Munich 2017
Copyright 2017 © Troels Gravesen

Munich 2017 was pretty much a repetition of 2016, thus only a few comments and pics, mostly dedicated to reviewing stuff I heard last year. Going from showroom to showroom is gambling and you may be unfortunate to be in at a moment where some hifi-porn is being played that tells you nothing about the potential of speakers, amps or whatever. Companies are here to sell and that's just fine. There were speakers I went to hear all four days just to hear as many different presentations as possible - and also have a different seat! Sometimes you get a lousy seat and sometimes you have to listen standing up, far from ideal.

 

Vandersteen, Quatro Wood CT. Not so much "wood" here, rather white lacquer. Anyway, if you can make a pair of speakers that make your spouse do like this, you've certainly made your day!!  These Quatros aren't that big, yet throws a nothing less than magnificent midrange and solid bottom from the in-built 8" sub and plate-amp with an eleven band equaliser.  Richard Vandersteen apparently made the choice of not bringing his heavy weight top models this year, and I was more than pleased to hear this smaller version, building on the technologies from its larger siblings. 13,900 USD - over there. I guess that would make ~15,000 EUR in Denmark incl. VAT. Not exactly cheap, but still, you get all the room adjustment features, so much needed. Read the excellent manual from his website! Lots of stuff here suitable for any other speakers. Setting up a pair of Quatros is anything but trivial!

 

 

I certainly wanted to hear the Kaiser Classic speaker again as it use very much the same drivers as in my ATS4 speaker, the same midrange and the same 10" bass driver. Now, the Classic uses an 8" passive radiator the 18H52-06-13 midrange, hence most likely not any high-pass filter to the midrange. In reality, this is a 6+"1" two-way with a 10C77 sub mounted on the rear panel. Last year I was quite impressed from the full-bodied sound of this system - and - not so much this year. Overall sound is great, bit it was obvious the 6"/PR had its limitations in moving air. Not the same full-bodied sound as the 23I52/18H52 combo from my ATS4. The Kondo front-end certainly plays its role, but you have to win the lottery to even think of stuff like this.

Actually I was more impressed by the smaller Vivace from the same company. Featuring a 5" Illuminator and a passive Revelator on the rear + 6" Revelator "sub". I've done a client crossover for a 15WU and I never really fell in love with this inefficient driver, but here I had to admit it can be done.

This year I had a good seat at the MBL demo room - and I stayed long! I think the speaker here is 101E mkII. Whatever, it's an astonishing speaker. We might think this 360 deg. radiating alien would compromise imaging and soundstage - and it doesn't. It seems everything you feed this weirdo is carved in stone. It's spectacular! Go listen if you have the opportunity. The gear MBL produce seems built for titans. The picture above really doesn't tell how big this preamp is, but it seems built for a guy 8 foot tall, that's have massive it is. Quality is impeccable, but design... my goodness. As far away from any Nagra delicacy as can be.

 

 

Wilson Audio Alexx. Nice to have the chance listening to this speaker. Guess we'll never have the chance of hearing the Alexandria XLF.. For the Alexx, Wilson use the venerable ScanSpeak Revelator W15 - or coated 15M, who knows - to cover the upper mid and handling the primary transition to the tweeter. The bigger midrange looks like having adopted the Satori membrane. Whatever, I couldn't point to anything on particular with this speaker. It seems to gracefully and powerfully handle whatever it is fed. And it seems WA has found a way handle the troublesome upper-mid/tweeter integration. This was heard worse from other bigger and even more expensive speakers on the show. Well done.
The Nagra reel-to-reel was just for everyone to stop by and drool!

I didn't get to hear any ATC speakers last year. Here we have the SCM 50 ASLT and to make a long story short, if you have 2 x 9.400,- EUR and can live with the size of this speaker (relative to the room it has to load), look no further. Great speaker.

 

Bittner Audio had a massive tube power amp on display and to be honest I didn't enter to hear that, rather the all-time classic Dynaudio Consequence speaker. I never had the chance of hearing this top-of-the-range speaker from the Eighties. 12" compound bass and everything Dynaudio could put into a box at that time. 6" mid, 2" upper-mid/lower-treble dome and both D28 and D21. This is an updated version and it's simply magnificent despite its appallingly low efficiency (85 dB). Any comments to the unconventional arrangement of drivers? Nope! It works. I hear this speaker sells in Japan. No wonder. A wonderful piece of furniture as well.

 


Vivid Audio: The re-incarnation of legendary B&W Nautilus. I better understand why John Atkinson is so taken by this brand. Excellent sound.
Never hear Totem speakers before and this twin-8" two-way caught by attention and suspicion. 8+1"..? Prejudice unfounded! Excellent sound!

 


To the left Metronome Kalista Éa speaker. Probable the worst looking speaker on the shown. 100 dB sensitivity and 120,000 EUR/pair...
Looking through the door I thought this tweeter-waveguide and the two 8" midrange drivers wouldn't work. It did. And very well too - and it should for that price tag. But the looks....

I don't know the speaker to the right, but it was one of several examples of companies using the ScanSpeak 12MU midrange driver - and this was one of the better ones. 8" ScanSpeak alu bass drivers - and it looked like a SS dome too. Overall a very well-tuned system.

 


Speaking of ScanSpeak 12MU, here we have Gryphon and I was lucky to sneak in on a special demonstration. Now, Flemming Rasmussen is a tall guy and so are these humongous top-of-the line speakers. Like the Wilson Audio WAMM Chronosonic it features four 12MU drivers. Thinking of the Beolab 90, ScanSpeak must be producing this driver in abundance. The sheer scale of this loudspeaker is impressive and sound is huge and powerful. What did not impress me so much was the integration of the 12MUs and the AMT tweeter. This could be heard better for less in other places.

 


I've always had a thing for the French Davis Acoustics cone tweeter - but never bought a pair.
This year they brought a classic 3-way, 12+6+2 and it sounded great. Dispersion is an issue from such tweeter but I couldn't identify any problems here - and upper-mid/tweeter integration was excellent.
To the right a Heco speaker featuring my favourite dislikes, whizzer-cone drivers. Damn it, this one had a great sound. No tizzy treble.


Here's better size image of the Heco full-range drivers.

 


Could hardly believe my eyes passing this demo room! Vifa C20!
Well, you can ask ScanSpeak to produce these vintage drivers as long as you order some 250 pcs.
The stand-mount to the right appeared to use a SWANS PP cone driver + some tiny tweeter and it didn't work too well.
The C20, however, plus the Vifa dome tweeter just made great sound! And I'm sure you could do with 10-20 good triode watts.

 


EAR did it again, demonstrating CD vs vinyl vs "master" tape. The Tape must be a copy. This year they brought the EAR 890 power amps and the made some great sound with the Rockport speakers.
To the right the biggest Raidho speakers and like the Gryphons, impressive by their sheer size. Upper-mid/tweeter integration heard better and cheaper in other places. Sometimes companies become slave of a specific design and I'm afraid the Raidho planar is such a thing. I'd like to hear the excellent Raido midrange drivers in some other constellations.


I was so pleased to finally have an opportunity to listen to speakers designed and tuned by Franko Serblin. Here the Ktema speakers. Beautifully designed and made. Two ~4½" midbass  drivers on front, 1" dome tweeter and two 8" bass drivers on the back, loading the room via two vertical slots.
And I was so disappointed... smooth and easy and all that, but there was such a lack of energy in the upper bass/lower midrange it sounded like a small mini with added sub. 

 

HORNS


You must go see - hear - this!
G.I.P Laboratory once again demonstrated Western Electric 80+ year old speakers driven by 10 SET watts.
Lots of classical music, Maria Callas, etc.
And now for the treat: At the end of the demo, Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love.
Hear here what a few moments revels from a mobile picup. 128 MB! Use some good earplugs!
At the end of the movie everybody felt like jumping up and dance to the guitar solo.

 

I went four times to the show room of Living Voice to hear the Palladian speakers, this year with the massive front-loaded subwoofers. I had four different seats, back and front, and it really didn't matter. Even close up front I never felt any lack of driver integration. As last year, truly magnificent. What I did miss was some more diverse music, large orchestral works and more vocals to get a wider presentation of the speakers ability. I used my Shazam to track the recordings used and they're kind of hifi-show material that will make most systems excel. Kevin, bring your vinyl and bring some more complicated material and let us hear.

 


Kevin Scott here hiding for a photographer.

 

I wont go into detail about all the horn systems below, only say that a lot of these speakers delivered some really good sound and what is apparent from many manufacturers is the use of these wide-lip horns, apparently reducing edge diffraction - and the necessary time-alignment of drivers necessitating the horns to stick out in front of the cabinets. 

 


To the right, the Tune Audio AVATON speakers - and it this huge midrange horn, crossed at 120 Hz really didn't sound good - or the source material was crap. The ODEON horns to the left did very well.

 
hORNS above. Opera model.
Did really well, although the 12" white paper cone driver, apparently handling a substantial part of the midrange, had some "paperish" sound.


It must have been the source material. These Azzolina horns sounded plain terrible.

 

Below a collage of turntable images, just to show that turntables were everywhere! I guess ProJect, Clearaudio and Acoustic Signature had the most square meters of all exhibitors.

 


Getting a DUAL turntable these days is probably no more expensive as it was in the Seventies.
To the right a way of dealing with tracking error. Opponents will probably tell you the head-shell gets sluggish.

 

 


If you love tone-arms, get a deck for four.

 


How the heck are we supposed to find our tonearm among a range of 15 different versions of the same thing?
It was certainly easier when there was a 9" and a 12" SME arm, and that was it!

 


Lots of vinyls. Had to buy extra luggage kgs for my trip home...

 

The guy in the middle above made me stay for an hour or so. Soundsmith's Peter Ledermann. This guy knows about cartridges and I strongly suggest taking a hour and see his video here and learn about cartridges. Unfortunately we can't hear the questions asked by the audience, but worth while anyway.
What I wanted to hear was the strain gauge cartridge seen above to the right - with the blue light. See the video the learn what it is. By the way: The cantilever is a cactus stick! What was apparent from the demonstration from less than ideal speakers, were a very good midrange and treble and I'd love to hear it again through some bigger systems that would also do the bass justice. Now, this is a very different way of digging the best from your precious vinyls and ditching your entire MC cartridge/phono amplifier to install the strain gauge system is a very serious investment.

 

 


If you have space for more between your washing machine and dryer, here's something!
This machine will probably make you an expresso and scratch your back while cleaning your vinyls.

 

 


Above the most weird looking tonearms I could find.

 


Solution to tracking error. The whole arm-base rotates to keep your cartridge in perfect alignment.
Is it worth worrying about? Hard to tell. Even the very best and most expensive turntables in this world live with tracking error of even 9" arms.