High End 2011 – thirtieth anniversary of the show!!!
80939 Munich, Germany
19-22 May (19 May – press day – only for the press and dealers)
High End Society e. V.
Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photographs: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski
The High End 2011, which ended not so long ago, had a special significance – this year we celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its first edition. I say “we”, because although the organizer is the German company High End Society, in fact the show is made by all the people – the organizer, the exhibitors, the visitors and the press. And only when all those elements fit together we get something special. And because this was a special occasion, this reportage will have a different character than usual – I would like to devote a part of it to a brief history of the High End show, using the article 30 Years of HIGH END prepared by the managing director Mr. Branko Glisovic. Of course I will not forget about a short summary of these year’s trends and finally I will try to show the best, the most interesting presentations.THE HISTORY IN A FEW EASY STEPS
Like I say, the show has this year its 30th anniversary. Its beginning reaches the unexpectedly snowy winter of 1981, when thirteen small companies met in Alzenau, Spessart-Germany to discuss the plans of how to promote the audio branch best. The impulse for that meeting came from Mr. Klaus Renner, a young engineer and journalist, with an extensive knowledge of the branch and many international contacts. It was in the time, when Klaus thought about his own audio magazine, which was to carry the title “Das Ohr” (“The Ear”). What was unusual, that the magazine should have no advertisements at all, and be founded only by money raised from its sales. I’ll remind you, that today only one magazine in the world works along this principle (I mean a printed magazine), namely the British “HiFiCritic” - expensive one, and available only in subscription. Klaus had in mind talks about that magazine, but also about the situation in the branch.
One year later, the organizers moved the event to Frankfurt, because, they say, they wanted to depart from the competitive show in Düsseldorf. This decision was helped also by the fact, that Frankfurt was at that time – more or less – the geographical middle of the German Federal Republic, and the British head of the hotel Kempinsky, Mr. Avernell, was a splendid partner. The problem was to stand against the machine of IFA, which had a subsequent edition in 1983 (let me remind you, that until the XXI century, IFA was held every two years). Branko Glisovic says, that despite those problems, the show was a success – the number of visitors doubled, and the response from the world was overwhelming. Even before the second edition, the organizers founded an entity called High End Syndicate for High-Quality Music Playback. Its goal was to represent small companies on the show. To help them, the number of rooms per exhibitor was limited, to not allow the large companies to dominate the show. From the show also the DIY community was excluded, as only companies were allowed to exhibit, which produce their products in at least a few units, and those products are freely available. After two more years, the rooms in the Kempinsky hotel were regularly booked out long before the show. Even the press started to accept this new show, even the titles, that had earlier a reserve against it, or even clearly disliked it. After the cancellation of the competitive event Hifi-Video-Düsseldorf – due to lack of interest and disagreements between its organizers – many large companies finally went to the High End.
My first contact with the show happened in the year 2000, so it was not so long ago. But I still managed to see the show in Frankfurt – already then, the show was enormous, and it was clear, that some changes have to happen. As it turned out, the organizers thought about that for some time – in 2004 the even was transferred not only to a new location, but to a new city – since then it is located in the M.O.C in Munich (Munich Operating Center) – a large exhibition center.
A quick jump forward – AD 2011 and the 30th anniversary of the show. Anyone who has been to Munich knows, that the large areas of the M.O.C. are not so big anymore. The amount of visitors is overwhelming, and sometimes it is really hard to pass through. And those are really big halls! It was the first time, that I heard from a few important manufacturers from USA, that Munich is a much better place to meet the distributors from over the world, than CES in Las Vegas, and that this was the first year, that they placed their conventions in Europe. Because High End became not only an exhibition place, but also a place for business talks, getting new contacts, etc. It shows, that the organizers of the show had a good hunch, and were right. Today I cannot think of having this show in a hotel.
And what were the main topics of this year’s show? Like I said, the shows clearly exhibit the current trends on the market, the expectations, the fears, etc. They focus everything like a lens – there are almost all (because there are a few manufacturers that do not visit any show) people, who count, and they are gathered on a small area, disputing, sharing opinions.
Nobody talked about the crisis. And this year it could not be seen anywhere. I would say even more – if I wold have to make a diagnosis based on the amount of new manufacturers, or those, who went beyond garage manufacturing stage, I would say, that it has never been so good before. This is still a field diagnosis, but backed up by statistics.
There was also a clear view on the clash of two counteracting tendencies when we are talking about audio in general. I am of course talking about the – lets say – generational exchange of disc players to file players. The latter, in the form of computers and USB DACs, were present in almost every room, and anyone, who wants to be respected, offers one, or will offer one soon. This resembles a bit the attack of the CD format, but it is much quicker. Although the introduction of the CD on the market translated into its sales only in 1985, three years after its premiere, the files stormed the market instantly. It was noticed, that the end client is not forced to use any single format. Because we can play files from any source, with any available resolution and sampling frequency – of course within the common consensus. It is usually 24 bits and 192kHz, but there are talks about 32 bits and 384kHz, like Antelope Audio, who prepared an USB DAC with such input parameters. Where did that come from? Well, from the archiving DXD standard, that is used by some companies. But I am just showing, that we do not have to buy a new device now and then, to be able to reproduce newer, better formats.
The only exceptions were the SACD players. This is surprising, that this format was thrown into trash by its creator, the company Sony (lack of support fro studios and small audiophile companies – I talked to the people from Mobile Fidelity and Linn, who confirmed that) and yet it survived, and even shows a slight increase. It seems, that Super Audio CD found a niche – especially in the environment related to jazz and classical music.
I am not mentioning the black disc by coincidence. This ties between the SACD and LP, but also files, are very strong. In most rooms, where there was a turntable, there was also a file (or SACD) player. And usually it was so, that the turntable was just rotating, but the signal came from the other player. And this is understandable for me – setting up a turntable is very difficult, especially in such environment, and in such a short time, like on a show. A SACD player is then a splendid solution.
As you can see, I just flew over the show talking only about the sound sources. I do not have time for more. And interesting was also the overwhelming amount of tube loudspeakers, tube amplifiers, etc on the show. This is also a part of the picture.
g a l l e r y
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