High End 2022: Show Report

If it was up to me, a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I’d cover high-end audio shows differently than I do. I’d walk out of my sleeping room at the hotel venue a few minutes before the show started. Maybe I’d wear a disguise so that I could move freely from room to room without being noticed. I’d eat lunch by myself, and then cover the show until quittin’ time. Then I’d adjourn to my room, fire up the computer and start hammering out the show reports. If it wasn’t for my friends in Munich, at High End 2022, I might have gotten away with it this time.

I know, it sounds boring to do shows like that. But I used to, all the time. No one knew me. I could cover so many rooms in a day. For a while, Eric Franklin Shook and I could split the show in half, any show at all, and cover every single room. No one else in the industry even attempted to do that.

But to tell you the truth, I love the other side of it as well. My friends in Munich, longtime and new partners in the industry, made sure I had a great time in Munich despite the fact that I was trying to cover the largest high-end audio show in the world by myself.

First of all, I’d like to thank Mark Sossa of Well Pleased Audio Vida. Part-Time Audiophile works with Mark on a regular basis, and we love the guy as well as the brands he represents–Merason, Qln, Vinnie Rossi, Audio Hungary Qualiton, Innuos, Swiss Cables and more. That’s him on the right, with Merason’s Daniel Frauchiger. Mark, Daniel and the legendary Mats Andersen of Qln spent a lot of time at the show with me just hanging out, talking about everything, watching the crowds wander by.

On Saturday night, we hit the town–or, more accurately, Marienplatz. I had made a promise to Scot Hull that I would eat the crispy pork knuckle no matter what. When I attended High End in 2019, I sat at a table while everyone else ate the crispy pork knuckle. I went with sausages and kraut because, well, Germany. And that knuckle looked kinda big and greasy. But I ate the crispy pork knuckle along with Mark, Daniel and Mats, and it was amazing. It was a fantastic evening.

Speaking of Qln, my favorite Swedish speaker brand, I did get to see all the models. Because it was a static display, one of many at High End 2022, I didn’t get to repeat my wonderful experience with the new Qln Signature monitors. 
But I do have a scoop–Mats Andersen and Mark Sossa showed my another pair of the Signatures in a beautiful glossy walnut burl.

These were different than the pair I heard at AXPONA 2022. Just when I thought I had discovered one of the greatest two-way monitors ever, Mats tells me about the Qln Signature SE which will increase the MSRP from $18K/pr USD to somewhere around $24K/pr. 

Most of the changes are in the inside–the new caps alone are so big and heavy that they add five pounds to each speaker. Best of all, a review pair has my name on it–I should see this lovely speaker on my doorstep before the end of the summer.

One more scoop from Qln, on the entry-level side of the line, is the “new” Qln One (around $4,800/pr USD). I put “new” in quotes because this is actually a re-introduction of Mats’ first Qln monitor from many years ago. 

It looks a lot like the Qln Prestige One I reviewed favorably last year, but you’ll see differences in the drivers and the general proportions when the two models are placed side-by side, as they were here. 

This is good news for those of you who want to experience the Qln magic without springing for a pair of the Signature SEs.

While riding on the Munich subway with Mark, Mats and Daniel, I noticed a woman staring at me. We all had masks on, so I didn’t recognize her, but…was she smiling at me? As we drew closer to our stop at Marienplatz, she edged closer and closer to me, still maintaining eye contact, and suddenly she came around to my other side, toward the door. 

I haven’t had a woman pick me up on a subway, well, ever, and I didn’t know what to expect.

Suddenly she said, “Hi, Marc! It’s Ioanna from Lab12!”

She read my name badge, of course. (You could ride the subway for free if you were in Munich to attend High End 2022.) I worked with Ioanna Gigourtaki extensively through emails back when I reviewed the Lab12 Melto2 phono stage for The Occasional magazine, and she was kind and sweet and helpful the entire review. 

Now that I’m reviewing the Lab12 Integre4 integrated amplifier, we have reason to chat once again!

That, of course, gave me an excuse to visit Ioanna and Stratos Vichos, the Lab12 founder/designer, at their booth all day Sunday. Over the last couple of years I’ve talked about how Greece is a major hot spot for high-end audio right now, along with True Life Audio and Signal Projects and Ideon and much more. To my newest friends in Munich–maybe next year I’ll have to make a side trip out to Greece!

Speaking of Greek high-end audio, let me tell you about Signal Projects. Ever since I put together our first Buyers Guide a couple of years ago, I’ve noticed the Signal Projects inclusion in our cable guide. 

This is primarily due to our own Dr. Panagiotis Karavitas, and his high regards for the brand. When I found out that the Lab12 power cord I used with the Integre4 review was actually made by Signal Projects, and when Doug White of The Voice That Is asked be to stop by their booth and meet Nick Korakakis, the designer, I didn’t hesitate.

Okay, I know these are just cables, but man they’re beautiful. Such vivid colors! As I mentioned more than once during my social media coverage of High End 2022, cables can be beautiful. Why not?

I didn’t expect such a fascinating discussion about cables with Nick, one of my new friends in Munich (okay, I’m starting to talk about my new Greek friends in Munich), but he started off with something that’s not heard often in this market segment. “I measure everything,” he told me. “The measurements tell me everything.”

While that seems like an obvious way to approach cable design, not every cable manufacturer will encourage you to actually test out the cables to see for yourself. Nick does. 
And for some reason, I went home from Munich thinking about how all his cables would look in my listening room.

My “friends in Munich” don’t have to be new friends from far-off lands. I’ve been talking to Bill Low of AudioQuest quite a bit lately, and he and Stephen Mejias have been sending me all sorts of AudioQuest gear to test out–including the new Mythical Creatures line of cables that are gaining plenty of attention in the high-end audio industry. 

I have the Firebird and Thunderbird XLR interconnects under review right now, in fact.

I heard Bill Low was at High End 2022, but I didn’t see him. I did poke my head into the AudioQuest room just to see if I could locate him. 

Usually when I enter an “AudioQuest” room at a high-end audio show, either they’re simply using AQ somewhere in the system, or it’s a big static display–typical for a cable manufacturer. 

At High End 2022, AudioQuest chose to assemble a fantastic system including Wilson Audio speakers, CH Precision and Einstein.

My response, after about ten minutes listening to this system: “Wouldn’t it be fun to give Best Sound at the Show to a cable company’s room?” 

Because everything in here sounded fabulous. Kudos to AudioQuest for creating this type of experience for show attendees.

Now I’m home, thinking about my friends in Munich, listening to music, and despite all the little obstacles I’m looking forward to next year. I’m looking forward to seeing more friends from all over the world.

Marc Phillips