Munich 2023

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Alex Halberstadt  |  Aug 23, 2023  |  7 comments
Alex Halberstadt (front) listens to the BAACH-SP Adio system at High End Munich. (Photo: Jason Victor Serinus)

If you're going to Germany to immerse yourself in big-city excitement—churning dance clubs, matterful contemporary art, visitors and food from around the world, and street life that goes on all night—you'll probably find it in Berlin. Though rents have been climbing and there's no shortage of dirty sidewalks and petty crime, the German capital remains one of the most youthful and vibrant cities in Europe, an art and culture center with large expatriate communities and endless things to do. For urban thrills on a smaller scale, you can make a case for Cologne and even Leipzig.

Just maybe don't go to Munich. As soon as you leave the airport, you know you've reached the epicenter of German burgherdom—a place where manicured lawns, public safety, tidy storefronts, and respectful revelers in Tyrolean costumes are the norm.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 27, 2023  |  2 comments
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.

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.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 29, 2023  |  5 comments
What a show. During its four days in the MOC event center, the first two reserved for industry and press, Munich High End attracted 22,137 visitors from approximately 100 different countries. With 550 exhibitors and more than 1000 brands from 54 nations, they had plenty to hear and see.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 29, 2023  |  13 comments
It had been far too long since I'd experienced a Peter McGrath demo, let alone one in which the master recording engineer and Wilson Audio Brand Ambassador had a full hour to share his recordings. At last, on Sunday at 2pm at Munich High End 2023, Peter followed Abby Fon of Impex Records' packed presentation on Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco DeLucia: Saturday Night in San Francisco 12 • 6 • 80 to spend an hour in the Nagra room playing a generous helping of some of the favorite tracks that he's recorded over the years.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 29, 2023  |  4 comments
In the extremely large, all-sonic-bets-are-off, glass-enclosed Atrium display mounted by Mansour Mamaghani's Audio Reference Munich, Dan D'Agostino, and his indispensable sidekick (aka company President) Bill McKiegan, joined forces with Wilson, dCS, and Perlisten to blow people's minds. When the new Relentless Epic and Relentless 800 mono amplifiers got fired up, it was a case of which dazzled you first, the sound or the sheer enormity and shine of the display.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 29, 2023  |  0 comments
Having debuted his extremely impressive Mach 8XL loudspeaker ($30,800–$33,000/pair, depending upon finish) at AXPONA, Grandinote owner/designer Massimiliano Magri and North American distributor Reinhard Goerner joined forces in Munich to preview the forthcoming dual mono, fully balanced, class-A Solo amplifier ($20,000 + options).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 28, 2023  |  0 comments
AV RoomService's Norman Varney is committed to addressing smaller and smaller vibrations that can affect system performance ways in far less subtle than one might wish. The latest additions to his roster, shown in this admittedly less than sexy photo, includes two chassis lid damping devices. The first, a constrained layer stainless-steel damping strip that attaches internally to a chassis lid, should be affixed at an angle so that it will affect more modes. There are two models: a 12" × 2" strip ($35) or the larger 12" × 24" version ($65).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 28, 2023  |  0 comments
UK-based Chord is poised to release the new Ultima Integrated (€8500) in September or October. Chord's first new integrated amplifier in some time, it incorporates elements of the company's Ultima P3 preamp and Ultima 6 power amp and utilizes Chord's latest dual feed-forward error correction, said to reduce the noise floor by at least 10dB. A fully balanced class-AB design, the Ultima Integrated will output 125Wpc into 8 ohms at the least and, one would expect, even more bliss.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 28, 2023  |  0 comments
Twenty-five years after their founding, and 16 years after Stereophile last reviewed a Peak Consult loudspeaker, the Danish company released its new 500lb Dragon Legacy ($225,000/pair) at Munich High End. At the same time, Peak Consult, which Wilfried Ehrenholz, former audio of Dynaudio, took over in 2014, is finally beginning to reach out to the US market. After hearing the Dragon Legacy, I'm convinced that Sunil Merchant of Sunny's Components in E. Covina, CA will soon be joined by other dealers in the US.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 28, 2023  |  2 comments
You read it here first. After aeons of confusion over the Canadian company's name—is it Moon, is it Simaudio, or is it Simaudio by Moon?—our friends to the North are poised to finally resolve the issue. But before their Moon launch, they are launching their first new product range in 10 years, the upper-echelon North Collection. Consisting of three products, two in the 600 range, two in the 700, and two in the 800, all are full balanced designs.

Costa Koulisakis (above), the extremely knowledgeable and articulate public face of whatever they're called, began with the 641 all-analog, 125Wpc integrated amplifier ($11,000) and 681 streaming DAC ($12,000), which has fixed and variable outputs that does up to 32/384 MQA and DSD256.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 27, 2023  |  0 comments
Meridian's just launched, visually stunning DSP9 digital active loudspeaker (€60,000/pair in black, €65,000/pair in a choice of automotive finishes) is a definite rival to SteinMusic for the Munich High-End 2023 Best Looker of Show Award. With all electronics built-in—each drive unit contains its own amplifier—and controlled by phone or tablet, the speaker includes DSP intended to eliminate all room variables.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 27, 2023  |  0 comments
"We always wanted a distribution bar," Stromtank CEO Wolfgang Meletzky explained as he held the device with Annett Dehmel, Stromtank Managing Director. "So, we developed the SEQ 5 (approx. $4000, if I read my scribble correctly), which contains custom-made outlets with special rhodium-plated pure copper contacts." (Furutech GTX-D-NFC receptacles are available as an option.) The AC inlet, which can receive up to 2000W of 120V power and 2800W of 230V power, includes Nano Crystal Formular contacts and a 6.3 × 32mm Slo-Blo fuse.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 27, 2023  |  0 comments
I was dashing past hundreds of exhibits in the four huge ground-floor exhibit halls of the MOC when Lab 12's exhibit caught my eye. On the recommendation of Herb Reichert, my audiophile buddy, Scott, bought the Lab 12 tube preamp shown above with Stratos Vichos, Lab 12's owner and designer, and forever sings its praises.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 27, 2023  |  0 comments
There was a "the only way to appreciate this book is to ditch its cover" discovery to be had in the dCS room, but it required reading between the lines. For me, the system was akin to revisiting close and trusted friends: the superb dCS Vivaldi Apex digital playback system ($91,500 without the transport), which has graced the cover of Stereophile and, in my educated opinion, deserves a Product of the Year award; the Wilson Audio Alexia V loudspeaker ($69,500/pair base price), another cover story product that continues to bless me with its riches; Dan D'Agostino Master Systems Momentum M400 MxV amplifiers ($79,500/pair), which I praise in the current, June 2023 issue; and what I believe was Nordost Valhalla 2 cabling connected to Nordost's upgraded QBase (QB8) Mark III.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  May 26, 2023  |  0 comments
I admit that I didn't get what the Fink Team of Essen, Germany was all about until I met the man himself, Karl-Heinz Fink, who is well known within the industry for designing many important loudspeakers marketed by other companies. Fink, who also owns the Epos loudspeaker brand, began his own engineering company 40 years ago. Then, about seven years ago, the late and revered Ken Ishiwata of Marantz asked him to build a big speaker for Marantz. Out of that came the Borg, a two-way system with an AMT tweeter that was launched five years ago. The Borg Episode 2 (€30,000/pair), which is marketed by the Fink Team, replaces the original model.