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Munich High End 2016 – The ones that got away

Munich High End 2016 – The ones that got away

In trying to be egalitarian to each category in audio at the Munich High-End show, some exhibits naturally slip through the net. It might be that a brand launched several products in a category, and only one makes the cut, or a company announced a complete system and you were out scouting for amps or loudspeakers, or simply that a product simply doesn’t fit into neat boundaries. Regardless, there are always ‘ones that got away’.

In our final round-up of great products from Munich, this is that final catch-all, the products that caught our respective eyes, and deserve coverage …

We need to stop thinking about Avid as a turntable maker. The company has been systematically adding a more diverse portfolio of products to its line-up, starting with a range of phono stages, followed by amplifier and now topped off with its new Reference loudspeakers. Sitting in the context of more than €180,000 worth of Avid source and electronics, there are three new models, ranging from the €52,000 Reference Three to the €200,000 Reference One…

The Danish Bergmann brand is better known for complete air-everything turntables, but in the new €15,000 air-bearing Galder turntable, the company has given the user the option to include their own arm for the first time. Up to four arms, in fact. Of course, a Bergmann air-bearing parallel tracking arm would be one of the logical choices…

Exhibiting at a rival show closer to Munich’s town centre, Carbon Stone Audio is a comparatively new and local brand making loudspeakers with enclosures made out of – as the name suggests – an amalgam of carbon and natural stone. This is said to give the low resonance of stone without significant mass. The company’s Zeus 5 and Gaia 15 models sounded promising…

First seen at CES in prototype form, the Continuum Audio Obsidian turntable and Viper arm are now in full production (priced at $35,000 and $10,000 respectively) were in the Constellation room and showed much promise…

Number one in the ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ concepts at the show, Crystal designed an aluminium ‘hat’ for its Minissimo Diamond loudspeaker. This effectively extends the front baffle and helps improve the dispersion properties of the tweeter. Crystal suggests it can make them for other loudspeakers, too…

 

There is always something elaborate on display. This year, it was Dynaudio’s turn. The company had commissioned a giant scale model of its Excite X44 standmount loudspeaker out of Lego to dominate one of the two main atria. Fortunately, no one knocked it over…

Designed as a working model to highlight Marantz stereo electronics in Ken Ishiwata’s excellent demonstrations, such was the call for this as yet unnamed design (working title ‘WM1’, because it’s the size of a commercial washing machine) that Karl-Heinz Fink and his team of designers are going to have to put this loudspeaker into production. Expect a big €30,000 loudspeaker looking like this and sounding excellent, soon…

GiK Acoustics demonstrated that it’s not just the expensive shiny things that make a difference. Good room treatment – especially good room treatment with cut-out panels that have Fab Four cut outs – can really cut it in Munich

 

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated really high-end loudspeaker design at the show. Gryphon’s outstanding Kodo twin-tower loudspeaker sounded like a million dollars. But, in costing ‘just’ €220,000 and possessed of no less than 38 drive units that are claimed to be perfectly phase-matched, I reckon that puts Gryphon ahead of the game. This was a ‘kill to get a ticket’ event, and I had to wait until Sunday afternoon to hear this, but it was worth it!

IsoTek’s new EVO3 Genesis One and Titan One are respectively slimline power regeneration and power conditioning devices designed for individual source component use. 

In the least photographable room in the show, KEF turned out the lights for one of two demonstrations; the first a multichannel Dolby Atmos demonstration using Arcam electronics; the second – and from an audio perspective, more interesting one – launching the company’s technology sharing project with Linn Products, which allows KEF’s designs to be used with Linn’s sophisticated Exakt system to create an active version of the Reference 5 loudspeaker, modelled here by KEF’s irrepressible Johan Coorg

Mercedes Benz and Burmester combined to show Munich a sneak preview of how the best-dressed cars will be sounding later this year, with a demonstration of the new Burmester 3D sound system incorporated in the space-age 2016 Mercedes E-Class. The displays – both driver panel and entertainment/navigation console – are fully user configurable!

 

As if to prove there were more than just boxes at the show, founder and chief designer Heinz Lichtenegger celebrated a quarter of a century of Pro-Ject. The chrome finished MaiA amplifier is part of the 25th anniversary product line.

While any show report concentrates on new products, sometimes the older ones are hard to ignore. Especially in the Silbertone room, which fashioned this vast Western Electric cinema replay system from components made before the Great Depression!

Technics may still be basking in the glory from the relaunch of the SL-1200 turntable, but in Munich it was the turn of the OTTAVA SC-C500 all in one audio system to gain a piece of the hi-fi pie. With some clever tricks up its sleeve, such as ‘load adaptive phase calibration’ to measure whatever loudspeakers are used, and a battery driven clock frequency generator, this looks set to be more than just a simple stereo system.

Wilson Benesch has a long-standing reputation on the carbon-fibre ‘scene’. Which means the brand rubs shoulders with Formula 1 suppliers Hypertex, which allows Wilson Benesch to supply its loudspeakers in a range of coloured carbon fibres, an industry first. On show was a special ACT 1 Evolution called the ACT P1 Monocoque, finished in ‘Enzo’ red.

Last, but not least, ZenSati picked up the ‘most extreme’ award for its demonstration that showed the Seraphim cables first seen at CES in the context of some extremely deluxe European audio equipment. The cost of such ‘deluxity’? No-one was quite sure, but around €1.2m was bandied about!

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