Did you make it to the 2012 Munich High-End Audio Fair? If not, don’t worry. Audio aficionado Ward Maas attended the event and took notes on the best products on display.
The 2012 Munich High End Audio Fair took place earlier than usual, running from May 3 to May 6, 2012 at the Munich Order Center (MOC). A total of 366 exhibitors from 33 countries represented more than 900 brands, and 4,427 visitors—a 4% increase over last year—came from more than 70 countries (see Photo 1).
Photo 1: The Munich fair drew 366 exhibitors.
All the ingredients were set for a fantastic happening, and it was. But, it differed somehow compared to prior years.
Some companies with well-known brands chose not to participate and new alliances were formed. There was also a great deal of competition among suppliers. For instance, the fair’s catalog listed seven pages of just connection cable and plug suppliers. There were also manufacturers, OEM suppliers, distributors, and sales houses competing for visitors by promoting everything from best products to best value for money to color.
There was also a change in the manner new products were offered. Some manufacturers chose to be more modest, just showing last year’s products. Luckily, quite a few other manufacturers also showed their new products.
New speaker Products
Backes & Mueller (www.backesmueller.de) is a company that has been on the scene for decades, but never seems to get the breakthrough it deserves. Not only is it very competent when it comes to technology, but it also has the know-how to produce extremely good-sounding loudspeakers. It is an “ear-opener” to hear a voice in a familiar recording as “background mumbling” become clearly understandable. At the fair, Backes & Müller showcased its BMline100 speaker on the Atrium floor next to its listening room. I got the impression many visitors regarded the speaker as a piece of art, nicely matched with the MOC (see Photo 2).
Photo 2: The MB100
While the Backes & Mueller system was large, the new Nola Grand Reference Series VI was very large (see Photo 3).
Photo 3: Four-tower system with 23 drivers per side
Accent Speaker Technology (www.nolaspeakers.com) presented this massive four-tower system with 23 drivers per side is as a major upgrade to its previous system, which the company described as “breathtaking.” Of course, the external passive crossovers and the ball-bearing crossover isolation platforms are also needed.
Silbatone (www.silbatoneacoustics.com) was apparently afraid someone was going to top last year’s gigantic system, so it brought an even larger system this year: a WE-15A horn set with field coil drivers, field coil tweeters, and a subwoofer that I mistook for a shielded crew area. I only discovered it to be a subwoofer when I left the room and saw an EV30 (one of two) in a window reflection. Yes, it sounded very pleasant, but I do not think a single system component will fit in my living room.
What will fit is the KEF LS50 mini monitor speaker, which is KEF’s 50th year anniversary product. Inside it is a coaxial driver similar to its “Blade” system. It has special cabinet damping, an optimized baffle shape, a nice price tag, and it sounds great. I’ve seldom heard a precise bass that low and loud from such a small system. This is definitely going to be a hit (www.kef.com).
It is easy to get overwhelmed attending a fair like this. So, sometimes a product or a company can get overlooked. Luckily, I did not overlook the products of ADN Acoustics (www.adnacoustics.com). A casted, aluminum thing on the floor of the booth, which turned out to be a loudspeaker system segment, was on the floor of its booth (see Photo 4).
Photo 4: Aluminum segment of speaker cabinet
A number of the segments are bolted together with a top and bottom plate to form a stack. A front plate is welded onto the stack, then sanded and polished to form a loudspeaker cabinet (see Photo 5).
Photo 5: ADN segments stacked to form a speaker cabinet
The walls are then filled with a special damping material. Using Scan-Speak drivers and Mundorf crossover parts, it has everything needed to form an interesting speaker. Unfortunately, ADN Acoustics did not demonstrate this system at the show. But, even ADN Acoustics’s smallest variant “The Secret” is a backbreaker, weighing 46 kg (101.2 lb) and measuring 57 cm (22.4″) a piece. Its larger brother “The Column” weighs 90 kg (198 lb) and is 110 cm (43.3″) high. It was interesting to see this Spanish high-end initiative.
Of course, the horn systems always attract attention. This year, a few companies showed milled plywood horn systems. Among them were Cessaro (www.cessaro-horn-acoustics.com) and TuneAudio (www.tuneaudio.com), a Greek company that showcased its Anima. It was worth a look and a listen.
In the horn section, Autotech’s products (www.horns.pl) could not be overlooked. It makes a wide range of multilayer composite horns and waveguides. The standard version comes in white, but all RAL (a color-matching system used in Europe) colors are available on request. Also, for the DIYer, it offers products in eye-catching colors (see Photo 6).
Photo 6: Bright red Autotech horn
MSB Technology (www.msbtech.com) impressed me with a series of high-tech products. They were really showing off the Platinum Signature DAC IV with its Space Shuttle ceramic tile-style casing for the clock oscillator, modular approach to inputs (just plug in the kind of input you need), and its ability to be updated in many aspects. I have to admit I loved it. Besides having impressive specifications, its appearance is impressive as well (see Photo 7).
Photo 7: MSB Technology’s Platinum Signature DAC IV
Just before the show ended, MSB Technology debuted its new “affordable” DAC, the Analog, which is “just” a black/natural-colored 22-mm aluminum slab, with a rather minimalist user interface (one button, one knob), but, what an impression. For me, it confirms this is one of the most prestigious new products on the block (see Photo 8).
Photo 8: The MSB “Analog”