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.....
Edited by Phil Fi