High End 2013

Audio Research Reference Phono 10
Audio Research revealed its first two-box phono stage the Reference Phono 10 ($30,000). Inspired by the success of the Anniversary preamplifier the company has taken its phono preamp to the ultimate by placing the power supply in a separate chassis and reaping what David ?? calls an "enormous performance improvement". It has an LCD display with which you can name inputs, three varieties of equalisation (RIAA, Columbia and Decca), five standard impedance loads plus custom options and low and high gain. It can also display how many hours the four 6H30 tubes in the gain stage have been run for,  the power supply runs a pair of 6550 regulator tubes.
Audio Research also showed a  new integrated amplifier called VSi75 which runs KT120 tubes in push-pull, this model is based on a VSi60 but has double the power supply and includes transformers from the Reference 75. It has an LCD display with a tube biasing facility and a metal remote handset for a grand total of $8,000.

 

 

PMC fact.12
PMC have been making no secret of the arrival of a bigger fact model at Munich and they did not disappoint. The three-way, fact.12 looks similar to fact.8 at a glance but that's because it has the same narrow but deep proportions, look a little closer and you can see a dome midrange and that the cabinet is both taller and deeper.  All the drivers save the tweeter are unique to this model, the 140mm bass units have coated alloy cones, (the first PMC to do so) while the 50mm soft dome is based on the 75mm unit found in the company's pro models. This is also the first PMC to benefit from work with the National Physical Laboratory in the UK whose laser measurement techniques were used in the design of cabinets, drivers and crossover.
Both René and myself got to hear this speaker and we're both desperate to get a pair at home as a result. The price by the way is £11,995.

 

 

Atlas Cables EOS
Atlas has added a modular power distribution block to its range with a name that will be familiar to Canon SLR users. EOS is a four way block that can combine filtered and unfiltered outlets in any combination. The rational behind the custom aspect is that high power devices like amplifiers are better served by unfiltered power whilst source and preamp components benefit from filtering (if it's done right). It's star wired and each outlet is separately connected, price starts at £295 for an unfiltered block.

 

Pagani Huayra Sonus faber
There were a number of cars dotted around the High End but the Pagani was undoubtedly the most dramatic. It had been fitted with a Sonus faber sound system whose subtleties were probably easier to appreciate here than on the autobahn!

 

Sonus faber Olympica
Sonus faber has pulled out all the stops to make the Olympica range extremely desirable, and it has not failed. Sitting above the Venere models introduced in January and looking likely to replace a swathe of older models. The range consists of the bookshelf Olympica I, floorstanding Olympica II and larger floorstander Olympica III, all three share solid walnut construction with a distinctive vertical reflex port at the rear. The top is inlaid with stitched leather and the grilles are vertical elastic cords in the classic Sf style, even the stand for the bookshelf has this feature. The tweeter is a 29mm damped apex dome (DAD) with an 'Arrow Point' phase corrector, midrange is covered by a 150mm (6inch) with an "eddy current free" voice coil on a natural fibre cone, bass meanwhile is handled by a descendent of the driver used in the Sonus faber Aida, this has a sandwich cone with a cellulose pulp exterior backed by a syntactic foam. Pricing has yet to be announced.

 

 

DALI Fazon F5 custom
DALI challenged convention by taking an affordable loudspeaker to Munich, Zensor 3 is a £300 standmount with a seven inch mid/bass driver. This gives it more welly (power) than the Zensor 1 and possibly more than most of the competition which rarely has anything bigger than a 6.5inch main driver. It has a lacuered fascia too which looks pretty smart for the money.
DALI has also celebrated its 30th anniversary by getting a polish artist to airbrush 200 pairs of its Fazon F5. Each pair is unique and carries a £700 premium over the standard model. Some are of questionable taste but at least one pair seemed an improvement on the original, unfortunately it slipped out of shot!

 

Naim UnitiQute 2
Naim has updated its most compact all-in-one player the UnitiQute by refining the grounding on the main circuit board, a change that is so significant that it warrants a 2 in its name but not change in price. That's not all, this unit and all the HD streamers will be getting a software update in June that will brings two useful features, Seek2Time means you can go straight to any point within a track, and multiroom party mode allows up to five Naim streamers to be synced to a master unit, very handy if you have players in adjoining rooms. These features come under the 1.7 upgrade that arrives at the same time for Naim rippers and means that both FLAC and MP3 (320kbps) format rips can be created rather than WAV only as is currently the case. The company also launched Naim Radio, a web station that will focus on Naim Label releases as well as podcasts. It will undoubtedly feature the twelve 24/192 Super High Definition releases that are slated for a June release.

 

Tangent Classic
This Danish beauty gets my vote for most domestically acceptable piece at the High End. It's real walnut veneer and oval shape conceal a five inch woofer and a pair of tweeters with a 40 watt/channel amp. Designed to be used with smartphones it has a receiver for Bluetooth aptX plus USB and minijack connections, control is via remote and the price a very tempting €500.