The Spin Doctor in München!

At High End Munich, Michael Trei chats with Thorens CEO Gunter Kürten (right) about the Thorens Reference turntable's active suspension. (Photo: Jeff Joseph.)

It's hard to convey the scope of the annual High End Munich audio show to someone who has never attended. Spread out over three floors of a large facility called the Munich Order Center (MOC), the show is notable for how different it is from audio shows in the US. The ground floor is an area about the size of three American football fields, where brands set up professional trade show booths to display their wares. This is a long way from the draped folding tables and back curtain on a rail that defines a "show booth" at most US shows. What you'll find on this level is mostly static displays, although scattered among the displays you'll find prefabricated sound rooms, acoustically designed spaces designed to allow live demonstrations on the ground floor.

On the two upper floors are rows of individual rooms where most larger systems are demonstrated. These rooms can be challenging acoustically, with glass front and rear walls. Some exhibitors do a much better job of handling the sonic challenges than others.

My main focus at the show was to try to root out interesting new record-playing gear. I was not disappointed. Here are a few select highlights from what I saw at the show.

Lately, we have seen a mini–arms race resulting in truly over-the-top record players. Probably the most notable example shown at Munich was the new Thorens Reference turntable (footnote 1); see the picture above, where I'm discussing its creation with Thorens CEO Gunter Kürten. Designed by well-known German designer Helmut Thiele, the new Reference follows on from the original Thorens Reference from 40 years ago but steps up the game to an entirely new level. One of Thiele's key goals was to make the Reference immune to external sources of vibration, so he teamed up with another German company, Seismion, to develop the Reference's active suspension system using something called a skyhook damping system. A screen displays the seismic activity as it is damped by the suspension. The Reference can support up to four tonearms. At the show it was used with a Thorens-branded version of Thiele's TA01 pivoted zero tracking angle error arm.

Acoustical Systems (footnote 2) wowed everyone seven years ago with their massive $600,000 Apolyt turntable. Now designer Dietrich Brakemeier has introduced a more modest model, the Astellar. I say modest, but at $95,000 and about 230lb, it still makes most other turntables look puny and cheap. As with its big brother, the Astellar has a high-pressure air suspension. It has mounting space for up to four tonearms.

The new Acoustic Signature Verona can accommodate two tonearms.

As mentioned in my Acoustic Signature factory visit report, the German company (footnote 3) debuted the new Verona NEO turntable, which looks similar to the existing Double X NEO, but it adds an extra motor and the ability to mount a second tonearm up to 12". Like the Double X, the Verona NEO is available in piano black or a gorgeous Macassar Ebony wood veneer. The US price is yet to be determined but is expected to be approximately $13,000 plus tonearms.

The Supatrac Blackbird tonearm, with its sideways-unipivot mechanism, mounted on a Technics SL-1200.

The Supatrac Blackbird (footnote 4) is a new British tonearm with what designer Richard Braine describes as a sideways unipivot bearing. Based on my understanding of his description, the moving part of the arm is hung on two monofilament threads, while the front-to-back position of the arm is defined by the unipivot. A small amount of magnetic attraction is used to keep the pivot point seated in the cup, while the monofilaments stop the arm from yawing like a traditional unipivot. Various lengths and different armboard mounts are available. The price is around $2500. I hope to get a Supatrac arm in soon for review.

Luphonic (footnote 5) is a relatively new German brand with a line of reasonably priced turntables. The H1 and H2 models were shown at last year's Munich show; the R3 is new this year. One cool trick is the power and speed control, a small plastic puck you simply place at the right position on the plinth. This will cause the motor to start and a hidden speed indicator to light up from within the plinth. Flip the puck over and speed changes to 45rpm. Price is still "to be announced"; as points of reference, the H1 and H2 models sell for about €2000 and €3000.

A new dual-plinth turntable and a prototype tonearm by the makers of The Wand. The original Wand tonearm is mounted in the back.

New Zealand–based Design Build Listen, makers of The Wand turntable and tonearm (footnote 6), were showing a new version of the turntable with battery power and additional isolation. Also on display: a prototype of a new, constrained-unipivot tonearm with a tapered armtube. Designer Simon Brown said both should be available by the end of 2023, and while the prices have not yet been determined, expect them to be somewhere around $8000 for the turntable with battery supply and $6000 for the new tonearm.

Dual (footnote 7) has gone through several changes in recent years, the brand name being licensed to multiple manufacturers including a Chinese company that also sells low-cost car-stereo components. The brand now appears to be back in solid hands, with 'tables made in Germany. The Dual Primus Maximus is a $12,000 direct-drive flagship model being built in a limited run of just 100 units. Don't dawdle if you want one.

The TechDAS AirForce 10 tonearm.

Japan's TechDAS (footnote 8), maker of the AirForce turntables, has introduced its first tonearm, the AirForce 10. As you might expect, it has an air bearing, but this is not a linear tracking arm; it's pivoted. That's unusual, but TechDAS claims that the design eliminates bearing friction. Completely. The arm shown was a prototype, with production units available by the end of the year. No price was mentioned.

Footnote 1: Thorens GmbH, Lustheide 85, 51427 Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. Tel: +49 (0) 2204 8677720. Web: US distributor: Focal Naim America, 313 rue Marion J5Z4W8 Repentigny, Quebec, Canada. Tel: (800) 663-9352. Web:

Footnote 2: Acoustical Systems. Am Büchele 2, 86928 Hofstetten, Germany. Tel: +49 (0)8196 9984447. Email: Web: US distributor: Rutherford Audio, 14 Inverness Dr. East, Unit G-108, Englewood, CO 80112. Tel: (888)279-6765. Email: Web:

Footnote 3: Acoustic Signature, Made by AS Distribution GmbH Hillenbrandstrasse 10, D-73079 Süssen, Germany. Web: US distributor: Rutherford Audio, 14 Inverness Dr. East, Unit G-108, Englewood, CO 80112. Tel: (888) 279-6765. Email: Web:

Footnote 4: Supatrac. Tel: +44 77 04 50 20 20. Email: Web:

Footnote 5: Luphonic Labs GmbH & Co. KG, Kleiner Ring 3, 35440 Linden. Tel: +49 6403 968 3907. Email: Web:

Footnote 6: The Wand. Design Build Listen Ltd., PO Box 5415, Dunedin 9058, New Zealand. Tel: (64) 3-4773817. Web: US distributor: Profundo Audio, 2051 Gattis School Rd. Suite 540/123, Round Rock, TX 78664. Tel: (510)375-8651. Email: Web:

Footnote 7: Dual Deutschland GmbH, Hauptstrasse 1, 86925 Fuchstal, Germany. Tel: 08191 915777-0. Email: Web: US distributor: American Audio Video, 325 Executive Dr., Suite 300, Southaven, MS 38672. Tel: (866) 916-4667. Web:

Footnote 8: TechDAS. Web: US distributor: The Audio Salon, 2525 Michigan Ave. Unit F1, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Tel: (310) 863-0863. Email: Web:

Ortofan's picture

... now being made in Germany, or is it only the Primus Maximus model?

Electrophone's picture

…relatively affordable turntable, is made in China. List price is € 1.299,- in Germany. Btw, the Primus Maximus is € 8.999,- .