Munich High End highlights and Photo Gallery: world's finest music systems revealed

posted on Saturday, 28th May 2016 by Steve May

Hi-fi  Events  High-end  High Res Audio 

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The Munich High End show is arguably the world's number one showcase for uncompromising audio technology. This year, the event continued to grow in stature, attracting stars from the rarefied corners of the ultra premium world, as well as more mainstream names.

The event was a landmark one for MQA, the new highly efficient High Res Audio codec. The company announced more hardware partners, and celebrated bagging its first major record company, Warner. Said creator Bob Stuart: “This collaboration is a giant step forward for MQA and music fans everywhere. MQA is about bringing the most authentic sound to music lovers all over the world and WMG is our first major partner to help drive this mission forward.” Spotted at the show was Spencer Chrislu, MQA's Director of Content Services, discussing MQA technology and performance at Onkyo’s DP-X1 digital audio player press launch (see our Photo Gallery below).

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Munich Hi End 2016-103

High End provided aplatform for a raft of new hardware.  One key new launch was for the new flagship Canton Reference K range (pictured above), available in stereo and AV configurations. There were also a trio of announcements from premium portable purveyor Astell&Kern. Firstly, it unveiled the world’s first audio cable made from Graphene; demonstrated as a prototype at the show, the finished design should first be available as a headphone cable in the Autumn.

Graphene is more conductive than copper, and, as its molecules are smaller than Oxygen, resists oxidation. Astell&Kern also launched the AK Recorder, a slip-on module for its 300 series portable players (AK300, AK320 and AK380) that allows users to make 24bit DSD recordings of anything from vinyl (as shown in pictures) to live performances (via the matching microphones sets, all packed neatly into a bespoke Pelly case).

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At the show, Astell&Kern was ripping vinyl and playing the albums back on its AK500 hi-fi system – paired with Sonus Faber speakers – to show the kind of quality that can be achieved (though with a nice needle-drop at the start for effect!). The third launch was the AK300, the brand's new entry–level model in the 300 series of portables.

Ultra high-end outfit ATC, in conjunction with its German distributor ATR, showed off large Active Tower systems featuring ATC’s proprietary new SH25-76S super tweeter. Elsewhere, Harman Luxury Audio: demonstrated the latest Mark Levinson  range including the No534 dual monaural amplifier, No536 monaural amplifier, No526 dual monaural preamplifier, No523 dual monaural preamplifier, and a player: the No519. The system featured wired and wireless streaming of high-res content, along with network, disc and digital inputs – every box ticked.

There was also a first glance of Revel’s Concerta II speaker range, which is due for imminent UK launch. Also flying the Stars and Stripes, was Krell, America’s high-end audio brand, promoted the Digital Vanguard, which takes Krell’s Vanguard integrated amp and adds a host of digital connectivity options including streaming via USB and Ethernet, plus Bluetooth with aptX support.

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Primare Munich 2

Naturally, there were some new names to enjoy too. Mola-Mola, an esoteric separates brand, demonstrated the modular Makua control amplifier and Kaluga monobloc power amplifiers (pictured above) . They're due for a UK launch shortly.

Of course, not everything was brand spanking new. Primare held sessions with its 60 series and 30 series players, while US outfit SVS rocked the show with its active subwoofer designs, and Prime and Ultra speaker ranges.

Audio Research, American luminary of valve-based audio tech, used the showcase to promote its Reference Series SE power amps and Reference Phono 3 phono preamp, amongst other treats.

Canadian high-end hi-fi specialist Moon continues to make waves in the UK. At High End, the Simaudio booth was the place to find the new Moon Neo ACE all-in-one music player; it was demoed with the recently launched VPI Scout Jr. turntable. 

Moon Turntable (1)

Continuum Obsidian

Munich provides plenty of opportunities to explore the upper reaches of the Hi-Fi firmament. Constellation Audio, demonstrated its exceptional Reference Series Altair II preamplifier along with mighty Hercules II monoblock amplifiers. Sister brand Continuum Audio, already known for its premium Caliburn and Criterion turntables, unveiled what it describes as the new benchmark for vinyl replay, the Obsidian (pictured above). If retro is a bit more your style, Danish fashionistas Copland showed off the DA 215, a splendid retro-looking valve-based DAC and headphone amp. Dutch company Crystal Cable, maker of designer audio cables and speakers, unveiled the latest version of its Minissimo speaker, called the Minissimo Scala. It also had a new cable range, called Crystal Cable Next.

Dan D'Agostino, Krell’s legendary founder, showcased the first product from his new Progression line, the Progression Monoblock. This beautiful beast delivers 800W into 8 ohms, doubling to 1600W into 4 ohms and again to 3200W into 2 ohms, making it the most powerful amplifier that Dan D’Agsotino Master Audio Systems has made to date. Of course, if extravagant loudspeaker designs are your thing, High-End had plenty of appeal. MartinLogan, world leading manufacturer of hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers,had a new design concept to show off: the Renaissance ESL 15A. The model is positioned one step down from the company’s Neolith flagship.

Elsewhere, Wilson Audio wowed music fans with the first European public demonstration of its latest floorstander, the £100,000 Alexx. Notto be outd one, Monitor Audio was offering demos of the audiophile Platinum II range, which features a new MPD (Micro Pleated Diaphragm) high frequency transducer and next-generation RDTII bass and mid drivers. Lucky visitors were able to hear the stunning PL500 II on the hour every hour.

Audio Research PH9

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Of course, one often forgotten or ignored aspect of hi-fi is not the cabling or speaker stands, but the room itself. At the show, Artnovion Acoustics offered up some spectacular acoustic room treatments (pictured above) – diffusers, absorbers and bass traps, all with a stunning designer aesthetic.

For more from High End, fire up our Photo Gallery below...

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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