I awoke Saturday morning, after ten hours of the show on Thursday and eight hours on Friday, and was offered an interesting opportunity. A great friend asked me to join him in visiting a high end dealer named Wolfgang Linhard. Wolfgang's store named My Sound is about a thirty minute Uber ride away from the High End show in a town called Starnberg. This is certainly off the beaten path compared to my usual Hotel > MOC > Dinner (repeat) pattern for the four day Munich show. I'd planned on another eight hours at the MOC jostling for listening position, but I decided to take a chance and leave the MOC behind for a day. This trip away from the show turned out to be an amazing experience that I won't soon forget.
We hopped in an Uber and headed to Starnberg. The ride gave us an opportunity to at least attempt to get through our emails before arriving at My Sound. With almost clear inboxes we stepped out of the Uber and into another world. Wolfgang Linhard has created something so beyond most HiFi stores that it really must be experienced to completely understand. When I say experienced I mean spending time in the store and talking to Wolfgang because without his knowledge of HiFi and his industry vision, the store couldn't exist as it does today.
I've been to HiFi stores around the world but I've never seen anything like what Wolfgang has created with his My Sound store in Starnberg. Upon entering the front door a beautiful multi-section orange piece of art on the wall can't be missed. With the press of a button a TV is revealed in the center or just as easily hidden to bring one back to the aesthetically pleasing and mind-relaxing environment.
Wolfgang understands the next generation of HiFi consumer and real world circumstances as well as anyone I know in the industry. Walking around his store there is evidence of this understanding everywhere. In one room there is a TV hidden by a nice black & white photograph and a pair of Devialet amplifiers driving Wilson Audio TuneTot speakers. Not only that but every detail from Dedon furniture selection to lighting was selected with the utmost care to create an experience.
Ok, so many of us have been to rooms like this you might say. Then let's discuss the pièce de résistance that is the largest room on My Sound's main level. I've never seen a listening room as visually pleasing or relaxing as this one. The lush red couch visible immediately upon entering is so inviting. I couldn't help but just take a seat as Wolfgang explained the room he'd created.
This room is all about the experience of listening to high quality audio and having one's mind at ease while living in the moment. First let me cover the beautiful photographs on the walls. Wolfgang shot these images during his travels over the years and had them printed on acoustically transparent material. Behind the images are systematically placed acoustic panels for diffusion and absorption. Let's face it, only a tiny fraction of a percent of people think acoustic panels are cool to look at. The rest of the world would happily enjoy something as pleasing as what Wolfgang has created.
The audio system on the right, with the beautiful image of the man on the riverbank is actually two systems in one. The Wilson Audio speakers are driven by Brinkman electronics and dCS digital for the more visible of systems. It's possible to remove the Wilson speakers and be enveloped by the sound coming from the in-wall Wisdom Audio speakers from the not-so-visible system. Yes, without speakers even remotely in one's consciousness it's possible to listen to great sounding music emanating from the same wall as the beautiful photograph. Sitting on the lush couch and listening to this system was such an amazing experience. My mind was at ease without a mess of cables and other visual distractions. Both the photograph and the music elicit emotional responses from the listeners in this room. The experience is nearly impossible to get through to readers using my words and videos.
Turning around 180 degrees also results in a feast for the senses. Emotional imagery galore via the bright red of the Maasai peoples' clothing. I'd never have thought it was possible to make a pair of speakers disappear without even playing music, but the visual beauty of this room made the Wilson speakers go visually unnoticed much of the time without a note of music flowing through them. The entire time I looked at this complete audio system, large loudspeakers, acoustic panels, separate components for digital and analog, speaker cables and interconnects, etc... I thought to myself that I wanted this experience for my own family at home. I now know it's possible to have all the makings of an excellent audio system and still have a visually stunning space.
I want to reiterate what I just said. Wolfgang has managed to build a full high end audio system with acoustic panels, separate components and full range high end speakers, yet designed it so the listener's eyes and minds don't even see that these pieces are right in front of them. It's amazing and must be experienced in person to believe.
What about audio purists who care about sound quality above all else and still want a pleasant experience? Wolfgang has a room for these listeners as well. He is a two channel music lover at heart. The system with large Wilson Alexx speakers, Nagra & dCS electronics, MIT cables, and HRS racks is much more imposing than the aforementioned systems but it's still a thing of beauty. Wolfgang selected the highest quality acoustic panels for both form and function. The components look stunning on HRS stands between the loudspeakers. I never thought I'd like the look of a monstrous MIT speaker cable network, but I have to admit it looked really cool in this room with all the cabling hidden under the custom bass trap along the floor behind the speakers.
I also couldn't help but notice Wolfgang's laptop and measurement microphone in the back right corner of the room. It's great to see people taking measurements as important as system design and aesthetics. I sat down and listened to this flagship audio system for a bit and enjoyed what I heard immensely. If I had the money, I could have easily said, "I'll take it all. Add to cart."
In the basement Wolfgang built one of the best theaters I've ever seen/heard. The 15 meter screen, flagship Sony projector and Ascendo speakers (all connected via AVB protocol and twisted pair cable) were stunning. The look and feel of the theater, with appropriate acoustic panels, was equally as pleasurable. But, video just isn't my thing so I focused mainly on the audio delights at My Sound.
After spending over an hour looking around and chatting with Wolfgang, my friend and I sat down with him and discussed everything audio, from products to people to trends. This conversation was as refreshing as Wolfgang's store. He is a visionary with a welcoming personality and an ability to understand where the industry is headed. I love the fact that his heart is in two channel audio, as is mine, and he hasn't abandon this side of the industry for the more lucrative custom install sector. Yes, Wolfgang has done and continues to do some amazing custom installation work around the world. But, based on our conversation and his amazing listening rooms, two channel is still as near and dear to him as it is many of us.
I must thank Wolfgang far taking a few hours out of his day and opening his store to us on a day in which it was closed. He is a true gentleman and audio visionary. If Wolfgang will accept me, I will definitely be back there during next year's High End show in Munich.
Hold up, this story doesn't end with Wolfgang's My Sound store. We left the store and walked down the block attempting to hail an Uber. Little did we know, Starnberg isn't a big city with Uber drivers circling the blocks like sharks circling a meal. There were no Uber drivers to be found and no taxis either. After walking up and down the streets we stumbled into a little cafe called Café Achtsamkeit · Cafe Mindfulness. We figured we'd ask someone there to kindly order us a taxi and we'd be on our way to the MOC and the remaining hours of the High End show for Saturday.
Little did we know, we be in for a cultural treat as well as a delicious pastry treat. I tentatively walked in and asked the lady behind the counter if she could assist us in calling a taxi. She went above and beyond my expectations with her kindness and willingness to help. Soon we were ordering pastries and my favorite black darjeeling tea while we waited for the taxi to arrive. We felt so welcomed by not only the staff of Cafe Mindfulness but also the cafe patrons.
While I took a photo of the owner of the cafe behind the counter and all the delightful pastries, a nice gentleman and his son asked if he could hold the camera and take our photo together. Next thing we new, he was out the door with my camera like the Joni Mitchel song. Just kidding. It turned out that his son, around 16 years old I'm guessing, had been a foreign exchange student in Canada just outside of Vancouver and was a fan of NBA basketball. His English was near perfect and he was very surprised that we were from the US rather than England. We talk to him about many topics in this brief time as his dad watched from a distance. I thought to myself, what a wonderful kid. He just decided to strike up a conversation with us and it made my day.
I can't forget the delicious piece of chocolate marble cake I had with my darjeeling tea while waiting for the taxi. It was just as delicious as it looked behind the glass. I really wish we had more time to spend with the terrific people at Cafe Mindfulness. Without a doubt, if I make it back to Wolfgang's next year, I'll stop at this cafe to see my new friends once again.
When our taxi arrived the lady who owned the cafe brought us our bill. We tried very hard to give her a tip for being so great to us, but she just wouldn't accept it. We jumped in the taxi and as the driver was pulling out of his parking space, the lady walked swiftly out to the taxi. She actually brought what was remaining in my friend's tea cup out to him in a paper cup for the road! She said he'd paid for it and she couldn't let him leave it behind. Wow, what place and what people!
We eventually made is back to the MOC for the last two hours of the show on Saturday. We felt refreshed on one hand and a little disappointed on the other. Sure the High End show is the best in the world, but it's no Wolfgang, My Sound, or cafe Mindfulness.
More information about My Sound can be viewed here - LINK