High End 2022: Show Report

And the rooms just keep coming at High End Munich like there’s no tomorrow. The show was apparently down on numbers of industry folk coming in from the States and from Asia but that didn’t stop a whole load of companies rocking up to the show with some fabulous kit. Obviously some had further to travel than others but there is a considerable degree of organisation, not to mention the expense involved in putting together and organising the logistics to get a system to Munich, or any other show for that matter.

Credo from Switzerland didn’t really have that far to come in the great scheme of things but it’s still a great effort to bring this kind of kit from anywhere. The speakers, as you can see, are huge and called Cinema LTM that was launched at AXPONA back in 2019. Despite the number of drivers this is a three-way design using a line array. There are 32 ring radiator tweeters, 14 x 4” Kevlar mid-woofers and four passive 12” subs. That’s a LOT od drivers. The cabs are made of Panzeholz. Mundorf caps are used in the crossover, which is mounted on a decoupled platform. They go down to 16Hz and are 85.5dB sensitive. Amps used at Munich High End were a pair of Pass Labs monos from (I think) the XA range. Electronics were my Emm Labs and Meitner.

MSB Technology had a little further to travel with their kit – California to be precise but the system was stunningly good and one of the real standouts of the show for me. I recently reviewed their Discrete DAC with a couple of external PSUs and it was a stunningly good bit of kit (read the review here).

MSB interest me a great deal and if you read the review you’ll get a feel as to the attention to detail these guys put into their products. This was a fantastic sounding room using Estelon speakers but then we are talking about the real upper end of the high-end market here with this system costing the same as a very nice house. Totally out of my league, of course, but this is one of the real joys of attending a show like Munich – you get to experience a level of HiFi that would otherwise be out of reach.

I dislike most surround systems and feel that in the main they tend to over-exaggerate the musical experience to the point that it feels artificial and unreal. Some may like this experience but for me I’d rather have a straight-up 2-channel set-up. However, the Grimm system was a bit of a revelation. Centre stage (literally) was the LS1 with Nano legs meaning that With Nano Legs a Grimm Audio LS1 speaker can be placed on top of a side table or dresser as it was here at Munich. Grimm was celebrating their tenth anniversary, the same as HiFi Pig and at Munich were demonstrating the capabilities of their MU1 through a 5 channel system; two at the front, two at the back and then the LS1 with Nano Legs in the centre.

What I particularly liked about this system was the spacing and positioning of the central vocals. Obviously, you would expect this given the centre speaker, but it wasn’t in-your-face obvious like that and was a much more subtle experience. We hear NiN and The Beatles in this room and whilst we were rushing about, I was very pleased to have taken the time to listen to the extra time in this room. If you don’t like surround sound for music playback then this may well be the surround sound system for you! For me one of the more enjoyable rooms.

After a brief sojourn to the beer garden to grab a spot of lunch we headed back up to see Kevin and co from Living Voice. These guys from the UK will be familiar with anyone that reads our Munich reports year to year as they always rank in the top couple of rooms with their astoundingly good Vox speakers that cost a not so small fortune. However, this year the system was a somewhat pared-down system consisting of:

Living Voice OBX-RW4 in Santos

Living Voice OBX Cube Sub pair with crossover amplifier modules

SJS Model 5 300B amplifier Silver Enhanced

SJS Model 7 preamplifier Premier Silver Enhanced

SJS Model 3 phono amplifier Silver Enhanced

Kuzma R turntable in Orange

Kuzma CAR60

Kuzma Safir tonearm

Grand Prix Audio Monaco V2.0 record player

Kuzma 4P14 tonearm and Kuzma CAR50

VIV Labs RF7”

Ortofon SPU Royal G MKII or Classic GE

Living Voice step-up transformer

Consolidated Audio Step-Up transformer. Bespoke specification

Living Voice G2 equipment tables

Living Voice IBX-RW4 Flat White

Living Voice Pure Music battery power supply system

Takatsuki 300B matched pairs

Western Electric 300B matched pairs

Living Voice 300B matched pairs

When a system is “just right” like this it’s difficult to tear yourself away, and the Living Voice system was a real treat to listen to. The scale of the music playing defied the relatively small size of the LV loudspeakers and the dynamics on offer were incredible. Give me detail, dynamics and slam and you have me won over – Living Voice at Munich High End had me won over. Another of the top systems for me, despite this being at the more affordable end of Living Voice’s offerings.

The Kuzma Safir 9 tonearm was a major draw for me and I’d been dying to hear it since I first heard about it – it was making its debut at High End Munich and costs around €20K. The Kuzma Safir 9’s most obvious feature and the heart of the design is its conical sapphire arm tube. Extremely rigid, this tube is very stiff and its first break-up mode occurs at over 5KHz. The bearings are a further development of Kuzma’s proprietary 4Point design, the four contact spikes being located in sapphire/ruby receptacles.

Next up were German loudspeaker manufacturer Backes & Müller and whilst the system looked wonderfully impressive, nothing really grabbed my attention and I didn’t hang around too long. As I’ve tried to stress in other reports, this may simply be a case of the wrong music playing and so I’m not going to slate a product based on a swift listen at a show.

Burmester were playing with YG Acoustics who were playing their TOR loudspeakers from their Peaks range of speakers. This was a big space for these small 2-way speakers to fill but they did a good job of it. The Burmester electronics are dream-time electronics for me and I know that one or two of the guys that write and review for HiFi Pig are of the same opinion.

ZenSati were playing their new Mezzo power cables but a show isn’t the place for me to comment on the effects of such a product. The room sounded nice enough with electronics being provided by Greek brand Ypsilon and speakers by Lorenzo Audio Labs in the form of their flagship LM1 loudspeakers.

Lyravox from Hamburg, Germany and Lumley Audio were in the next room. The latter were showing off their Stratoinium tonearm, turntable and phono-preamplifiers. The preamps have an air of the FM Acoustics about them but information is thin on the ground. We’ll be having a chat with Donsong Zhang of Lumley in the near future to bring you more information about what is a very interesting, if elusive brand.

Esoteric partnered with Zingali speakers in their room and had the Client Evo 3.15 (catchy, eh?) speakers playing when we went in the room. All very beautiful and nice sounding but, again, nothing jumped out and grabbed my attention.

Stuart Smith