Munich, Part 4

[Previous installments of our Munich coverage have appeared in Copper issues #85, 86, and 87Ed.]

We’ve talked about “the Munich Show”, meaning the High End, as the big show is properly known, and we’ve talked about it as though it’s a monolith. In terms of size, it basically is. However, just as CES’ success back in the day inspired the creation of THE Show, a nearby, lower-cost show running at the same time in Las Vegas, Munich High End has hifideluxe (and yes, that’s how it’s pitched) just a shuttle ride away in Munich.

Yup. That’s it.

A look at the official guides from the two shows will give you a sense of their relative size. High End’s guide is an impressive, hefty book of over 400 pages, chock full of articles and photos. While free to the press, showgoers pay 15 Euro for it. hifideluxe has a flyer: one piece of paper—admittedly printed on both sides!— showing the location of 38 exhibit rooms and 4 booth vendors in the Munich Marriott. (It must be said that it is a lovely hotel on a very nice site, and has a tremendous breakfast buffet. American hotel “breakfasts” are an embarrassment and disgrace compared to the offerings at even small Munich hotels. But I digress.)

As you might guess, many of the exhibitors at hifideluxe are smallish companies, often lesser-known. That’s not universally true, though; established, well-known brands like Jeff Rowland, Audio Note UK, Jadis, Synergistic Research, Viva, and FM Acoustics were on hand. Jeff mentioned to me that as their primary goal in traveling to Munich is meeting with distributors, not necessarily showing their wares to the general public, the less-manic venue of hifideluxe is ideal for them. I would expect the same to be true for many brands, as Munich has replaced Las Vegas as the place where manufacturers meet up with distributors and potential distributors.

Rowland had a modest but good-sounding system in their prism-shaped room. I can’t recall the speakers. Oops.

The ever-affable Mr. Rowland, with an innocent bystander.

Jadis products are instantly-recognizable, with appearance—and even some models— unchanged since the brand first appeared stateside in the ’80s. It’s a brand that’s inspired a lot of love, caused some broken hearts, and in one famous incident, been pumped full of lead. The sharp-edged chromed chassis always made me think of Dynaco with pretensions of grandeur—but that’s me.

Better wear cotton gloves while operating these guys.

See what I mean about Dynaco?

I must’ve run into Herb Reichert half a dozen times during my time in Munich, and we always exchanged info on must-see, must-hear rooms. So when I saw Herb at hifideluxe and he told me to go hear the Diesis speakers from Italy—I went.

Yes, they were horns. But they were good horns, meaning they didn’t honk, ring, or cause pain. What they did have was texture, tone, and dynamic range in spades. Pairing them with gigabuck Kondo gear didn’t hurt. I have no idea what the top Roma Triode speakers cost, but it’s unlikely that they’re cheap.

I think this model is the “Caput Mundi”—which sounds like a bad workday. The website describes it as “the energy which transforms the space in matter”. Okie-dokie. The red thing is not a supertweeter.

These are the full-zoot 3-way Roma Triode, fully tricked-out with all manner of fancy materials and designed specifically to pair with low-watt SETs like the Kondo Ongaku. Lovely sound.

This is “Bullfrog” from Martion Audio, better known for giant spherical horns. It uses a coaxial driver, and was paired with tube amps from Rike Audio. Punchy and driving—but the Deutsche pop being played drove me away.

Just as he did at the Tampa show, Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note UK held court in the coffee shop. Meanwhile…

…the Audio Note exhibit room looked pretty much like every Audio Note exhibit room ever. Judging by the cello and music stand, Vincent Belanger must have been nearby.

The static display of FM Acoustics gear impressed with the functionality and build quality of the gear—but not their marketing savvy or hospitality.

One fact was repeatedly impressed upon me by the exhibitors at hifideluxe: there are a lot of companies out there doing serious work in audio, companies you may have never heard of, perhaps one-man companies driven more by passion than commercial expertise—but producing real, finished, well-conceived products. Finnish company Knif Rauman’s display featured speakers using a cast waveguide loaded by SEAS magnesium-cone midrange drivers and a ribbon tweeter from RAAL. Woofers were also SEAS, coupled to passive radiators, with Hypex amps for the bass. The main amp was an 845 tube unit, also by Rauman. I was impressed by the coherent, transparent sound quality, although the bass seemed to be overloading the room. A little more space probably would’ve helped.

This was an impressive system.

Another company doing impressive work was Sotto Voce, from Spain. The slender floorstander Stereo 3 looks modest, but conceals a number of surprises: the front-firing driver is a coaxial unit with a large neodymium magnet; bass is provided by back-to-back side-mounted woofers, and 400 watts of Class D amplification was built-in. The company didn’t pretend that these relatively small speakers would provide ear-breaking volume in an auditorium, but rather, were designed to be a simple, high-performance solution for medium-sized room. I appreciate modesty and clarity of purpose.

The sound was bigger than you’d expect from their appearance.

Although hifideluxe was a relatively small show, time and obligations forced me to miss much of it. I was impressed by several of the systems that I did see, and enjoyed the respite from the manic, noisy atmosphere of the MOC. Next year, perhaps, I’ll be able to spend more time at hifideluxe.

Regarding the Munich show(s): that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Time to move on.