High End Munich 2023

Discussion in 'The Meeting Place' started by zottel, May 4, 2023.

  1. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    Anybody going?

    I’m planning to be there on Sat, May 20th.
     
  2. Bina

    Bina MOT - Shanling

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    We will be there :) Got a tiny booth for this year, as multiple Chinese brands were rushing to book one at the last moment.
     
  3. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    I'll be there Saturday and Sunday, plus hifideluxe on Friday.
    Gonna write my usual report, aswell.

    @sphinxvc should be there aswell.
     
  4. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    Come check out our room F216.
    We are presenting our new speaker; the Estelon Aura model.
    Would be great to see some of SBAF folks in person.
     
  5. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Okay, so hifideluxe was quite a bit smaller this year and I easily got to see all the rooms. Despite a lower quantity of rooms the quality was there. Some veyr good, some very interesting rooms. I finally got to hear the LX521!

    Somehow imigur didn't seem to work. I quickly dumped all the pictures on my site:
    https://www.seriousaudiodesign.de/blog-etc/high-end-impressions/2023

    Some of my favorites:
    • Viva Audio was particularly effortless sounding and surprisingly neutral with their 4 way horn and likely fantastic sounding 945 tube amps. Best of the show for me
    • FM acoustic speakers still have some issues with sounding hollow IMO and somewhat laid-back and too mellow, but I liked what they did in terms of driver integration.
    Meh:
    • Got to hear the Linkwitz LX521, though honestly I can't say I'm that much of a fan. It did remind me a bit of my OBs, but smaller. I did however not like the tweeter at all. The small SEAS midrange is a bit too flat sounding for me, aswell. Maybe it's the active crossover implementation. The woofers are a bit too small, too. Still, they do a fine job, considering their size.
      But generally considering the DIY price it was a really good deal compared to some of the crazy expensive stuff here. I especially loved the IKEA cutting boards to present their electronics.
    • Acapella. Yes, putting them in the "meh" category now, since I think they're generally a bit soft sounding (midrange and treble) and the bass isn't nearly as controlled as such a huge tower should be. It is good, don't get me wrong. But I also think it sound like three distinct drivers, something that seems very difficult to get right.
    I didn't like
    • Audio Note UK. Sorry, but the speakers are far too colored and despite their high sensitivity don't sound particularly dynamic to me. I'd rather listen to Hathor if I'm honest. No idea about their electronics.

    I also got to hear the RAAL CA-1a from a Viva Egoista 845 tube amp and their toroidal transformer box. The one with the closed pad ring was far too warm sounding for me and the one with the slits still sounded a bit too warm for me. Plus it didn't seem to fix my main gripe with the SR1a: The bass is still uncontrolled. And it doesn't have HD800 staging, either. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad product, but I expected more.

    JMF was much improved compared to two or three years ago, but was similar to last year.

    I was a bit surprised to see that the LX521 didn't feature any chamfering around the rear of the midragne driver. Sad!

    I didn't really hear any rooms where I couldn't at least detect some issues with the midrange to treble transition. The really werid looking horns had Beryllium drivers and it was interesting to hear, but they ended up sounding too sharp for me.
     
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  6. zottel

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    I’m back home now. It was a great day, and it was especially nice to finally meet at least three SBAFers in person, @Serious , @Priidik , and @zach915m .

    As this was my first audio fair ever, my main objective was to listen to a few headphones I always wanted to hear, and otherwise to just wander around and randomly enter rooms and listen to the gear there.

    What I found:
    • Many well-known headphones are too sharp in the highs for my taste. Which might in part be due to the conditions, with lots of noise around masking upper bass and mids, but still.
    • I hadn’t expected to like planars as much as I did. My absolute highlights were an Abyss Diana TC and, maybe even more, a ZMF Caldera. Both were fed from a Feliks Audio Envy, though, which might have played a roll, too.
    • I also hadn’t expected to hear so much crap in multi-hundred-thousand Euro systems. Many of them were too hot in the highs for my taste, but ok, that might be tailored to the age of the target audience. But I also heard systems with virtually no bass control whatsoever or smeared mids. Yes, the rooms aren’t easy, but others managed it, too. I just hadn’t expected that in that price range. (Don’t ask me which rooms those were, didn’t take notes.)
    • But there were totally great rooms, too. Among my favourites were Fyne Audio Vintage 15 floorstanders, the Voxativ 9.88, and @Priidik ’s Estelon Aura, which, to my ears, easily outmanoeuvred quite a number of much more expensive systems.
    • In a much lower price range, I was impressed by the clarity and especially bass control of JBL’s 4405P monitors (while I found the L100 Classics totally boring). I only wish they had played some jazz or classical on the monitors, too, not only more or less electronic music where they could show off their bass. (I also ran into John Darko when I left JBL, but didn’t bother him.)
    All in all, it was great fun. If I have time, I’ll be back next year for sure.
     
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    Last edited: May 20, 2023
  7. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    It was great being able to chat with @zottel, not just about how the rooms sounded, but also his experience with headphones, etc. Always great to see that there are other sceptics, who don't just automatically think eveyrthing is awesome ;P

    Spent way too much time in the halls retrospectively and also didn't listen to any headphones. I feel like I might want to check out the system zottel mentioned of the Feliks Envy and ZMF Caldera, though.

    A couple notes from the first day:

    20230520_144119.jpg
    I'll have to see exactly which speaker system it was in the Silbatone room, the large horns I mean. WE15a horn? They had a similar one before but without a supertweeter and I think I might prefer the vintage sound without the supertweeter, but I just wasn't very blown away by the super tweeter itself and might rather live with 80Hz to 6kHz flat. Otherwise it was fantastic.

    20230520_173507.jpg
    Voxativ has the Ampeggio again and I think I can already tell that it was more or less my favorite speaker at the show. Sure, there are better amps, DACs or other sources (TT and tape). From my experience with them the amps sound kinda gooey. But the Ampeggio is pretty darn good.

    20230520_160210.jpg
    Have you seen an Ellipticor with a phase plug? An elliptical phase plug, of course? Well, thanks to Burmester I have. LOL

    20230520_161233.jpg
    Wanted to check out the TAD Micro Evolution again now that I have a speaker that is similar in size.

    Let's just say I think I have something really special in my hands.

    20230520_145918.jpg
    Something was off in the Marten room. Maybe it's the MSB amps or maybe something wasn't warmed up properly, I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just not a fan of the new speakers with the 74mm Bliesma Beryllium dome or the not-inverted-anymore Accuton diamond tweeter. And it wasn't the sibilance you normally get from these speakers when standing up from the first order crossover. No, there was something sharp about the sound even in the right seat. Not good.

    Also three woofers in the Mingus Quintet is better than two woofers in the Mingus Septet.


    I missed most of Atrium 4.2 today, so I also didn't manage to visit @Priidik, yet.



    Heard an experimental speaker with the 6.5" metal Purifi woofer and I think I prefer it to the regular paper Purifi. Comparing it to the 8.5" woofer in my Hathor speakers isn't fair (it's not as good), but the 8.5" variant should be an improvement.

    Avantgarde Acoustics actually had a very interesting compact speaker in their Colibri C2. While I may not quite agree that it was the right choice to make it that small, it was a decent compromise. I think the midbass to horn integration could be better and they somehow prided themselves on their small and "light" 6.5" woofers, which were actually quite heavy at 25g for the two. There are 8" drivers lighter than that with similar area. Use two and you've got a far more capable speaker. I imagine the engineers weren'T very happy when they found out how small it had to be.

    Again, more pics on my site. I'll have to sort them at some point, though I have a feeling that might never happen.
    https://www.seriousaudiodesign.de/blog-etc/high-end-impressions/2023
     
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    Last edited: May 21, 2023
  8. AdvanTech

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    Huh, phase plug on an Ellipticor woofer is interesting. $150,000 is a lot of money, though.

    Anyone stop by the room with Kaiser Acoustics speakers?

    Thanks for sharing!
     
  9. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Wow. Looked at his site for the first time. What beauties! Would love to see and hear.
     
  10. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Sunday impressions:

    Estelon:
    20230521_150226.jpg
    It's a beauty.
    Gotta hand it to @Priidik. These are masterfully tuned. The driver integration/coherency put far more expensive speakers to shame. And doing so with a downward-firing woofer is not easy, at all. Plus I know how good the motors for these Satori midwoofers are. Low D3, which is a quality I often seem to associate with lots of clarity and partly also with resolution/transparency.

    It was fun chatting about speaker design in general, the challenges associated with the rooms and also other rooms/gear.
    One thing I didn't quite expect or even think about is how much of a challange it is to get good imaging here. It takes some skill to work with the rooms and get good sound here. And then it takes some taste to play music that's not boring, sounds good and makes for a good reference to judge sound by. While I was there the music selection at Estelon was among the best. As an aside I also liked a couple of the tracks Ines played while I was at Voxativ. Discovering new music is definitely part of the fun of High End.

    I discussed with my dad how Troels edge-coates similar Satori drivers with good results, but I imagine it would be insanity to do so in a commercial product. Gotta have someone manually edge-coat, then let the drivers sit and dry for maybe up to a week, then measure and match them individually and also throw away any outliers. Yeah, probably not gonna happen. But I think the idea is cool.


    Marten room 2:
    20230521_135535.jpg
    (the one with the Engström amps)
    This one I enjoyed. There might be something to the smaller beryllium dome midrange. Bass control is still mediocre at best. It is a small speaker after all. But the midrange clarity and resolution were quite good. Better than the Accuton Mingus Quintet? Possibly yes. I also find it interesting that they somehow managed to get an Accuton dome diaomond tweeter, not inverted anymore. That must've taken some convincing and I'm not quite sure why they would do it. Does the tweeter sound better that way? I honestly can't say, but it does sound different, I think

    It appears they also had the same problem with a ringy driver cover grille as I had with my Hathor speakers. Before I removed mine I found a solution by decoupling the grille and it appears they're doing the same thing here. There was a rubber section on the outside of the grille, which I'm sure helps stop ringing. In the end I decided to remove mine anyway, as it sounded better that way, but that's a different story. Beryllium is kind of toxic, so better safe than sorry, I guess.


    Jadis/Davis The Wall
    20230521_131119.jpg
    Not sure about the amps, but this system also put out some enjoyable melodies. These speakers appear to be very direct and dynamic sounding. Not the most resolving (though no slouch) and defintely not the best imaging, but enjoyable nonetheless.


    Albedo

    -I wish I could attach the image here, but the green lighting gives me a headache-

    These were one of the better Accuton implementations I feel. 2.5 way with a 2nd order acoutsical slope. Not too bright. Not too much bass. Not bad.


    Smaller Lyravox monitors
    20230521_124235.jpg
    Good clarity if a bit muddy in the bass. Basically what you would expect from a tiny Accuton monitor. Tuned quite well, though I think they're active. I haven't looked up the price, but for say 5k they could be a good deal? Images quite well. I wish there was more going on, though.
    Would be fun to pit against Hathor, though Hathor has some unfair advantages with its crossover and directivity. If Hathor was a normal speaker with a smaller woofer I would likely prefer this, although going from a 6" midrange to a 1" tweeter is never going to be coherent. FR is not going to look pretty 90 degrees off-axis.

    Woops, I looked up the price. Well, get Voxativ Ampeggios instead would be my recommendation. Or PAP Trio 15s with the Voxativs.

    Wolf von Langa
    20230521_113554.jpg
    This madman run a WE755 clone with an electromagnet of his own design. As a filler midrange. For two octaves.
    And yet, I really enjoyed the output of this driver. Smooth and decently quick and clean. Of course the rest of the system was absolutely fantastic aswell. The speakers are tuned a bit too u-shaped for me and I'm not a fan of AMT treble, but I imagine it's hard to find a planar dipole tweeter that isn't the RAAL. He probably felt the RAAL was too soft sounding, which I would agree with, but this AMT is too harsh for me.


    I heard an ISO Acoustics demo with Focal speakers and kind of preferred the sound with spikes to the Gaia dampers. Strange.

    I think that's pretty much it. AudiaZ had an interesting speaker with the Accuton diamond midrange that was reserved to Tidal just a year ago and they may have them beat. Sounded quite clean and clear, although the midrange has its issues aswell with the resonances from the magnet system. Makes the midrange less smooth than it could be.
     
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    Last edited: May 21, 2023
  11. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Some additional comments:

    The power at the show must be absolutely horrid. I watched the voltage drop from 230V to 220V within a fraction of a second all the time, that certainly can't be good for the sound. That is not something you see at home. My idea would be to use a power station that generates an entirely seperate output voltage. But I'm sure lots of rooms do just that.


    20230520_100853.jpg
    I got to hear a half a million dollar Børresen setup and there are some things that were really good. Their tweeter is a bit like a RAAL sound-wise. Their midrange drivers never sound harsh.
    The problem is that they don't have any bass drivers and the crossover between midrange and tweeter is really obvious. They also still seem to have the weird port tuning for the bass drivers where bass is only one note.


    20230521_142400.jpg
    Tannoy had an interesting speaker that I thought was pretty good overall, it just doesn't really image and Tannoys also don't sound the most coherent. But it was neutral, was dynamic as hell and in general managed to sound decently transparent. 845 tube amp.


    20230521_145649.jpg
    EgglestonWorks should be right up my alley with their midrange without a crossover, but somehow they weren't. It's really difficult to make a design like that work and if I'm honest I'm not sure if it ever really works. I tried it with a paper coaxial that sounds smooth on its own and even then the dispersion wasn't good.
    Maybe it's the driver spacing, the amps, the room, etc.


    I got to hear a master tape copy on an HD800S and there was so much life in the sound. But good luck finding your favorite artists.


    (What I'm really trying to say here is that - and if you read between the lines you might've understood - is that it's actually not too bad. I prefer passive speakers with larger woofers, but they do deserve some credit. It's a good speaker. It's tuned quite well.)


    The trend seems to be 845 tube amps now and I have to admit that I have a feeling a lot of these unobtainium 845 amps sounded really good. There were even some more exotic tubes around, like massive 212 tubes.
    Cube audio used a Tektron 211 tube amp and while their speakers still sound quite colored, the amplifier seemed to be quite good.

    I got to chat with Reinhard Thöress. Ever since Troels Gravesen tried out the EHT amp I've kind of wanted to hear one in my system. These amps are crazy and not as outrageously priced as many others.


    Quite a few of these high end turntables had obvious issues with cartridge alignement resulting in too much distortion or a channel imbalance.
    I feel like you can't leave the turntable set-up to chance and need to actually measure the FR and distortion of the cart with a soundcard and a PC and optimize it that way. But probably nobody does that.


    As far as DACs go, it's really hard to say for a noob like me. Metronome didn't impress me. The MSB and dCS stuff I have no idea. I don't quite like how dCS has variable filters and when I heard them on a headphone setup last year it also didn't image as well as it should. MSB has all sorts of firmware revisions that completely change the character of their DACs that you have no idea what you're getting. Voxativ has a DAC now and if anythiing I thought it was a bit weird sounding. But it's not finalized, yet.
    It's hard to keep track of all the DACs in the 100k€ range.


    There were a couple SB-Acoustics drivers that I thought were very interesting: A 21" OB woofer, two 10" woofers, an 8" full-range, a 4" coaxial, etc. They released a lot of drivers here.



    BAACH-SP
    20230521_153306.jpg
    Finally there was a room with the Bacch sound processor that was open to the public and didn't require you to take individualized measurements. I'm not sure how it worked and if there was any head-tracking involved (didn't seem like it), but it sounded about how you'd expect - it's a massive headphone type soundstage. I'm really glad I managed to check out this room since it's just such a unique experience, but I still prefer the normal speaker experience.
     
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  12. Thad E Ginathom

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    Years ago, I listened to a pair of Tannoy Turnberry (hand built by real carpenters in Scotland. At least, used to be). Even in a too-small room, it was wonderful. My friend was playing one of the CDs I'd taken, and I knew it well. There was a cough from the audience in the recording... and I looked around to see who was coughing in the room! Those speakers had no problem with imaging!
     
  13. Priidik

    Priidik MOT: Estelon

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    It was cool to finally meet some SBAF folks not local to me.
    Thanks for the kind words.
    The speaker will be available in US and AUS as well, so you are not left out overseas.

    The big PuriFi is a god tier stuff, at least on paper. It is a midrange, a woofer and a sub in one unit - and a good one at any of those tasks.

    It is so. There is a reason you see many StromTanks and filter boxes there. We also had separate transformer based filters for our equipment hidden away behind the curtains this year. Last year they were visible.

    The acoustics are not good there, not only are the side walls made out of cardboard, the ceiling features work against speakers attempting to be good at dispersion. All this let the bass get a free ride out and leave listener with reflection chamber for background. Our room was not perfect either despite some heroic attempts to tackle the acoustic issues. Our speakers sound great in a normal living room - that is what we have for reference listening in the HQ, in case someone wonders.
    I wager horn speakers have less issues with this, and I heard at least one that sounded good to me.
    The setup really matters there; I saw too many vendors doing questionable placement of speakers.
    Some had speakers on spikes and then disks - on carpet. The gear is in many cases capable for more than it is displayed in the show.
     

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