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Baker’s Dozen – Loudspeakers at the Munich High End 2015

Baker’s Dozen – Loudspeakers at the Munich High End 2015

The High-End Show in Munich lives up to its name. It’s not a place to go launching high volume, value for money equipment. It’s unashamedly high-end, whether that be in sheer scale, sheer performance, or sheer bling. As a consequence, the best way of going around this vast event in the M.O.C. exhibition centre is entirely forgetting about little constraints like, ‘how would I get that in my house?’ or, ‘is that price in Euros, or conflict diamonds?’ or even, ‘how quickly would my family have me placed in a mental institution for my own safety if I came home with that?’ and just enjoy it for the spectacle.

What follows are a dozen loudspeaker-related products that caught our respective eyes from atop of the foam of a glass of beer, and one distinctly wild ‘wild card’. A more thorough walk-through of the sights and sounds of Munich will follow, presently.

Ambitious Audio Designs first speaker has been six years in the making, but is still is at the late prototype stage. Each 58kg Ambitious 1 standmount two-way loudspeaker is hewn from 157kg of high-grade aluminium, and the design features a 25mm diamond dome tweeter and a 140mm diamond cone woofer. The price is fairly ambitious, too: €50,000 per pair!

Concrete Audio lived up to the name; this new German brand builds loudspeakers out of the stuff. Its N1 tower loudspeaker is a two-way, three-driver design featuring some of the best units ScanSpeak can make. They fit in a sealed cabinet made of monolithically-poured concrete. The N1’s €32,000 price tag is not as heavy as the 80kg weight.

Crystal Cable is putting the finishing touches on its Cube system, and showed the work-in-progress Crystal Cable Deep Bass system, but it’s the new Minissimo Diamond Edition that really wowed listeners. The custom made SEAS diamond tweeter dome, proprietary capacitors and Absolute Dream internal wiring required subtle changes to the cabinet and a price rise to €18,000 per pair.

 

Focal’s new Sopra range currently spans just two reflex models, the distinctively-named No.1 standmount, and No.2 floorstander. These models are designed to sit between the Electra and Utopia lines; the No. 1 costing €8,000 per pair and the large model costing €12,000 per pair. Using redesigned versions of Focal’s inverted beryllium tweeter and W-sandwich cones, the Sopras feature a new cabinet structure, and a spate of TLAs (three letter acronyms).

Graham Audio may be one of the smallest audio companies around, but that hasn’t stopped it from developing more and more ‘BBC Heritage’ loudspeaker products. The new LS5/8 is an imposing standmount, all but dwarfing the company’s next project – the LS3/5a. Also on show, was a an upcoming System 3D domestic version of its opera-house passive loudspeaker. Prices all TBA.

Harbeth’s continued drive to make audio sensible again shows no signs of abating, thanks to the launch of its new M40.2 large standmount monitor. Priced at £12,000 per pair in Cherry (the price in Euros having been long forgotten by the team), this replacement to the popular Monitor 40.1 three-way. The new M40.2 features a redesigned crossover to increase sensitivity, power handling and creating a ‘more open and transparent sound’ – which sounds dangerously audiophile-like language from the UK brand. The speakers were on show, but sadly not on demonstration.

 

Magico recently announced its S7 tower loudspeaker, the current top of the company’s S-series. This $58,000 borrows heavily from the M-Project, using the same 152mm carbon nanotube/nanographene midrange and a variation on the theme of the 25.4mm beryllium coated diamond tweeter. A trio of 250mm aluminium coned bass units complete the deal on this 136kg aluminium super-speaker. 

Marten’s latest Coltrane 3 floorstanding loudspeaker pulls a lot of inspiration from the company’s new Coltrane Supreme 2 flagship, including the new Accuton CELL drive units, identical acoustic centres for the drive units and ultra rigid front baffle, yet retains the Coltrane’s relatively low profile appearance. The €97,000 per pair Coltrane Supreme 2 sounded very good indeed, played through €100,000 worth of Jorma Design cables and MSB’s new €100,000 Select digital converter.

Paradigm’s Concept 4F loudspeaker is a genuinely ambitious project (conducted with partner electronics brand Anthem) sporting a 25mm beryllium tweeter, a 178mm beryllium midrange driver and two front and two rear-driving 216mm woofers in a vibration-reduction layout. The key word is ‘Concept’, as in ‘concept car’, but it shows just what 33 years of R&D can deliver.

Raidho’s D-5 loudspeaker is the stuff of legend, as it uses no less than six of the company’s punishingly expensive diamond drive units and the famous ribbon tweeter per side. Capable of playing loud and low, I missed hearing this €176,000 tower speaker at its launch last year, and I realised I missed a trick!

 

Anything made in Switzerland is usually a little bit ‘spendy’, but this system featuring the absolute pinnacle of the Swiss Audio Alps and culminating in the world premier of the four-tower Stenheim Reference Statement speakers really takes the Toblerone. Stenheim’s contribution weighed 1,000kg, had a 10,000W amp to drive the bass towers, can go from 10-100,000Hz, and the complete system cost a cool €1,000,000!

Tannoy, now part of the Music Group, launched a new range at CES in January, so the number of ‘new’ products was strictly limited. The company was keen to show off its forthcoming replacement supertweeter, however, which fits the company’s ace cool retro chic. Captain Nemo’s supertweeter will be available toward the end of the year, price to be confirmed.

And finally…

Realhorns are a real company, making real horn loudspeakers, for real people in Germany. They are popular among those who like to hold impromptu gigs in their garden, so long as their garden is the size of a small town. Price is very much on application.

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