High End Munich 2022 Show Report Part I
After three long years of waiting, High End Munich 2022 seemed to be over in a flash. The Munich show has long been the place of pilgrimage for those serious about hi-fi, but it is much more than that.
Having spent much of my five days in the Bavarian city catching up with people in the industry that I now count as friends and being stopped regularly for a handshake, hug, or chat about everything from bass strings, Swedish saunas and plunging into winter lakes, to performance cars, live music, and retro video games it showed that, even for this introvert, High End is a social event. Naturally, it is also about music and its reproduction in the home.
The four days of the High End show 2022 were split into two press/ industry days (Thursday and Friday) and two days for the general public and those with four-day passes. For me, Thursday and most of Friday were filled with meetings and attending scheduled press launches. Unfortunately, there were clashes and overruns and, try as I might, I can only be in one place at a time. Furthermore, as this wasn't my first time at the show, I had convinced myself that, if I was methodical, I could still visit every stand and room; however, a 30°+ Friday afternoon and a trio of friends in the beer garden soon put those particular plans to rest. But, this is the show's social side, and this shared passion for audio we all have is why we've come together.
Meanwhile, why not hit play on our High End Munich 2022 playlist curated from tracks heard during the four days of the exhibition?
- Qobuz playlist—> https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/9557723
- TIDAL playlist—> https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/f1374c26-20a7-464d-904e-27c1c8ad8ef5
ABSOLARE / ROCKPORT / REQUEST AUDIO
This pairing of Absolare electronics and Rockport Technologies Avior II loudspeakers underlines the synergy between the two brands.
The strengths of the combination being fed by ReQuest Audio's The Raptor proved very enjoyable with natural tonality and plenty of detail. However, the vocal clarity and strong rhythmic punch were the stars of this room. All something you should be able to guarantee from a system around the €350,000 mark - ah, if only it was that easy.
ALLUXITY / JOSEPH AUDIO
Alluxity and Joseph Audio partnered up again this year, as they did in 2019.
Unfortunately, Jeff Joseph's speakers remain relatively unknown in the UK. Still, these excellently capable loudspeakers never fail to impress at shows, especially like here, on the end of the Danish high-end lifestyle brand's attractive electronics.
ALSYVOX / JADIS / LAMPIZATOR
The first jaw-dropping planars in this report are the 2-metre tall, 85cm wide, 97db-efficient Alsyvox Raffaello.
The 3-way symmetrical ribbon planar speaker (double midrange and double woofer) loudspeakers were powered by Jadis I70 integrated (£11,498), JPL MKII pre and JA30 MKII power amplifiers. This incredible system also included the €44,000 Lampizator Horizon DAC and circa £25,000 Taiko Extreme server, all joined by Omega Audio Concepts Elements cables. This may well have been a lottery-winner's system, but the soundstage, sense of scale and unflappable ease of this system's presentation captivated me for much longer than I really had time for - but I enjoyed every second of it.
AMBITIOUS AUDIO DESIGN / GRYPHON/ NAD
Stood on a plinth reminiscent of Twin-Pod Cloud Cars as seen in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, these eye-catching hand-built Danish loudspeakers are the A1.1 from Ambitious Audio Design.
They feature the company's own LLS (Linear Lossless Suspension) system drivers and in-house ribbon tweeters. The enclosure is constructed from a mixture of materials, including 170kgs of aluminium, to provide optimal conditions for the drivers, so says AAD. Although not ideal conditions on an open stand, the €95,000 speakers sounded decent (extra points for the use of Gryphon amplification); still, I'd love the opportunity to hear them in a proper room.
ANTIPODES / LYRAVOX
The €28,900 Lyravox Karlotta loudspeakers are an active design featuring six Class D NCore power amps, onboard DSP and preamplifier pushing out to Accuton mids and tweeter, a 12-inch ScanSpeak sub, and top-firing AMT50 tweeter.
This was fed by an Antipodes Olandra server/ player/ reclocker costing €25K, which was pumping ZZ Top's La Grange into the room, resulting in instant foot tapping and head nodding. Power conditioning was provided by the UK's Puritan Audio.
This Latvian company caught my eye (and ears) at last year's UK Audio Show, and, at High End, it was demonstrating its £46,500 Contra 350F playing Jane Monheit's Honeysuckle Rose when I walked in.
This is the brand's largest model, standing 130cm and weighing 65kg. It has a 93dB quoted sensitivity, 20Hz-23kHz frequency range and features a built-in vibration decoupling plate, pearl white waveguide contrasting its semi-matte black finish and 24-carat gold plated speaker terminals. This passive floorstander was doing everything right for me, so I stayed and listened to Beauna Vista Social Club's Chan Chan, too.
As eye-catching as some of the enormous systems were, head-fi was also well-represented in a special area set aside for personal and portable audio.
I made a beeline for Astell & Kern's new £1,199 Kann Max. Boasting a max output of 15V RMS, it should have most headphones covered, including high impedance types. Under the hood, you'll find a 32/ 768, DSD512 DAC, 24-bit wireless codec with 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone connections wrapped up in an aluminium and glass case. It felt typically sturdy, well put together, and sounded pretty fab through the attached Meze cans.
Bridging the gap between Mavros and the flagship Asimi now stands the Arran range from Scottish cable wizards, Atlas.
Arran is constructed from solid core conductors made up of seven OCC copper strands rather than the multistrand design of Mavros. The connectors are also new, replacing PTFE with a 3D printed polyethylene sleeve called Ultra Latik. Atlas says this is much closer to air, the ultimate dielectric, resulting in wider bandwidth and a more natural sound. Ultra L RCA cables are £2,350 for a metre pair, while the Arran Transpose speaker cable has six OCC copper conductors and costs £5,995 for a 3m pair. If that's too rich for your blood, Atlas also showed me the Ailsa Ultra, where a metre pair of RCA interconnects costs £995 (XLR and DIN also available), and Hyper 5 speaker cable comes in at £680 per 3m pair.
AUDIA FLIGHT / ALARE LABS
Alare Labs may not be a familiar name, but it is the new sibling company to Italian high-end audio electronics brand Audia Flight which has some components that seem to smile at you - not so much the Strumento N°8 Mono-block power amplifiers being used here with the Alare Reminga 2 loudspeakers, the latter dressed in a fantastically figured red wood finish.
The speakers have a three-way tapered transmission line design and features an internal steel cage. The woofers are custom 10-inch and 8-inch carbon sandwich cones, with the mid and tweeter coming from Accuton - a 7-inch pure ceramic membrane and a 1.2-inch pure diamond membrane, respectively. Everything was plumbed by Signal cables and sat on Quadraspire stands. There was no mistaking that these brands were related as there was an unmistakable synergy that produced a wonderfully dynamic presentation.
The hospitality of the Audiodinamica team is now the stuff of legend as far as I am concerned. This Italian brand produces cuboid hi-fi separates that sound as good as they are stylish.
As we listened to Sonic Youth being played through their system, I was told that the company has quite a few plans for the coming year now that the dreaded Covid seems to be under control. However, one new offering is custom fronts for their products which are already available in various colours - album cover, much-loved pet or your mother-in-law, it all can be done.
So here's the famous King Crimson album cover and Gianluca - but which one is which? A pair of BeCube mono amps is €2,389.35, while the excellent BeCube headphone amplifier costs €1,266.40. The brand may well get distribution in the UK this year, so stay tuned.
Audio Physic had their new €150,000 flagship Medeos speakers at High End this year, but these might have been squirrelled away as they were signed by Alan Parsons - or perhaps were just in another room that evaded me.
Nevertheless, the circa £16k Avantera in the room I found sounded great paired with Primare electronics.
Audio Research returned to independent ownership last year, and its show stand was dominated by an I50 integrated valve amp display in several Cerakote colours.
The amp is a push-pull design running 6550 tubes to deliver 50Wpc and offers optional DAC and phono modules and a tube cage. UK RRP is £5,698.
Wandering into Audiovector's room in search of its teased new speakers, I was first hit by the sound of Tool being played at volume.
Shortly afterwards, I was told by company founder and R&D manager Ole Klifoth that “the kids have taken over” while nodding at his son and head of the company, Mads, with a friend listening to Audiovector's new QR 7 floorstanding loudspeaker.
The new QR flagship sports a pair of 8-inch woofers, a 6-inch mid driver and an Air Motion Transformer. Ole informed me that the 1.1-meter tall/ 36.2kg speaker will go down to 28Hz with the three-way design aided by its Q-port bass reflex system. Crossovers happen at 425 and 3000Hz, whilst quoted sensitivity is 90.5dB making the QR 7 easily driven by most modern amps - tube or solid-state. The QR 7 is available at an RRP of £4,950 in three finishes: White Silk, Dark Walnut and Black Piano, which puts them in a sweet spot price-wise, as proven by several sales made already by the time I visited on Thursday morning.
AUDIUM / ATOLL
Audium put on an impressive show with their hybrid speakers joined by electronics from French brand, Atoll.
The loudspeakers marry the advantages of a passive wide-band driver and an active woofer, resulting in speed and point-source imaging alongside an immensely enjoyable and well-integrated low-end. The engaging presentation seemed to have everything going for it from these sensibly sized speakers.
Auralic's four-box digital streaming system was on fine voice when I visited.
The rig featured the company's Aries G2.1 network streamer, Vega G2.1 DAC, Sirius G2.1 upsampler and the new kid of the group, the Leo G2.1 reference clock, all sat on a Solidsteel rack. This was sent out through some mighty ATC SCM100A active loudspeakers to tremendous effect. Power, dynamics and detail were all present and correct to these ears.
Sweeping past the Auris stand, I was able to get up close with the brand's all-new Bayadare 3 turntable, loaded with the W9 tonearm.
Additionally, I was also able to see the beautiful Tangenta HAWK, the Serbian company's first tonearm, in the metal. Everything looked lovely, but it's how it sounds that's important - perhaps someday we'll be able to let you know about that.
The Avantgarde demonstration constantly had a packed room. Here the audience was treated to the spectacle of the company's large-scale Trio G3 and Basshorn XD.
The Trio G3 (Generation 3) features the new EvolutionAA driver generation, XT3 tweeter unit with a new long-throw horn and extended super tweeter frequency range resulting in a claimed 100Hz-20kHz. Needless to say, with the Basshorns, the low range shifts dramatically downwards. Kraftwerk was spun on an SME Model 60 turntable with Wadax and CH Precision joining Avantgarde electronics. This was big and beautiful.
Friday was a hot one, and I was thankful for the cold beer that greeted me at the Drivers and Industry club across from the convention centre.
This members club for owners of classic and exotic vehicles was the venue for AVM's announcement of a Black Edition Ovation CS 8.3 all in one CD/ streamer/ amp. This €15,000 version benefits from WBT terminals and better tubes in the hybrid amplifier. Also on parade was the third-gen Evo line, where the 3.3 (from €3,900) models are solid-state, and the 5.3 are hybrid designs with the top CS5.3 (€4,900) model offering 330W, the X-Stream streaming engine and MM or MC phono stages. MP 3.3 and 5.3 are media players good for Redbook CD and streaming with a third-generation modular phono stage. The new Evo line is due in Q3 and is available in a chrome finish or brushed aluminium.
However, the star of this show for me was the compact multi-room system dubbed RoomConneXion. The AVM RA (Room Amp) features 140/ch amplification and AVM's X-Stream Engine, HDMI ARC, a suite of digital inputs, and a high-performance DAC and retails for €2,490. Meanwhile, the even easier to hide (should you want to) AVM RB (Room Bridge) features X-Stream, HDMI ARC, USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet and WiFi, and will sell for €1,990.
The B.audio brothers showed the French brand's reference range, including the B.dpr EX streaming DAC with full analogue preamp stage and a pair of B.amp ultra-low distortion bridgeable class AB stereo power amps out to a pair of Intralda loudspeakers.
Even though the monoblock looks like the existing model, I was told that it's priced lower at €12,450 and produces 300W into 8 Ohms and 500W into 4 Ohms alongside “unmeasurably low” crossover distortion. Airelle Besson's Radio One (Football Games on Radio One) sounded so good that I hung around to listen to a track called Wake Me Up by a French group I didn't quite get the name of, too. All sounded wonderfully natural and, dare I say, analogue.
BURMESTER / YG ACOUSTICS/ PORSCHE
As well as an open display in one of the atriums, elsewhere, Burmester electronics were plumbed into a pair of YG Acoustics TOR from the speaker brand's Peaks range, making an admirable noise in such a large room.
Burmester unveiled the new 216 (€23,700) and 218 (€34,600) amps featuring all-new circuitry, including Class A input stages and a DC-coupled signal path. Burmester also unveiled its new €15,000 B28 floorstander featuring an AMT tweeter, glass fibre mid and high excursion bass drivers in a multi-layered cabinet with a high mass base.
Furthermore, I enjoyed Burmester's 'portable' offerings installed into a Porsche Taycan Cross Tourismo Turbo S. Being an electric car with insulated windows, there was minimal noise interfering with the 21-driver system, including AMT tweeters and a subwoofer in the rear. Additionally, thanks to the clever positioning of these speakers, Aero 3D sound was produced incredibly well, giving you and your passengers total immersion.
Depending on how much or little 3D sound you want, this effect can be dialled in via a slider. The great news is that the Cross Tourismo has added the long-awaited Android Auto functionality to its list. Oh, and the Taycan's claimed 0-100kph time of 2.9 seconds felt much, much more rapid than that in real life. I cannot lie; I am now addicted.
As a break from all the eye-wateringly spendy turntables on show at High End Munich 2022, Cambridge Audio's Alva ST £849 price point seemed a breath of fresh air and much more palatable.
This deck boasts many features from the brand's £1,700 Alva TT, now in MK2 flavour. The ST is a belt-driven design with a cast alloy platter and comes with a built-in but bypassable phono stage, Bluetooth aptX HD for wireless speakers and an Audio Technica MM cartridge.
Cessaro partnered their attention-grabbing horns with the equally eye-catching Alieno hybrid valve amplification.
Also on the rack was a TW-Acustic turntable and RPS 100 phono stage. Although impressive in looks and overall sound, I don't believe that I caught this system at its best on the day as there seemed to be something lacking for me.
The UK's Chord Electronics showed its new Ultima 3 preamplifier at High End that we've already heard played in a preview.
Playing Riders on The Storm by The Doors while I was there, the £6,000 Pre 3 sports a new design language for the brand and offers low noise, five analogue inputs and filtering to mitigate RFI and protect the signal. It also has an AV bypass engaged by pressing the right-hand dial. Stay tuned for a full review soon!
Credo Cinema LTM speakers were launched at AXPONA back in 2019 and are still quite something to behold.
This three-way design features 32 ring radiator tweeters, 14 x 4-inch Kevlar mid-woofers and four passive 12-inch subs in a line array wrapped in Panzeholz cabinets with the crossover mounted on a decoupled platform. These speakers are said to go down to 16Hz and are 85.5dB sensitive.
They were connected by Van den Hul cables to PassLabs X600.8 monoblocks fed by EmmLabs and Meitner electronics alongside the new VPI Avenger Direct turntable kitted out with a pair of 12-inch arms and Van den Hul The Black Crimson and DS Audio DS 003 cartridges. IsoTek's Super Titan 32A and EVO3 Nova kept the power clean and consistent. The result was similar to having a pair of colossal electrostatics in front of me but with some well-tuned subs' adding grin-inducing weight and impact.
Dali brought its new €80,000 Kore flagship loudspeaker to Munich and is the first to feature the Danish manufacturer's wood fibre cone in a dedicated mid-range driver - here, a 7-inch unit - positioned near the signature hybrid tweeter.
The midrange and bass drivers use Dali's second-gen SMC (Soft Magnetic Compound) combined with its Balanced Drive concept to create Balanced Drive SMC, which uses two voice coils to reduce potential signal loss and distortion. Meanwhile, a 35mm dome combined with a ribbon in an EVO-K system covers the high-end frequencies. The curved, one-piece wood laminate cabinets feature a striking Ammara Ebony veneer with two identical 72-litre internal chambers, one for each woofer, terminating in a pair of bass reflex ports at the rear. Furthermore, die-cast aluminium and composite materials give the drivers a rigid platform, so we are told. Finally, each speaker has a 34kg cement-based plinth adding to the overall 110kg of mass on each side. Impressive stuff and an outstanding result.
DARTZEEL / STENHEIM
Stenheim and darTZeel were the power couple in this particular room, marrying the £21,500 darTZeel LHC-208 integrated streaming, £44,998 darTZeel NHB-18NS preamp, and €216,650 darTZeel NHB-468 monoblocks with the $150,000US Stenheim Ultime Reference 2 loudspeakers.
There was also a Dohmann Helix One MK2 vinyl spinner on standby, cabling by Nordost, and room treatment courtesy of Audys Acoustic Panels. This was a great-sounding high-end yet faff-free system.
DCS / D'AGOSTINO/ WILSON AUDIO
Just before the High End show, dCS announced their newest Vivaldi One player sporting the all-new Apex DAC, and it was great to be able to experience it here with StereoNET reviewer and fantastic musician Rafael Todes.
As dCS fans, there was a feeling that something was not quite right with what we were hearing. However, after some suggested tweaks from Raffy, things started to open up, and the system seemed to gel much more as we listened to a chosen Sibelius piece now filling the room. Needless to say, we are eager to experience the new Apex tech in our listening rooms.
Judging by the number of social media posts seen over the past few months, the Estonian ultrasonic record cleaning machines are winning fans worldwide.
This was replicated by the number of people visiting the booth whenever I sped past. However, I am not sure how many noticed a new 'prototype' cleaner on the stand, even though it was in a rather attractive red finish. I was told that there were separate tanks for cleaning and rinsing, as well as some other tweaks. Even though, like many other things, the price of the Degritter machines has increased, the company appears to have a winning formula in offering fundamentally automated cleaning in an attractive, quiet and compact product.
Denon, like Cambridge Audio, realises that not everyone has luxury car budgets for their hi-fi (or for their cars, for that matter). Thankfully, with its £499 DCD-900NE CD player and £999 PMA-900HNE 50W integrated amplifier with built-in HEOS streamer and MM/ MC phono stage, it offers quality at a more friendly price point.
However, I was more drawn to the £2,000 PMA-1700NE integrated and its array of connectivity options and 70W per channel and the novel, for nowadays, tone controls. The Denon-powered Polk system sounded great for the price.
John Devore's Orangutan O/96 speakers appeared to be doing the work of much larger boxes in this room while his latest creation, the O/baby, was sat in the corner - I thought there were rules about putting Baby in the corner?
The O/baby sports a .75-inch textile dome tweeter that's horn-loaded and sat in a ply baffle partnered by a new uncoated paper 7-inch woofer of similar construction to the larger model in the O/96. The baby has a quoted 90dB/W/m sensitivity and a $5,700 price tag. The O/96 sounded glorious, and it was difficult to tear myself away.
Diptyque's Reference was one of my 'sounds of High End 2022' and is the second planar in this report that genuinely wowed me.
Perhaps part of the reason for the impressive performance is Diptyque's new Crossed Push-Pull tech, where each bass cell is driven by two independent coils (set of ribbons), one vertical and one horizontal. I was told that this enables the 12 μm mylar membrane to be set in vibration by hundreds of small square motors allowing controlled vibration without deformation. This is said to guarantee very linear low frequencies without distortion. In addition, the midrange section features a new 20mm isodynamic ribbon covering 600 to 7000 Hz, and for the high-frequency section, an 8mm pure aluminium super tweeter goes beyond 24000 Hz. The planar speakers were driven by Kora amplifiers, and B.audio DAC joined by O2A cables. Malia and Boris Blank sounded stunning through this set-up, but a real sense of scale and definition came when the Mephisto Waltz performed by the Minnesota Orchestra was played. Oh my!
Dynaudio is not one to make a great deal of fuss about what it does - for instance, you rarely hear about its professional monitors being used at AIR, Abbey Road, or Artelliery studios. However, the Danish brand ushered in its new Focus range at the Munich show, consisting of three models featuring Pascal amplifier modules with 110W powering the Cerotar tweeter and 280W for the Esotec+ mid/bass drivers.
In addition, a Stream Unlimited module offers you access to Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Roon, Bluetooth and local network capabilities. Meanwhile, WISA wireless connection means that compatible TVs can join in the action. Pushing its nose past other wireless speakers, Dynaudio also bundles in Dirac room correction with a Bluetooth remote and app rounding things off. Priced at €5,000 for the Focus 10 standmount, €7,500 for the Focus 30 floorstander and €10,000 for the larger Focus 50, it will certainly be interesting to hear them in a more controlled environment. Still, I think Dynaudio might have something good here.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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