High End 2013 Munich Report part 2
Walking up to main showrooms, I made a promise to myself that this particular show would be dedicated to the most unusual, unsung, and most interesting products and not necessarily the most popular. As a result of all the new hi-end shows popping up recently in the USA, it's quite easy to be drawn into the same routine of entering into the same rooms demo'ing the same products from one show to the next. I made a oath that would not be case at Munich High End 2013. Hopefully, you will like the results.
I couldn't help it. I had to go into the Stein Music suite to get a quick listen to the Stein Music electronics which included his Topline preamp, Master Class amplifier, Master Class loudspeakers (1.1 and the larger 2.1), and of course, his outrageous Harmonizers.
Of course, another major attraction was to hear Pyon Sound's gorgeous Iris Reference dynamically balanced uni-pivot tonearm -resting upon the Artesania Exoteryc isolation rack we recently reviewed (US exclusive). This wonderfully musical arm garnered my highest accolades on the double-platter Ultima and Triangle Art Ref Signature turntables.
Team Leonardo which featured Playback Design digital, Extreme Audio, Grandinote electronics and V.Y.G.E.R analogue, all hail from Italy (except for Playback Design), really put on a great sounding demo room. I spent a good amount of time in this room and would qualify the sound as easy, holographic and harmonically spot on. Most importantly, the sound kept me coming back day after day. Far more sophisticated than my first chance encounter last year. Grazie!
One of my favorite habits is to listen in a dim candle lit room. So you can imagine how much the Leonardo setup reminded me of home sweet home.
The V.Y.G.E.R Indian Signature turntable got its second wind after disappearing for nearly a decade. What a nice surprise to see it perform flawlessly in all its aluminum splendor. When I visited the Leonardo guys in Italy some months back, I saw the Indian Signature there and knew they were preparing for a major comeback. I had no idea it would have been here at the High End. Equipped with a new Torlai Graphite cartridge the sound was easy to slip into and get lost - dispite all the activity that was going on in this room.
Heard the Grandinote for the first time on the Leonardo loudspeakers at last year's High End Show. I reported this as among the most surprising systems I ever heard and easily the biggest surprise of the whole show. One year later, I still find these loudspeakers to be the charm for what one can come to expect from a planar transducer. They still reproduce bass at an astounding level considering their pedigree. Now available in the USA, and retailing for $65k, though very expensive, I think they're among few great loudspeakers available today. Duly noted, I do not think I would be able to state these claims if it were not for the 60-watt Grandinote Demone (pure Class A) mono amplifiers. I still am awaiting the opportunity to review these in my own system. And until that opportunity arrives, let it be known that in the past 12 months, I've heard the Leonardos on a number of amplifiers - yes, even in the Leonardo factory which is only a stones throw from Venice. I always find the Leonardos, to my ears, to sound their very best when played through Grandinote electronics.
Adjacent to the Leonardo gang were French newcomers La Rosita hi-end servers and Apertura loudspeakers. Apertura isn't so new as I've encountered their products about ten years ago. However, they've not made much noise over here in the states. Don't know fully the reason considering how well-made and great sounding these loudspeakers are.
The la Rosita is an attractive looking, fully wireless hi-end audio streamer that plays nearly anything you throw in its path - including hi-rez.
There's always been a place in my heart and a space on my rack for Nagra gear. Stuff just looks ultra cool and professional-grade. Lots of good music came via an all Nagra system strapped to the Marten Design Django loudspeaker using Purist Audio Design cables throughout.
As expected, the Vitus/Estelon Audio suite looked as impressive as it sounded. The art of Billie Holiday and Thelonius Monk adorned the sidewalls giving this room an appreciated nod of approval from jazz aficionados. This particular system featured a four-piece top-of-the line stack of Vitus mono amplifiers and a beautiful pearl colored pair of Estelon loudspeakers - for which the above photo does little justice.
Over in the corner, next to a stack of Vitus gear resting on a Stillpoints isolation rack was the incredible looking Sperling turntable. Oh my do I admire the physical layout and utter sophistication of this dual-armed German deck. I couldn't help but to just stare and admire its build and armboard. Wow.
Was happy to get another chance to hear the German-made Göbel Epoque Reference Bending-Wave loudspeaker - but this year with an added 7-foot woofer section composed of 18 dipole woofers. The system was driven with an impressive stack of Stahl-Tek digital electronics while analogue was by way of the Kronos three-tier counter-turning platter of Canada. Amplification was the huge Analogue Domain Audio monoblocks of Germany. I had a chance, though not from the sweet spot, to hear the differences with and without the woofer section. All I could say was wow, what a difference 18 woofers make. The trick was getting them to perform so seamlessly that you could sense them before hearing them. That seemed more difficult under show conditions.