Munich: the Race to the Finish Line

Thank goodness the handsome new Pathos gear came with English-language literature, because my sketchy operatic Italian and that of the SAF was of no help in this room. (Assassino and muori, two favorite words of Tosca, somehow seemed inappropriate). In fact, I'm now discovering that no matter how long I spent trying to communicate, the model names I managed to scribble down were wrong.

Making their debut were several products in the Pathos InPol (Inseguitore Pompa Lineare—literally, Linear Pump Follower) line. These are "fully balanced Class A devices using a single solid-state component in follower configuration, with high current gain and with voltage gain together." Let's start with the InPolRemix MkII integrated amplifier ($4621.10, more or less, if I understood them correctly), which outputs 20Wpc into 8 Ohm, and 35Wpc into 4 ohm. It also has a headphone section, and an optional DAC that enables streaming or wired/wireless input via USB to computer or connection to an NAS drive. I was told the DAC option adds $4400 to the price. I hope that's right. The language thing was intense.

I believe that the Remix MkII only amplifies with the tubes, not the transistors: "The valve amplifier amplifies the input signal voltage and InPol supplies the current to drive the loudspeakers with any further amplification… This technology allows an increase in the theoretical output in pure Class A of between 25% and 50% together with a low output impedance which is fundamental for the damping factor, and further improved by the double InPol." Yes, and that's in English.

The Pathos InPolHeritage ($13,750), shown in the photo, is another fully balanced, pure class-A integrated amp using double-InPol circuitry. It outputs 80Wpc into 8 ohms, and also has a headphone section. You can also choose the InPolEar integrated headphone amplifier. At the end of the chain sang Pathos Frontiers Prime 3-way loudspeakers, which include a rotating rear-firing tweeter.

The sound on my CD of pianist Murray Perahia was entrancing, with lovely iridescence on highs and a beautiful, airy presentation. Tonalities on the Reference Recordings CD of bubblegum ballet music by Delibes were similarly beautiful. Yes, the sound was a mite colored, the highs were not the tightest or strongest, and there were some strange resonances that I believe were room-related. But the overall beauty trumped all.

After first appearing at CES, the second wave of MoFi (Mobile Fidelity) turntable prototypes—the final versions may be available this fall—made it to Munich. Designed by Allen Perkins of Spiral Groove—that's a major feather in MoFi's cap—the US-built tables include Perkins' inverted arm bearing, and represent a distillation of his philosophy to a much lower price point.

Shown were the MoFi StudioDeck with an in-house 10" arm ($999), and the UltraDeck ($1799). The latter has a thicker Delrin platter and Cardas wiring in the tonearm, and adds constrained-layer damping to the plinth. Both come with custom-tuned vibration-controlling feet by Mike Latvis of HRS. Packages including a pre-mounted MoFi cartridge will also be offered.

Were that not enough, MoFi will also sell two "baby phono stages"—Jonathan Derda's words—developed with Tim De Paravicini of EAR fame, who also developed MoFi's mastering chain. Both have mono switches. The StudioPhono (expected at $299) and Ultra Phono ($499) both have mono switches and support MC and MM cartridges. The more expensive model includes a class-A headphone amp. It sounds as though MoFi is poised to give Pro-Ject and several other brands a run for the money.

Finally getting to the four huge, contiguous Halle (hall) exhibit areas, I spent a while with KR Audio Electronics before discovering that their products are not currently distributed in the US. First up, while Eunice Kron was busy, was a visit to one of the MOC's sound chambers for a listen to the Kronzilla SXi 50W standard amplifier, paired with RD Acoustic single-driver loudspeakers from Czechoslovakia. The latter can be outfitted with whatever 8" driver the owner prefers. Voxativ drivers certainly sounded better than Fostex, but both combos yielded brittle highs.

New to KR Audio is the VA200 class-A dual monoblock amplifier (€45,900/pair). A reverse hybrid design, with the first stage solid-state, the second stage employs all-tube circlotron technology that dates back to the 1950s. The amp uses eight KR842 tubes, and dispenses with global feedback. Given how noisy it was in the hall, I didn't even try to listen. Besides, I had about ten more exhibits to cover in maybe 60 minutes…

Hegel estimates its new Röst amplifier (approx. $2900)—the name is Norwegian for "voice"—will become available in time for RMAF (Rocky Mountain Audio Fest). A downscaled version of their bigger H360 Reference integrated amp, it will be their first with IP control that can be integrated into Smart Homes. The amp outputs 75Wpc into 8 ohms. Digital inputs include coaxial, optical, and Network UPnP, all of which handle up to 192/24, and USB which only handles up to 96/24. The Röst includes a headphone output.

Also new is the Mohican CD player (approx. $5500)—probably the last CD player from Hegel (Last of the Mohicans? Seriously?—AD)—which is optimized for 44.1/16 Redbook CD playback. The player was discussed for several years among Hegel's Oslo-based staff of six, who make beer-infused decisions collectively, before it was given the green light. "It sounds significantly better than any other source or DAC we have," said Anders Ertzeid.

SOtM's sMS-200 mini network server and player with built-in custom made "Media Player Board" (approx. $450), due the end of June, can work with Roon, MPD, DLNA, SqueezeLite and other player software. It joins their new and already available dCBL-CAT7 Ethernet cable ($500/1.5m), whose filter block eliminates wideband digital noise from router or NAS.

Santy Oropel of Triode Corp. and Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen had started to break down their system when we dashed into their sound capsule in Hall-something-or-other. The reason for our visit: the new Netherlands-made DiDiT High End 212XLR decoding preamp (€3995), which supports up to PCM384 and DSD512 via an ESS9018 Sabre Reference chip, and has its own iOS and Android remote apps. The DAC arrives in a cork container, and weighs 6.8 lbs. Among its other features: aluminum clamshell construction, Sorbothane feet tuned to the resonant frequency of the chassis, 13 independent power supplies, upsampling to DSD, Bluetooth app, and choice of filters.

How this baby would have sounded had Acoustic Zen's Crescendo loudspeakers, cabling, and feet; Triode Corp electronics; and an Acoustic Revive RTP-4 power conditioner been warmed up and settled in rather than in breakdown mode, I do not know. Even though the system was not ready for the prom, the voice of Rosa Passos was beautiful, mellow, and seductive, but the left and right channels were quite forward and the middle of the soundstage far deeper albeit remarkably layered. All in all, the musical presentation was far more delicate than meaty, and bass was sketchy. As I wrote in my notes, "Murray Perahia's piano sounds more yin than yang, with a lovely delicacy to the notes. The bell-like highs predominate over the undertones."

Put that all together, and you get a DAC/preamp definitely worth checking out.

When we emerged from Santy's Space, the hall was abuzz with the sounds of people packing, lifting, hauling, pushing, and tugging. Munich High End 2016 had ended.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Seriously, Art, seriously. Chalk it up to beer-infused decisions.

Art Dudley's picture
My favorite piece by Mark Twain remains his essay "The Literary Offenses of Fenimore Cooper" - and I live 20 minutes from Cooperstown!
findcount's picture

amazing that Pathos is still in business.......the Twin Tower was their only really good product..........

Nellomilanese's picture

I don't know what you're talking about. Maybe from across the ocean you guyz see it differently but Pathos not only they're still in business...they're thriving. Constantly introducing new amps, dacs and so on. Some of them are trully amazing...too bad they don't get enough coverage.
Trust me I know. I live 100 miles from the factory and lot of audiophiles here buy from them!
Actually they have glowing reviews even on

findcount's picture

so you travel 100 miles and stand outside the factory all day, every day?

i used to work at a shop that sells i do know what i'm talking about........many brands are pumping out many products.....even when they hardly sell any.......

Audio_Visionary's picture

Munich is wonderful but becoming a victim of it's own success. There were many brands on display but not playing music - as a show where there are 3 consumer days, what's the point of not playing music. Next year, the High End Society which runs the whole show, should co-opt the nearby Hotel to allow more listening sessions for the brands which display at the MOC. There were many brands I would have liked to hear after travelling from North America but the space constraints at the MOC makes it impossible to really evaluate more than 50% of products.
Really enjoyed the new Marten Loudspeaker the Mingus 5, not large and very fine sound.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Please read my Industry Update about Munich High End in the July issue of Stereophile. It addresses some of these issues. The High End Society will make small listening capsules available to folks in the Halls, but at a price.

The High End Society that runs MOC is industry-run. Obviously, if they wanted to use a hotel as well, with all the sonic problems and constrictions that entails - you can't move the dresser, you can't move the mirror, you can't move the TV, sometimes you can't move the bed - they would. I have been told that there is no other facility like the MOC, with all those rooms, that they have been able to find.

Audio_Visionary's picture

Well, I've been to CES this year, the Bristol Show this year, CES in Chicago, Montreal and Toronto shows in the past years, 24 years of CES in Vegas, even the High End Show when it was in Frankfurt the last year it was at the Hotel Kempinski - not all hotel rooms are poor, and I would say that almost any hotel room is better than a silent stand. I think the booths are expensive as well and don't sound that great either. Munich can't grow any larger otherwise it is just a money grab for the organizers.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

it is not in private hands. It is an industry run show.

Mahler's picture

Hi JVS ,
What a refreshing and superbly honest show report . Have read your previous reports and always felt that you played it safe , keeping within the dictum of democratic reporting . A change of stance here , firing from the hip and shooting straight . The most believable show report in many a moon . Keep it coming !!!!
Cheers !

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Thank you very, very much.

pentagram15's picture

It is pity to make a bad comment about a beloved brand but unfortunately Pathos Acoustics is actively pushing new products without any quality aspect. I used 3 different products of the brand in the last 5 years time period but I faced with a big fiasco about the new Inpol line products including Heritage, Remix MK2 and Ear.

All the products have a digital input issue that causes amps to stuck in boot step and became useless. It is a known issue on Pathos side for almost 1 year and they keep selling the same units. In 12 months of period, my unit stayed in service for 8 months and still I am waiting a new solution suggestion and timeline for the solution from them.

It is quite pity as I said to see them in this situation because they had great products with a great sound quality in the past but my recent experiences are just not much more than a headache. I hope they will solve the issues and improve their customer support in the future and we will keep enjoying their quality but I am not sure how will they compensate that one year of bad reputation issue as the issue is faced by a lot of customers.