High End 2017: Key Kim Report
Munich High End 2017.
The world's biggest and most popular high-end audio trade show happened once again. And once again it was wonderfully exciting. This year's exquisite demos and products from all over the world proved once again why this is my favorite show. Clement Perry (CP) and I arrived on the first day (Thursday Press Only) of the High End show. Weather-wise, it was unusually bright and sunny in Munich as opposed to the normal rainy and dreary weather that we've become used to. I’ve been attending the High End show for the past eight years and this one proved a win-win in terms of weather and the show. Amazingly, somehow this show grew in terms of show-goers and exhibitors! CP rented a 2017 Audio A4 and got us to the M. O.C. center so fast that I began to think "in the previous years, those taxi drivers went the long way on purpose to get the most money they could out of us tourists!"
Day one is always a busy day for press conferences and room visits, meetings with old friends and trying to shake off jetlag. Follow me: let the show begin!
Thrax Audio/Audio Union
Rumen Artarski of Thrax Audio and Audio Union exhibited an excellent sounding room. He showcased two new Thrax Integrated amplifiers, an Enyo vacuum tube ($10k)and an Ares solid-state($10k), both available with a DAC and a phone modules for ($13k) and Audio Union Dohmann Helix 2 ($26k introductory price) turntable with a Schroeder CB tonearm. Shipping begins in September. The system consited of Thrax Lyra loudspeakers ($20k) with Bassus ($40k) driven by either the Enyo or the Ares Integrated amplifiers and a superb sounding Dioynosos preamplifier ($20k).
The Enyo (above center), is built in a single chassis that features two fully balanced vacuum tube amplifiers. It’s a push-pull ultra linear design producing a powerful 50 watts per side with a cathode feedback for the output stage driven by a fully differential input and driver with no global feedback. The choke filtered power supplies contribute to the exemplary transparency and speed. The Ares single chassis features two true mono power amplifiers with independent power supplies based on a new concept in solid-state amplification. It utilizes a non-switching output stage arrangement isolated by a single ended buffer delivering Class A liquidity and a texture uncommon to solid-state designs without associated heat. Both the Enyo and Ares amplification modules are fed trough four inputs and a fully balanced relay based selector and volume control board. The modularity of the system lets you upgrade as you grow. It offers multi-bit R2R DAC modules, and an input board accommodating all modern digital interfaces: AES, SPDIF, Toslink, USB, Network and Bluetooth inputs, with also a phono preamplifier with RIAA module accommodating both Moving Magnet and Moving Coil cartridges. The Dohmann Helix 2 is the little brother of the Helix 1 and Artarski said that this first sample was just finished hours before packing and shipping from Sofia to Munich. The new table is more moderate in size and it fits on a standard sized rack shelf. Like the bigger brother, it too has an integrated Minus K and is designed to operate flawlessly in any environment and the platform is suspended and isolated from the integrated motor. The Helix 2 features the dual belt platter drive designed to reduce static electricity and vibration with a fully integrated high torque motor system. The new table sounded superb. I liked what I heard!
When I entered the room, Lorenzo Sanavi of Mastersound greeted me warmly with his big smile and the room was packed and for a good reason; it sounded fabulous. It produced a big soundstage with a warm and musical yet delicate sound that was easy to appreciate. The Blumenhofer Gran Gioia MK2’s ($56k/pair) high efficiency two-way front midrange horn loudspeakers, were driven wonderfully by a Mastersound Evolution 845 integrated amplifier ($13,500) with their Spettro tube preamplifier ($11,200) from Italy.
I didn’t expect much from this makeshift room but I was surprised by the good sound it rendered. It’s very hard to reproduce good sound in this room. However, the Franco Serblin’s Ktema loudspeakers sounded great driven by the Accuphase electronics. The exquisitely finished Ktema cabinet in a triple arch-shaped structure is a four-way floorstander with five drivers. I could imagine that the Ktema would sound superb in my reference system.
Egglestonworks debuted their 20th anniversary Andra Viginti limited edition. The Viginti, Latin for “twenty”, Is a completely new product born of the Andra tradition that was developed to pay homage to the Andra and build upon its legacy. The Viginti is a five-driver, three-way design (one 1” beryllium dome tweeter, two 6” carbon cone dome midrange, and two 10” carbon cone subwoofers). The Viginti was paired beautifully with Triangle Art Reference Tube Amplifier and Triangle Art Reference Tube Preamplifier. The sound was big and authoritative with good dynamic contrast.