High End 2017: CP Report - Sonic Impressions Page 3
What are the odds that I would found out that my neighbor, friend and audiophile neophyte John Hébert would also be on the outskirts of Munich performing with the Fred Hersch Trio during High End 2017 - the biggest, baddest audio show on the planet? Incredibly, John had the entire day off, and was staying only a few miles away and greatly anticpated attending the show with me. I was so excited for him, I drove the 30 miles to pick him up and it only took all of 15 minutes (Saturday morning on the Autobahn is FUN DRIVING at 110 MPH!) Personally, this was the perfect time to serve as John's perfect guide through a show this spread out. Weaving and dodging through an event of this magnitude in 6-hours would prove dizzying on your own. In fact, this was John's first time attendance at any audio show.
A Louisiana native, John's a talented young lion on the upright bass and in the world of eclectic or straight-ahead jazz. This agile and versatile musician loves to swing in a variety of camps: like catching up with him last week at the Jazz Standard here in NYC, with the avant-garde styled pianist Benoit Delbecq. Or, like the Saturday night event at High End 2017, where John played in the more traditional style while performing with the Fred Hersch Trio. John's agreed to join the masthead of contributors here and try his luck in the audio arts. I told him that he's a natural (especially after walking with him through this show), so wish him luck as he trudges the happy road to audio nirvana.
John looked looked the part of a veteran at Munich's High End 2017, although this was his first audio trade show. Asking questions on analog-related gadgets seem to be where he was most attracted. Wonder if his newly resurrected turntable had anything to do with that?
The Audes suite also gained a new follower in John Hébert. As I've always mentioned in previous reports: the company's excellent performance and affordable pricing remains one of the brand's most impressive features.
Introduced Paul Wakeen and Bruce Jacobs of Stillpoint to John and, in turn, he invited them to the Fred Hersch Trio concert later that evening. Surprise! Surprise! Bruce offered John to try out Stillpoints' latest device for musicians: a footer specifically designed for the upright bass. Once afixed, it's purported to improve dynamics, tone and pitch definition. John was obviously delighted and a little surprised that such a product even existed. Yep, tweaks for musicians!
The Venture Audio suite, which was located on the ground floor Halle space, sounded better than any room I have ever visited that used these less-than-desireable prefabricated rooms. Showing off their model Quantum Signature Active loudspeaker, complimented by the fabulous sounding digital from Neodio electronics of France, the sound was stellar in every way imaginable - especially under these less-than-ideal show conditions. Sporting the first-ever Beryllium tweeter, the Quantum Signature excelled in dynamic punch, ebb and flow coupled with a sweetness. More dynamic shifts kept both John and I in our seats for longer than anticipated. Even more impressive was discovering that Venture Audio's chief designer Hoo Kong Njoo manufactured everything else in this room minus the Neodio digital source: this included the Venture V200 model preamp, beautiful isolation rack, Venture Audio speaker cables, interconnects and AC cords). Pretty impressive through and through I must confess.
John was quite impressed on one of our first stops on the upper floors especially in the Zellaton suite...
The Lawrence Audio suite was another room I insisted that John get a good listen to. Surprised, this was my first encounter with their newest flagship Dragon loudspeaker ($100k). Consisting of a bass reflex design, this 3-way, 90 dB efficient, 4 Ohm floor stander boasts a full bevy of Accuton drivers (except for the Diamond tweeter which is made by Jantzen), and sounded quite alive in its ability to recreate a natural authentic feel to the music. John, obviously was smitten!
But it was in the Air Tight suite where we almost got ourselves in trouble as John literally - after I dared him of course - took that upright bass off its prop. One of the folks working the room came in screaming "NOOOOO." Ooops. We apologized and scurried out of there quick!
Eye Candy Galore! "What the F+%$!!" says John as we scrolled into this suite! "Yep, my dear friend, this is what High End Munich is all about" I replied. Not just outlandish but CRAZY looking and good sounding in every way imaginable! Crazy good is exactly how I'd describe both the look and sound of Tune Audio's 3-way Avaton horned loudspeakers. Driven by a pair of bizarre-looking Elysium 250 tube mono amplifiers, I mean, it was almost as if we had to be reminded to actually sit down and give this system a listen. Even when we tried, there was so many gawkers and noisy folks walking about that it become nearly impossible to listen. That being said, the sound was much better than last year's performance which I think was annoying because someone played lots of rock music at volumes that were just way too loud for the system. This year, the sound was mostly jazz and soft rock and the volume was far more decent. The sound enveloped this listener with ease. That is, until someone came up and started either talking or taking photos right in front of me. I didn't get mad. With the looks and sonics of this room, I'm glad we got a chance to listen if only for a few moments.