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Munich High End Show 2014

This year’s show saw more American manufacturers participating than any other year, showing the increasing importance of Europe’s biggest high end audio show as a venue to reach dealers and end-users from all over the world alike as compared to the CES. Another trend is the increasing popularity of extremely expensive speaker systems and cables, at least from evidence seen during the show.

Ultra expensive systems seem to be the order of the day, so much so that it was a pleasant surprise to hear some relatively inexpensive systems performing as well as, if not better than the expensive stuff. Manufacturers also showed off many new products or updates of well-established models.

The following are some of the more interesting ones that caught my eye.

Aesthetix

Jim White, Aesthetix’s founder, was on hand to personally introduce his new top-of-the-line preamplifier called the Metis. Featuring their innovative Aesthetix Coupling Modules (ACM) in place of traditional coupling capacitors, an ‘invisible’ separate power supply that physically decouples from the main chassis, and a stunning new chassis design that is beautiful to the eyes as well as to the touch, the Metis promises to take sonic performance to a whole new level!

The linestage uses 4 tubes, 2 per channel in a true dual mono configuration, is fully balanced, u ses zero feedback and has a remote controllable proprietary discrete switched resister volume control. All inputs can be used single ended or balanced, and single ended inputs are internally balanced. The Metis will be available in the 4th quarter of this year.

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Avantgarde Acoustic

Avantgarde continued to showcase their revolutionary Zero 1 fully active horn speakers to great effect. The Zero 1 system is a 3 way horn-loaded speaker design with tri-amplification and built-in high quality DACs for a completely wireless experience! Even the master speaker is connected to the slave speaker by radio frequency signals.

Additionally, there is sophisticated processor built-in for full phase and time alignment of all drivers! This is truly cutting-edge technology in a genuine high end audio product.

Also seen for the first time is an advanced prototype of the XA integrated amplifier. Rated at 150 watts per channel, it uses technology trickled down from the more expensive XA preamp and power amp designs. It was sounding really good when partnered with a pair of DUO Omega horn speakers during the show.

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Constellation Audio

Constellation Audio had a killer sound in their demo room this year, and all the more surprising was the fact that they were using their most affordable equipment by far! The brand new Inspiration Series Preamp 1.0 linestage and Mono 1.0 monoblock power amps were making a very impressive driving a pair of Wilson Alexia speakers.

Preamp 1.0

The most vital technology in Constellation preamps is the Line Stage Gain Module, a fully balanced amplification circuit that uses servos to maintain a pristine balance between the positive and negative halves of the audio signal. The Line Stage Gain module in the Inspiration uses the same schematic as their other preamps, and almost all of the same parts, too.

Great care is taken in the Inspiration to ensure that the audio circuitry is protected from external vibration. The audio circuit board is suspended on isolators made from a soft, pliable material. The power supply is isolated from the audio circuits by a thick aluminium plate, then connected only with wires, rather than being built onto the same board as the audio circuits.

Like the power supply used for Altair II and Virgo II, the one in the Inspiration employs separate R-core transformers for left and right channels, and a third transformer to power the control circuits. Not only are left and right channels kept completely separate, the audio supplies are isolated from the control circuits to prevent interference.

Mono 1.0

The Inspiration MONO 1.0 amplifier that was on demo easily delivers 400 watts per channel into 8 ohms, doubling to 800 into 4 ohms. Also remarkable is that the audio circuits are based on the same original schematics originally created for Hercules. In fact, most of the parts are the same. The output stage uses the same Balanced Bridged topology, combining multiple, small single-ended amplifier modules into a large, fully balanced design. This unique concept allows the Inspiration MONO 1.0 to deliver all the delicacy and musicality of a small single-ended amp, with the dynamics and power of a large monoblock.

All the things that you would want in a high quality product like excellent sound quality, first class fit and finish, and a slew of useful features to cater to your every requirement are all present in the new Inspiration Series, plus a killer punch to all competitors – a recommended price (USD 9000 for Preamp 1.0, USD 10,000 for Stereo 1.0 and USD 20,000 for Mono 1.0 amps) that makes these very desirable products seem ridiculously inexpensive! How on earth do they do it?

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