Wow, what a show! HiFi is human again!
The 2022 Munich High End show is now over. As I type from my hotel room overlooking this great Bavarian city, I am ecstatic. It was absolutely terrific to see the people of this great industry and see the fantastic people who enjoy our wonderful hobby. Even this introvert couldn't help but give a few hugs to friends and enjoy long nerdy conversations about music, audio, and where we should go for dinner. Life is good.
I spent all four days at the show, but also spent two afternoons on trips outside the show. This show report will cover my experience at the show. I saw every component and listened to every room for an hour. Only joking. One has to pick and chose where to spend time. Text, emails, and PMs form friends here in the Audiophile Style community helped steer my attention, in addition to my planned room / booth visits. For other realtime posts, images, and forum discussions about the show, check out the Munich 2022 thread here.
My best of show award goes to Nagra and Wilson Audio. Unequivocally the best sound I heard over the four days. The Wilson Chronosonic XVX with WATCH Dog subwoofers and Nagra HD components, with new 70th anniversary turntable, were stunning. Not stunning for an audio show, but stunning, period. I've never given a best of show award to any room if the only source I heard was a turntable. However, I have to give credit where credit is due. I only heard vinyl in this room and it blew me away. I can only imagine how much I would've enjoyed some Three Blind Mice Japanese jazz or high resolution Red Hot Chili Peppers through the Nagra DAC HD. Maybe next year :~)
Here is an iPhone video clip of My Romance from Gene Ammons. The track sounded stunning, even though I was far from the sweet spot for this one. I could've listened to this entire album without moving. The sound was realistic, enveloping, and captivating.
Also, a tip of the cap to Wilson's Peter McGrath for system setup. The subwoofers, left and right of the main XVX speakers, were integrated perfectly.
The original 4K version of the video is here.
My runner up for best of show totally blindsided me. MSB Technology, Estelon, and Stromtank sounded fantastic. I expected good sound from this combination, but what I heard went far beyond my expectations. Frank Sinatra's Fly Me To The moon sounded so realistic and like there was nothing between the music and me. Then, in a miraculous coincidence, Tsuyoshi Yamamoto's Midnight Sugar came on. If there's anyone on Earth who still doesn't know, I'm a Japanese jazz addict and this specific album is a desert island pick for me. I sat through the entire track mesmerized and smiling. Well done MSB, well done.
After listening, I spent some time talking to MSB's CEO, designer, electrical engineer Jonathan Gillman. He explained the products to me and went into great detail about the MSB Digital Director. The Digital Director is an incredibly advanced product. I hope to get a Director and a DAC in for review.
Some honorable mentions for sound that I really enjoyed, go to Ypsilon Electronics / Kaiser. This room had great components, speakers, and great use of acoustic panels. The sound was much more reminiscent of a listening room than a show demonstration room. I also spent some time after the show taking to Ypsilon about the DAC 1000. It's a very unique design using no oversampling for PCM, and it uses multi-bit DAC chips.
The RAAL-requisite VM-1a headphone amp was every bit as great as I'd hoped. Rr had a semi-quiet room for headphone listening. I connected my iPhone and listened to several tracks that weren't on the scheduled playlist. I think this amp could be the best way with which to listen to RAAL-requisite headphones. A more thorough listen at hone is in order.
I'd be remiss if I didn't state how much I enjoyed the Avantgarde system this year. Definitely worthy of honorable mention. The Trio G3 an Bass horns were highly enjoyable. I have a soft spot for Avantgarde, but most years walk away from the Munich show disappointed with the sound. This year was very different. I hope to hear them elsewhere, rather than wait an entire year for the same experience.
Call me crazy, but I have to give honorable mention to Falkenohr, even though not a single note of music was made at this booth. This company manufactures audio racks and had a static display in the big hall. I heard no music at this booth, but was pleasantly surprised at the incredibly high quality, exquisite design, and solid engineering principles surrounding the products. I talked to founder Robert Mayr for a while, as he gave me a tour of the products and a view into why he designed each piece to work a specific way and use specific materials. The best part about all of it was the prices aren't over the top. Expensive for sure, but not crazy. I believe he said the prices range from $3,000 to at the very top $20,000. These really must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. All orders are custom, and products are available in many colors.
The final honorable mention goes to YG Acoustics. In the past, YG just hasn't produced a sound in my wheelhouse. This year, with 15 minutes remaining in the show, YG's Steve Huntley grabbed me in the hallway and said he had something for me to hear. Steve is a great guy, so I knew it would be something of interest. It was the world premiere of the YG Acoustics Sonja Live, powered speakers. These aren't "just" powered speakers, they have a fiber input that receives audio from a "control box" that can be a Roon endpoint or UPnP renderer, among other things. Digital all the way to the speaker, using fiber than can be run around one's house 10 times and still deliver a perfect audio signal due to the nature of fiber optic communication. Ever wonder how data gets from my computer in Munich to the Audiophile Style server in a datacenter in Michigan, then out to your screen? Fiber cables under the oceans. Granted a bit different technology is used, but the concept is the same. Fiber offers electrical isolation and works over long distances without issue.
Anyway, the sound from the Sonja Live speakers was very worthy of honorable mention. I'd love to spend more time listening to these, with a full selection of music and more time. After only a couple tracks it was time for the show to end and the YG crew had to shut everything down. They had 15 crates of gear to pack up. I was happy with what I heard, and happy I wasn't on the hook for getting all the gear packed up and shipped off.
Mytek's new amps with a tube on top could be of interest to many people who have yet to find efficacy in Class D designs. The tube is actually not part of the signal chain. It's illuminated by an LED. However, it's there to start the conversation and let people know that this design sounds like a good mix of tubes on the top end and solid state control on the bottom. It was impossible to hear for myself in the loud convention center hall.
I talked to Wadax for quite a while and got the whole story of the company and its product design philosophy. Very interesting. Very expensive. Very large.
I saw the Wilson Audio Chronosonic XVX Four Seasons Summer edition in person. The ember premium pearl, red anodized metal finish, and red tinted crossover housing are elegant. The black diffraction foam with an exquisite pattern, inside the gantry, is on another level!
I love seeing the Dynaudio Arbiter amp whenever the company brings it out of the archives. Such great Danish design.
The T+A DAC 200 is selling like crazy, but I was assured a review unit is coming. I also solidified a factory tour.
The AudioQuest room likely would've been in the honorable mention part of my show report, but I had to leave the demo too quickly. The team setup the system very nicely, placing the speakers well out into the room, and cabling it with the new Mythical Creature interconnects. I loved what I heard during my brief visit as did several trustworthy friends who spent considerably more time in the AQ room.
Linn featured a great A/B/C comparison in its listening room. The original Klimax from 2007, with 2017 Katalyst upgrade, the previous generation Klimax with Organik DAC upgrade, and current Klimax DSM with Organik DAC were all in the system. Linn's Joe Rodger played 30 seconds of one track a couple times on the original, then the upgraded, and finally the new Klimax. The demonstration was really elucidatory of Linn's continued upgrades that make its products last for decades. Any Klimax DAC can be upgraded to current spec with the new Organik DAC. Even the Klimax from 2007, the year I started Copmuter Audiophile! That seems like a lifetime ago.
The dCS Apex upgrade was on display in the Vivaldi One DAC. The sound was really nice, but getting an Apex upgraded DAC into my system is what I'm really looking forward to. I can't wait.
I also have to compliment every restaurant in Munich for serving the treasure that is white asparagus. My mouth waters as I envision every white asparagus stalk, drenched in butter, that I've eaten over the last week. Starter, side dish, main course, yes please.
That wraps my show report for Munich High End 2022. I know I missed some great stuff because I just asked one manufacturer why he wasn't at the show, and he responded by telling me he has been here the whole time. Such is life. There's always next year. Everyone who missed out this year, I understand the hesitancy, but you must come to High End 2023. The people, the products, and the vibe are outstanding. I'm already looking forward to it.
Much more to come from Munich, including my trip to a local dealer, my trip to a local recording studio, my trip to Ruf Automobile, and the curveball that is my next journey to Vienna to meet with Florian "Doc" Kaps of Supersense and the Impossible Project. Doc is Mr. Analog. We had dinner a few days ago here in Munich. We hit it off when talking about my love for my Hasselblad 503 CW analog camera, but our taste in audio playback is a skosh different.
More from the road soon.