7 weird and wonderful pieces of hi-fi we saw at High End Munich 2024

IWoost Mercedes AMG Mercedes grille speaker
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The main point of High End Munich is to showcase the best and boldest designs that the hi-fi world has to offer, along with several launches to indicate a brand's future trajectory. Brands big and small compete for the attentions and affections of punters from across the globe, who drawn into the Event Center Messe Munich's orbit by the pull of the very best in the hi-fi and audio business on display.

What also draws punters and brands in, respectively, is the chance to glimpse at or exhibit some of the strangest, most outlandish and downright daring designs currently being cooked up inside the research and development rooms and brilliant engineering minds from across the globe. From massive horns to supercharged speakers and a modular amp called Suzi, this is the weirdest and most wonderful hi-fi kit that the 2024 Munich show had to offer. 

IXoost car component speakers 

"The sound of a 12-cylinder engine must be listened to as if it were a symphony" is the quotation from legendary automotive titan Enzo Ferrari that takes pride of place on iXoost's rather dazzling website. The Italian brand may have taken the quote slightly too literally though, as they've decided that the best way of making speakers is to reappropriate elements of luxury motors in a bid to blend style, speed and sound in some of the most stunning packages we saw across this year's expo.

Highlights of the display included a circular wireless speaker made using a Pirelli tyre, a rather awesome repurposed pair of original Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica exhausts plus hexagonal carbon fibre grille and, perhaps most eye-popping of all, a £30,000 speaker which uses the front panel of a Mercedes AMG performance car to quite dazzling visual effect.

Oh, and if you want something more portable, they also make Bluetooth speakers out of racing helmets. It's the ideal gift for the man who'll buy anything!

Chord Suzi modular amplifier

We were absolutely fascinated by the rather sweetly named Chord Suzi concept when it (or perhaps she) was teased in the lead up to the show, and that interest hasn't diminished after having seen the ingenious module showcased at this year's High End Munich expo. 

The above pictures will give you a great sense of what the Suzi is and does, but to put it in plain English, it's a preamplifier and power amplifier system that uses Ultima-derived technology (see the brand's flagship Ultima Pre 3/Ultima 6) and is the size of a chunky paperback book.

Here's the clever bit. If you want to add digital and streaming capabilities to the analogue Suzi system, you can combine them with the Award-winning Chord Hugo 2 DAC and/or the 2go streamer thanks to Suzi's modular designs. It all fits together like Lego, albeit a smidge more expensive and a lot more impressive. We imagine it will deliver a pretty decent sound too, knowing Chord's pedigree.

ESD Cranes horn loudspeakers

ESD Crane loudspeakers

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

If there was one brand at High End Munich that stood out for sheer off-the-wall levels of lunacy, it has to be ESD, and while we'll get to their whopping Super Dragon setup later down the list, be warned that these aren't even close to the strangest-looking speakers the Chinese brand makes.

They are certainly odd, though, with some of our team comparing them to something from a Looney Tunes cartoon thanks to that huge, all-consuming horn tweeter. They sounded rather nice, though, and with a precision-machined aluminium cabinet combined with foiled beryllium diaphragms, the Cranes might be far more serious propositions than their rather goofy looks suggest.

Line Magnetic valve amplifiers

There's nothing like a good valve amplifier to whet an audiophile's appetite. If you're into this sort of thing (and many people are), that sort of industrial, almost steampunk aesthetic that you get from a proper vacuum system draws the eye like little else. We saw quite a few of them at the show, including some rather snazzy multi-coloured examples from lesser-known Greek brand Hart, but these Line Magnetic dazzlers really caught our eye. 

Line Magnetic was showcasing a number of valve models at this year's event, including the handsome LM-845 Premium unit and the equally attractive LM-805IA integrated amp, both of which looked resplendent in their glossy piano-black finishes.

Stein Music TopLine Bob L floorstanders

Ridiculously oversized horn drivers were very much the thing at High End Munich 2024, and while the Stein Music TopLine Bob L's jumbo rims were miraculously beaten for size by some of the truly mammoth offerings at this year's event (hello to Avant Garde and Aeris Cerat), few were as eye-catching or as colourful. 

Resplendent in what we're going to term 'toffee apple red', those mammoth circular horns do rather draw the eye, but if you can move past what appear to be two King Kong-sized doughnuts, each speaker packs an integrated, DSP-controlled active subwoofer alongside 1500 watts of amplifier power. Oh, and they'll likely set you back around $200,000 if you're willing to splash out on a pair of floorstanders that could clash with the decor in your front room. Unless you have the perfectly decorated front room to match, of course.

ESD Super Dragon horn loudspeakers  

This one's a biggie, and we don't just mean in terms of size. 

Accompanied by a small arsenal of amplification units and an array of smaller floorstanders, the colossal ESD Super Dragon speakers were assuredly one of Munich's highlights for anyone who delights in big horns at prices that make your eyes bleed. Retailing at a cool €811,111, the gargantuan Super Dragons are aptly named in that not only are truly terrifying to behold, they'll burn a hole through your savings quicker than Smaug eviscerating his entire hoard of golden treasure.

They certainly went loud and proud, although a rather odd version of the German national anthem, revamped with lyrics that would make a Eurovision contestant cringe, didn't necessarily make us hungry to hear more. Maybe some Imagine Dragons would have been more appropriate.

Metaxas & Sins Papillon reel-to-reel tape deck

While sound is paramount, we have absolutely no problem with audio brands choosing to prioritise style as much as, perhaps more, than substance. Hundreds of manufacturers are pursuing the best sound possible from carefully constructed cabinets and exquisitely engineered drive units and circuits, so it's nice to see a brand throw every sensible engineering manual out the window and just do something crazy.

And boy has Metaxas & Sins gone down that road. Melding bizarre designs with fully functioning hi-fi functionality, we can't think of anything that even came close to the Netherlands-based brand's utterly bewildering array of demo models. From the intricate mechanical ridiculousness of that yellow Papillon reel-to-reel tape player to the handsomely garish Opus preamp, it was enough to give a person a migraine, albeit in a rather charming way.


High End Munich 2024 news and highlights: Focal, Pro-Ject, Chord and more

7 of the best stereo speakers at High End Munich 2024

Our pick of the best stereo speakers you can buy

PMC built an 11.1.6 Dolby Atmos Music system worth €300,000 – and now I'm conflicted

We had a chance to get a hands-on review of the Focal Hadenys at Munich 2024 

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.