Sitting in the Sweet Spot
Wake up refreshed with a flat-white & hot chocolate from the aptly named Sweet Spot Coffee. We sit and plan the 2nd day of the show. (click here for our highlights of Day 1)
It is still stifling hot up in the all-glass atrium section of the High-End show. So, we make a beeline for the air-conditioned Monitor Audio (UK) room. They are demonstrating their prototype Concept 50 loudspeakers. The futuristic design is not my cup of tea, but they sound majestic with a very open & detailed soundstage.
The speakers have a unique isobaric bass system, with four 20cm bass drivers facing each other. This is intended to reduce distortion and produces soft sub-bass that doesn’t resonate within your rib cage. The low-end appears to stay “out there” in the space in front of us. On Billy Eilish’s ” Bad Guy “ you can hear the spital in her mouth as she sings. The vocals also have a real presence on XX ” I dare you “ & Jame Blake’s cover of ” Limit to your love “. Very listenable speakers – we could happily sit here all day, and these are only the prototypes!
A design classic from the 70s
Linn ( UK )
There is one turntable in the Linn room which is calling us towards it, like a sweet singing Glaswegian siren. It’s an original Linn Sondek LP12 (hand-built by founder Ivor Tiefenbru in 1973). This particular model is No.006 – the sixth to be made. Its understated design and fluted plinth make it a classic!
The Klimax System, with the 350 passive loudspeakers is on demonstration. This is the only room of the show where we get a comparison test: Klimax DSM (2016) goes up against Klimax DSM Katalyst (2016) and the new Klimax DSM 2 Organik (2022). The latest incarnation sounds more nuanced and musical, but to be honest, they all sounded great.
Back to the 80s
The stand-mounted Epos ES-14N are the re-engineered ES-14 from the late 80s. EPOS ( Germany ) was recently bought by Fink, so we were excited to hear these as the Fink KIM loudspeakers were one of our favourites for 2022! Their clunky boxy design isn’t for everyone, but they produce a very impressive wall of sound, and the music comes alive through these compact speakers.
Continuing the trend for retro-fitted classics, the JBL (US) – Studio Monitor 430P Chromecast are on display. I’m a big fan of their retro look, although no demo available, so no idea how they sound.
A first from Cambridge
dCS ( UK ) have the Vivaldi One Apex on demo, with Dan d’Agostino Momentum M400 MxV monoblocks driving Wilson Audio Alexx V loudspeakers. The system has a clear, bright, forward sound, with intricate details. The kettle drums on the orchestral “Danse Macabre” sound like they are getting played in the room with us. The lush, liquid electro & sub-bass of Pan Sonic’s ” Laptev Sea “ suit this system perfectly, whilst the VU meters on the Dan d’Agostino amps jump violently with every pulse.
Fyne Audio’s ( UK ) Vintage & Vintage Classic Series look like they are straight out of the Great Gatsby – very elegant hand-made walnut finished cabinets with gold trim. They ooze luxury and have a rich sound. Although, something is missing. It would be good to hear them again but paired with different electronics.
Chord Electronics ( UK ) There is astounding separation and sense of space created by the DAVE, M-Scaler, Ultima Pre 2 & Ultima Monoblocks paired with Bowers & Wilkins 802 D4s. The sound has a surgical, clean quality. We also got a sneak peek of the Ultima Pre 3 analogue pre-amplifier.
Good things come in small packages
On the way out of the Chord Electronics room, I have a quick listen to the desktop Qutest system: Qutest DAC / Anni Desktop Amplifier / Huei phono stage with Meze Empyrean Isodynamic Headphones. The raw emotion in Thom Yorke’s vocal cuts through on Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”. The layered guitars sound equally powerful on My Bloody Valentine’s “You made me realise”, with clean & clear bass. Easily one of the best headphone systems at the show!
Moon ( Canada ) has released its first-ever loudspeakers. The Voice 22 stand-mounted speakers have a huge soundstage for such compact speakers. The sound is effortless and natural, with a lovely low end.
Technics ( Japan ) display their limited Edition SL-1200MK7s turntables in 6 colours, however, they’re not available for any UK dealers at the moment. In the demo room, they have the reference quality Technics SL-1000R turntable with the SU-G700m2 integrated amplifier. They are also showcasing the SA-C600 network CD receiver with the compact, but powerful SB-C600 monitors which sound like floor standers! These rival the Moon Voice 22 speakers from next door. They’d make a great starter system for under £1,500.
PMC (UK) – has the Fact Fenestria in their listening room. The bass extension of these towering loudspeakers goes the deepest of the show. The glitchy techno and sub-bass of Trentmoller’s ” Chameleon “ is mesmeric, no doubt due to PMC’s unique advanced transmission line. The speakers are very, very loud, but you can whisper to the person next to you and still be heard. This is the perfect end to two days of exceptional high-fidelity music.
Before we head back home to London, we drop by the low-lit Vogler Jazzbar, in Glockenbach – we find the Don Menza Quartet in full swing. They are a welcome reminder of what everyone at the High-End show is trying to achieve – recreating the thrill & pleasure of listening to a live performance by masters of their craft.
We’ll be back in Munich for the 2023 edition. Next time we’ll bring Dean.
Below is a playlist of music we listened to throughout the show: