High-End Munich has emerged as the dream show for serious audiophiles, but as a consequence it has also become not merely large, but downright huge. Spanning four large exhibit halls, two of which have elaborate upper floor atrium demonstration areas, Munich is almost too big to take in.
One of my coverage areas for the show included Analogue Source components and with an eye toward giving Hi-Fi+ readers a sense of the flavour of the Munich Show, I have decided, along with Editor Alan Sircom, to provide a ‘Baker’s Dozen’ of the many new analogue products I saw at the show. Please note these aren’t necessarily the top products I saw, but all are eye-catching and hold great promise for demonstrating analogue excellence in the year to come. Enjoy.
Note: In keeping with the international character of this show, prices show may be quoted in euros, pounds, or dollars—depending on the manufacturer.
Acoustic Signature Invictus turntable
The Invictus is Acoustic Signature’s ‘Statement Class’, cost-no-object turntable that includes a massive stand, a six-motor drive mechanism, Acoustic Signature’s, er, signature ‘sandwich’ platter technology, and can support up to four tonearms. The ‘if you have to ask then you can’t afford it’ price of the Invictus is a cool €104,000.
AMG Giro turntable
The German firm AMG (no relation to the folks crafting over-the-top, ‘hot rod’ Mercedes Benzes) has introduced its high performance yet also cost-constrained new Giro turntable, which will sell for €7,900, including a 9-inch AMG tonearm. Performance is said to approach to that of AMG’s much more costly Viella 12 turntable and tonearm, but at a significant cost saving.
Analogueworks TT2 turntable
The British firm Analogueworks proudly explains that its turntable designs leverage design concepts pioneered by the late Tom Fletcher of Nottingham Analogue Systems fame. Now, the Analogueworks product range comprises three turntables, with the top model being the lovely TT2 shown here. The TT2 incorporates a massive 8kg platter, plus a beefed-up variant on the original Nottingham Wave Mechanic power supply, with a selling price of £3,000.
Audio Silente Blackstone SE & Black Silent Luxury 12 tonearm
Have you ever wondered what might happen if some of the design concepts applied in classis Garrard and Thorens idler-wheel-drive turntable from the past were updated with 21st century technologies and materials? The answer, as it happens, comes in the form of Blackstone SE turntable from the Italian firm Audio Silente (which, not coincidentally, also builds gem-like upgrade parts for older Garrard and Thorens ‘tables). The Blackstone SE is a machinist’s work of art and features a massive Pabst motor, precision made idler-wheel components and a distinctive magnetically tensioned idler-wheel mechanism, a multi-speed ‘transmission’, and can support up to three armboards. The €18,900 turntable is offered with arms of varying length (up to 13.5 inches), with the Black Silent Luxury 12 arm selling for €1,200.
CH Precision P1 phono preamplifier
For Munich High-End the Swiss firm CH Precision showed a preview of it upcoming, full-featured, P1 phono preamplifier, which is expected to become available toward the end of 2105. As you may know, CH Precision never accepts halfway measures in any of its product designs, so that the P1 will be an upper-tier product selling at the comparatively lofty price of €25,000.
Clearaudio GT 4 radial tracking tonearm
The German firm Clearaudio has long offered a range of radial tracking tonearms, but for Munich 2015 the firm offered by far its simplest and arguably most cost-effective radial tracker to date: the new GT 4 tonearm, which is expected to sell for between €2,000 – €2,400. Unlike earlier Clearaudio radial-tracking designs, the GT4 deliberately does not provide features for the arm to swing away from the record surface. Instead the arm bearing tube remains in a fixed position well above the record surface—an approach that should simplify construction, installation, and day-to-day use.
DS Audio DS-W1 optical phono cartridge
Generating considerable ‘buzz’ at the Munich is the new DS Audio DS-W1 optical phono cartridge, which uses modulated light to control its output signal, rather than incorporating any sort of mechanical, electro-magnetic motor mechanism of any kind. The Tetsuji Aoyagi-designed cartridge sells for €8,500, which price includes the cartridge, its outboard power supply, and associated phonostage.
Kronos 0.5 turntable & Helena tonearm
The French-Canadian firm Kronos is famous for building turntables such as the Sparta, which feature dual counter-rotating platters, but for Munich 2015 the firm introduced its single-platter 0.5 turntable (€13,900), which is perhaps best described as ‘half a Sparta’. The concept is for the 0.5 to serve as the entry-level Kronos, so that the 0.5 plus the firm’s Helena tonearm still sells for slightly less than the Sparta turntable does. The truly cool part, though, is that Kronos also offers an upgrade kit that will turn the 0.5 into a full-fledged Sparta, if and when the owner is ready for the upgrade.
Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ phono preamplifier
Any discussion of value-for-money among phono preamplifiers inevitable brings to mind the Michael Yee-designed Phonomena II+ from Musical Surroundings, which sells for a very manageable €750. What potential owners might not know, however, is that the Phonomena II+ is not only keenly priced, but also one of the most flexible phonostages available at any price, thanks to dual banks of loading and gain adjustment switches found on the unit’s rear panel.
Ortofon A95 moving-coil phono cartridge
Ortofon has been on a roll for the past several years with a successive series of top-flite moving coil cartridges such as the MC Anna, the MC Windfeld, and the A90, but for Munich 2015 the firm displayed its impressive new A95 moving coil cartridge, from which we anticipate good things, priced at €4,999.
TechDAS Air Force Three turntable
The Japanese firm TechDAS is famous for its high-tech but also extremely costly Air Force One and Air Force Two turntables. At Munich, however, the firm previewed its soon to be released Air Force Three turntable, which will be the least costly model TechDAS has offered to date (the Air Force Three is expected to sell for about €24,000). The Air Force Three is relatively compact compared to its bigger siblings, yet is still able to fit up to four tonearms.
VPI Prime turntable & tonearm
VPI’s new Prime turntable & tonearm ($3,800) is winning audiophiles’ hearts and minds in the old-fashioned way: namely, by delivering the rare combination of very, very high-level performance at what must considered a bargain price. The innovative Prime uses a 3D-printed, 10-inch unipivot tonearm with a micrometer-type adjustable VTA system. How good is the Prime. As one journalist recently observed to me, “If VPI tacked an extra one on the front end of the Prime’s price, no one would bat an eyelash; it’s that good.” This is the first turntable/arm package designed, developed, and produced under the leadership of VPI’s young new president, Mat Weisfeld, and it looks to be a slam-dunk winner.
Well-Tempered Royale 400
Many of us are familiar with the unorthodox, iconoclastic, and highly cost-effective turntables from Well-Tempered, but few of us expected the firm’s spectacular new Royale 400 (€12,000), which sports a 16-inch (!) tonearm—the longest arm Well-Tempered has ever produced. The sheer length of the arm causes first-time viewers to do ‘double takes’ as the Royale 400’s standard-size 12-inch platter seems to be positioned—and is positioned—a remarkably long distance away from the tonearm’s pivot point. We can’t wait to hear this one in action.