High End 2018g

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Jörn Janczak, whom I like to call the Long Man, is the chief designer behind TIDAL loudspeakers and electronics of Cologne, Germany. I met him many years back and am not surprised by the success the company has acheived since it arrived via the virtues of Janczak’s constant quest for sonic excellence. His products are synonymous for their remarkable build quality, implementation of diamond driver technology and just plain sounding like the real thing. Unfortunately, this has always come at price, that is until now.    

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The Vimberg Tonda loudspeaker (28k euro), is the brainchild of Janczak and all the know-how he accumulated over the past two decades building state-of-the-art components (yes, his electronics are jaw droppingly good as well). How Janczak managed to design the Tonda as a full-range 3-way, employing Accuton ceramic drivers throughout with sophisticated innards and keep the price as low as listed above is impressive on its own. The famous Tidal laquer/piano finish looked just as impressive here as it had on a pair of Tidals right beside the Tondas. Visually, I could tell upon first glance that the new Vimberg Tonda loudspeaker is cut from the same Tidal cloth. Doug White who runs The Voice that Is, a high-end audio emporium located nearby in Philidelphia, imports Tidal, and now I presume, Vimberg too. Hopefully, an invitation awaits us…. 

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Munich-2018-036.jpgSven Boenicke of Boenicke Audio came out and another impressive showing this year. His W13SE loudspeakers have always been a highlight of the show for me, however, this year they provided an even greater disappearing act. Smooth, detailed, remarkably musical and inviting, the W13SE’s were driven by Sven’s own Boenicke Integrated as well (starting at $7,500). Sources were Computer Audio Design of Great Britain, CAD 1543 MKII DAC (£9000 GBP), and CAD Transport/Streamer (£8500 GBP). Our own Greg Voth wrote a sterling review on the company’s uniquely built GC1 Ground Control device (reviewed here ). Also, for the first time at the show was Boenicke’s own speaker cables and interconnects and AC Power Conditioner (prototype, price to be determined), in addition to his matching all-wood isolation racks. Wonder if the aforementioned smoothness and detail is a direct result of Sven’s own cable designs? Lastly, Sven, always a big fan of Jack Bybee and his tweaks (photo right), had a few iQSE’s on the adjoining walls of his room to offset room colorations. Yep, the Bybee iQSE’s are very capable tweaks and it’s gratifying to find an accomplished Swiss manufacturer who believes is these products as much as wel do (read about the iQSE here). Bravo!

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One of the outdoor eating and designated smoking areas located inside the MOC. 

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Bill Leebens, director of PS Audio marketing (left) and Rick Brown, owner of Hifi One audio salon (located in southern CA.)
 

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AVM’s Peder Bäckman was busy discussing the company’s new line of Evolution and Inspiration series turntables with showgoers. 
 


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Jeff Rowland and Lucien Pichetter of Rowland Audio Designs. 

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Holger Stein of Stein Music and Sven Boenicke of Boenicke loudspeakers. 

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Shahin Al Rashid, Director of sales for EMM Labs (left), Ruediger Lansche, President of Lansche Audio loudspeakers and Amadeus Meitner Product Manager of EMM Labs / Meitner Audio, really put on a great sounding setup alongside Hemingway Audio’s president Doyong Jung and his lovely daughter (below).
 

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Lansche Audio’s new model 7.1 ($110k) proved to be quite the crowd pleaser. A tall and very well composed 3-way, (89dB) design, the model 7.1 employs a Corona plasma tweeter – quite possibly the best these ears have heard in a high-frequency driver – sandwiched between dual 10″ bass and 6″ midrange drivers. An attractive design even in this black matte finish, I found the sound clean, somewhat light in the bass, but overall non-intrusive and very easy to like when driven with EMM Labs electronics.

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New EMM Labs for Munich 2018
 
PRE Stereo pre-amplifier
 
Ed Meitner’s latest design, the reference PRE, embodies this drive for perfection and culminates in his most significant statement in the preamplifier category to date. Stunning transparency is achieved via fully discrete dual-balanced signal paths, sophisticated contactless switching solutions and precision software-driven analog volume control.
 
Using custom, aerospace-grade, composite laminate circuit boards in the PRE provides several advantages over conventional boards: 
 
·  Microscopically smooth copper traces resulting in a reduction in skin effect issues
 
·  Superior strength and vibration resistance
 
·  Lower dielectric losses and superior heat conduction ensuring uniform temperature distribution, increasing stability and longevity
 
With six sets of stereo analog inputs and three sets of stereo analog outputs, the PRE allows the option of bi-amplification and tri-amplification setups. Three sets of user programmable volume pre-sets per input allows the user to easily recall their favourite volume settings for different types of music. All specifications and features now posted on our website: http://www.emmlabs.com/pre.php 
 
The PRE is $25,000 US MSRP and is currently shipping. 
 
DV2 Stereo DAC with Volume Control
 
The DV2 builds on Ed Meitner’s ground breaking technology used in our flagship DA2 converter. By integrating our new proprietary hybrid volume system, the DV2 can transparently and directly connect to the power amplification stage in any high fidelity system. 
 
The DV2 will incorporate new functions and features such as MQA support and 4xDSD via USB input. – Mariusz please get back to me about this.
 
With an array of digital inputs, best in class sonic performance, and meticulous craftsmanship – the DV2 is the perfect reference solution for the digital enthusiast.
 
Other Key Features:
 
•  MDAC2™ – the world’s first fully discrete DSD1024/16xDSD D/A converter built in-house at our manufacturing facility in Canada
 
•  MDAT2™ – our multi-award winning DSP refined and updated to synergistically work with the new 16xDSD MDAC2™
 
•  MFAST™ – proprietary jitter removal
 
•  MCLK2™ – advanced clocking system
 
•  Proprietary hardware galvanic isolation for the USB audio interface
 
MSRP: $30,000 USD
 

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Cessaro Horn Acoustics introduced some very interesting products each year and this year’s High End show proved exceptional once again. First of all, I’ve never heard drum licks so dynamically alive as they were coming off this old vinyl record (can’t recall the jazz artist). But all this from Cessaro’s very own 50 watt Air Two monoblocks and preamp (Kondo lookalikes) built behind a minimalist two-gain stage design. This system is usually breathtaking and this year was no exception. Incredible lifelike images popped from a very nicely lit sound-stage.  I sensed from the git-go that this dynamic juggernaut (over 105 dB efficient!) is what gave the music its realism. However, it was the eletronics that kept the harmonics and overtones together in a very rare and intoxicating way. Beautiful.

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It was nice running into Alex Paychev of APL HiFi showing his new DSD Master Reference DAC alongside Wilson Benesch. Info on the company’s website claim “The DSD MR as a  top-line Digital to Analog converter, specifically made for the most enthusiastic audiophiles who prefer true analog sound, comparable to state of the art vinyl. It is an all-hand-made boutique, designed and built with the best possible audio quality in mind, cost-no-object. Inspired by reference vinyl sound quality, the DSD-MR pleases with a very natural sonic character that is truly unique. From the quadruple DSD processing rate, to the differential Class-A tube output stage, the DSD-MR proves technology and refinement of the highest level. The DSD-MR is based on a modular design, allowing a cost-effective future upgradability of any internal stage.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to listen long enough to form an opinion on the sound. However, I’ve always been a long fan of APL HiFi products and think Paychev’s one heck of a designer especially when it comes to high-rez digital. 

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Kerem Kucukaslan, chief designer of the leather wrapped Absolare electronics (Istanbul Turkey), always deights the crowd in this spacious suite at the High End show. Always showing his gear on top of beautifully custom-built wood cabintry, this year Kucukasian introduced his newest  amplifier: the Passion Hybrid Monoblock amplifier ($60,000). At 300 watts per channel (into 8 Ohms) and driving a pair attractive Rockport Lyra loudspeakers ($170k), using the increasingly popular Kronos Pro turntable, strapped to an Absolare Altius phonostage ($52k), and Absolare Altius pre ($50k). I use the Absolare suite as a getaway. This is where I come usually to simply catch my breath and just sit and listen to music. It’s familiar to my senses and it always allows to appreciate what’s most important: the music. 
   

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