Munich High End Show 2015

Stephen Harper – Audio Consultants - Friday, June 05, 2015

I visited the Munich High End Show last month. The main purpose of which was to meet with some of my suppliers but, as many of you know, this show is one of the largest, and probably to best audio shows in the world. A huge number of exhibitors over 4 large halls with several levels of closed rooms at atrium levels offering closed demonstration rooms. Exceptionally well organised and presented as you would expect from a German organisation.

Reiner Glass of AudioDeskSysteme was demonstrating his ultrasonic vinyl cleaner to great effect. This remarkable LP cleaner is still selling consistently well for me and our next shipment is due in July.

Clearaudio had a large and extensive static display of all their turntables and electronic products and they were handling a constant stream of visitors.

HRS products were supporting a system fronted Brinkmann turntables and topped off with Vandersteen Audio loudspeakers. I have been given a pre-view of their new responsive website. This was most impressive with extensive information and much excellent new photography of their product applications. It looked excellent and we will be advising all when it is fully operational. They also announced some new products that include: New SXR-1419 module frame and bases for smaller items. New custom M3X-1422 and custom SXR-1422 frame designed for Transparent Cables Network Modules. R3X frames are now available in all sizes and colours.

Norma Audio and Audio Analogue had static displays showing some of the best and more affordable electronics made in Italy.

Whilst visiting many of the rooms showing some of the more famous, and well reviewed, brands from the upper echelon of the high end audio industry, I was struck by how poor the sounds were. Even allowing for the difficulties of showing at this type of event and the vagaries of the rooms, most could not justify the high value placed on their components. Disappointing to say the least. Two of the worst were the Constellation amplification with Magico loudspeakers and Viola with Ocean Way loudspeakers. Roy Gregory of The Audio Beat came to very much the same conclusion and says so in his unique and eloquent way in this link.

Roy apportions much of the sound issue on the large amount of computer audio being used as sources, and I would agree this was one of the problems when it comes to trying to create a good sound. But this was not the only problem, the systems overall were sounding bright and forward with little attempt at being other than “hifi” in their presentations. No attempt being made to recreate what real instruments sound like or the live experience in the concert hall.

A couple of room in the area devoted to the higher end of the market provide some welcome relief for me which were producing a more natural approach to sound. These were put together by the loudspeaker manufacturers German Physiks and Lawrence Audio. Both these manufacturers had systems that were well balanced and able to produce excellent soundstaging and tonality.

German Physiks were using the lower end of their omni-directional loudspeakers, the HRS-130 and the Unlimited. Considering how large the room was, the sense of scale and high levels of dynamics illustrated very well what their excellent, relatively small speakers can achieve in such a space. Many visitors were very impressed by the natural and highly realistic sound. We are investing in these models and I will be reporting on them soon on the main website.

Lawrence Audio is small manufacturer from Taiwan that has been around for some years but still relatively unknown in Europe and the UK. Their shape is unusual in that they resemble musical string instruments and have names such as Violin, Cello and Double Bass. A combination of ribbons and large bass drivers, the sound was extremely natural and unforced which produced large and deep soundstages. Similar in sound philosophy to that of Avalon Acoustics and they very much appealed to me. The build quality was of the highest quality I have seen. I will report on their sound in more depth once I have had a chance to listen to a sample of the Violin SE over the next few weeks.