Event – Frankfurt High End ’99

Event – Frankfurt High End ’99
Sergei Taranov
27 August 1999

The choice was mine: dates for the Frankfurt High End Show and the Stereophile Show in Chicago coincided exactly. In Chicago I had a sure chance to meet Sam Tellig from Stereophile. Sam knows places to get good food and once promised to help me gain weight. That was a couple of years ago and since then Sam has regularly mentioned his promise in his column in Stereophile. Still Germany was, shall I say, a fatter attraction, because people have told me that it was a place for very very esoteric high end products. This statement proved to be true. Two nice hotels in the outskirts of Frankfurt-on-Main, in a green south of Germany, hosted the show. One of the hotels was supposed to show home theater exhibits. Home theater took about half a floor… Kempinski Gravenbruch, a 3-story hotel complex, was filled to the brim with high end paraphernalia. Mechanically wonderful turntables spun black vinyl, huge amplifiers showed their shining chrome armor, myriads of loudspeakers boasted very exotic drivers.

Well, to my untrained eye (this was my first visit to Germany) German electronics have much in common. Black acrylic and polished metal, solid-state, high power, high negative feedback are considered good manners. Sound quality in most rooms was fairly good. I noted good detail, firm bass and lot of energy very often. Probably the best sound of the show was at a Venture room. Venture is a Belgian company manufacturing tube amplifiers and big loudspeakers with German ceramic drivers by Thiel & Partner. The gear Venture exhibited was very expensive, $25000 for a single-ended amp with 52BX tubes, a Vaic Valve version of 300B. In a more budget oriented realm, the Danish company, Densen, attracted my attention with a new BEAT CD-player and a preamp and power amp, which played music with Danish Audiovector speakers. The sound was very open, rhythmically engaging and emotionally satisfying.

News and Curiosities

MBL, one of the major German players in the high end field, introduced their new line of components and a new look for some older models. Pictured are: Arctis 4004 preamp (DM3000), Arctis CDP1s CD-player (DM3800) and Arctis 8006 power amp (DM4250).

An unusual mid-treble arrangement of the Jupiter speakers from CD-Konzertmöbel; a single cone speaker is radiating through a complex array of phase plugs.

Pluto was founded in Holland 25 years ago, to manufacture tonearms. Pluto now makes turntables with steel or titanium platters, tonearms, a MC cartridge and various accessories.


Full range drivers from Lowther are used in this miniature horn speaker from Be Yamamura.



Audiolabor manufactures an extensive line of high end components, sleek and silver in appearance. Top line CD player costs DM19500. Pictured is a new turntable nicely called Constant.



Garrard 301 and 401 turntables were manufactured in England since 1970. It was a mass-market product enjoying huge sales. Of course it has a lousy tonearm, but the transcription drive established a cult following among European and Japanese audiophiles. A new plinth, a decent SME and you can get an extremely good turntable based on the Garrard drive and it won’t cost an arm and a leg. In the UK a tonearm-less Garrard in a beautiful plinth is about 300 pounds! Loricraft, one of those fringe Garrard supporting companies, has now bought the trademark.

German speaker designers try different box materials.

The Lindenderg room had an impressive looking system.

The future is digital according to Peter Lingdorf, the owner of the Dutch holding, AudioNord. The TACT digital amplifiers and room correction system are now in their Mk 2 stage.

Progress of aviation inspired this Galaxy amp from Kora Electronic Concept. Fifty watts are achieved comfortably with Svetlana 6AS7G tubes in push-pull configuration. Price in Germany: 12500DM.



Nice artwork in the Audioagile Blue Moon turntable, DM2500, tonearm included.

According to my rough estimate there were around 40 turntable manufacturers exhibiting. Pictured are the creations of Transrotor

and Simon Yorke.

These Zingali speakers from Italy boast 93dB/W sensitivity.

Rehdeko RK145 (DM10600) speakers look and sound like nothing else. Extremely energetic and involving sound, although frequency extremes were, well, subdued.

All this was written using pure analog thought processes, if any, and all images were initially captured on analog photographic film. Sergei Taranov is an editor of a Russian audio magazine.

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