These 7 systems just didn't fail to perform they were downright embarrassing for the manufacturers. Whats concerning is that in all cases I think they felt their systems were performing well. The clue for them would be the amount of folk who walk in, listen for no more than 3 seconds and walk straight back out. This was not the case in my number one choice for disastrous sound quality where I think show visitors were just simply astounded at how ordinary it was and were trying to figure out how this much money could sound this awful.
6) Boenicke - I absolutely love the way these things look and the way they are made. The integral base allows the loudspeaker cabiniet to girate around on some kind of springing arrangement. It's amazing and beautifully executed! They are Swiss, they are stunning.....to look at........ They don't have a tweeter in the normal sense though and they sound like it. The have the treble quality of a Bose 301 from 1981. Not good enough at all in 2019 and definitely not good enough at the price. They also sound unbalanced due to the lack of extension in the top end. What a shame.
5) Magico - These were a pretty significant disappointment. The midrange had a real dirty sound to it and it was quite peaky and edgy. Somewhat coloured overall and many folk were just turning around and walking out. Definitely a case of not living up to the hype... at all.
4) Nagra - I don't know what was going on here. I love the way this product looks, the way its made etc but wow this was desperately ordinary sound for such a seriously pricey combination. Particularly dry sounding, a bit compressed and just wrong. Particularly so considering and comparing how good the sound in some quite affordable rooms was. A fail for Nagra at Munich 2019.
3) Elrog - Thomas seems like a nice guy but sheesh I have honestly heard better sound holding the phone at arms length while listening to 'on hold' music. Maybe that is overstating it slightly but seriously these enormous things produce no real bass, an incredibly coloured honky / wispy sounding mid and generally sound so little like the sound a musical instrument produces that they just have to be dismissed as a German curiosity. ???
2) Superjet horns. Oh dear. This gentleman was so proud of his creations. He needs to listen to some other systems at the show with an open mind though. These horns beautifully demonstrated all that can be wrong with horns. Screechy, hard, incredibly coloured and peaky. Completely un listenable even for seconds. They were just so wrong I and everyone else was busting to get out of the room. What a shame as he seemed like the nicest guy but he will not be selling any of these anytime soon based on his Munich Show this year.
1) Air Tight - This room actually didn't just offer the poorest of sound quality that sounded the least like any live music of any kind but it trounced it's opposition for dreadful audio quality by a large margin. I can't remember there being any bass but if there was it was forgettable but what wasn't was the nasty thin incredibly coloured midrange that reminded my of the sound of a broken iPhone playing through its inbuilt speaker. Trust me this was jaw droppingly terrible. A $1500 entry level system blind tested against this would have a 100% positive hit rate. Possibly the worst sound ever at Munich ever I give you the multi $100k Air Tight system. Massive fail!
I except that at another time, in another space with different music some of these systems may sound better than when I heard them. I suspect though where there is smoke there is fire and in all cases these systems were demoed with very easy to sound good music that on the vast majority of systems sounds very very good. These systems failed to impress, excite or sound like real music when playing back even the simplest of demo material.
Till next year, Phil.
There was some seriously fantastic sound on offer at the 2019 edition of Munich High End. There was also some downright embarrassingly poor sound but I will leave that for a future article (very near future). There may of course be some who were also travailing the halls and Atrium's at the show who will disagree with my thoughts but this is how 'I' heard it.
7) L100 JBLs sounded a bit like history but also like a whole lot of fun. I was genuinely surprised about how uncoloured and clean the sound was. Yes they were connected up to a front end well beyond what 99% of potential buyers will spend on driving them but it was an engaging sound quality that reminded me of live music. It had scale, weight, drive and enthusiasm. I was great fun to listen to. Well worth an audition if that shape and kind of loudspeaker is on your mind.
6) Falcon Acoustics, a UK based firm with a solid BBC engineering background is perhaps best known for re creating the wonderful little old monitor the LS3/5a. That loudspeaker has its charms in a slightly small scale kind of way but their new middle of the range floorstander is a different machine altogether. Sounding incredibly agile but distortion free and even slightly liquid sweet in the vocal area. Employing a tricky sounding composite in the cone of the mid bass drive units is said to be key to the pace and lack of overhang these loudspeakers offered. I was rather taken with the bass depth and speed too. All was going well till I discovered the price. Mind you nothing is inexpensive in the remainder of my winners.
5) Western Electric made loudspeakers for cinemas nearly 100 years ago. I admit I don't quite understand this demo room and what they are trying to sell but the sound is very very special. There are horns and then there are horns and I can tell you these are the horns to have as they sound remarkable. As you will find out when I pen the 7 worst sounds at the show, horns can sound unpleasant, but these - bellissimo! They are huge but so is the sound. If you ever visit the Munich show these should be on your must hear list along with the number 1 place getter in this sound off. Driven by some kind of custom tube amps and a fancy turntable the sound was quite simply awe inspiring in the way it communicated with your emotions. Like a large scale LS3/5a though they are old and other newer speakers do more and do it better but like the old shoebox sized BBC monitor they have this amazing ability to emotionally connect. Weird? Is there something missing from modern loudspeakers?
4) Totem. Both of the white speakers in the pic were heard and oh wow aren't they a thoroughly modern full range speaker that has you sitting there wondering where so many designers go wrong. They don't look like they have any special engineering features but wow the sound was big, very extended at both ends of the spectrum and so clean and musical/natural. I sat there for a while in no rush to leave. Like some of my other choices here I walked into the room expecting more of the same (its a big show, there is lots of very good sound quality on demo but these choices here jumped out of the noise that is a tonne of very good sound but not a lot of exceptional sound).
3) Probably almost a tie with Totem is Kii. Okay so I had not heard anything from this brand before, but I expected a lot based on the hype and unusually came away rather impressed. A lot like the sound of the totems but grippier in the bass I think and oh so beautifully styled and finished off. Not to say that the Totems aren't. I'm clueless on what they sell for but this list does not take cost into account. The only test is whether I would have them at home and whether they move me. The Western Electrics moved me more but these could, on the right track excite me more with dynamics and realism that the big old horns could not.
2) The longer I listened to the EAR Yoshino gear connected to un named speakers (that I will remind myself what they are and edit this text) the less I wanted to leave .... ever. I always feel that Tim de Paravicini who started this company in the 70s and still runs it is too old for this stuff but wow and wow his gear still communicates with my inner something or other. Yeah the bass could be a bit plodding on some tracks but when they switched to a CD rather than an LP that improved markedly. Maybe its a little rolled off in the top but once again it moved me like the Western Electrics but with a much more modern capability dynamically and just outright level. His gear isn't cheap but compared with what comes next its a bargain!
1) As anyone who has ever heard MBL gear can attest it is super clean, detailed and sounds like live music full stop! For this show they had the full reference system which I don't think has changed for many years. It doesn't need to. It is frankly so far ahead of the rest of the field. I have heard many many reference quality half million to 1 million $$ systems but the MBL just does that bit more. I can only really put it down to one thing - no speaker cabinet. Well the lowest of bass does I suppose from the separate bass cabinets but the vast majority of the sound comes from a transducer that is in effect dynamic but has an electrostatic quality without any of the gutlessness that comes for free with that technology. Oh so shimmeringly perfectly clean, detailed and fast. The bottom end is in another league of accuracy and tunefulness. I'll say it again the big MBL system sounds like live music and is worth travelling half way around the world to hear. I'm not sure of the cost (it is pointless knowing, I won't be buying one this lifetime) but think north of half a million clams. Go to Munich next year and listen to it. No one in the room when I was there was doing anything other than crying, ooing and ahhing and just shaking their heads in disbelief that recorded sound could be this stunning! - Apologies for the poor picture it was very dark in there.
Next article will be show disasters.....
Perhaps the most obvious trend is that the show is busier again than last year. This show is now 'the' show for quality audio gear for the world. Okay compared with the likes of the CES in Vegas this show is tiny but the CES encompasses an enormous range of products of which quality stereo equipment is a tiny fraction.
The second trend is that there is next to no AV gear here. I know its a 'High End' show and that implies 2 channel but there is nothing stopping exhibitors from showing off some multi channel equipment and I have seen almost zilch.
Third trend is - more retro re stylings. The L100 JBL being one of the most successful according to my ears. I walked from Magico next door to Harmon and I know what I would prefer in my home. Especially with the orange grilles! They made normal music sound well like music, played by a band. So many manufacturers still play whispy pretend music that frankly could sound good on any decent system. JBL played normalish recordings and the bass had some welly and fun to it (but still rather athletic) and the mid and top was surprisingly uncoloured and pleasant to listen to. other examples of retro exist in the few extra open reel machines spotted and some turntables made from wood to varying degrees.
The other obvious trend was incredibly tall loudspeakers. I mean so tall I doubt they would fit in my house. approx 2 metres tall or more. Definitely separating the haves and have nots in the ceiling height stakes.
Some pictures for examples.
What is 'ARC Genesis' you may wonder. It's the updated room correction software from Anthem to suit both their Surround Sound processors and their Two Channel amps. In fact any product from Anthem, Paradigm or Martin Logan that is ARC or PBK enabled will benefit from this update. Full details are here
For those with one of these products and a Mac you will be pleased to hear that Mac compatibility is part of the update.
Further questions not answered by the link should be directed to the importer of Anthem and other brands into Australia - Audio Active
Munich isn't just all about the beer, BMWs and slightly odd animated clock tower shows a couple of times a day. The Munich High End Audio Show has been held annually in early May for 15 years. HiFi and Stereo will be there covering the show this year with an eye for a bargain. Sure one could take endless pictures of new $100,000 turntables and $150,000 tube amplifiers (and we will) but we are more interested in what all of us one day might actually be able to afford to own. Keep an eye out for very complete coverage including as many new models as we can find. The show begins at 6pm AEST on the 9th of May.
Maybe its not a war but from an outsiders perspective it would appear there has been some shenanigans surrounding dates for audio related exhibitions in Australia over the last year or so. This of course culminated in two shows in a week in Melbourne last year. A crazy situation for everybody including potential patrons who had to visit two shows and pay for two entry tickets if they were to see the full range of equipment on offer to them.
In a recent announcement from Chester Group (the UK exhibition specialist who kick started HiFi Shows in Australia again in 2011) the drama is over and all is settled. Apparently it has now been agreed to juggle cities and years to avoid a clash of dates again.
Make a note in your calendar now for the following dates -
2019 - StereoNET Melbourne Hi-Fi Show - Pullman Hotel - October 18th to 20th - www.hifishow.com.au
2020 - Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show - Novotel Sydney Central - July 31st to 2nd August - www.chestergroup.org
2021 - StereoNET Melbourne Hi-Fi Show - Pullman Hotel - October 22nd to 24th - www.hifishow.com.au
2022 - Australian Hi-Fi & AV Show - Novotel Sydney Central - August 5th to 7th - www.chestergroup.org
It was reported by ourselves 2 days ago that the Sydney show for 2019 had been cancelled. We are glad now for some clarity on this front.
Hot off the grapevine today is news that the 2019 Australian HiFi and AV Show has been cancelled. The full story is not available just yet but the Sydney show set for kick off at the start of August this year has been put on the back burner. Organised by exhibition specialists, Chester Group and to be held in the Novatel Sydney Central it showed great promise and no doubt Sydney AV enthusiasts will be very disappointed with this news. In a country though that struggles to support one motor show per year, having two audio shows per annum did seem a little extravagant.
UK based Chester Group re ignited the Australian HiFi show scene in 2011 with the first of many A/V exhibitions. Offering both the trade an outlet to show off their wares and consumers some electronic show excitement without having to leave the country. This was something much missed by everyone in the preceding 'dark' years of no shows for nearly 20 years. Having been instrumental in getting the industry together for a number of well supported shows over the years in both Melbourne and Sydney the UK firm found themselves somewhat at war with local outfit Stereonet. Stereonet obviously felt they could do a better job (as surely they couldn't have thought the country needed two audio shows per year). This culminated last year in the Melbourne audience being offered two HiFi Shows in two adjacent weekends.... The saga continues?