The Munich High-End Show has become the most important event on the audio calendar, outstripping even CES in terms of products on display, international business, and sometimes product launches in the audio sector. And it all kicks off May 15th. Last year, the MOC Exhibition Centre had to open an extra hall dedicated to audio, and there are rumours of the show expanding even further; beyond the three halls, two atriums, and dozens of exhibition rooms. If you include all the satellite events, rival shows, hotel rooms, and audio stores given over to the event, Munich positively hums to the sound of high-quality audio in the middle of May.
Like all magazines, we’ll be there to cover some of the highs, mids, and deep, deep lows of the event. Many new products wending their way to Germany right now are doing so under strict embargo, so we simply can’t discuss them even as rumours, but here are some of the things we will be looking forward to, as we trawl the halls for top new audio.
Audionet has joined forces with design legend Hartmut Esslinger. Best known for the ‘Snow White’ design of classic 1980s Apple computers and Lufthansa’s global design, will Esslinger’s inclusion in Audionet’s own ‘dream team’ bring much-needed style to audio electronics?
AudioQuest is extending its arthropod-related high-performance, low-cost device line with the creation of the new JitterBug USB line/data conditioner and Beetle desktop USB DAC.
Chord Electronics is said to be making its biggest Munich event to date, but as yet we have no idea what will be on display, save that it will be in the reference class.
Densen will be showing several new products, from the 1NRG power supply to the mighty B-390 monoblock power amps. It will also be showing a new half-width product called Dino, of which the DAC will be the first model in the range.
German brand Gruensch Audiotechnik will showcase it’s new MSL reference line-stage and MCS II+ reference phono stage with variable EQ curve. I’ll be completely honest here, despite being in the business since 1998, I know little about the brand, but the photos look amazing, and anything built by someone called Eckhardt Gruensch just has got to be good…
Métronome Technologie is best known for its CD players, and it will demonstrate its Le Player (first seen at CES) and show the new CD8 S combined version of the popular CD8 player and DAC. The new system will allow replay of DSD 128 files in native format. The company’s C8+ version of its top digital converter will also allow native DSD replay. Significantly, 2015 marks Metronome’s first music server, called Music Server.
Nordost has revamped all its cable lines recently, except for the top ‘Supreme Reference’ Odin. Nordost is also suggesting “truly astonishing advances” will be shown at Munich. We cannot say precisely what these advances will be, but take a wild guess…
RHA will announce the new £179.95 T20 in-ear headphone, complete with new DualCoil high-res dynamic driver and tuning filter system.
Soulution will be presenting two new products in its top Series 7 range: the 755 phono preamplifier and the 760 digital converter. Both look identical to one another, both cost a healthy CHF47,000 (that’s around £35,000 or $55,000). There is also a 746 power supply, dedicated for the 746 SACD player to be show, too. Price of that is as yet unconfirmed.
Vivid Audio will be showing a new version of one of its most popular designs. Once again, we are embargoed from discussing much more about the new product, but we expect much from this new stand-mount design.
This is only scratching the surface. Dozens and dozens of new products will be on show in Munich.
As an adjunct to the preparation all the audio brands bring to the party, I thought it might be worthwhile in showing precisely how we go about covering a show like Munich. Like CES, this is not a day’s visit: there is a trade show on the Thursday before the show commences, which usually has five different press conferences going on at any one time from about 8:30am to 7:30pm, and the remaining days are spent moving from room to room, trying to see as many people as possible. This is often difficult because your name badge with the word ‘press’ on it means you become a magnet to any exhibitor and a two-minute ‘what’s new?’ question and answer session can easily extend to 30 minutes or more. Normally by the end of the first day, you are about half a day behind schedule, and it gets worse from there.
Companies turning to the Dark Side frequently hamper audio shows from a photographic perspective. Specifically, for some reason that remains semi-mysterious, the brighter it is outside, the darker the exhibit for audio brands. Coming from a country that last saw a sunny day about three years ago, even a shaft of sunlight is a welcome source of Vitamin D, but from the position of someone taking pictures, trying to focus a camera on a black amplifier against a black background on a black rack in a darkened room is ‘interesting’. And each show-goer has his or her own coping mechanism here – mine is a currently a tripod and ‘back-button’ manual focusing.
We try to make such events fall into the classic photo essay scheme developed by classic photojournalist titles like Time, Life, and Picture Post. Of course, developing a narrative is difficult when that narrative is limited to ‘here’s another new product’. But where possible we try to create an establishing shot (the exterior or people lining up to enter the show), a close-up, a portrait, and a closer. Signature shots, how-tos and interactivity images (which really do separate a show report from a photo essay) are difficult in a show environment.
Finally, the most important training required for any Munich show:
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