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High End 2009 (Munich) Show Report by Cecil Tan / Page 1
High End 2009 at Munich, Germany
21st to 24th May 2009

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This year’s show looked a little sparse around the lower exhibition halls as compared to last year, but then I was informed that more of the exhibitors were sharing demo rooms in the upper floors and there was actually an increasing in companies participating! That’s always a good sign, especially considering the not-so-good economic situation.

When you’ve been to these shows the number of time that I have, you’re bound to encounter a combination of the usual suspects and a number of new faces. This year was quite interesting as there were many new product intros even from the regularly seen brands. The following report is a concise (for me!) report of what was interesting and relevant to me and also a hint of some of the new products and brands that will be seen in Singapore in the near future.


Starting off alphabetically, Avantgarde Acoustic occupied the same huge room as last year, and also demoed the same top-of-the-line TRIO Omega horn speakers complemented with triple layers of Basshorns. An awe-inspiring sight indeed! Though physically similar, the TRIOs have undergone some upgrades to their driver magnets and electronics (now with bigger power supplies).

Even the critical internal wiring is now very expensive pure silver as compared to silver-plated copper in the past. The speakers were driven by Avantgarde’s own Model One series of reference preamp and monoblock transistor power amps. Analogue front-end duties were ably performed by the Brinkmann Balance turntable, Brinkmann 12.1 arm and MC-ti cartridge combination, all supported by an HRS SXR audio rack.

Holger Fromme, head of Avantgarde Acoustic, says that these upgrades result in a much more transparent presentation of the music and greater purity of the overall sound. These internal upgrades will eventually trickle-down to all their models in the current lineup. Seen in 2 other rooms was the DUO Mezzo, driven by CAT tube electronics in one, and all Esoteric gear in the other.


AMR (Abbington Music Research) of the UK was being partnered with Marten Design speakers this year, and I must say that the music emanating from their room was mighty impressive! The AM-77 hybrid integrated amplifier was used in the bridged mono mode, driving a huge pair of prototype speakers in one setup, and the smaller Coltrane’s in another. I did not get to hear the smaller system, but the bigger one sounded very refined and controlled. Perhaps the fact that it had a pure analogue source helped just a bit!

An interesting debut for AMR was their brand new PH-77 fully tube phono stage. Just 2 of the innovative features of this unit is the ability to select various equalization curves, all easily switchable by remote control, and also the inclusion of a reference grade A to D converter for archiving your precious analogue collection onto your computer or whatever digital music server you choose to use! AMR’s goal was to develop a reference standard phono stage with truly innovative and useful features, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that they have succeeded!

 


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