The Munich High End show for 2018 is in the can and I'm happy to say it was the best show to which I've ever been. The term best seems objective, but I should qualify my statement because the show wasn't the best for overall sound quality. It was the best overall. The sound in some rooms was fantastic and the traffic in many rooms was fantastic. By fantastic I mean a ton of people. Even on the last day of the show toward the final hour many rooms were full of people listening and asking questions. It was great to see.
Like all audio shows, the Munich show isn't the best place to audition components for sound quality. It's place to see everything, talk to the people who create the products, and try to get a snapshot of how an entire system sounds in a less than ideal environment.
Over the course of four days I had very few opportunities to listen to a system without doors opening and closing, people walking in and out, and loud talking. I'm totally fine with this and I even contributed to annoying many other listeners by doing the same. That's just the way it goes.
With this in mind, let's go over some notables from Munich 2018.
The answers to your questions about the new D'Agostino monoblock named Relentless are, because we can, because someone will buy it, because it's bigger, and because we can. I know, I said because we can twice but I think it deserves a second mention.
The new Relentless amp is so much larger in person than it appears in photographs and videos. It's so large that my brother thought it was just a prop for use at trade shows. The precise measurements are 22.5 x 11.5 x 32.5 in (WxHxD) and 485 lbs. A pair of the monoblocks can be purchased for a cool $250,000 per pair.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not disparaging the amp or buyers of the amp. I just like to joke about our wonderful hobby once in a while and use a little self deprecating humor. I'd happily accept delivery of a pair of these as long as there's a team of people ready to carry them down to my listening room.
More information can be found here - http://dandagostino.com/products/relentless-monoblock.php
I visited the Aurender team in Hall 1 on the main show floor. The main show floor is similar to what many people are familiar with when it comes to trade shows. Jam packed with all shapes and sizes of booths. Aurender had a listening room built on the show floor for its system of an A10 player / DAC, Simaudio amp, and the Martin Logan ElectroMotion ESL X. I visited the listening area at a perfect time when no other show attendees were present and I could spend some time playing the music I played in several other rooms.
My track of the week, one that I can't get out of my head and one that I absolutely love, was Let Him Fly by the Dixie Chicks. I love Natalie Maines' rich voice and the musicianship of sisters Emily and Martie. This track playing through the A10, Simaudio, and Martin Logan speakers was really delightful. It made me miss my old Martin Logan ReQuest loudspeakers because the sound of that electrostatic panel is like none other. Kudos to Aurender for pulling off good sound in a hostile environment.
Speaking of Simaudio, I visited the company a few times but the room was so lively (in a good way) that I had to enjoy listening with the situation in mind. I heard the track Make Us Stronger by Ghost Rider, all 7:44 of it, through the new Moon 390 streaming DAC / preamp. It's a fun track and it enabled me to see the Simaudio system push and control the B&W 802 speakers very well. Too well according to the neighbors who complained that it was a bit too loud. The new 390 features the MiND 2 (Moon intelligent Network Device) and supports MQA, three lossless streaming services (Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz), Bluetooth aptX, and is Roon Ready. At $5300 the Moon 390 will be tough competition for many DACs and streamers.
Here's a press release with all the features and more - 2018-05-01_MOON390_Press_release.pdf
The EMM Labs room was great this year, both for sound quality and for the surprise announcement of a DAC with volume control. Not even the dealers nor the distributors were aware that EMM was going to show the DV2 (DAC with volume). The DV2 combines the DA2 and PRE2 into a single chassis and shaves about 20k off the price of the two chassis combo. The DV2 should retail for $30,000, whereas the DA2 and PRE2 are both $25,000 each. Not inexpensive either way but the snapshot I heard of Stevie Ray Vaughan playing Little Wing was enough to peak my interest in reviewing the DV2 after I finish writing about the DA2 / PRE2 in my system currently.
Some features of the DV2:
• MDAC2™ - the world’s first fully discrete DSD1024/16xDSD D/A converter built in-house at our manufacturing facility in Canada
• MDAT2™ - our multi-award winning DSP refined and updated to synergistically work with the new 16xDSD MDAC2™
• MFAST™ - proprietary jitter removal
• MCLK2™ - advanced clocking system
• Proprietary hardware galvanic isolation for the USB audio interface
Moving to a much more affordable level of gear, I was pleased to see the Andrew Jones designed Elac powered loudspeakers in the Argo Series. I'm a huge fan of Andrew Jones' work (he designed the TAD CR1s that I've owned for many years) and I'm a huge fan of powered speakers. I believe they are very effective at reproducing music well for much less money than several separate components. Sure, there's the whole thing about being locked into an amp and speaker combination, but like everything in life there are always tradeoffs.
The Argo Series on display featured the B51 bookshelf ($2,000) and the F51 floor standing speaker ($4,000). Unfortunately the Argo speakers are only on static display, but I'm willing to bet the farm that these sound spectacular for the money. I don't envy the other loudspeaker manufacturers who have to compete with this price to performance ratio.
The Argo Series uses BASH amp technology. This is a hybrid of A/B and Class D amplification.
On the last day of the show I caught up with Auralic's Xuanqian Wang for a demonstration of the company's new Leo GX reference master clock with the other G2 components and Ryan Speakers. Making sure that the demonstration wasn't rigged (MQA ltd sat me down for a demo at CES one year to demonstrate MQA, but used MP3 files for comparison) Xuanqian played his own music for the first demo then asked me to select any music of my choice for a second demo. Granted this was a sighted listening session and the ambient noise in the room was higher than I'd like, but I believe I heard a nice difference when the Leo GX was connected versus when it was disconnected. I look forward to getting the whole G2 series in my system and clocked to the Leo GX.
Having visited the dCS room a few times throughout the show and run into the dead end of either too many people or an esoteric classical music MQA demonstration, I waited for a text from the company when the coast was clear for me to return and listen to my beloved Dixie Chicks and Eddie Vedder tracks. In this case the tracks were separate, but Eddie does have a single released with the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines. Anyway, as play was pressed on Let Him Fly, I got goosebumps and felt immediately at ease. Running around a show for four days and talking to people nonstop gets old and is taxing. Sitting back and enjoying this great music that sounded wonderful was like relaxing after running around for four days and talking to people ... wait what? The listening experience was a treat, as it should be emanating from some of the best equipment money can buy (dCS Rossini, D'Agostino amp, and Wilson speakers).
As usual, I couldn't walk by the Bassocontinuo racks without snapping a few photos. Such great Italian craftsmanship.
The new Wilson Audio TuneTot was on static display. They look good in person. The finish is really nice. I'm very interested in hearing these on my desktop
As I left the show on Sunday I walked by the Chord room, hoping to listen for a bit. However, it wasn't meant to be. I was exhausted and another guy was really into whatever he was playing through the system. To each their own, but I was done and wasn't going to listen to Scottish nose whistle :~)
There's an incredible difference between the Munich show and every other audio show. After Munich I'm looking forward to next year and could actually go back in a couple weeks if there was another show. It's just that good. Members of the CA Community who visit other audio shows should consider skipping the others and waiting for Munich in 2019. Seriously. The first Hofbräu and sausage are on me, even though I don't drink or eat meat :~)