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The annual Munich High End show gets bigger and more popular each year that I'm sure in time; it'll replace the CES as THE premier hifi show to go to and to be seen in! This year, there were not only a lot more exhibit rooms being occupied, but more importantly, I see a lot more attendees roaming the halls on every one of the 4 day duration of the show.

One steady trend that's clearly evident during the show was the extensive use of media servers or computer laptops as a source for the music. The other was the increasing numbers of American manufacturers exhibiting in Munich, when in the past it would be good enough to just be at the CES and RMAF.

The following is a brief report of the products that I represent and/or brands that I feel are interesting and innovative, in my personal opinion.

 

Air Tight

Air Tight is a regular presence at every Munich show and this year was no exception. They had their full range of exotic tube electronics on display for everyone to ogle at. Their product range has remained unchanged for a number of years, reflecting the classicness (if there is such a word…) of their designs and the stability of the tube technology. This also helps to preserve the re-sale value of their products.

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Aesthetix

Aesthetix shared their room this year with AMG turntables and Avantera speakers to produce a very captivating sound. As usual, their equipment looks very cool and classy especially when placed and viewed together. They still are one of the few manufacturers of high quality tube gear who are able to strike a nice balance between ergonomics, user-friendliness and a high level of sonic quality.

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Audio Note UK

Audio UK had a demo room at the parallel Hifi Deluxe show located nearby. The equipment on demo this year was a lot more modest by ANUK standards, featuring Level 3 CD transport and DAC combo, and pre and stereo single-ended power amplifier driving a pair of AN-E (forgot to ask which version) speakers. In spite of this, the sound was as usual eminently musical and involving without any artificial electronic artifacts. I have seen or heard very few companies succeed in producing such a captivating sound with such modest equipment, but then this is why ANUK products are so highly sought after!

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Avantgarde Acoustic

The most interesting exhibit for me at the show was by far the Avantgarde Acoustic room. Apart from displaying their usual range of superlative horn speaker systems, Avantgarde was demoing a prototype model of a radical new product called the Zero 1.

The Zero 1 is a fully active, fully digital 3 way wireless system that is relatively compact and housed in an elegant monolithic cabinet that is aimed at the high end "lifestyle" consumer. Priced at a projected 9500 Euro a pair, these speakers have individual built-in amplifiers for each driver, and also each driver is paired with one DAC for a total of 3 DACs per speaker! Connections are either by USB, SPDIF or AES/EBU and accept signals from any digital source up to 24Bit/192kHz.

During the show, the Zero 1 was on demo using an iPad as a source and connected either by a digital cable to one of its inputs, or streamed wirelessly with the help of an Airport Express. The sound quality I must say, far exceeded my expectations of what a 'lifestyle' product could achieve, with very full- range bass and a very dynamic and lifelike sound that filled the huge demo room. Deservedly, the room was always filled with impressed show-goers throughout the 4 days of the show.

This is one product that I am very excited about and we are waiting impatiently for its official release date so that we can have a pair on demo in our own showroom.

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