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HIGH END 2019 | Munich

Time: 9-12th May 2019
Place: M.O.C. | Munich

Vorm Eichholz 2g | D-42119 Wuppertal



The HIGH END SHOW's roots go back to the snowy end of 1981, when in Alzenau, in Spessart-Germany, thirteen small companies met to set up a road map discuss the way to best promote the audio industry. The impulse came from a journalist, Mr KLAUS RENNER. The first event took place on two floors of the Interconti hotel in Düsseldorf (today it is called Scandic Crown), it was attended by twenty exhibitors. A year later it was moved to Frankfurt, to the Kempinski hotel. Due to the unusual growth of the event in 2004, the show was moved again, this time to Munich, to the exhibition center called M.O.C. (Munich Operating Center).

his years the Show's ambassador was Steven Wilson. It was a great choice, because he's not only a musician, but also a sound engineer remastering and mixing the most important albums of progressive music, including King Crimson and Yes. The queue to the table where he signed his newest concert album was longer than to popular YouTubers. And the organizer, the HIGH END SOCIETY Service GmbH, noted another success, as all the numbers in Excel tables saw yet another increase.

One of the atriums – a space between rooms

The numbers for the High End Show A.D. 2019 are as follows:

  • 551 exhibitors from 42 countries, a 3,8% increase,
  • 21 180 visitors, a 6,5% increase,
  • 8208 business participants from 72 countries, 8,6% increase.
The only thing that hasn't change is the total exhibition surface – simply there is no more space to use. Also 508 journalists from 37 countries visited the Show. In other words – a huge success.

It's just that in my opinion, the show froze in a pose of self-satisfaction and satiety. The only new element was the SOUNDS CLEVER campaign, that was about preparing a complete audio system costing less than 5,000 euros. However, for such a large exhibition – it is just not enough. The more so that debutantes, small companies, were packed into a tiny space, while a year ago they had at their disposal a spacious passage in the middle of the hall.

The event is ritualized, freezing in the "audiophile" poses, no one expects anything new anymore, participants need to be there to confirm their presence on the market. Companies are doing what they can to attract attention to their products, but the size of the show is overwhelming and does not allow for a non-rushed tour. To see anything - really anything - you have to have a strict plan and stick to it, otherwise it won't work. Plan will let you see only some small part of the High End, but at least you will actually see it.

One of the most interesting initiatives this year – Dynaudio set up a portable recording studio, where it recorded local artists. The recordings were then played on systems featuring the company's newest loudspeakers.

Therefore, sticking to these guidelines, for the first time the High End showed me a completely different face than usual. I have seen almost nothing, I have not heard much, and spent the whole stay participating in meetings and presentations. It was extremely nice, I was invited to them all, I had a great time. However, this does not change the fact that I did not use the most basic offer of the show, i.e. I did not see much of what the manufacturers had to show. Well, maybe I saw something and I listened to some presentations (I brought over 700 photos) but the number was much lower than usually.

Therefore, the short coverage I would like to share with you has been planned by me a little differently than usual. Let me invite you to re-meet the people I met with and to read about what I was heard during those presentations I managed to attend. By the way we will show you our friends - people and companies with whom we have special, friendly relations. We marked their rooms with special stickers with the anniversary (15 years) "High Fidelity" logo. In order to keep with a long tradition, we also awarded Best Sound awards.

René Laflamme

NAGRA is a giant of electronics, both for professional and consumer markets. For several years, they have been developing their top HD system, with its latest addition being the HD DAC, about which - as the first magazine - we wrote last year in our factory tour. René Laflamme, company's representative in the USA and Canada, took care of our sticker. He's also an owner of the 2xHD record label. The sound of a system based on 2xHD tapes, Nagra electronics and amazing YG Acoustics speakers was outstanding!

Nagra system featured remarkable YG Acoustics Sonja Jr. speakers, consisting of two models, supported by a huge InVincible subwoofer. Company calls it: „hyper-high-end sub-bass”.

Dirk Sommer and Dr Roland Dietl, journalists

Dirk Sommer, chief editor of the HIFISTATEMENT.NET magazine, participated in the SOUNDS CLEVER initiative. It's goal was to prepare complete audio systems at total price below 5000 EUR.

Dirk with his crew used laptop turned into a music server with JRiver Media Centers 24 software, USB iFi Purifier3, Mytek Liberty DAC, IOTAVX PA3 amplifier, Dynaudio Emit20 speakers, Velodyne Impact 12 MkII subwoofer, Audioquest cables and Isotek power products.

They took care even about details because on top pf the devices they place heavy elements normally used to keep the door from closing, the speakers and the subwoofer were toed in, and a sandbag was put on the subwoofer. The sound was extremely dynamic, fast and detailed. I lacked some richness and warmth in it, but it is about my preferences, not a problem of the system.

Gabi van der Kleij-Rijnveld

CRYSTAL CABLE, the company, run by Gabi van der Kleij-Rijnveld, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year - just like "High Fidelity". At the gala dinner I sat among others with Doug Shneider, chief of the Canadian magazine "", as well as the editor of the German "Fidelity", that gave us a chance to exchange the latest news and gossip :)

And Gabi celebrated the anniversary with the latest cable, Future Dream. It is accompanied by a special fund-raising campaign for talented children who can not afford to go to the right school - you can participate too by clicking on the appropriate button on the Crystal Cable website. Let me add that in the special publication released on the occasion, in the Friends section, you will find a few words from me.

The latest Crystal Cable interconnect – Future Dream – it will take place between Absolute Dream and Ultimate Dream models in the lineup

Dr. Stefan Schwehr, the new owner and CEO of Audionet

Between the last year's and this year's High End Show lot happened in the AUDIONET company, not all of them good. First, we heard that the company went bankrupt. It turned out that one of the managers went all the way in, spending tones of money for advertisements, meetings, etc., which plunged this excellent company.

Fortunately, some time ago, a few people working there bought the company. Mr. Stefan Schwehr became the new owner and CEO, and Mr. Jan Geschke became the sales manager. During the Show thy presented a new model from the top series, the Humboldt integrated amplifier. I have recorded a short interview with them, I hope that I will have a chance to share it with you.

The Audionet system featured Humboldt integrated amplifier and Dynaudio loudspeakers from the new Confidence line, the ‘50’ model; Plank CD Player with external power supply was the main source in the system.

Dynaudio Confidence 30 with Moon electronics – we listened to, among others, music recorded a day before in a mobile studio.

One of the most interesting premieres of this year's High End Show was prepared by DYNAUDIO. During press event we could listen to the speakers from the new Confidence series, the '30' model. The system included Moon electronics. Also this Canadian company's room featured Dynaudio Confidence 50 speakers.

I must say that it is probably the best design from this company that I have ever listened to. I know and value their previous models, but with the new series we get something that I always postulate and what I love my Harbeths for – a human element, that is, depth and saturation. I talked about it with Tomek, a member of the Sonic Society, who has an older version of these loudspeakers in his system and we agreed that Dynaudio had never shown something like before. Bravo!

Mr. Roland Hoffman, chief of the Dynaudio Academy, presents the way this brands speakers are measured.

Syuzou Ishimi-san, CEO of the SPEC

One of the most cordial greetings that I was given in Munich happened in the SPEC CORPORATION room. We exchanged hugs with Syuzou Ishimi-san, the founder of the company and then with Yoshua Hontai-san, who represents the company outside Japan, and finally with Tsutomu Banno-san, the chief engineer.

It was one of the longer meetings I had in Munich and one of the nicest ones. In addition to the exchange of observations regarding the new amplifier, we also talked about the new version of the company's loudspeaker filters designed to honor the 15th anniversary of the "High Fidelity". In Munich, the first copy was shown - it was beautiful, It is hand-finished by a well-known artist with urushi varnish and gold paint. Each unit is therefore slightly different.

System composed of the SPEC RPA-1000 amplifiers, SPEC's turntable and Leben's devices, including the CS600X integrated amplifier.

The latest Chord amplifier, Ultima 3

If I had to choose three most innovative audio companies the British CHORD ELECTRONICS would definitely be one of them. It has kept surprising us for years with its unique digital sources, and amazing amplifiers. This time, they presented two amplifiers from the Ultima series, the Ultima 2 and Ultima 3. The Ultima technology was introduced in October 2018 in the form of top monoblocks. The new 750 W Ultima 2 is the immediate successor of the SPM 600 MkII and becomes part of the Reference series. The smaller 480W Ultima 3 replaces the SPM 1400 MkII amplifier. Both new Ultima amplifiers have a front designed by John Frank.

Chord's press conference was one of the most crowded ones in Munich..

Mr. Goetz M. von Laffert, chief of the Lyravox Gerätemanufaktur

We have been writing about the German company LYRAVOX GERÄTEMANUFAKTUR every year, regularly awarding their room with the Best Sound awards. What distinguishes their speakers from others is advanced DSP systems that controls amplifiers for individual drivers. The amplifiers used in the new models belong to the 3rd generation of these devices. I liked the speakers from Karl series most, which looks extremely classic and yet are technologically advanced. This model includes room acoustics, phase and frequency response of loudspeakers correction systems. The only thing we need is a digital source.

Lyravox Gerätemanufaktur loudspeakers, Karlina on the left, Karlos on the right; both featuring DSP, digital crossovers and amplifiers for each speaker.

Hans-Ole Vitus – on the right.

Hans-Ole Vitus is a person known not only to audio journalists. Always smiling, big guy who has achieved huge success that most audio manufacturers can only dream of. This time he presented a new integrated amplifier VITUS AUDIO SIA-030. This powerful device weighing 63 kg and measuring 268 x 435 x 530 mm is equipped with an adjustable power supply, also for the output section, developed originally for the Masterpiece MP-M201 amplifier. The device can be equipped with either a DAC or phonostage module.

The latest Vitus Audio amplifier, SIA-30, in orange.

Ultimate HQCD presentation – in the middle Hiroshi Ihara –san.

A very interesting presentation prepared by the MEMORY-TECH CORPORATION. Its representative, Mr. Hiroshi Ihara, showed the differences between classic CD and their version of Ultimate HiQualityCD. You probably already know what I am going to say, don't you? - Once again the differences were huge. What further helped the presentation was the fact that all the presented releases were first presented using Master CD-Rs, from which the masters and finally the matrices were made. One could also see all the stages of CD production, along with glass masters.

The consecutive stages of the glass matrix production, from which the metal matrixes are made used for pressing Ultimate HQCD.

Gerhard Hirt and Bartosz Pacuła unisono :)

Gerhard Hirt, the owner of AYON AUDIO, presented in Munich a completely new version of the S-10 MkII player. It features a SSD drive, where the files are first loaded to before being played. As he said, the difference is huge. What once again proves that we have much to learn about audio files playback. The S-10 MkII can be configured in three different ways, depending on the user's needs. The new version also sports a revised DAC section.

The system consisted of two-box Playback Designs MTP-8 + MPD-8 SACD Player, SPA-8 power amplifier and Stenheim Alumine Five loudspeakers.

The files were also a leitmotiv of the PLAYBACK DESIGNS presentation. In the system there was a two-box SACD player and the world premiere, SPA-8 power amplifier, belonging to the Dream Series. This is a beast that must be carried by four big guys, capable of delivering 500 W output @ 8 Ω and 1000 W @ 4 Ω. The presentation was special because it included an audio-video presentation, with the video recorded in the 8K resolution. The most exciting part however, was the fact that the video was synchronized with the DSD256 (Quad DSD) sound

Until now, synchronization between the video and DSD sound was impossible. The head of Playback Designs, Mr. Andreas Koch, one of the architects of the DSD format success, has developed a special controller that enabled that. The sound, provided by the excellent STENHEIM speakers, was extremely precise and natural. I can only guess only how much space these recordings took up on HDD :) It was the first presentation of the results of the cooperation of Playback Designs and the Yarlung Records, and the recording was made during the Yuko Mabuchi Trio concert in Los Angeles.

A monster – Playback Designs SPA-8

| HiFiDeluxe 2019

Mr. Laurent Fusilier, owner of the JMF Audio, with Patricia Barber's album

For years, next to the very expensive and business-oriented High End, there has simultaneously been also another show at the Marriot Hotel. This is where you can find the best sound of the show and the most expensive systems. And that's where JMF Audio held its presentation. I wrote about it on several occasions as a phenomenon - they prepared their own version of a CD/DVD-A/BD/SACD transport, which looks remarkable! Writing about it on the occasion of an article concerning physical media, I did not know that it would have such an impact - Patricia Barber commented on it, and as a result of the collaboration between the artist and the JMF Audio, a Pure Audio BD recording was made with the material from Something Cool. More about the JMF Audio company HERE.

That's the man who designed BDPM1 drive, used in the Transport DMT3.7, Mr. Arnaud Fusilier, Laurent's brother.

Guys from TRPTK – Bart Koop, pianist who played on the beautiful Qope's Nocturnal album, and Brendon Heist, the chief and sound engineer.

Next door I came across my friends from the TRPTK label. They had just released their first vinyl record, cut from the PCM 32/384 hi-res files. The album was recorded by Douwe Eiseng and it is entitled For Mattia. Next door, I listened to its CD version, on the system with KROMA AUDIO loudspeakers, BRICASTI DESIGN electronics, as well as CEC CD player. It was a fantastic combination of scale with intimacy, warmth with openness - if you can, buy this album now.

A system that played the latest release by TRPTK included the CEC TL0 3.0 transport, Bricasti Design electronics: the Platinum M21 DAC, M12 preamplifier and M28 monobloks that drove Kroma Audio loudspeakers, Norma (bigger ones) and Mimi (on the stands).

After visiting the Marriott, we went to the amazing BMW museum and then to the Old Pinakothek (Alte Pinakothek), where we wanted to see a painting by Leonardo da Vinci entitled Madonna with Vase, also known as Madonna with Child. Let me remind you that this year we are celebrating the 500th death anniversary of this genius. We were not disappointed, the painting is beautiful, although it is located in a no so grand corner. Much more impressive, however, was the Self-portrait in fur (Self-Portrait with Fur-trimmed Robe, another title: Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight) by Albrecht Dürer - is simply amazing.

Next day returning to the second day for the Show, I wanted to visit one room in particular: the so-called "Polish" room. Lot of people talked about it during the Show - even Panagiotis Karavitis and Marc Philips from the "Part Time Audiophile" who accosted me in the press lounge. mentioned it.

Messrs. Łukasz Lewandowski (hORNS by Auto-Tech), Robert Sikora (J.Sikora) and Janusz Sikora (J.Sikora)

The aforementioned system included the J.SIKORA turntable with the new KV12 Kevlar tonearm. It is yellow, but upon request of one of the distributors also a black version was prepared. But, as Mr. Sikora said, it does not sound as well as the unpainted one. The preamplifier came from the same company, but the integrated amplifier was the new ENCORE 7 product, the TanQ model. Another element attracting attention were the loudspeakers by the hORNS by Auto-Tech, the Symphony model. System featured also ALBEDO cables.

Last but not least, I'd like to mention one more presentation that was extremely interesting, gave me a lot to think about and was a great starting point for many conversations throughout my stay in Munich. Less than a month before the start of the Show, Mr. James Walerych from Ash Communications, who collaborated with PMC on the one hand and the CAPITOL RECORDS label on the other, contacted me.

He invited me to something that for a stereo fan and even a mono one - I think of myself – would be almost an insult - a presentation of recordings encoded in Dolby Atmos. In any other case, I would thank him politely, and then I would immediately forget about it. This time, however, it was about music by MILES DAVIS.

PMC has come up with a way to get around the problems many music lovers have with their rooms acoustics and at the same time to present two classic Davis albums - Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain in a completely different way. The project envisaged a new remaster of analogue master-tapes – three-track ones - in such a way that the three front channels reflected the arrangement of the instruments on these tapes, and the remaining channels - side, rear and ceiling were re-recorded.

Front channels were played by top PMC speakers, the Fact fenestria, and the ceiling, rear and side channels were played by flat Wafer speakers.

Instead of manipulating the signal in the computer, a very traditional way was chosen, resembling analog reverberation systems from the 1940s and 50s. In the studios in which these albums were originally recorded (these are different studios) loudspeakers were placed that played these three channels. The recorded reverberation of the room(s) was then encoded in the rear Dolby Atmos channels. The result exceeded my wildest expectations. I had an impression of being in real rooms, the walls of the small room where the listening session took place disappeared, and the sound was extremely "analog". But it was no accident that it worked this way.

During the presentation the engineers responsible for the new remaster were present - the three times Grammy nominee STEVE GENEWICK, Senior Engineer at Capitol Studios, who worked with: Diana Krall, Chris Botti, Neil Young, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney, etc. . as well as DAVID RIDEAU, Grammy winner and four times nominee sound engineer, who worked with: Sting, Janet Jackson, Alexander O'Neal, Brenda Russell, Earth Wind and Fire, George Benson.

Founders and bosses of The Miles Davis Foundation, Messrs.: Vince Wilburn Jr. (in the middle) and Erin Davis.

What's more, and it was particularly touching, we were accompanied by two founders of The Miles Davis Foundation, an organization managing the legacy of Davis and licensing re-editions of his records, gentlemen: VINCE WILBURN Jr., producer and drummer in the Miles Davis band, and privately his nephew, and ERIN DAVIS, musician, and privately son of the great trumpeter.

Let me put it this way - I do not intend revolutionize my home audio system and I will keep my stereo one. But if you already have a multi-channel home theater system at home, you simply MUST have these two albums in new versions. Thanks to people from PMC, I was able to conduct interviews with both engineer responsible for the remastering and both Davis' relatives. Stay vigilant – you will find them soon in the future "High Fidelity" issues.

High End is completely different show from the Audio Video Show in Warsaw. It is primarily show for business and press. But it is also visited by several thousand "mortals", and professionals also are sometimes able to find a moment to talk about life. And by such conversation I will remember this trip the most. I was sitting at a table set up in the atrium lobby, sipping a beer and eating something, when someone asked if he could join me.

All the other tables were completely occupied, so I said: of course, and only then turned to the man. It turned out to be Mr. Roy Hall, founder and owner of the Music Hall. We started to talk about the state of politics in the US and Poland - we were absolutely in agreement with our diagnoses - after which Mr. Hall looked at me and said "you know, I had my DNA studied recently and it turned out that I am 75% Jew. " And then he added, "my parents come from Cracow region."

Mr. Roy Hall on his break at the table with yours truly.

After something like that we could not just get up and go separate ways, we had to talk about history, the present and the meaning of life ... Yes, that's what I am going to remember this Show for, not for any devices or presentations.

I'd like to thank all the people I had a chance to meet, and apologize to these I didn't meet – see you next year! ■

  • MSB Technology is an American manufacturer specializing in discrete digital-to-analogue converters. The photo presents theirs top transport – The Reference Transport – capable of playing Blu-Ray, DVD, CD discs, as well as audio files including DSD.
  • Cessaro system with electronics that looks a lot like Kondo products.
  • New and less expensive products from Mark Levinson – No. 5101 SACD player and No. 5805 integrated amplifier featuring a MM/MC phonostage and D/A converter with support for PCM files up to 32/384 and DSD512.
  • So far Verity Audio specialized in loudspeakers. In Munich they presented also a two-box PRE-2 preamplifier and class A AMP-60 mono amplifiers.
  • The latest box from Mobile Fidelity – „One Step Pressing”, Bill Evans Portrait in Jazz.
  • It’s an outstanding turntable by Schick, presented in Munich with their tonearms and cartridges.
  • Two remarkable devices by Nagra from the HD line – the HD PRE preamplifier and a novelty - HD DAC.
  • At first glance, it is a classic Nagra IV-S tape recorder. But only the transport section has been utilized and the signal from the head is sent using RCA cables to the electronics below. René Laflamme said that in this way he achieved an unprecedented reduction in noise.
  • New products from Furutech, the FI-48 (R) and FI-E48 (R) power plugs.
  • A successor of the McIntosh MC275, the MC2152 – it’s still based on KT88 tubes in the output, but their number doubled.
  • As usual, chic and, as always, impressive - Avid HiFi products with the new EVO loudspeaker series in the foreground.
  • Musical Fidelity and Music Hall room – far in the middle, Roy Hall.
  • Edwin van der Kley, on the left, this year presented new flagship Siltech loudspeakers, the mighty Symphony.
  • Siltech Symphony.
  • One of the most interesting presentations - the Nordost room, and in the the QSOURCE, a linear power supply used to power the QPOINT, a device emitting a small electromagnetic field; it should be placed under devices.
  • Another pair of mighty loudspeakers, the Goebel Divin Noblesse. The system included Goebel cables and Engström’s electronic - the MONICA preamplifier and ERIC power amps. The whole system was powered up by PC-4 EVO+ power conditioner with LS-2 EVO power cable and another conditioner PC-3 SE EVO+.
  • The FinkTeam Borg speakers we reviewed recently accompanied by Slovakian electronics by Canor.
  • Canor CD Player, the CD1.10.
  • Mr. Karl-Heinz Fink without sticker :)
  • The latest SACD drive by Esoteric, model VRDS Atlas.
  • Two channels of the discrete Esoteric D/A Converter.
  • La Diva – top-loader CD transport by Italian company Aqua.
  • SACD top-loader by Metronome Technologie with a large touch screen.
  • A precise presentation by Japanese company Nihon Onkyo Engineering with their room acoustic treatment system called ANKH.
  • New integrated amplifier by Engström, called Arne.
  • Creme de la creme - owners of the top audio companies (from the left): Lars Engström (Engström), Scott Berry (Computer Audio Design), Frederik Berefelt (Bibacord) and Paweł Skulimowski (Franc Audio Accessories).
  • finite elemente came back with shelves made of carbon fiber, designed for their racks from Master Reference series – the photo presents pagode Edition.
  • A very nice presentation in EAR Yoshino’s room – they played a direct-to-disc LP and at the same time the vocalist, Ms. Lyn Stanley, sang using exactly the same microphone as during recording, on the right Mr. Tim de Paravicini.
  • Lyn Stanley’s album on two 45 rpm records.
  • Ken Kessler from „Hi-Fi News” and his iconic LP-shaped earrings :)
  • One of the most important premieres of the Show – Mr. Heinz Lichtenegger talks about the new Pro-Ject CD Player and…
  • ...about new X1 turntable series.
  • Hifideluxe Show: The first analogue record in trptk’s history – Douwe Eisenga For Mattia.
  • Hifideluxe Show: Another novelty, TotalDAC’s power amplifier amp-1 – AB class solid-state.
  • Hifideluxe Show: A very interesting presentation of a D/A Converter by ROHM Semiconductor. It’s a company manufacturing their own DSPs with D/A converters.
  • Hifideluxe Show: ROHM Semiconductor a PCB for their top DAC chip, the BD3431EKV.
  • SPEC’s filters finished with urushi – a pure beauty!
  • Mr. Shirokazu Yazaki, owner (on the right) and chief designer, Mr.Banno Tsutomu. And our sticker :)
  • Russian Zavalinka Records’s stands with their master-tapes.
  • Some samples of Zavalinka Records tapes.
  • Great looking turntable by a Taiwanese company TIEN Audio.
  • The latest transformers by Lundahl.
  • A fantastic tonearm, the Sorane SA1.2.
  • Nice, right? – It’s Quattro „Rush” turntable by Aemilia.
  • Marin Ostapowicz presented his products, including his new music server.
  • JCAT and a new music server
  • A mighty, weighing over 100 kg rack by Polish company Stacore used for presentation of the top-high-end electronics by Ares Cerat.
  • A cross-section of the leg of the latest Stacore rack.
  • Colorful finish of Pylon Audio loudspeakers attracted a lot of eyes.
  • Fezz Audio presented their latest SET 2A3 amplifier, Mira Ceti.
  • The Western Electric 300B taken apart.
  • Western Electric 91-E amplifier.
  • TenToGra turntable Oscar with a unique, on-the-fly VTA adjustment.
  • Mr. Yutaka
  • Air Tight’s system with beautiful ATM211 monoblocks.
  • Mr. Janusz Sikora – it’s obvious what is he so proud of (a hint - the new KV12 tonearm).
  • Octave system with new 300B monoblocks with three tubes per channel.
  • The new version of Ayon’s S10 streamer, simply called the „II”.
  • A beautiful new turntable by Lithuanian company Reed, called Muse 1C.