High End 2013 Munich Report

High End 2013, Europe's biggest and most auspicious audio gathering, was once again a solid knockout. High End celebrated its 33rd anniversary - tenth at the MOC building - and its statistics continue to impress as more than 16,000 visitors attended the four-day show. I'm told over 360 exhibitors from over 30 countries participated in this year's event and when you include the attendance figures, this was High End's most successful show in its storied history. Of course, with a show of this size and magnitude, there was little opportunity for me to do more than take tons of photos for which I have to share. But in terms of describing what every room's sonic performance was like, well, that would be almost impossible. First, I hardly ever got a chance to sit. And when I did get a squat (in the sweet spot), the amount of noise from all the excited showgoers limited my impressions greatly. As a result, I have plenty of photos for which I hope offer something of an idea by how well put together the High End is. In fact, the High End isn't the Mercedes Benz or BMW of audio shows. No, I think it's more like the Bentley or Rolls Royce of these type events. There are plenty of American distributors who I ran into strolling the halls of the MOC, that wholeheartedly agreed about the style and class of this annual event.

Riding in style starts at the airport. The long lines of BMWs, Mercedes' and Audis taxis awaiting to take us to the MOC is always a welcome sight. 
Fortunately, we caught the free shuttle bus directly to the MOC that easily saved about $60 in taxi fees. Sigh.

Getting to the MOC was only a half-hour ride directly from the airport (with no in-between stops). Double Sigh.

Yes, the High End lays out the red carpet for all its visitors!

Thursday's show is reserved for the press and industry only folks. And from the looks of it (above), it wasn't nearly noon and the place was starting to get really busy. That meant both Key and I had to get upstairs and hit those rooms before the place got packed.

Broadman Acoustics had this display which featured both their loudspeakers and piano right in the front entrance.

The first thing I wanted to do was visit the Halle 3 where many of the exhibitors were. Located on the ground floor, the Halle is two huge open space areas separated by a long walkway. This is where most products, gadgets and gizmos are placed on static display. However, small, makeshift rooms are assembled prior to the show for those who want to show their wares. Most of these rooms are very small (8 by 12) but I do recall seeing others that were bigger. What's really cool about the Halle is the walkways are named after famous musicians.

Audes showcased their new and sleek looking Excellence 3 AMT loudspeaker ($10k alongside their Orpheus model), in one of these very small rooms and made the best of it. Using the universally acclaimed AMT ribbon tweeter allows for a wide dispersion and extension of high frequencies I've not heard prior from an Audes loudspeaker. Also interesting was the AMT's output attenuator located on the rear. Adjusting its output made all the differences in the world for this small room. Even more interesting were the electronics driving these lovely loudspeaker.

The above photo is another newcomer from Moscow called the G9 Nero amplifier. G9 components are hand-built and are available in three different price categories starting with the Illumina, the Nero and the Sinners. For example the Nero line features an tube MC phonostage, preamp and 60-watt stereo amplifier (photo top). Their Illumina system is composed of an all tube amplifier, pre, DAC and MC/MM phonostage. I got a good look and listen to these electronics at CES and think they're worth keeping a roving eye on.    

KingSound was demostrating their new series of electrostatic headphones and loudspeakers in Halle 3. Their Emperor headphones are among my favorites and I have much to report on with these glorious sounding products. Stay tuned.

The continued growth and popularity of headphones, earphones and hand-held hi-rez playback systems was readily apparent at this year's show. I found the new HiFiman's hi-rez playback exceptional.

The upsurge in analogue was more present here than I think ever before. I would love to serve up some great photos at another time in this show report.

This exhibitor caught my attention by their ad alone.

The one thing I always enjoy about Munich's High End show is you get to see products that have not made to the USA. And if they have made it into the US, they're still years away from gaining the type exposure needed to become successful. Take for example the Creaktiv Big Reference ci2p PLUS isolation rack (above). This is no ordinary rack. In fact, the company makes outrageous claims as to all the technological enhancements these offered for any component placed on it. The demo did show a difference once a component was placed on their rack versus a standard rack. But the differences were so slight while the noise level was so loud. I've heard these products in the past and came away super impressed. This year, I couldn't tell the difference. Guess, the show got in the way. 

Yep, there were plenty of odd looking loudspeakers to stare at. Particularly, these weird little loudspeakers from Varios captured my attention....

As did these huge horn loudspeakers that unfortunately were on static display only. 

This monstrosity is a loudspeaker, amplifier and audio/video streamer all packed into one. Huge, I would guess it was about 9-feet tall and if I remember correctly puts out more than 25,000 watts. As expected, this crazy gizmo garnered lots of oohs and aahs.

The Newcomer section was a new featured venue that looked interesting...

Pure Audio Project, an Israel-based manufacturer of Do-it-Yourself, open-baffle, high sensitivity loudspeakers, were among the High End newcomers.

Another was Lab 12, of Greece. They were proud to introduce their new non-oversampling DAC1 SE ($1800). The Lab 12 boasts eight 16-Bit DACs and a tube output stage. I particularly liked the retro VU meters on its faceplate.

Le Son of Switzerland showed of their new series of slick looking components that includeed their tablet operated LS002 amplifier and LS001 Audio Streamer.

And of course there had to be one company that caught tons of attention. That newcomer was Rike Audio of Germany. On display was their new four-piece $500k reference mono amplifiers. Yes, $500,000! Got Key's attention...for an explanation at the least.

The Rike Reference centerpiece is the gargantuan KRON 1610 power tube. With a rated output of 50 watts per (at 8 Ohm), the Rike Ref boasts a separate power supply that places this two-piece monster at over 400 lbs per side. 

Heading back out to venture upstairs, I ran into none other than Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV (located in Derry, NH). Swanbon greeted both Key and I with an hearty handshake, then proceeded to get checked into High End 2013. Swanbon has been coming to the High End for years and says it too is his favorite. 

The High End show is so over the top in terms of competition and brand exposure that even the stair steps provide a source of advertising. 

Gideon Schwartz, a leading high-end dealer here in NYC was proud to see so many of his products showing well at High End 2013. 

It was a suprise to see Paul McGowan of PS Audio here this year. McGowan had his Perfect Wave digital gear and AC conditioners in a few rooms if I am not mistaken. 

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