The single most striking aspect of High End Munich as a first time attendee is the sheer scale of the show. With over 500 manufactures exhibiting it’s incredibly daunting and there is an immediate realisation that it is impossible to absorb everything the show has to offer and that each attendee is likely to leave with different thoughts and impressions.
There is no consensus in the audiophile community or industry what the best format for playing back music is. Most active rooms used both a digital and analogue (in some cases more than one) source to demonstrate their ware. Vinyl, CD, Streaming, and even a reel to reel presence were all vying to make a statement with mixed results. By far the most consistent and convincing demos all came from digital sources, and this is coming from a vinyl junkie. The case for streaming, especially for just music fans and not audiophiles, is both very credible and exciting for our industry.
The number of turntables at the show was beyond staggering and even more so considering that four major manufactures weren’t present - Clearaudio, Rega, VPI and SME. Who is buying all these different models? It is no longer a Linn LP12 or Rega world!
A very interesting dinner conversation with Sandy Gross (CEO GoldenEar) and two American audio journalists perfectly summed up my overriding feel of the show. In High End audio there is no absolute sound. Why is it that when speaker manufactures are given a mandate to build the perfect speaker with no budget constraint their end results sound so radically different from each other? Moving from one room to the next each had its own interpretation of what the absolute sound should be. My interpretation of the absolute sound is to convincingly recreate the sound and feel of live acoustic unamplified music. By that standard the best sound at the show for me, without prejudice, was the Magico S5 MkII driven by Constellation Centaur II mono amplifiers. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had the correct energy and feel experience of a live performance.
Highlight of the show for me was a live performance juxtaposed to a Hi-Fi ‘s interpretation of it. At the Constellation/Martin Logan stand, Anne Bisson performed a track from her new album whilst the same song played off vinyl. Seated about two meters from her, it perfectly revealed how exceptional Hi Fi has become yet still showed the gap between live and recorded recreated. Event was captured on an IPhone 6 and can been seen/heard here.
Low point of the show: Hearing “Hotel California” 3 times. Certain albums by now should be banned from shows and stores. It’s about the music. The message is – a Hi Fi should be used to listen to your albums as opposed to using your albums to listen to your Hi Fi.