"What a refreshingly honest blog about listening to music through hi-fi. So happy to see views based upon the enjoyment of music rather than so-called sound 'quality'." - Peter Comeau, Director of Acoustic Design at Mission / Wharfedale

Saturday 20 May 2017

Munich High End Show 2017 Part 2

This is part 2 of the report, PART 1 OF THE REPORT HERE

Please note that there is limited time for listening at this show, so these are first impressions only.  For systems I enjoyed I went back for repeat visits where possible to get a wider appreciation of their capabilities.  I also revisited some of the systems I least liked for the same reason.  All content is IMHO, YMMV etc. etc.

Burmester streamer, monoblocks and flagship speakers

Some will be very happy with these Burmesters, but I have a real problem with the chrome front panels.  When set up properly all you have to look at is yourself.  For me, that's not a good thing, but others might quite enjoy that effect.
Apart from the disquiet noted in the caption above, first impressions here are of a very deep and well controlled bass.  This was mixed with a little harshness, but by moving back 2 rows in the room, a better balanced sound could be enjoyed.  The system was very good with acoustic guitars and piano.  Note the speakers can be swivelled on their stands which will be helpful with first time set up.  Overall, the sound was very technically accomplished but wasn't very engaging.  Best for those with a substantial ego!

Sprocket turntable, Synaestec Audiosysteme, Live Act 15 and extreme room treatment by Audio Architektur

Every possible choice of robust materials available in steel cages to enhance the sound of your listening room.  The decorative value is an individual decision

Nice chunky power amps into the smaller speakers shown below.  Very boom and tizz.

ROOM D111 and D112
A couple of rooms full of sadly silent boxes

I really was looking forward to hearing Meridian, Sonus Faber and Dynaudio at the show.  I don't think that I missed any rooms where these items were playing, but here was a room full of wonderful looking stuff, but so disappointing not to be able to listen to them. Shame.

Meridian electronics

Meridian active speakers

Sonus Faber.  Why can't we listen to them please?

Sonus Faber

Looks amazing.  Why can't we listen to it?

Audio Research - more silence

Krell. No music playing

New "bathroom scales" from AR - "the ultimate experience" apparently, but you'll just have to imagine what that sounds like

Dynaudio 40th anniversary speakers.  Looking lovely, playing nothing
More silence

AVM 30 products and PMC Twenty5.26

AVM launched the 30 series at the show - previously only a limited edition for a limited number of geographies, this year they become a full range and AVM class them as "more affordable" which means "only" 000 on the price ticket rather than 0000.  Here they were feeding PMC's recently introduced Twenty5.26 and were making some decent sounding music.  The kit is very clean looking and is well built.  Worth a listen.

Octave and Blumenhofer speakers
Apologies, I don't have any notes on this room.

Audionet Plank CD player and their new "flagship" Ampere amplification with Akustik Berlina RC8, room treatment

Well they weren't playing plinky-plonky in here.  And nor do they need to hide behind anything "safe" - this is a great sounding system and, as a contrast to the other system at the show using the same model of speaker, showed off the Akustik's abilities to great effect.  This combination produced a very clean sound with no hints of hash nor background noise. Bass lines are solid but with clear delineation between the notes.  Presley's sparse "live" recording of Fever from the album "Elvis Is Back!" on Living Stereo was superbly rendered - very musical indeed.  I went back for more later and enjoyed the system again on a second helping.  Its rare to hear Audionet in the UK, but each time its been a pleasure for me. Based on this experience, their new flagship range is a triumph.

Chord Electronics

Music wasn't playing for the 5 minutes I was in the room.  We just had to "oooh" as the blue LEDs and extreme machining.  After 5 minutes, patience waiting for music runs out.
For those who think Chord weren't putting enough effort into their industrial design


TRANSROTOR Turntables presented by Rake Hifi Vertrieb

A vast array of turntables from one manufacturer. Interesting to see so many different approaches within one range.  This was another room where there was no music playing, even though it was a room suited for the purpose.  So have a look through their wares and I'll leave you to choose if you wish to admire the workmanship, shake your head at the bling or to wonder, if all this stuff is so good at playing records, why none of them were playing records...

And yes, that is a Veyron in the background. I suppose it must have a good sound system, but that wasn't very clear.

Boom-boom,    chica-chicaaaahhh

ROOM E216 Revisit
Kudos T-808 and Naim electronics

All members of the Tital family in ascending size (and price) order
Having enjoyed the T-606 and T-707 on day one I paid a couple more visits to Kudos on the second day.  T-707 again sounding very good, but when the T-808 was playing it was just too loud so I didn't hang around to listen.

ROOM E101/102
Kondo TT and amplification with Kawero! speakers

I've head these Kawero!s before at a UK show where they sounded very interesting but they were using "demo" type music rather than music most people would actually sit and listen to.  Here, they put forward a nice enough sound, but not enough to make me want to go back for more.

Brinkman TT and electronics with Vandersteen speakers

A rather strident sounding system.

Bergmann TT with parallel tracking arm and WOD Audio, Kubala-Sosna cables

Well, this was OK, nothing more, nothing less.

Ypsilon electronics with Wilson Benesch speakers

Playing a prototype ladder DAC with valve output stage.  This was a nice fluid sounding system which showed off the Wilson Benesch speakers a little better than WB's own room with the CH electronics.

ROOM E112 and E113
Nubert stuff

Serious soundbar
Listening to the above (electronics unknown) was impressive - lots of dynamics. The room was very full and I didn't have a good place to listen from so have to say that it wasn't a good place to form an opinion. From where I was, it sounded very impressive, but that's not always a good sign.

CH Electronics and Goebel speakers

The bigger version of these interesting looking speakers seen elsewhere, along with some subs.  Suprisingly lightweight sound and not the last word in dynamics but reasonably detailed.  I guess it was an OK kind of sound, but shouldn't kit at this price not be much more engaging than that?

Apologies , no notes on the room below

Kronos in abundance as a vinyl source for those manufacturers that don't have their own turntable product

Signal Projects Audio, Lumiks and Audio Exklusiv

The small "figure of 8" speakers were playing in this room.  Not sure if the subs were in action, but it didn't sound like it.  Lightweight and not very interesting.

Apologies, no notes on the room in the picture below. Nice room treatment though :)

Esoteric electronics and B&W 800 D3

Protective wall? Bass Traps? Whatever, can't imagine its helping with the sound
Fabulous looking electronics and the amazing looking and beautifully built B&W 800 D3 speakers in a curious arrangement with stools separating speakers from listeners.  Another example of the B&Ws producing prodigious but somewhat overwhelming and tuneless bass.  Its a shame - the vocals and top end on the D3 series is seriously good.


McIntosh set up a very attractive room.  Central there was a circular multi-layer stand with an array of McIntosh products.  The room was dark and lit by a combination of all the blue lighting on the gear and then a very good array of album cover images decorating the wall.  All very nice to see, but nothing to listen to. Doh!

McIntosh goes for the (non-existent in Europe) biggest VU meter award

Pretty room, nice display, no music. 
TW-Acustic and Cessaro

Here we have what I find to be the typical "horn" sound. Projected at you, somewhat forced in sound and disjointed across the frequency range.  Very nicely made though, with a fantastic finish.

Interesting looking turntable, not playing.  Can't even remember which room this was in.
No, not THAT Tidal...
Tidal as a brand of hifi components is another one new to me.  As you can see above, the speakers are not shy and they didn't sound shy either - a very dynamic sound in this room, but managing not to sound "shouty" like many other dynamic systems. Not the most subtle of systems.

Bryston electronics into PMC MB2XBD

The (slightly more) domestic version of PMC's big professional monitors in a large room - I think you'd need a big room to accomodate these speakers.  Here supplied by a digital source and amplification from Bryston, this system carried a great deal of authority, but not in the way you might expect from their looks.  They don't overwhelm with bass - they give you tightly controlled and tuneful bass that is a joy to listen to - lots of information from the top end and mid-range too.  In this setting a found them a little too relaxed in their presentation - but this does make them easy to listen to and relax into the music - that might be down to the amps or source of course. Dynamic, crisp, well controlled, good imaging, musical  I enjoyed my time in the room, but I'm not saving for a house big enough to accommodate them :)

ROOM F127 / F128

I like these heatsinks. Until you realise that they're not mirror imaged so one side reads correctly and the other distinctly doesn't, which is a shame.  If you're going to produce something so distinctive and eye-catching, do it properly.

Lots of Pathos gear in this room.  Having waited nearly 10 minutes whilst admiring heatsinks and watching lots of photography going on, we headed off to find someone playing some music.  Elsewhere :(

Viella 12T T/T, Mimas electronics, ProAc D-48 speakers, imitation bamboo room treatment

"Keith" was playing here (that's Keith Don't Go by Nils Lofgren).  This was really clear and crisp and the complexity was very nicely rendered. Perhaps a bit too much bias towards the treble and the transition from the mid-bass drivers to the tweeter was fairly obvious.

Imitation bamboo dispertion stuff was quite popular

A sensible little system, but I don't have any notes about it - apologies


Massive horn cinema type speakers.  Introduced with enthusiasm by the room host. Big, effortness sound, but not the last word in dynamics nor imaging.  Got to admire the effort put in, and I know a number of visitors thoroughly enjoyed this room.

TAD Reference System

TAD were in a very large room with no obvious room treatment.  They had 2 systems set up - one along the side wall using the standmount reference speakers and the other using the big Euro 87k floor standers designed by Andrew Jones a few years back when he was at TAD.  I visited this room 4 times. One of those visits was when the standmounts were playing and they didn't do anything for me - I find them too bright and hard - much as I've heard them on 3 previous occasions (they weren't designed by Andrew Jones).
The 3 other visits were to listen to the big system with the floorstanders.  Here we have a pretty straightforward digital front end, DAC, pre-amp, monoblock power amps and passive speakers.  Total?  Euro 250k without cables, which I didn't ask about, but they were provided by Absolue.
What did this system do that meant it was worth so many re-visits?  Well, a lot, and very little.  What does that mean?  Well, there was a lot of everything very important - particularly musicality.  Superb dynamics, flow, easy to listen to yet with masses of detail and information coming through. Stunningly deep but controlled, tuneful bass that didn't seem to excite the room.  Muddy Waters' voice was fully of detail and feel, there was so much subtelty in the slide guitar making a song full of meaning and flavour.
Taught without harshness, massive choral scale whilst lstting the soloist stand out clearly.  Bass was huge and filled the room without any notable boominess, all without any obvious room treatment.  As said above, I went back for more and more.  Truly superb - at last a system that deserves the description "high end" and whilst the kit is pretty substantial - its not blingy, it gets on with the important job.  Congratulations TAD. Stunning music.

Progressive Audio

Interesting looking speakers here - from a distance they look like those lampshades that have flat coloured glass panels separated by metal framework - rather like stained glass windows.  Get up close and we find the panels are pressed thin metal that pings when rapped and have free edges that can vibrate very easily.  Doesn't seem like sound engineering design. To listen to? Another very ordinary room.

Avantgarde electronics and speakers with WADAX streamer and Kronos TT

Well, you'd not call this system shy, nor retiring.  The very orange horns flanking 3 vertically stacked sub-woofers.  Argh! Another set of horns that he won't like?  Not at all - a very decent system that played music very well indeed. It didn't seem to matter which source was in play, we got natural, flowing music with any easy to follow tune and excellent, consistent timing.
The system was loud, but only noticable when trying to talk to someone - a very good sign of quality.  Streaming Tocatta & Fugue was at superb scale and effortless. The horns were nicely free of any nasality.  No imaging of note, but a good, confident, mix of music was played.  We were also treated to a live performance by a fully entertaining drummer / singer who used the electronic drums for percussion and for playing as musical instruments to generate a tune.  Very entertaining.

Aurender streamer, Anthem electronics and Paradigm speakers

A very clean matter of fact Linn kind of sound to this system, but curiously without the musicality.  Not sure of the styling of those treble and mid driver grilles.

Sorry, no notes on this room.
Siltech and Crystal cables

Nice looking little standmount speakers in this room.  They sounded OK, but perceived value is not very high

More Hifi after the scenic break of Munich on a Friday night.

A touch of damp

Augustiner went down well


Having not yet heard a pair of single drive speakers that keep my attention on the music, no change here.

Stein Music amps and hybrid horn / dynamic speakers.

I wish I'd paid more attention to what was going on in this room.  Strangley, the little floorstanders were the more enjoyable speaker in this room - the bigger pair just overwhelmed the room.  The smaller boxes, with and without the optional lower bass section were not bad at all.  I did note the complete lack of fancy cables and how well the horn driver integrated with the dynamic drivers. Crisp but not aggressive with a sense of openess an decent imaging.  Great with female vocals.  Worst seats of the show award though!

Alluxity and Joseph Audio

Well I'm a fan of the copper-orange finish on the Alluxity electronics.  Bold and individual without being over the top.  Completemented nicely by the superb finish on the Joseph Audio Pearl 3 speakers.  Here we listened to Stimela on a reel to reel source.  Bass deep and tight, clear vocals and crisp percussion with no muddying during the complex and louder passages.  The feel of the track came through really well, particularly on the sax and vocals.  Very enjoyable.

More scenery, more hifi after the break...

HofBrau Haus

Stein's for the locals - bring your own key

A bar that charges its customers to use the loo

Ascendo fully digital cinema

Well, with a sub-sub-woofer that size (see above), you've got to give that a try haven't you?  Having heard it in action from the Kudos room, 3 doors down the corridor, it was interesting to see that this massive driver sat outside the cinema demo room (or, more accurately, a tent).  Inside were 28 active speakers (with 1kW of power amplification per box) and 7 more normal sized sub woofers providing a Dolby Atmos / Auro 3D experience.  A clip of Lady Gaga playing a cover backing herself with just a piano was very good indeed - unusually for this kind of system, it was full of emotion.  This was followed by Buble singing "feeling good" which was very dynamic, but playing too loud.  The best part of the demo was Nigel Stanford's "Cymatics" video (if you don't know this - give it a try here, its fascinating stuff) - fantastic dynamics and massive bass.  Yes, it was loud, but it wasn't shouty nor over forceful.  Impressive stuff.


Much anticipation around the visit to this room.  Ticket only and only to a timed schedule (which meant the room was silent around 60% of the time, what a waste), there must be something special here.  We have a uPnP streamer/USB DAC/CD/SACD player all in one package.  Plus a pre-amp and power amp with separate PSU.  All of this stuff looks superbly built but subtle in its styling.  Unlike the main feature of the demo which was the new floor standing speakers - 1m electrostatic tweeters, 8x mid drivers and 4x bass drivers - all of which are a passive system.
SACD had a delicate touch but was a little strident on high female vocals and trumpets.  Orchestral music was suprisingly lightweight.  The USB input faired somewhat better with less stridency.  The overall sound was very clear, but rather "technical" - the music didn't seem to flow very well.  Male vocals were hard - bass was OK, but light and slightly out of time with the rest of the music.  Even though it was a closed door ticket only event, I left part way through - it was kind of boring to listen to I'm afraid.

Some more unknown kit

APL CD & DAC, VAC amps, Von Schweikert speakers and Silenzio cables

Cables to the extreme

Clearly, one of the blingiest rooms at the show, and not to my visual taste.  The difference, here, was that the bling was not at the expense of a decent sound.  This system had good, solid bass, detail, sensible scaled instruments and was totally effortless in its presentation.  Very good, but I'm afraid the looks and excessive cabling and lifters mean I can't give it a highly commended award - its just trying too hard.


A different and supposedly revolutionary high frequency driver here.  Sounded pretty good, but nothing outstanding

Simple, but oh so helpful - a rare thing

THRAX were making a decent, even, broadly good sound.  Lots of room treatment, see next picture

Vinyl in the THRAX room - possibly the most convincing turntable sound at the show

Accustic Arts and Totem

Playing the new tiny (yet to be named) new floorstanding sister product to the Sky standmount.  Very enjoyable indeed and far more musical than the more expensive system being demonstrated in the other half of this room.

Metronome and Kalista

No notes on this one - no music playing.

Pretty extreme looking CD player though:


Lots of people seem to like the Heco Direkt, but they don't do anything for me.  Too smooth perhaps?  Certainly lacking much in the way of depth or body.

Einstein, TechDAS

ROOM F231d
Indiana Line system

Prosaic looks here, but a decent sound.  I think they might be aiming at the wrong audience by exhibiting at Munich - the kit is far too sensible to look at, and far too sensibly priced for Munich.  Great value for money and it would be good to hear this stuff more in context with its price point competitors.

ROOM F231b

Illusonic were demonstrating their room optimisation processor.  Unfortunately it was too late in the day to hear the full demo.

As mentioned further up the report, here is a shot of the drummer giving the live performance in the Avantgarde room.  Great fun.

ELAC (possibly with Audio Alchemy electronics, a company just taken over by ELAC)

Here ELAC were demonstrating the floorstanders in the Adante range - Andrew Jones' latest creations that are in the mid-range, following on from his recent success at the budget end of the ELAC's products.  Here we have a concentric tweeter and mid-bass driver (similar in concept to the one AJ designed at TAD in the show winning system) supported by an unusual set of bass drivers.  All of the visible bass drivers are not drivers at all - they're passive radiators - the drivers themselves are hidden inside with each one having its own ported enclosure with the driver and ports both facing forward into a sealed chamber between them and the passive radiator.  So you get ported extension without ports which can be noisy as the air rushes through them.  More detail on the ELAC site as to how / why this has been done.  This was a decent sounding system - it didn't immediately grab the attention, but it was musical and drew you into the tune and the emotion of the music.  I'd like to get to know these better.  Nice to have a brief chat with the designer too - a straightforward kind of guy, typical of a Yorkshireman.


Headphone amps in an amusing style of case which doubles as a stand

Interesting looks and reasonable sound - certainly more refined that you might think based on the styling

Nice looking concrete speakers

The Mag-Lev turntable produced as a result of crowd funding.  Apparently the mag-lev has no effect on the cartridge due to layers of shielding in the platter.  But, moving magnet carts only at the moment as the shielding isn't yet up to protecting moving coil designs

It really does work - had the chance to listen through some headphones on the busy and noisy exhibition floor.  So I can't comment on sound quality, but I can confirm that it exists and it works.

Harbeth's new special edition speaker - fabulous finish (if you look past the ugly screws) but not being played

ATC were playing their new stereo power amp into passive SCM50s.  Even though they only had a temporary room on the big exhibition floor, they were making a reasonable sound
ATC drivers

T+A speakers. Very expensive, yet adorned with Saisho in-car speaker covers (for those who can remember Dixon's ultra budget car hifi from the 80s)

Graham Audio showing off their BBC designs and the much larger, floorstanding, VOTU

Proof that there's no limits to the austentation available.  Unless they're magic super-sound crystals or something

More concrete cabinets - the finish on these is superb.  Would like to hear them.

The best in show system from TAD

Naim and Focal

Naim and Focal had taken a very large room on the second floor of Atrium 4.  Divided into 3 areas - large dem room, static kit and small dem room.  They launched the new Focal Utopia III EVO range of speakers and demoed them in the large dem area with a whole bunch of upper end Naim electronics.  If you liked the old Utopias, then you'll like these too.  With the Sopra range Focal seemed to have made a bit of progress towards sophistication, subtlety and a little bit of music, blending much better with the Naim electronics.  However, if you didn't like the old Utopias, like me, you won't like the new ones either.  Painful.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the suite, after trying some Focal headphones along the way (thought they were OK until I found out the prices), the small dem room contained Naim Uniti products and a pair of Focal Aria floorstanders.  This system proved that Focal can make a musical sounding speaker and the Uniti / Aria combination was very musical indeed.  Tenth of the cost, ten times more music.  Very interesting indeed.

This is Part 2 of the report, PART 1 OF THE REPORT IS HERE