Every year, a gathering of pipe-smoking, vinyl lovers gather around this Bavarian country to discuss if lifting their speaker cables off the floor by 0.75in will improve the sound staging of their audio systems. Yes, such is the nature of the audiophile that visits the Munich High-End Show and our sister magazine, What Hi-Fi caters to this cartel. You may not want all the details of the snake oil that is rubbed on these cables and amplifiers, so here are some of the best bits from the show that don’t require golden ears to appreciate them.
Astell & Kern AK380
Fans of hi-res music are lapping up the AK380 for its 32bit/384kHz bit-to-bit playback capability. Having Native DSD support and being dressed up in aircraft-grade aluminium also helps. The 4in WVGA screen is sharp and responsive but the OS isn’t the most intuitive and takes some getting used to. Thankfully, the 3400mAh battery and 256GB flash storage gives you enough to play around all day.
Poet Audio Pandoredetta
Designed by illustrious Austrian designer Thomas Feichtner, Poet Audio products are quite unlike anything you have ever seen. The Pandordetta is the bigger of their two-model portfolio and is designed to radiate sound in a 360-degree soundfield. Using metal sheet technology to create an interesting top coat, even the foam lid that separates it from the MDF shell is incombustible and resistant to age. Supporting Bluetooth AptX and optionally even Apple AirPlay, its irresistible looks will win it quite an audience.
Lyravox Stereomaster 240
Hailing from Hamburg, this magnificent looking system is no ordinary soundbar. It is in fact a war cry to high-end floor standing speakers, considering the technology it hides behind its lacquered fascia. Which, incidentally is done by the same team that showers attention on Steinway pianos. Scan Speak drivers, the Revelator and Illuminator to be precise are used behind the grille as well as twin subwoofers. A Teac sourced slot CD drive plays music and 10 x 400W Class D mono blocs inject power into the drivers. But all that doesn’t seem to matter once you look at it!
Estelon Audio Extreme
Visually stunning from every angle, the Estelon Extreme is breathtaking sight in the flesh. With an enclosure made from a marble-based composite, it all but completely obliterates any form of resonance. The modular design allows for the top to be adjustable for height, depending on your seated position. Diamond tweeter and ceramic midrange are used alongside aluminium LF drivers. A hefty weight of 250kg per loudspeaker hints at the seriousness of it all.
Started by two music aficionados from Turkey, the Once Custom Sound brand has five models in its range with the Nar topping the list. This full-range loudspeaker has a frequency range of 55-30,000Hz and uses the 5.5in Scan Speak Illuminator paper cone midrange with a 1.25in silk dome tweeter suspended in front of it. Sound quality couldn’t be judged since it was only on a static display but it drew enough attention for its handcrafted curvy cabinet.
Dan D’Agostino Streamer
Based around the massive Momentum integrated amp, the achingly beautiful Streamer might be the best looking audio component ever! Adding a UPnP streamer with a 5in screen and bespoke software to an integrated amplifier seems like a great idea and when it’s implemented as well as this, who would complain! The volume knob around the outer ring of the dial simply has to be felt to be believed and makes it worth its almost ₹3,183,735.38 price tag.
Burmester Phase 3 Retro
Blending classic Burmester system architecture with retro-cool design is the mantra of this new project by the German high-end manufacturer. Using the 161 All-in-One receiver, it packs in a Tidal high-resolution music account and control via the Burmester iPad app. Apple AirPlay and a 2TB HDD come as standard so whether you’re into streaming or ripping, you can rest assured of the best possible quality.
Unison Research Absolute 845
As far as tube amplifiers go, this is a bonafide classic. The Absolute 845 was released more than 20 years ago but still demands respect. The 40 watts/channel power is generous enough to drive most amplifiers but it’s not about the power and rather about the delivery in this case. It’s a Class A single-ended triode and that means the purest form of amplification possible. Partner it with a horn speaker and the results won’t be nothing short of magical.
KEF Blade 2
A more room-friendly version of the original Blade is out in production form now and was gathering quite a bit of attention in the KEF/Arcam demo room. Finished in a surreal Frosted Blue shade, it keeps the same Uni-Q midrange but swaps the bigger 9in woofers for smaller 6.5in cones to couple better in smaller rooms. The single apparent point source remains but is now more affordable too. We would love to have one of these for a hands-on soon!
A lot of hype was created for the launch of this little French product that is supposed to be the next revolution in small speaker technology. The Phantom is an all-in-one streaming speaker but what makes it really special is its implosive engineering. Claimed to go down to 16Hz all the way up to 25kHz, a lot of patents are involved in its design, construction and physics-bending performance. Available in two models, one rated at 750watts and the other a thunderous 3000watts.
Poured into a mould with actual concrete, this brand from Germany likes to keep things simple, and rigid. Due to its non-vibrational properties, concrete works best as an enclosure material. The two models in its spartan range are the floorstanding N1 and the wall mountable F1. The F1 has a dept of only 32mm and its 41 mini-speakers act like a single panel. We couldn’t hear them in action but the looks have us stoked.
This is by no means a comprehensive coverage of the Munich High-End Show. For that, you will have to refer to the June issue of our sister magazine What Hi-Fi? but this gives you an idea of how passe you are if you still use an Altec Lansing multimedia speaker system bought from your computer dealer. If you have any inclination towards music, or high-resolution online streaming, high-end audio is the way to go!