Ready for another day at the Munich High End, looking rather worse for wear.
In past years we’ve seen a variety of Porsches and Bugattis at the show, put on display by Burmester and other companies that supplied their OEM audio systems. This year there was another Bugatti, this one with a flat black paint job that made me wonder how much was trimmed off its normal top speed of 237 MPH. Oh, well. I can’t tell you what audio company was associated—which strikes me as ineffectual marketing, indeed.
Audio shows are audio shows, no matter where you are. Even at the Munich High End, the omnipresent chanteuse Lyn Stanley was...omnipresent!
Also omnipresent was hi-fi /watch journalista and occasional Copper contributor, Ken Kessler...
I must admit that I didn’t avail myself of any of the live music options at the show, even skipping the opening ceremony with the group of Alpenhorn players (Alpenhornists?). Hey, once you’ve seen and heard such a group—well, you don’t need to repeat the experience.
However, I did avail myself of the opportunity to see and hear a number of big, amazing systems. There was no shortage of massive megabuck speakers at the show.
Living Voice from the UK always have an impressive display, and this was no exception. The inlay work on the Vox Palladian main speakers and Vox Basso subwoofers is just amazing. Combined with Kondo electronics and a Grand Prix turntable, the sound was powerful and sonorous, even in the greenhouse-like room. If you have to ask the price…well, I didn’t ask the price. I know I can’t afford it!
The Focal Grande Utopia EM Evo (I think I got it all) is huge, even when there's only one, turning on a turntable. I really liked the dark wood finish; most bright finishes make these giants look cartoony.
Estelon always proudly represents Estonia with speakers that look and sound amazing. This model was called Forza, and was shown with CH Precision electronics and a Kronos Pro table. Estelon as a company is unusual in being run by a father-daughter team: Alfred Vassilkov is the skillful designer, using a marble-like composite material to create forms that are unusual, but make sense acoustically; Alissa Vassilkova runs the business side of things.The Forzas delivered the Estelon trademark tack-sharp imaging and dynamic bass. In the world of high-priced speakers, the 110,000 Euro for the Forza almost seems like a bargain.
I’m admittedly partial to Engstrom amps, having worked with Lars and Timo Engstrom a decade ago. Their new “Arne” integrated amp was co-designed by jc morrison with Lars, and uses 300Bs in a fully-balanced configuration. Sound with the Verity Sarastro speakers was what you’d expect: smooth, but dynamic and punchy.
I haven’t always been fond of Magicos, often finding them over-etched and to my ears, artificial-sounding. This setup with Magico M2s was likable—paired with gear from Soulution, Aurender, MSB, and the always-amazing Kronos pro deck.
Last year I was completely taken by the beefy, rather odd looking WM-4 speaker from the affable German company, Fink Team. The company does design work for a number of big audio brands and even designs OEM automotive systems. The WM-4 is incredibly dynamic, highly listenable, sort of an Altec Voice of the Theater for the new millennium, more-refined, with far lower distortion and greater linearity. I was surprised to see the WM-4s in a room with fairly mainstream gear from Marantz and Classe’. The speakers shone, nonetheless.
Audiovector is a 40-year-old Danish brand of speakers, well known in Scandinavia and Europe, but just now beginning to become available in the US. It’s one of the few audio companies in its second generation of family ownership, with Mads Klifoth following in his father Ole’s footsteps. The company makes a wide range of speakers, all of which exhibit beautiful worksmanship and clean, clear sound.Amphion speakers from Finland—and don’t call them “Scandinavian”, they’re “Nordic”— are well known for their stylish designs and colorful variants, but the smaller models are popular as nearfield monitors in recording studios, and their biggest speaker—the Krypton 3—is one of the best speakers I’ve heard, and a scorching deal at under $20,000/pair. Don’t hate them ’cause they’re beautiful! Once upon a time, the big horns from Avantgarde Acoustic seemed outrageous and unique, but over the last 20 years or so, other horn speakers have appeared, making Avantgardes more familiar than cutting-edge. Speaking of familiar, the black glass and blue lights of McIntosh gear are known almost everywhere. I can’t say the green LEDs add to the appeal. Like the look or not, there’s no mistaking the speakers from Vivid. Whether they remind you of a curly-top cone from Mr. Softee, or the Keebler elf’s hair…they do sound terrific. Whether they’d fit in your home? That’s another question. Vivid was one of several speaker makers who showed with electronics from CH Precision.
At the end of another day we headed back to the hotel in, yes, still more cold rain. Maybe tomorrow will be sunny.