High End on Tour, Dortmund

The German High End Society organises the High End Show in Munich and spin-off local shows various towns in Germany. We visited one in Dortmund, not too far away from the Dutch border, to see what is on offer at the mini High End Show called High End on Tour. The show is held in a congress and education centre with decent rooms, well isolated from neighbour stand holders, although still not optimal for listening. But you get a good impression what to expect at home.

Hannl is well known in Germany for making luxury record cleaning machines. They not only look expensive, they work more quietly than any other machine I have seen, albeit at a price of €2,000 or more.

Interesting new product from Supra is the Quadrax loudspeaker cable, with 4 x 2.0 mm2 conductors and CombiCon connectors at both ends. Available lengths for bi-wire, bi-amp and standard are 2, 3 and 4 meters. Pity it was on display only.

Phonosophie once used to be the German distributor of Naim, but turned into a manufacturing company with products just like Naim. Years later they engineer the products instead of copying them and we came across a power supply with an enormous transformer inside. Since it has to fit in the pizza box it’s really flat.

One of the most elegant turntables is the Bergmann with its tangential, air bearing tone arm. A constant flow of air eliminates friction in the vertical and horizontal planes. The platter is also on an air bearing from a compressor. Cost is €8,700.

A stack of iFi products in a small rack (below left). New is the iTube preamp, it would look awfully nice on your desk.

The Klipsch Heresy III (above right) is a high end bargain at €750 per channel. This horn speaker colours the sound and is far from perfect but gives you a good impression of a live concert. The three-way system is based or the original Heresy, improved with the use of better filters and modern cone material, although some say only the original is the true Klipsch.

 

One of the most beautiful products was the Viola Audio Laboratories Crescendo preamp and Concerto stereo power amplifier, €22,500 each. The distributor used a Metrum Hex DAC and Brodmann Acoustics VC7 loudspeakers.

At Raimyo and Harmonix I always wonder what is more expensive? The electronics or the accessories they put the electronics on?

One of the runners up for best sound was Martin Logan and McIntosh. Even the music they played was a fine choice of classical pieces and popular music. Bass was firm from the two subwoofers behind the electrostatics but not too much. An example of how a demo should be run.

How about some Dali F5 loudspeakers painted lik a flower (below). I wonder if they really sell them this way in Germany.

More interesting is the Zero 1 speaker from AvantGarde (above right). This active box includes horns for the middle and high frequencies. Three amplifiers inside combined with a DAC and electronic crossovers.  The DAC has five inputs while an analogue input is an optional extra.

Best sound of the show was from MSB electronics and Eventus loudspeakers. A costly setup with their Signature DAC IV Plus, Universal Media Transport and Signature Power Base, while music was stored on a media centre called The Beast. It looks that way too and runs on Linux software. Inside regular hard disks and a pair of solid state disks to buffer the data stream. A pair of MSB M203 monoblocks produced enough power to keep the Eventus speakers alive. Any piece of music played came with a great stereo image, fine soundstage, utter detail and always sounded like music, it was not too technical or clinical. I enjoyed this room longer than anywhere else.

This time a nice looking Acoustic Wood record player from Acoustic Solid. In Munich we have seen examples with gemstones, this model would fit in any decent system and will make you very happy. Acoustic Solid used their tonearm and loaded the headshell with an Ortofon MC30. Its bigger chrome brother gives a more Teutonic impression although you might find it a little over the top.

The last room we entered was filled with a crowd and a lot of Backes und Muller motional feedback loudspeakers. B&M run their own line of electronics but are most famous for the MFB principle they have used for over 40 years. Compared to MSB/Eventus they lack ultimate precision and some detail, but they sound a bit more involving and less obtrusive. When they started playing Keith Don’t Go by Nils Lofgren we left the room. It was the fifth room playing that song, even in the Netherlands we have stopped playing that track and we feel happy that Keith finally left us.

Outside the building Bratwurst came fresh from the barbeque. Of course, in Germany you need to eat Bratwurst and drink some beer, it was a good end to our Dortmund trip. We will visit the real High End Show in Munich next year, High End on Tour is nice, but we had hoped for more real high end audio from German companies. Like Burmester, AvantGarde, Transrotor maybe and all the others that produce excellent stuff in chrome, stone, wood or any other material you can think of.
René van Es