High End 2019c

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Stein Music

Holger Stein of Stein Music showcased his massive TopLine Bob XL and subwoofers ($290,000/pair); the partially horn-loaded, open-baffle (midrange and tweeter) features twenty drivers with a separate column of subwoofers (eight 18’s per side) driven exceptionally by his own Highline Amp2 ($14,800); a Highline Music Player ($14,800); and Stein Music Power bars 6 and 10. The analog source was the Tone Tool Trapezium turntable paired with Aventurin 6 cartridge ($6,500) and Stein’s H2 Plus Signature stand ($3,158). It was a great sounding system when I heard it for the first time in 2017 at the Munich High End. This year it was as good as the last time, perhaps even better. The system sounded exceptionally open, transparent, and dynamic with power and authority. Lastly, the Stein Music Matrix cable series was used throughout the system with great success.



Gershman /VTL

I was very impressed with the sound of this modest sized system.  As you’ve noticed sound systems in most rooms at the shows were big set ups with huge loudspeakers.  Gershman Acoustics shared a room with VTL. The Gershman Avant Garde ($13,000/pair) loudspeakers are powered by a VTL S-200 ($15,000) Signature stereo amplifier; a TL-6.5 Series II Signature preamplifier ($18,000); and a TP-6.5 Signature Series II phone-stage ($12,500). When I entered the room they were listening to a Wand turntable ($3,800) fitted with a Lyra Etna cartridge ($8,995). The system produced great sound with powerful dynamics and a big three-dimensional soundstage.




Aries Ceret

This was my first experience listening to the Aries Ceret system at the Munich show. It’s a mega system comprised of all tube electronics and horn speakers with basshorn system. The Aries Cerat Symphonias ($125,000/pair), horn speakers and Aries Cerat Erevus 5 passive basshorn ($105,000/pair) were powered by the Aries Achilleas Legend Series SET ($350,000/pair) and Impera II Reference preamplifier ($35,000) and an Aries Cerat Talos Signature ($65,000) phono-stage. The Aries Kassandra II Sig DAC ($65,000) and a Pink Faun 2.6x streamer ($32,000) were used as a digital source and a Rui Borges ($59,000) turntable with a Thales Simplicity II tonearm ($9,450) and a super sounding Top Wing Red Sparrow ($16,500) moving coil cartridge were utilized  Obviously you’d need a huge room to fit the Aries Cerat Symphonias and basshorn with their tube electronics and you need deep deep pockets. The system sounded excellent; it was musical with a tube charm that was palpable.


Diesis Audio

The Diesis Audio featured their flagship Roma Triode ($180,000/pair), open baffle horn loudspeakers (a three-way, four driver two 15” woofers, one 2” midrange with a paper and solid brass ring, and one TW titanium 16mm voice coil driven beautifully by its newly developed Evento hybrid integrated amplifier with/DAC ($25,000, $3,000 for a DAC and $3,000 for a phono-stage), and the Diesis Music Server ($15,000).  I heard the Roma Triode in New York City and the Deisis Audio system performed in fantastic fashion. It took Diesis Audio three years of research and development to come to fruition. An Audio Note Kondo Ongaku, G70 preamplifier and Kondo wiring were used for the research and development for the Roma Triode loudspeakers. The sound was spectacular; it was driven with their own new Evento hybrid integrated amplifier when the Ongaku was not used.




Vincent Brent unveiled his new TotalDAC Amp -1 stereo power amplifier ($21,000). It is his first power amplifier for the company with a hybrid circuit topology featuring a Triode input and a solid state, Class AB output with no global feedback design. The Amp-1 produces 150 watts per channel at 8 Ohms and stable all the way down to 1 Ohm. It was partnered with a D1-Twelve three box flagship DAC which drove the Magico M6 loudspeakers with power and authority. It features a massive 2500VA, at which weighs 57.2lbs. It is LIVE-POWER transformer with separate windings for the left and right channel designs. The Amp-1 sounded way more powerful than rated. It drove the Magico M6 without breaking a sweat it had full control with great finesse. 



Kroma Audio/Bricasti Design

The Kroma Audio Stella, two-way, three driver with two 6.5 inch mid-woofers and one Hiquphone tweeter were beautifully crafted using latest high-tech materials. The Stella sounded wonderful, driven by the Bricasti Design M28 monoblock amplifiers. I was very impressed with the sound.  I heard its bigger brother Carmen two years ago driven by the Zanden and it too was brilliant. Kroma Audio sounds great in both camps, tube or solid-state amplification. 




Massimiliano Magri of Grandinote from Italy put up a stellar sounding system.  He debuted his new Grandinote Mach 9 loudspeaker ($30,000/pair), with his new carbon fiber enclosures.  It’s a line source with a crossover-less design using nine woofers and sixteen tweeters. After many hours of research and listening he discovered the carbon fiber cabinet to be superior to the aluminum cabinets he had used before. The Grandinote Mach 9 was driven by a modest Shinai integrated amplifier, a Volta, streamer – DAC and a Celio, phono-stage.

I really enjoyed the Munich High End show this year. As always, it is the world’s best High End show. But, unfortunately, this through the-roof pricing excludes many audiophiles altogether.


key kim    


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