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The 2024 Munich High-End Show: Michael Fremer on New Analog Products

Seminar

Mega-dollar tonearms are now a “thing”—at least based on product introductions at High End Munich 2024. Back in 2015 Marc Gomez’s original $29,000 SAT arm was both a market segment and price disrupter. At this year’s High End, $50,000 tonearms, while not commonplace, were on display at more than a few venues. All prices herein are approximate as dollar/Euro prices were often co-mingled.

SAT’s top-of-the-line standard CF1-09 tonearm now costs €60,000. The company showed its €200,000 XD-1 turntable complete with Minus K isolation platform (add €45,000 for vacuum platter hold down). The Ti version of the CF1-09 arm featuring a further armtube-stiffening titanium rod is available for €94,000. However, it can be had packaged with the XD-1 turntable for the same €60,000 price as the standard CF1-09, bringing the total XD-1 cost with Ti arm and vacuum hold down to €305,000. The €94,000 Ti price almost makes it seem as if the company is not interested in selling the Ti arm other than as part of the XD-1 package.

Tech DAS

TechDAS showed its Air Force 10 radial air-bearing tonearm in prototype form at High End 2023. This year it demoed on its Air Force One Premium turntable the sleek finished product in both 10” and 12” editions. Price in America will be approximately $45,000 and $50,000. Also introduced was the new Tech DAS TDC01-Dia diamond-cantilevered cartridge featuring a titanium body and a super-low 1.4-ohm internal impedance, making it an ideal match for the current amplification input of CH Precision’s P10 phono preamplifier. The combo made beautiful music through Wilson XVX speakers with the Wilson Loke subwoofer augmentation all driven by CH electronics.

Acoustic Signature introduced the €50,000 TA-10000 NEO tonearm available in 9” and 12” versions. It features precision pre-tensioned DLC (diamond like coating) ball bearings, VTA “on the fly” and azimuth at the head shell adjustability and many other construction features packaged in a beautiful piece of precision German engineering.

Clearaudio Unity

Another equally costly result of precision German engineering is Clearaudio’s newly introduced top of the line Unity radial tracker. It’s a magnetically stabilized carbon-fiber-tubed unipivot design that also features VTA “on the fly” adjustability and azimuth adjustability among other features. Price is also €50,000.

Wilson Benesch Prime Meridian

Wilson-Benesch delivered on its promise to introduce “trickle down” editions of its $370,000 GMT One turntable system that debuted last year (and which I reviewed in Issue 350) by introducing the Prim Meridian, a $270,000 version that omits the active suspension system but otherwise is identical to the GMT One.

Gryphon

Gryphon took analog fans by surprise by introducing a new dual-motor Apollo turntable designed in cooperation with Brinkmann Audio’s Helmut Brinkmann. $149,800 gets you a system: the turntable, and a diamond coated Brinkmann arm developed with Denmark’s Aarhus Technical Institute specifically for Gryphon’s new $20,000 Ortofon-developed Black Diamond DLC phono cartridge based upon its MC Diamond but featuring a newly developed elastomer suspension and a diamond-coated titanium body. Ortofon’s Leif Johannsen told me the new cartridge’s design was overseen not by him but by others at the company in order to give the Gryphon cartridge some “new thinking.” Gryphon also introduced a new $68,000 Siren phono preamp complete with the same massive power supply used for the Commander preamplifier. The original goal was to use the Commander PSU’s second input but to make the Siren sing required a separate PSU.

Thorens

ThorensReference turntable seen in prototype form at HE 2023 was back in its finished edition. The final cost is $329,999 and includes an active Seismion-designed active suspension and massive stand.

I somehow missed the Aries Cerat room, where the Cyprus-based company showed a new $270,000 450-pound turntable featuring a direct-drive motor with a hydrodynamic bearing and an air-bearing tangential-tracking tonearm of the “long off my radar screen” large-horizontal-mass, moving-rail, fixed-air-bearing variety.

Kronos

Kronos introduced two new $70,000 products. The Perpetual turntable and the Discovery phono preamplifier. The turntable costs approximately 60% less than the “flagship” $125,000 Discovery turntable, but designer Louis DeJardins says Perpetual’s performance comes far closer to Discovery’s than its price would seem to indicate. The Discovery phono preamplifier is a collaborative effort between Kronos and Greek electronics manufacturer True Life Audio. Kronos had a strong presence at High End Munich 2024.

Even Origin Live got into the costly tonearm game introducing at High End Munich 2024 the $26,000 “two-point” Renown tonearm.

Following the High End show I visited HiFiction (Thales, EMT, Xquisite) in Turbenthal, Switzerland, for the world premiere of the $40,000 Thales Magnifier preamp/phono preamp, a cooperative effort between HiFiction’s Micha Huber and Stellavox Switzerland’s Stephan Schertler.

Nighthawk

Back on earth, Supatrac, whose Blackbird Farpoint arm continues to create major worldwide sonic and tech sensations has raised prices as of May 1st as follows: 10.5”, £4300; and 12”, £ 4700. That means the 12” Blackbird now sells for around $6000. Still a bargain, though until you hear it, you might remain unconvinced. At High End Munich the company showed prototypes of a new Supatrac Nighthawk arm, the design of which was not constrained by size, weight, or production costs. The arm will be available Q4 and cost £11,900, £12,400, and £12,900 for 9”, 10.5”, and 12” editions. As of the day I’m submitting this that means the 12” Nighthawk will cost around $16,400. Not “bargain priced” but based upon the sonic performance delivered in Munich still a bargain! There’s a £1000 upgrade path discount.

Concorde

Also back on earth and to end on affordable notes, Ortofon introduced a new line of its Concorde “plug-in” cartridges designed for Technics and other turntables equipped with similar bayonet mounts. The new line mirrors the company’s long-running and super-successful 2M moving-magnet series but with one major upgrade: the Concorde series allows you to change styli and move all the way up from the elliptical-stylus Concorde Red to the LVB 250 (Ludwig Von Beethoven) Black featuring a boron cantilever and nude Shibata stylus. The standard 2M upgrade path ends one step up at the 2M Blue. Prices start at $149 for the Concorde Red. The Concorde Blue costs $249; the Bronze, $399; the Black, $599; and the LVB 250, $999.

Pro-Ject introduced three versions of its new T2 turntable, the least costly of which sells for $549 including (in America) Sumiko MM phono cartridges. Additional-cost versions featuring built-in phono preamp and/or streaming capabilities are also available.

Of course, many, many other turntable, tonearm, and phono preamplifier manufacturers exhibited at HE 2024, but their products were not new, so they are not featured here. If I left anyone out, my apologies. It was a fantastic show!

Tags: ANALOG HIGH-END LP MUNICH SHOW REPORT VINYL

Michael Fremer

By Michael Fremer

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