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Baker’s Dozen – Audio Electronics at the Munich High End 2015

Baker’s Dozen – Audio Electronics at the Munich High End 2015

Perhaps understandably, Munich’s High End show seems to generate a lot of interest for high-end audio enthusiasts, and as a consequence, manufacturers with new high-end products to launch see this as a golden opportunity to show what’s new and coming to an audio store nearby soon. This tends to stack the deck in the favour of products with price tags ending in a lot of zeros.

That being said, the truly bespoke high-end was conspicuous by its absence, so no million-dollar power amps that look like an Atlas rocket this year.

The amplifier prices reflect the truly international nature of today’s Munich High-End, too. A local show would have every price set in Euro, but a lot of the representatives here were discussing their products in Dollars, Sterling, even Remibi alongside the Euro figure. But I guess big numbers are big everywhere.

We chose a dozen of the prime cuts of amplifier electronics (my colleague Chris Martens covering sources in other features), plus one slice of true Munich weirdness…

Aesthetix was playing a late prototype of its new Metis preamplifier, a ‘two-in-one-box’ uncompromising design for those not quite ready for the top Callisto two-boxer. With a unique ‘invisible’ separate power supply placed within the middle of the Metis chassis and a fully open architecture for plug-in modules, this two tube per side preamplifier may be the one to beat at the end of the year. Price is scheduled at the $25,000 mark.

Audio Alchemy’s return to the audio scene has been marked by a small system playing in the big league. This time, $8,000 worth of Audio Alchemy DDP-1 DAC/preamp, PS-5 PSU, DPA-1 mono amps, and DMP-1 music player were happily driving $26,000 per pair TAD Compact Evolution Ones – effortlessly!

BMC Audio is continuing its war on high-priced high-end audiophile equipment with its Pure range. Alongside media servers, headphone amps, and DACs, the new €2,500 Pure Amp takes all the concepts of the company’s excellent CS2, just with less power, but with intelligent passive cooling.

 

Constellation Audio’s celestial soccer score system from its performance range was on display. The Virgo III/Centaur II preamp/power amplifier combination respectively feature a redesigned panel layout (including a re-located IR sensor eye) and a faster warm-up time than its predecessor in the $30,000 Virgo III, but a completely new design for the Centaur II. These $40,000 stereo or $80,000 mono power amps use the capacitor board from the top Hercules II power amps, necessitating a deeper chassis. They sounded excellent together, with seemingly limitless power, in front of the Magico S7 floorstanders.

Dan D’Agostino’s long-awaited $28,000 Momentum Phono stage finally arrived. The four input preamplifier comes with fully adjustable impedance, and almost 80dB of gain. The fully balanced design can turn single-ended at the turn of a XLR pin. It’s RIAA curve is a passive-equalised high-voltage buffer, with no phase shifts, and it all outputs to basically a Momentum preamp output stage.

A name not often seen in shows, FM Acoustics was on show in two rooms at the rival Hi-Fi Deluxe show at the Marriott hotel in Munich’s Berlinerstrasse. The sound produced was extremely listenable and impressive, and this little passive display of products may show nothing new, but was probably worth more than the hotel itself!

 

Following the runaway success of its H160 amplifier, Hegel quickly realised it would have to redesign the H300 to help the bigger amp keep up. The new version loses the central power button, but gains AirPlay, streaming, and a significantly improved power supply, with a separate (but internal) transformer, and new version of the company’s Sound Engine with a damping factor of about 4000. It also delivers 50% more current. Expect it to be a real powerhouse when it arrives in September. The price will increase by about 10% (so it should cost around £3,800 in the UK).

Jeff Rowland chose Munich to give the first public airing of its Daemon integrated amplifier in the Nordost room. This huge $38,800 amplifier sports built-in everything (HDMI, Wi-Fi, and MM/MC phono as optional cards), delivers a whopping great 1.5kW per channel into eight ohms, and has a large touch screen panel that JRDG were trying to destruction test at the show. They failed!

A French technology company has launched an elegant, shiny integrated amplifier that you can hang on a wall, with a high-grade phono stage, built in DAC, and even room equalisation. Yet another Devialet? No, this is the new M.One from Micromega. There are two models in the range; the 100 (100W per channel, no room EQ, €3,000) and the 150 (150W, with room EQ, €5,000). Both are built out of a single billet of aluminium and come in a range of cool finishes.

Nagra was showing its new €15,000 Classic Amp. This simple MOSFET-based amplifier operates mostly in Class A, and delivers its 200W into eight ohms so comfortably, it was more than capable of driving Wilson Sasha 2 speakers without a problem, even in a very hot room and playing very, very loud opera.

 

Trilogy Audio’s 925 amplifier has only been seen on display at shows until now, but the £8,995 hybrid integrated amplifier was helping make some of the nicest and understated sounds of the show. This amp is one to watch…

Vitus Audio’s Signature Series has added a new ‘baby’ stereo power amp, in the shape of the €21,000 SS-025. Switchable between 15W in Class A and 300W in Class AB, this balanced and single-ended, 42kg design was singing sweetly on the end of an all-Vitus system.

And finally…

Cables, stands, tables, and other audio ephemera will be covered later, but this little PR stunt put together by Swiss wire-farmer Vovox shows that at least someone has a sense of humour about woven outer jackets for cables.

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