Munich, Germany | 2023 – From May 18 to 21, 2023, the High End in Munich offered a diverse trade show program. 550 exhibitors presented products from 800 brands on an area of 30,000 square meters. The world’s leading audio trade show attracted 20,000 visitors and 500 journalists.
Texts and images: Thomas Hundgen
Dietrich Brakemeier, the Chief Designer of Acoustical Systems, presented his new Astellar. This much more compact system, compared to the gargantuan Apolyt, incorporates 30 years of development that guarantee the highest sound quality.
The list of special design features of the Astellar is long. For example, this turntable features a unique adjustable bi-radial push-pull magnetic bearing. This particular form of bearing remains maintenance-free and ensures perfectly isolated and therefore completely vibration-free rotation. For further vibration isolation of the plinth, the base is supported by a very thin layer of compressed air at a resonant frequency of 1.2 Hz. For internal vibration isolation, the bearing and tonearm mount are completely decoupled from the motor plane.
From Diptyque of Montauban, France, comes the DP 77 and DP 107 magnetostat flat panel speakers. Both models are equipped with PPBM technology. This is a patented Push Pull Bipolar Magnet system that allows for a strongly pronounced bass and an overall very balanced sound.
In the demonstration room, one could be convinced by the performance of the new model from Diptyque, the DP 140 MK II. This new generation of what the manufacturer calls an isodynamic transducer is also based on PPBM technology. Here it shows its qualities to the fullest in combination with electronics from B. Audio.
The potential of the new Diptyque DP 140 MK II ultimately surprised by combining the brand new Alpha One streaming integrated amplifier from B.audio, which is enthroned in the center on top of the rack. Inside, they combined a state-of-the-art D/A converter with a passively cooled high-end dual mono amplifier. Of course, the Alpha One is equipped with the patented SJR technology (Source Jitter Removal), which ensures complete suppression of jitter.
AMG exhibited the AMG Giro MKII. The platter was equipped with more mass. With its now 5.6 kg and a newly developed platter-subplate interface, a greatly improved synchronization stability is achieved. With an almost inaudible drive motor, a Swiss make, the turntable runs in an ideal speed range.
Cayin exhibited the new CS-845A Reference. This revised single-ended Class A integrated amplifier bears the name Reference, not without reason. According to Cayin, the CS-845A Reference should define a new standard in this amplifier class.
The manufacturer AFI from Germany’s Ludwigsburg is showcasing two innovations at once. Left the Flat.Solo and right, the Flat.Duo provide for flattening records and above all the sound-decisive material relaxation inside the vinyl. The Flat.Solo relaxes and smoothes LPs, Twelve- and 7-inch singles. The Flat.Duo also enables the smoothing as well as material relaxation of shellac records. The names were also given by the characteristics that the Solo can smooth and relax only one and the Duo two records at the same time. For this, both devices consume only 25 watts of power.
The new AP-01 from Yukiseitmitsu Audio delivers very impressive performance and replaces the previous AP-0. Its control board has been redesigned to achieve even better rotational stability. To completely eliminate bearing noise, a non-contact magnetic repulsion design was developed. The distance of the bearing remains constant, resulting in a very smooth, trouble-free rotation of the platter. For the demonstration, Phasemation’s new PP-5000 MC flagship cartridge with a diamond cantilever was chosen.
The AP-01 from Yukiseitmitsu Audio ran in conjunction with electronics from Phasemation. The new MA-5000 Monaural Power Amplifier shone here. This amplifier was equipped with the renowned 211 vacuum tube for the parallel single output and with the legendary 300 B for the driver stages.
US manufacturer Boulder expands its model range with the 812 DAC, streamer, preamplifier and headphone amplifier. After more than 35 years of developing DACs and amplifier designs, the result is a device with exceptional performance, precision and reliability, combined with appealing aesthetics.
Despite its compact format, the Boulder 812 offers rich connectivity, for example in the form of XLR connectors for two pairs of balanced analog inputs and a balanced analog output. In addition, there are two ports for USB host and one USB input, one for LAN as well as two Toslink ports and one for coax.
From Sweden, Engstrom amplifiers charmed with Marten’s Mingus Septet speakers at a high level. The Mingus Septet is a new 4 way model that has seven drivers and has been equipped with a new crossover. Two 10-inch aluminum sandwich bass drivers are installed on the rear. The Mingus Septet is also equipped with new Marten-designed custom tweeters with pure diamond cones.
The signal source in Engstrom and Marten’s room was a Reed Muse 3 C turntable. In the back a Reed 2B was mounted and currently a Reed 5A tonearm played with a Lyra Etna Lambda.
As Engstrom states, the Eric is considered a no-compromise power amplifier. The Eric is fully balanced and transformer-coupled to withstand even the heaviest loads. Separate power supplies are used for Eric.
But as I learned a little later, the two monoblock power amplifiers Engstrom Lars were running at the time. This amplifier, which has been on the market since 2010, underwent many further developments that led to the current MK 3 version. In the process, the sonic performance blended harmoniously with the elaborate visual design.
The analog renaissance has been expanding for some time now with the growing demand for reel to reel tape recorders. No wonder, with these beautiful looking as well as sounding tape recorders from Analog Audio Design. Here one can admire the TP-1000.
Even a brief listen with headphones more than clearly demonstrates the tremendous potential of reel to reel high-end tape recorders. The TP-1000, here in the Gold Edition, is full of technical innovations that meet the highest as well as the most modern standards.
Jonathan Weiss, the founder and mastermind of Oswalds Mill Audio, lectures unconstrained but in detail about a great many topics during the short breaks of his excellent demonstrations. With youthful-looking verve and charm, he shares much of his knowledge.
But first and foremost, Oswalds Mill Audio was all about the new OMA K5 turntable. The K5 ran with a specially developed tonearm from Schroder and the AT-MC2022 from Audio Technica. Weiss very forcefully demonstrated how exceedingly natural, clean, direct, extremely fast, and richly detailed many decades-old records can sound like a live performance. The fact that the LP was warped and not particularly clean, as he only cleaned it briefly with a brush, did not disturb what to be heard in the slightest.
The superlative sound quality is generated in large part by the DeVille speakers from Fleetwood Sound Company, a division of OMA. As Weiss indicates, Fleetwood equips this speaker with highly efficient drivers for professional applications. The demonstrations ran adjacent to Hall 1 in the 74-square-meter K2A conference room, no problem for the relatively small DeVille to generate a very powerful, room-filling and realistic concert atmosphere.
Enleum introduced its flagship amplifier AMP-54R. With the new JET3 Bias, the software algorithm optimizes the output stage bias.
The increased stability of the output bias circuitry allows for drive power that can handle a wide range of loudspeakers.
The equipment of the AMP-54R with a 32-bit CPU of the latest generation, allows the delicate software architecture a very precise control of all circuits. The sonic benefits were demonstrated here with the new Forte speakers from Apertura.
Soundspace Systems offered an impressive demonstration with their Pirol loudspeaker in combination with two P200s from Audio Hungary, here connected as monoblocks. To clean the power, the Powermaster from Gigawatt was used.
As a source for the Pirol from Soundspace Systems decided to use the top turntable Standard Max from J. Sikora.
The Standard Max from J. Sikora ran with the in-house KV Max tonearm and the Mammoth Gold cartridge from Aidas Cartridges. The name was given to this elaborate cartridge due to the fact that the coil windings are made of pure gold.
Hard to believe, but in this small housing is the high quality integrated amplifier 4040 A from Creek. It offers connections in the form of two balanced inputs via XLR, line inputs via RCA and Toslink as well as Coax for digital in. With a power of 55 watts into 8 ohms and 110 watts into 4 ohms, it is well equipped for a wide range of speakers.
Luxman presented its new L-509Z integrated amplifier. Pre- and power amplifier for the first time simultaneously use Luxman’s newly developed amplification feedback engine LIFES.
Also from Shinyokohama, Tokyo comes the new PD-191A. It was equipped with the new tonearm LTA-710 equipped with a knife bearing and the LMC 5 cartridge of the house Luxman.
ESD Acoustic from Hangzhou, China presented a system of massive proportions. The dark red tint of the units comes from a noble millennium-old Chinese lacquer finish.
A very appealing sound experience of the complex speaker system Super Dragon from ESD Acoustic invited to stay a little longer with this gargantuan system.
Pro-Ject exhibited a prototype of the soon-to-be-released direct-driven RPM 12.
Pro-Ject’s new T2 W is equipped with the latest Wi-Fi technology, which is said to enable lossless streaming. Equipped with a 9 inch tonearm, it is available in white, black and walnut.
From the Polish manufacturer Fezz comes the reddot design award winner 2023 Lybra 300B.
Gait exhibited its GlaXfi-BSA-23 loudspeaker with glass diaphragms, available in both passive and active versions. The thin glass membranes developed by Gait are said to be very stiff and light, the best prerequisites for sonic surprises.
The long-established British company Rega presented its latest creation, the reference turntable Rega Naia. First shown here as a prototype, the Naia impresses from a variety of technical innovations and improvements. For example, the carbon fiber skeleton chassis is manufactured with extreme effort and increases rigidity. In addition, the Naia receives further stiffening through special ceramic elements. The platter bearing is made of ZTA zirconia-hardened aluminum oxide (ceramic).
Not only visually very appealing, the ceramic platter is also said to be responsible for increased sound quality.
An impressive demonstration could be experienced at the Italian manufacturer Grandinote. The mighty Mach 8XL were driven by the Solo integrated amplifier. The music came from the Volta DAC streamer, all high-quality components from Grandinote.
The Solo integrated amplifier is the result of a long period of design and development. Grandinote calls its inherent technical principle Magnetsolid technology, developed by Massimiliano Magri, consisting of the ferromagnetic elements of the output transformers, which are crucial for sound. Grandinote states that the impedance output of his Solo would be much lower than of tube amplifiers.
TechDAS introduces its first tonearm, the TechDAS Air Force 10. It is believed to be the first pivoted tonearm to be equipped with an air bearing for horizontal movement.
Even though the TechDAS Air Force 10 seems massive, it can be moved completely free of the slightest force. The air bearing causes an absolutely quiet running, which allows the highest detail resolution and sonic quality. In addition, the extremely fine film of compressed air causes a very effective vibration isolation.
Hart Lab exhibited its audio gear with the Highline Bobby M from SteinMusic.
Jonathan Monks, son of Keith Monks, demonstrates the effective cleaning power of his Prodigy Blue Deluxe record washing machine.
New from Keith Monks is the Prodigy Special Monarch Edition.
Product announcements exhibited as prototypes soon to hit the market were on display at LAB 12. Here the Parallel Single Ended Mono Power Amplifier Irama.
On the right side at LAB 12 was the Hybrid Integrated Amplifier naya.
In Atrium 4 of the second floor, the mighty Grande from Kaiser Acoustics / Kawero! with electronics from Ypsilon could be heard. The extremely elaborately manufactured Kawero! Grande is 1.80 m high and weighs 235 kg.
The Grande were powered by Ypsilon’s equally powerful SET 100 Ultima. This is a Class A 120 watt single ended hybrid amplifier.
For the exquisite sound performance, a TechDAS Air Force One turntable served as the source for Kaiser and Ypsilon.
One of the Ypsilon SET 100 Ultimate monoblocks with its elaborately designed cooling elements and a weight of a whopping 100 kg.
From Cremona comes this integrated amplifier from Norma Audio, the Norma Revo IPA-140. With a power of 140 watts, it is capable of driving the most demanding speakers. The versatile integrated amplifier offers the subsequent equipment of MM/MC phono cardridges of the highest quality.
The Polish, now internationally renowned manufacturer Tentogra exhibits its aesthetically pleasing creations. Here one can marvel at the Tentogra Gramy VTA in more detail. It received the name suffix VTA due to the adjustability of the VTA during operation.
One shouldn’t be fooled by the exterior, because according to a growing number of audio editors, the Tentogra Oscar MK III not only looks stunning, but is also said to perform at the highest level sonically.
The visual similarity to the design of the Palace of Congress in Brasilia by the legendary architect Oscar Niemeyer led on the one hand to the design as well as the naming of this outstanding turntable. At the same time, this turntable is full of innovative technologies. For example, the Oscar MK III is powered by an extremely precise battery system. The battery is said to provide enough energy for 30 hours of music enjoyment. The list of ingenious technical detail solutions seems to be too extensive at this point. For example, a timer for the playing time of the cartridge is built in.
The RS130 from Rose is a Network Transport that can be digitally connected to an external DAC. Rose has equipped it with fiber ethernet and fiber USB ports. It also incorporates an OCXO clock to optimize stable digital output. The RS130 also supports the use of an external master clock. It combines a lot of technical innovations that lead to achieving a network audio of the highest quality.
Based in Niederkruchten, Germany, SPL has long been synonymous with audio products of the highest quality, both in professional and high-end audio. Introduced here is the new Voltaire technology-equipped Premium Diamond preamplifier and DAC. The Diamond features connectivity for six digital sources and an external word clock.
Thorens surprises with a hammer blow to revive its tradition of a reference turntable. The New Thorens Reference is to combine the pinnacle of what is possible. The design team led by Helmut Thiele has worked hard to come up with numerous solutions to various problems. Among other things, they wanted to create a turntable that was as completely free of vibrations as possible. In cooperation with the German specialist Seismion, which is known worldwide for state-of-the-art solutions in the field of vibration isolation, a customized vibration-isolating solution integrated into the turntable was created. Thorens claims that this turntable effectively isolates even the smallest vibrations in the nano- to picometer range.
The Thorens New Reference turntable combines numerous other technical innovations. One can be more than curious about hopefully soon test reports.
Another innovation is the Thorens SoundWall HP 600, a three-way loudspeaker based on the open baffle principle. Here, the drivers were arranged concentrically according to the D`Appolito principle. The Thorens SoundWall is equipped with twelve 15 centimeter woofers, for example.
It seems more than astonishing how extremely well ancient speakers from Western Electric, here on the very outside the legendary 12B, can still sound today. These legends could be heard in the room of Silbatone Acoustics. In the center are two examples of another loudspeaker legend, the LM-812 from Altec Lansing.
The two 555 drivers of the mighty Western Electric 12B.
From Bergisch Gladbach, Germany comes the new Transrotor Bellini TMD. TMD stands for the turntable’s magnetically coupled platter bearing.
The Bellini can be additionally equipped with a cover hood.
In addition, the Transrotor Bellini can be sonically upgraded with the Konstant M1 Reference an external power supply and control unit.
At the booth of the French manufacturer Kora was presented the new Phono Stage. Kora states that this preamplifier would be a Swiss Army knife as it provides finely adjustable gain for a very wide range of both MM and MC cartridges.
Unison Research introduced its Absolute 845 Class A tube amplifier. It is a dual mono single ended amplifier with a power of 2 x 40 watts.
Lehmann Audio from Cologne, Germany the manufacturer of the legendary Black Cube phono preamplifier, exhibited its Decade Jubilee. The good reputation of this manufacturer has now spread to many parts of the world and sparked enthusiasm among many audio journalists with this model.