Munich: A Few Of My Favorite Things
The Munich High End Show is huge. It is also very well organized and an absolute pleasure to attend. With over 350 exhibition rooms representing some 900 brands, there's plenty here to satisfy every kind of audiophile and music lover.
The Opera Only amplifier designed by Andrea Pivetta is rated at 60,000Wpc in Class A with a maximum power output of 160,000 watts. I mean Watts! While I did not get a price on this amp, the previous version, the Opera One, was less powerful and cost $650,000, so I figure if you have to ask. . . When the Opera Only is powered off, it closes up into a 12-sided black monolith but if you find the height of the Opera Only too daunting, it can be split into to equal halves.
Devialet introduced four new versions of their D-Premier D/A integrated amplifier that so impressed John Atkinson (see review). If you are not familiar with Devialet I encourage you read JA's review for all of the details but to summarize Devialet rolls up a DAC, network player, integrated amplifier, and more into one slim, slick, and appealingly modern aluminum body. The new line-up offers the Devialet technology at various price points and power ratings with increasing levels of functionality. The Devialet 110 (€4990) sits at the entry end of the line and offers 110Wpc of output power. The 170 (€6990) ups the power rating to 170Wpc and adds an MM/MC phono input. The Devialet 240 offers, as you have probably figured out by now, 240Wpc and the 500 (€22,900) tops out at 500Wpc.
Finland-based speaker manufacturer Amphion grabbed my attention with their display of very enticing limited edition versions of their Ion+ speakers but I was really drawn into their compelling story when listening to the simple €10k setup featuring the Amphion Two15 professional monitors (€1500/each), Lindell Audio AmpX, and the Antelope Audio Zodiac+ DAC/Preamp. The desktop/nearfield strikes me as the new hi-fi frontier mainly because so many of us spend so much time in front of a computer monitor with terabyte-busting music collections of increasing quality. With speakers and systems like this Amphion-based rig, you can get exceptional near field performance without busting your bank account..
One of my favorite rooms in Munich, which mixed aspects of museum and hi-fi, was hosted by the Korean company Silbatone Acoustics. The walls-of-sound you see in the picture are a pair of 1936 Western Electric Mirrophonic theater speakers that were driven by Silbatone electronics and the sound of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" was among the biggest, baddest (in a good way), and boldest, with a sense of scale that was pretty much unrivaled in my experience with the exception of the real thing. While any system has its pluses and minuses, I saw more people leaving the Silbatone room with big smiles pasted on their faces than any other room. From my way of seeing, I think Silbatone is doing a great service to the audiophile community by reminding us of our glorious hi-fi past.
The Zero 1 (€9000) from Avantgarde Acoutic offers an interesting and compelling evolution of the Hi-Fi system. The Zero 1 packs up pretty much everything you need minus the source by rolling up a DAC, preamp, amp, and speakers with USB, Toslink, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, and optional analog inputs into a pair of horn-loaded loudspeakers. And I mean loud. The Avantgarde presentation was in German but the Zero 1s easily speak to anyone with ears to listen and I found this room's sound to be among the most compelling and physically vibrant at the show. The Zero 1's speakers are rated at 104dB and their associated amps at 2x 50W for the midrange and tweeters, and 1 x400W for the bass and the combo had no problems filling Avantgarde's very large exhibition room with pulse pounding yet finely nuanced music.
I found the Munich show to be filled with people of all ages, genders, and couplings with fathers and sons, husbands and wives, mothers and children, and friends and lovers. The show is very well advertised in all kinds of public places and very well attended and the integration of hi-fi, music, and lifestyle is seamless which is how it should be.