Wow, what a show. The 2014 High End show in Munich was the best audio show I've ever attended. It was like Disney World for adults. It featured private rooms for controlled demonstrations and a large show floor with booths full of high end equipment, music, and services. Usually show floors are full of trinkets and iPhone cases. Munich is a different story. There were countless quality products from manufacturers I'd never heard of and several new product launches from well known known manufacturers. Devialet, Constellation Audio, TAD, Nagra, Auralic, Aurender, Dynaudio, Wadia, Audio Research, and Sonus Faber were some of the manufacturers with new products on display in Munich. It was truly a blast covering this show. I've already made plans to attend in 2015.
I started the show by attending Devialet's press conference at 10:00AM Thursday. The company announced it's new firmware update increased the power in all current models. For example the Devialet 170 I have in for review is now a Devialet 200 and can be bridged with another 200 model to become Devialet 400 mono blocks. I don't remember the last time a high end company increased the power in an already released product simply by having customers install new firmware. Devialet also introduced it's new SAM technology. Speaker Active Matching (SAM) is also included in the new firmware update. This technology enables users to select their speakers while configuring a Devialet unit, and have the unit make DSP adjustments to correct time alignment and phase coherency among other items. Devialet is in the process of measuring as many speakers as it can, so customers can simply select the appropriate speaker in the online Configurator and download the config to their Devialet units. Devialet is an impressive and innovative company built on solid engineering. I look forward to visiting the company in Paris in September.
Devialet ADH / SAM Whitepaper
Constellation Audio premiered its Inspiration Series Preamp 1.0 and Amp 1.0, with a static display of its Integrated 1.0. The products are quite similar to the Constellation Performance and Reference Series but without the large price tag. The Inspiration preamp and amps (stereo or mono) should retail for about $10,000 each. The overall sound in the Constellation room was pretty good, thanks in part to detailed room setup and Vicoustic acoustic panels. The Constellation Inspiration series is going to be a product to watch in the coming months and years. This high level of performance and build quality at relatively reasonable prices will enable aspiring buyers to finally get into the Constellation family without selling an organ on the black market :~)
Auralic premiered its long awaited Aries network renderer. The Aries and its accompanying iOS application seriously blew me away. The unit was receiving wireless audio the entire time I tested the iOS application and I didn't hear a single dropout. Aries was running on the 5 GHz band of 802.11n rather than the 2.4 GHz band most other products at the show used. The iOS / iPad application is terrific. Browsing one's library is very fast and the app is really responsive. The most impressive item of the entire system is the integration with Qobuz and WiMP lossless streaming services. Browsing the entire WiMP lossless catalog and streaming to the Aries was identical to browsing and streaming from a local NAS. All the WiMP albums appear right in the iOS app when the user elects to browse the WiMP service. The usual options such as press and hold, play now, play next, play at end, etc… are all available when playing form a NAS or the cloud. I am looking forward to reviewing the Aries as soon as it's ready this summer.
I finally met the team from WiMP in person at the Munich show. Not only are these guys really cool, but they also have great vision for where their product is headed. Readers unfamiliar with WiMP should understand it's not yet available in the US, but I'm willing to bet it'll be here sooner rather than later. The service offers CD quality lossless streaming of its catalog over 20 million tracks deep. I've been using WiMP for a few weeks and absolutely love it. This is one company and product to keep an eye on.
T+A introduced its forthcoming PDP 3000HV SACD player / DAC. This unit will cost around $20,000 when released. It's a flagship level product with no shortcuts. In fact, the unit features an analog output for PCM and a separate analog output for DSD. Much of this is related to the difference in filtering between PCM and DSD. This is the first product I've seen address these differences with dual analog outputs. I can't wait to give this one a shot.
An industry veteran I have the utmost respect for is Mbl's Chief Engineer Juergen Reis. Juergen is an Engineer's Engineer who has changed the way many in the industry measure jitter, and developed an unmatched bit transparency test for computer audio among countless other advances in high end audio. Attending the Munich show I was finally able to see Juergen on his home turf giving demonstrations of the Mbl 101 Extreme system and explaining the technology in the system. I've had lunch with Juergen at CES for the last three years in Las Vegas, but seeing him in Germany was really neat for me personally. Juergen's 101 Extreme demo sounded very good from where I was sitting, and I was far from the center seating position. As Juergen explained to the audience, this off axis listening wasn't as big of an issue for Mbl due to the fact its speakers are omnidirectional.
P.S. Thanks Juergen for giving the presentation in English :~)
At the Fine Sounds press eventI saw very interesting products from both Audio Research Corporation and Wadia. The new ARC Galileo Series features very nice cosmetic changes to a brand that usually looks more like test equipment than stereo equipment. In addition the Wadia line of components including the 300 Power amp, 150 power amp, 122 decoding computer, 321 decoding computer, and 330 media server all looked impressive. The Italian design influence Livio Cucuzza, Chief Industrial Designer at Fine Sounds, has had on the lineup of products is terrific.
ARC Galileo Series