Munich High End Society Exhibition 2009

Short impression

the show this year was for me definitely the poorest ever - nothing to compare to the good old days at the Frankfurt Kempinski Hotel.

The new venue in Munich is terrible. A huge glass cage where there is no possibility to listen to systems properly.  This place looks more like an abandoned airport than a place for music.

Anyway - that was the smallest problem.
My general impression was, that the industry, or at least the representatives of the industry who made it to the show - is in agony. It is eating its own tail and choking on it.
Again, generalizing broadly - there were few if any - companies who make any interesting gear. Nothing inexpensive, innovative, nothing oriented on music.
Most companies were either Swiss or German, almost nobody from the thriving new markets like Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Hong Kong, Hungary, etc.
The design was so boring, as if everybody thought that the best thing the world needs is a Burmeister clone, a simple silverish box for 15 000 euro a piece.
Where is the good old time of British cottage industry making high-end toys that an average european could afford ?  The honour of europe is somehow defended by the Italians, with their huge diversity of thinking. But generally - I felt disappointed. I am not sure if the audience shared my opinion or not. I felt surrounded by a mass of fiftysomething, grey pony tail hair blue jeans big car  engineers who looked as me - bored and indifferent.
No, no no. This is going the wrong way.
I understand, that the cheap end of the market has been overtaken by Chinese internet imports. The mid of the market is struggling under recession and can't possibly afford the Munich ticket. So those who made it are making 100 fold mark-ups and somehow surviving. I was really disgusted. I will describe it closer with photo illustrations below.
Another observation was that unlike previously - the exhibitors did not allow to play my own CD's. Only their demo set. Very disappointing.
Most systems that were sounding quite Okay cost over 100 000 Eu as a whole, some - over half million. I mean - someone should see a doctor and it is not me.

I noticed more turntables than ever, unfortunately - the separate motor and a 20 kilo platter kind of machines, starting at 3000 Euro and finishing at over 100 000.  The likes as Rega seemed absent.

What was new ?

I noticed a couple of new toys that are interesting.
One of them is the Teac VRDS NEO mechanism, first fully new CD mechanism in many years on the market almost 100 % dominated by asian DVD mechanisms in heavy boxes. Unfortunately the top Teac mechanism is accessible only via their Esoteric player for over 7000 Eu. Hardly a bargain. I hope they will go down with price after they collect the income from impatient audiophiles, gadget freaks, early adopters, and so on.


Now this is one hell of a macho super heavy all metal transport. Count me in for the waiting list.


Above - the whole bunch of TEACS.  The top-most one on this picture is THE ONE TO HAVE.
Anyway, when I touched one of these boxes, the representative of the stand jumped to me like mother Lion in defense and asked CAN I HELP YOU ?!? I decided to run for cover.
They CAN'T help me because I need their transport for the price of 1000 Eu.

Second new thing was a completely new supertriode from Czech KR. They built an entirely new tube which must be physically the largest one on the market. My GM70 and 845 looks like a toy compared to the new tube.
I don't know the whole story but looking at the "guts" of this monster it seems like they took two 300B mechanisms and put them together in the huuuuge bottle. Very cool. I saw the tube on many stands but I can't comment on the sound.

The amps with these tubes - positivelly FALLIC impression. I guess - when someone makes tube THIS BIG - he is not doing it for fun but for the money. Big money. Don't YOU want an amp like that ???

from KR site:

 KR T1610 
  Low Frequency, Ultra high power triode. 22-50 Watts of pure class-A power  
 Maximum Plate Voltage    650 V  
 Maximum Plate Current    250 mA  
 Plate Dissipation    150 Watts  
 Va    400 V  
 Ia    160 mA  
 Vg    -83 V  
 Transconductance    9.9 mA/V  
 Amplification Factor    3.7  
 Filament Voltage    5 V (DC/AC)  
 Filament Current    3.8 A

Some personal awards:

The worst sound at the show goes to ... Burmester. I am sorry guys - you are in the cul de sac of audio world. Chario was close second, with Restek as well.

Surprisingly - also the presentation with CAT legendary tube preamp and signature amp (monstrous in size and power) - so much praised by Stereophile - sounded really bad.  I guess the speakers were responsible for that ...
I havent taken a note which speakers they were and which room it was.

The most miserable (mute) presentation for sure goes to Revox. What happened to this legendary company ??? Oh God, they looked miserable. This was not even funny considering where they are coming from.

The most interesting company at the show - for me without a doubt was Angstrom from Italy.  Their gear was not playing, but at least it was open on the top and when I peeked inside I almost fainted. I was on my knees!  Holly Golithly ! These guys do the things PERFECTLY - I wish I could build like that. Everything was so well made, so over engineered, tubes tubes everywhere, power supplies of monstrous proportions, EVERYTHING was fabulous. I wish them success. It seems like every of their products should be in top class. Absolutely nothing at this show compared to Angstrom. Frankly, I cant name any company at all, even among those who were not represented in Munich, who makes the gear so well. Maybe somehow comparable would be Manley, Audio-Note, Audio Research Reference line, some top Jadis, some top Cary, top BAT products - but that's all.  I WANT THEIR SYSTEM !


A real pleasure of meeting the guys from Anggstrom!

The good sound was coming from the following stands:

AYON - very interesting, very well made line of different amps and preamps. Just the way the High end should be. They included amps based on my beloved 6C33C triodes as well as completely unknown for me tubes pictured below..

Anybody knows these triodes ???

Another company worth mentioning was TLA - representing Grece. 
In their literature there is a whole lot of nice amps, all triode, the big toys like 845, 300B etc. But at the show they presented the largest mono SET DHT triode amps I ever saw, using the biggest and strangest gigantic triode. I should have known it's name, but I don't. Who cares anyway. That triode naturally belongs in Acropolis, it is the Zeus of tubes.  Just look at this!!!


TLA room - filled with triodes and horns.   Just look at that bass support behind the horns !

Another good sound was in the Emille room. That British company has a complete line of very good looking and good sounding gear. I heard it only with the cheaper conventional speakers, but the Lowther ones seemed extremely tempting. Unfortunately - stood there disconnected. I would like to return to Emille again and again.


The most crazy innovation award goes to the guy who makes turntable arms from violin bows. And the turntable plinth in the shape of the piano.  Stupid it may seem, but at least he had the fantasy to do something as crazy as this. I don't know about the sound as this was not demoed. Needless to say - the guy was Italian.

Contrary to previous years - NAIM was sounding really good. Mainly due to their nice new speakers called OVATOR
. I could live with this sound.  Cheap it surely is not, but the NAIM system at least does not give me tooth ache as a few years ago.
The spacious and friendly sound I am linkinmg to the mid-tweeter. Some mysterious one - my wild guess is that it is a custom made Manger..

The best speakers at the show were the Japanese Hiraga at the stand of Audio Consulting.
Sadly, they were powered by ridiculously expensive system, and I guarantee it would sound just as good on the 100 x cheaper system. I mean over 100 000 Euro for a volume knob (line stage) is too much even for a guy as rich as me.

This Japanese loudspeaker was using - of course - an Alnico Altec Lansing Biflex drivers (just as yours truly does at home) with built in small horn tweeter. They buy them on US ebay and pack into heavy boxes. I don't know the price but I am sure it is adequate to the Japanese origin and Swiss distributor Audio Consulting. As far as I know - Audio Consulting is THE most expensive shop in the world.  It is even too expensive for German Dentists. Without an OPEC membership - don't even enter.
Anyway - these speakers (using ONLY one track all day - I guess particularly suited to demo this product) was the fastest speaker of the show. It had dynamics and realism others could only DREAM about. The whole Scanspeak 18 cm 8545 crowd can FORGET IT.


The squeezebox fans would be thrilled at the BEHOLD demo (Italy) These guys made a dream machine: a CD player, Hard Disk, Server, Windows, Tuner, 4 amplifiers, music bank, MP3 player, SACD player, the touch screen - all in one box. And believe me - it is fun to operate, joy to look at, and it plays very well. I consider their demo one of top 3 of the whole show.


Their excellent touchscreen graphic interface - fabulous to work with. Pure, simple, intuitive. Bravo !

These speakers had the bass unit hiding inside and the revelator tweeter was precisely time alligned by means of special gauge screw. You could hear incredibly well painted space and timing.

I was only cooled down by the price tag of 20000 Euro. Well, frankly speaking - my iMac, my laptop, and my Squeezebox - each one does all that Behold machine does at 1/20 th of the price. Maybe I dont have the 4 amps, but even Behold used external additional mono blocks to move their speakers. I was equally impressed as disgusted.
But PLEASE remove the blue led circles. Guys - this is not Russia !

If I had 20 K spare, buring a hole in my pocket - I would buy their player and all my life problems would be solved. Seriously.

The award for the best product at the show goes to .... tadadada ... drums rolling ... Hewlett Packard.
Yes, these guys FINALLY made the ultimate toy I always wanted but could not visualize. Bravo HP.!!!
This HP Touchsmart is an all n one, fanless, silent PC built into a 22 inch LCD and styled a'la iMac. It has touchscreen and it is a music bank / jukebox / server.
Finally - I can have a "transport" that stores, manages, backs up and serves the music files with easy GUI and life sized graphics. The operation of this player was such joy I would buy it on the spot If it was possible.  I guess this is the GADGET OF THE YEAR!

And last  thing - one might say that I have a prejudice against Goldmund - but I don't. I simply cant stand the bullshit of their marketing. I think that everybody and every business has a right to bullshit people just a little, but goldmund is really pushing it to the edge.

Goldmund Reference

Their problem can be a great ilustration of a general problem of this show and this industry - so lets just ... read the Goldmund advert - critically.
Please read this carefully and draw your own conclusions. I mean - we have right to do this - the information was volunteerly provided by Goldmund, that is what they wanted to be THEIR KEY MESSAGE. You are welcome Goldmund , be my guest :

goildmund eidos reference blue ray

From the only leaflet I found at the Goldmund stand near their top product:

Maybe I am dumb, or blind or stoopid, or all of the above,  but I cant see one single word about the laser pickup mechanism, their choice of  DAC, the power supply, the sound, the electronic technology, filters, upsampling, oversampling - anything to describe the player or justify the ??00 K Eu price tag. Instead, the whole lausy photocopy paper speaks about the weight of metal parts.  Magnetic Damping ? Vibration Cancellation by rigidyfying? Mechanical Grounding? Table support ?  AC Curator ? Mechanical Grounding ? 52 Kg table ? What are they smoking !?
Hey dudes, Iif I needed heavy metal, I can get it cheaper in the tool-shop. I mean why are you so proud of yourselves for making a heavy piece of metal enclosure ? Was  it that hard to make it 82 kG including table?  Did it require a touch of genius ?
Or maybe they are metal fetishists?
Why not making a ONE TON cd player including a table, sofabed, carpet and lamps. . And price of 1 million Pounds to match. Hey Goldmund, it is a challenge for you.
Seriously, people who buy their blueray DVD mechanism in 30 KG of housing plus a 52 kg table should have their head examined.  No wonder their sales office is in Monaco.
And they call the old owners LUCKY !!! Can you see what I see? What element of LUCK did require buying a 17 000 Euro player ?
Maybe getting is as a gift could be called LUCKY but puhlleeeze - LUCKY OWNERS ??

My biggest personal disappointment was VTL. Yes, even mr. Luke who was there could not save the show. VTL is gone LIFESTYLE. Where is the old Manley heritage ? These preamps and amps look like designed for women ! Mr. Luke PLEASE !


And to my hotrror - VTL amps were presented with some crazy GLASS SPEAKERS! Can you imaginne the BUDGET FOR PRONTO spray to keep them clean ?

Mr. Manley - whats got into you ?

But wait a minute - VTL was not the most miserable design award of the show. Naturally - CHORD was. Those people must be smoking some weird stuff that I could never buy ...

WHAT A RACK - whhhoooooaaaaaa !!!!

No no no, I need a beer...

And now it ios time for our Lampizator team democratic vote for the overall best sound at the show. The award goes to ...

The dudes from YG acoustic (Denver, USA as I understood). They made some nice speakers based mainly on Scanspeak drivers, something a'la my old Project 5 from 10 years ago.
Well done guys -  (The man behind the YG letters is a young engineer whose last name sounds 100% Polish - Yoav Gonczarowski) with these nice amps from SJR the system really impressed everyone. Shame though about the ropes. We are NOT IN USA, and definitely not in the US airport. Loosen up ! George W Bush is history.

By the way - points for the modesty in your slogan - "Best Loudspeaker on Earth". 

Oh geee, I forgot to ask the price. But did it say the cheapest speakers on Earth - hell, no.

And finally - just to please the eyes - some collection of  sexy turntables.......

This above is the deck I am actually using myself at the moment.

Wow, that princess even has a price. So people would not need to ask again and again...

Look - they made it 39000, not 40 000 - to make it look cheaper. A bargain ! They are clever. Good at psychology. Maybe they studied the consumer behaviour.

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