Goldmund’s proprietary wireless technology or via standard cables. Price is TBD (but this is Goldmund, so… not cheap) and availability is 1Q23.

Marten’s latest is the Quintet 2, available now for €62,000. The speaker is a three-way, with a trio of 6.5** bass drivers, a 5** ceramic midrange and a 20mm diamond tweeter. There’s a down-firing port, and the feet are from IsoAcoustics.

Siltech’s Minissimos really are mini, but they sound much bigger in every way.

Edwin Rynveld describes the new Siltech Minissimo as a new type of active/hybrid speaker. The speaker itself is passive, as is the crossover, which is concealed inside the speaker’s pedestal. But the crossover is followed by an active buffer amplifier said to eliminate the variability of speaker performance at different sound levels and with different source material. Played with Siltech electronics, the new Minissimo sounded lively and able to produce a scale that belied its petite proportions. Available this Fall for approximately $20k.

Auspicious Debuts—Electronics

Lampizator’s new DAC is a tube roller’s paradise.

At every trade show I’ve attended recently, Lampizator tube DACs have been everywhere. In Munich, their star turn was in their own room, shared with Gershman Acoustics. There they unveiled the Atlantic2 TRP DAC, an all-tubed, fully balanced, dual-mono “digital engine” available in standard or gold finishes and with single-ended or balanced topology. TRP stands for “tube roller’s paradise,” so dubbed because users can choose their favorite tubes from a wide variety of options. There’s also an optional volume control/linestage module with remote control. The price is €6k–10k, depending on configuration.

MSB showcased its new Digital Director. Not a DAC, but meant to work in conjunction with one, the Director is a digital isolation device that removes jitter and other noise from an MSB DAC-bound digital signal. The price ranges from $14,500 to $27,500 for the top model. Available this Fall.

Digital specialist Innuos showed its Next-Gen Power Supply, an optional upgrade to the Statement music server ($16.7–$19.5k without the Next-Gen PSU, $21.7–$24.5k with). Customers with the standard Statement can take advantage of a factory upgrade for $5k. I suggest they do so, because in a demo the difference I heard in transient detail and soundstage width wrought by the new PSU was far from subtle.

Aside from a new turntable (see below), ProJect’s main release was the tiny Maia S3 integrated amp (€599, available now). Despite its diminutive size, the Maia somehow finds room for eight inputs: three line-level analog, one phono, and three digital. It delivers 40Wpc and has a headphone output to boot. The phono input is moving magnet only, but if that doesn’t suit your needs you can complement the S3 with the matching S3B phonostage (€399, now), which offers mm and mc support, balanced output, and settable loading and gain. 

Auspicious Debuts—Analog

ProJect’s biggest news was the Debut Pro S turntable. Much like the existing Debut Pro, the S has an MDF chassis and an aluminum ’arm and platter. However, the S differs in its use of a 10** ’arm versus the standard ’table’s 8.6** unit. The S will be available in 3Q22 for approximately €1250.

The new MC Diamond is Ortofon’s new top cartridge.

Ortofon unveiled the MC Diamond cartridge, its new flagship. Titanium-bodied, with a diamond cantilever, non-magnetic armature, and an entirely new suspension, the new model will put out 0.2mV. It’ll be available in August for roughly $10k.

To complement its new 70th Anniversary Reference Turntable, Nagra introduced the Reference Cartridge ($22k) and the HD Phono, an all-tube phonostage that was the focus of a three-year effort. Its price is TBD but will be somewhere above $80k when it launches in November.

Auspicious Debuts—Accessories

Nordost was showing off its QNet network switch. QNet ($3200, available now) sports an aluminum case to tamp down RF interference, and spaced Ethernet ports to reduce crosstalk. Want to make it sound even better? Nordost offers the QSource linear power supply for $2750. I’ve requested this pair for review.

A pair of artfully displayed Crystal Cable Future Dream 22 interconnects.

Crystal Cable announced an entirely new line, the Future Dream 22. The number 22 denotes a dual-wire, dual metallurgy—monocrystal silver plus a silver/gold alloy—design. The Future Dream 22 line slots in the middle of CC’s catalog, and while prices vary, they generally start at $2k for short lengths. The line includes a speaker cable, power cord, USB cable, interconnects, and phono cable. Ethernet is “on the way,” but the others are available now.

Not to be outdone, Siltech debuted three new cable lines at Munich. Referred to overall as the Royal Crown Series, the lines are the Royal Single Crown, Royal Double Crown, and, you guessed it, the Royal Triple Crown. Prices start at $2k, $5k, and $10k, respectively. The entire series is built on monocrystal silver, and as you move up the line you get more conductive material and better shielding. All Royal Crown cables are available in July.

Top Ten Best-Sounding Rooms

If you’re an exhibitor who couldn’t make good sound in Munich, that doesn’t mean you had bad gear or even a poor setup. It just means you fell victim to the MOC’s notoriously dreadful sound. Paper-thin walls and glass ceilings do not a good acoustic space make. But this year an unusual number of exhibitors found a way to overcome these obstacles and deliver sound that any audiophile would be proud to have at home. Here are the ten best rooms I encountered, in no particular order:

 

  • MBL showcased what is, for them, a scaled-down system. As in Florida, the 101 Xtreme II speakers anchored the setup, but this time the electronics were midrange rather than flagship level. Despite that, I found the sound in Munich far more natural and appealing than it was at FLAX. Due to the more modest amps, the speakers didn’t exhibit quite the dynamic slam of which they’re capable; but thanks to a better room than the double-auditorium setup at FLAX, the highs in Munich were much smoother and the overall sound was more coherent. Meanwhile, there was the usual phenomenal imaging and depth these omnis always deliver.
  • Although the mighty Magico M6 could be heard in the Soulution room, Magico took a gamble this year and gave the far more accessible A5 the spotlight in its own room. I’m sure everyone reading this report would be disappointed if it didn’t include a story, normally provided by JV, about how Magico’s room sounded disappointing early in the show but turned around later. I’m happy to provide one.

On the first day of the show, the A5’s sound, as driven by Pilium electronics, was lively and engaging, but spoiled by a pervasive graininess. The culprit, discovered that evening by an equally dissatisfied Alon Wolf, was an ungrounded DAC. When I returned a day later, the sound was entirely free of grain. Furthermore, this system offered vivid proof that the A5 is not only a great speaker and a superb value, but it possesses a sense of musical freedom that’s especially beguiling. So, there it is: this year’s Magico ugly-duckling-to-swan tale. You’re welcome.

One of the ten best-sounding rooms featured dCS digital gear, Einstein electronics, Audioquest cable and the Wilson Sasha DAW.

 

  • You could hear Wilson’s heavy hitter, the XVX, in the Nagra suite, but to my ears the Sasha DAW in the dCS/Einstein/AudioQuest room (and elsewhere, see below) stole the show. Ensconced in a space that proved perfect for the speaker’s size, the DAW sounded completely relaxed yet revealing, with superb imaging and transients.
  • The modestly sized Wilson Sasha DAW scored again in the Nordost This time it was driven by Dan D’Agostino Progression integrated amp. You know how some systems just sound “right” on initial hearing, with no thought or analysis required? This was one such system. Here, in addition to their other attributes, the Wilsons offered killer bass incongruent with their modest stature.
  • The Göbel room, with a pair of the Divin Marquis mains and another pair of the new Divan Sovereign subs, plus True Life Audio electronics, proved both a winning combination and the company’s best recent trade show outing. Not only did the main speakers disappear, but so did the gigantic subs. Nor was there any trace of discontinuity between the two. Though capable of large-scale sound, it was the system’s subtle dynamics and tonal nuances that really enhanced its musicality.
  • In the CH Precision/TechDAS/Rockport room, with the company’s recently upgraded source components, 10-Series electronics, Rockport Lyra speakers and Nordost Odin cable, the impression of actual musicians being in the room was spookily realistic. At one point, Buddy Holly stood there, on a physical stage, and sang with natural warmth. And that was from a Red Book CD!
  • The Living Voice This anti-trade show room was all about the music. A balm for tired ears and an elixir for the musically inclined. (See Sidebar: “Sorry, Not for Sale.”)
  • Rockport’s system was anchored by Avior speakers, powered by Absolare electronics and sourced by Request Audio’s streaming DAC. This was another system, like the CH Precision room that also featured a Rockport speaker—coincidence? I think not—that was almost tangible in its realism. The sound was refreshingly unpretentious but not polite. This combo could really swing when asked to.
  • The Kharma room sounded like Kharma usually does, which is wonderful. Backed by Kharma and dCS electronics and a Euphony streamer, the big Exquisite Grand speakers amply displayed the specialness of Kharma’s midrange. Add in earthy bass and startling dynamics and you’ve got a system deserving of a top ten slot.
  • At exactly 10:01am every day, a swarm of visitors dashed across the MOC floor on a non-stop course to the Burmester Their mission: to score tickets to one of the by-reservation-only demos taking place throughout the day. Why were these seats so coveted? Was Burmester doing something unique? Or was it just that they were hometown favorites?
The best sound in the show could be heard from these CH Precision 10-Series electronics and Rockport Lyra speakers.
The Kharma room, featuring the gigantic Exquisite Grand speakers, sounded typically awesome.

I had to find out. On the last day I caught the last show—but only because the nice PR people interceded on my behalf. I have no idea what the presenter was saying, because this was the only room where the language spoken was German. Perhaps that was the draw. Also, the sound was excellent. The system was the beautiful 111 music server, the new 218 stereo power amp, a 217 turntable, and a pair of big BC150 speakers. The amps displayed superhuman grip over the speakers, and the sound was exceedingly spacious, especially on analog material.

Honorable mentions go to Estelon, Gershman, Burmester, and Børresen, all of whom had admirable sound that just missed the top ten. As you can see, it was an embarrassment of riches.

Non-Audio News

You can now order your Linn Sondek LP12 in any color you want, including Robin’s Egg blue.

You can now get a Linn Sondek LP12 turntable in any color you like. Just give them the color code when you order your ’table, and Linn will do the rest. In Munich, they were showing the LP12 in a robin’s egg blue, which to my eyes clashed with the ’table’s conservative ethos. But the point was made.

Smack dab between halls 3 and 4, right where you’d expect a food court at any U.S. convention venue, Munich’s MOC instead has a biergarten. A major advance, I’d say.

Did I mention the lack of effective air conditioning in the MOC? Between the 80-plus degree weather outside and the glass-ceilinged atriums creating a greenhouse effect inside, the A/C struggled to cope. I felt sorry for the many distributors and agents who, eager to make a good impression, dressed in suit and tie. Rivulets of perspiration were everywhere you looked.

After several years of retreat and retrenchment in the wake of founder and guiding light Dieter Burmester’s death, the company has clearly found its mojo again. In Munich, it displayed a revived energy, many significant new products, even a more modern sound. Welcome back, old friend!

Every single American who attended Munich risked enforced quarantine if they tested positive for Covid within 24 hours of their flight home. Several individuals, and a few entire companies, fell victim. As I write this, some are still in Munich.

Best of Show

Best Sound (Cost no object): The CH Precision/TechDAS/Rockport room was the only one that conjured a convincing apparition of live musicians. What more need be said?

The Scansonic MB6 speakers ($11k) anchored the Best Sound (for the money) system at the show.

Best Sound (For the money): Scansonic’s room was moderately priced (for this show, at least) yet made lovely music. The MB6 speakers, which go for just $11k, supported by a modest Moon Audio stack, had an easy-going, unforced presentation. The ribbon tweeter and small mid/bass drivers were blazingly fast, and there was more depth than you usually hear at shows.

Most Significant Product Introduction: The WilsonBenesch Optium speaker augers an era where plant-based materials, which are far better for the planet, not only replace their carbon equivalents but improve speaker performance as well.

Best Demo: If your timing was right, you could catch a one-hour seminar wherein Roy Gregory coaxed Stirling Trayle to reveal the juicy details behind his set-up of the best-in-show system. Their message was that the CH 10-Series’ very fine-grain tunability really matters. And, boy, did they bring that point home.

In particular, they demonstrated the effects of the CH’s ability to adjust the ratio between global to local feedback, which allows optimization of the amp for the specific speaker, from 0 to 100% in 1% increments. Playing a simple solo piano CD, they showed how unhappy the Lyra speakers were with a mere 5% of global feedback. The playing sounded sloppy and lethargic. As the global feedback was reduced, 1% at a time, the performance gradually snapped into focus and gained vigor. With this trend, everyone present predicted 0% global feedback to be the optimal setting—but it wasn’t. At the 1% mark, everything clicked into place. At 0%, there was a thinning of timbral information and other detractions. It was clear to all that 1% was the correct setting.

Most electronics don’t provide any means of optimizing their interface with a given speaker, let alone in such fine increments. Even lower-level CH gear has courser settings. The demo proved that 1% increments is not only useful, but in this case it was essential. All in all, this was a demo that had a point to make, and it did so convincingly.

Most Significant Trend: I saw more Air-Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeters at this show than at the last several shows combined. The AMT is notable for its extension and high sensitivity. Unfortunately, in several instances the driver sounded strident.

Most Coveted Product: Wilson-Benesch again, this time with the supremely lust-worthy—and unimaginably costly—GMT turntable. Pictures don’t do it justice. Sounded great, too.

Sorry, Not for Sale

There’s a French company making elegant, McIntosh-influenced components, complete with sexy backlit front panels. They offer a full range of products. The electronics are hybrids with tubed front ends and solid-state amplification. The company places a premium on versatility, such as an unusually wide variety of connection ports for the preamp. And the sound is lovely, especially considering that prices are down to earth. Separates top out at $3k apiece.

Advance Paris electronics have a McIntosh vibe, hybrid technology, and are sadly not available in the States.

Interested? So was I. But while Advance Paris is fairly well known in Europe, it isn’t available in the States. The company is seeking U.S. distribution. Any takers out there?

Journalists at audio shows routinely ask other journalists what rooms they recommend, in order not to miss something special. In Munich, the most frequent answer to that question was The Living Voice room. So, I went there, despite never having heard of the brand, and indeed found something special.

In a way, the room was the opposite of every other at the show. There was no attempt to “out hi-fi” other rooms. Rather than the focus being all about the sound, it was all about the music. This was a system to melt your heart because there was nothing getting in the way—sonically speaking—of that happening. Yet this wasn’t one of those systems where musicality comes at the expense of sonic performance. Rather, one got the feeling that all the music was there—and that nothing was missing from the sound, either.

One of the show’s best-sounding rooms featured The Living Voice OBX-RS4 speakers, shown here with their outboard crossover.

What was creating this magic? First and foremost, The Living Voice Auditorium OBX-RS4 speakers (€18,500). These are TLV’s top of the Auditorium line. (The company also makes a line of horn speakers.) They feature outboard crossovers to eliminate parasitic vibrations and are designed for purity and high sensitivity (94dB). Bringing home the latter point, in Munich the speakers were driven by an 8Wpc 300B SET amplifier. TLV’s Kevin Scott also went above and beyond in terms of setup. As he does every year at Munich, he brought his own power—in the form of a rack of batteries and an inverter—to the show. Talk about minimizing sonically deleterious factors; Scott even bypassed the MOC’s noisy AC.

Sadly, The Living Voice isn’t available in North America. Yet. Like Advance Paris, the company is actively searching for U.S. distribution. My advice to any would-be distributors: jump on this opportunity. TLV is unique in sound, performance, and value. It’s going to be a hit on every shore where it’s sold. 

The Munich Playlist

Whenever I was in a room playing a good-sounding piece of music with which I was unfamiliar—or an unfamiliar recording of music I knew)—I Shazamed it. For those of you not familiar with Shazam, it’s an app that, when instructed, listens to currently playing music and within seconds identifies it. Not just the piece of music, but the recording as well. The mind boggles at the computing power needed to perform this feat, but it works amazingly well, with few “Sorry, no matches.”

Handily, the app keeps a history of everything you’ve Shazamed. So, when you’re done with a show, you have what is effectively a playlist of all the great-sounding music you heard. Here’s my playlist from this year’s High End Munich, in no order other than when I encountered each piece. Just search each of these titles on Tidal or Qobuz and you can make your own Munich playlist. I did this on Qobuz and made my playlist public. So, to make things even easier, you can just go on Qobuz and search for a playlist called “Munich 2022 Discoveries.” It contains all the tracks below that are available on Qobuz, which is most of them.

“Liberty”—Anette Askvik

“Walking on the Moon”—Yuri Honing Trio

“Soothing”—Laura Marling

“Diaraby”—Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder

Liszt “Piano Sonata in B Minor”—Nelson Goerner

“Caronte”—Apparat

Beethoven Symphony No. 7, 2nd Movement—Bayerishces Staatsorchester

“Prelude”—Vikingur Olafsson

“That Don’t Make It Junk”—Leonard Cohen

“True Love Ways”—Buddy Holly, From the Original Master Tapes

Mahler Symphony No. 2, Michael Tilson Thomas

Sketches of Seasons, Atzko Kohashi & Eddy Koopman

Eva Cassidy, “Fields of Gold” from Live at Blues Alley

Tags: MUNICH SHOW REPORT

By Alan Taffel

I can thank my parents for introducing me to both good music and good sound at an early age. Their extensive classical music collection, played through an enviable system, continually filled our house. When I was two, my parents gave me one of those all-in-one changers, which I played to death.

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