MUNICH HIGH END SHOW: Hot stuff and cool streams

Just about every manufacturer coming to Munich hoped to set the show alight with its new products, but it seems one took the task rather too literally.

This is what greeted us on arrival on Saturday morning...

The street was lined with the local fire engines, with more still arriving, which is never a good sign at a hi-fi show.

On the show floor the talk was of an amplifier, left on overnight, having 'gone Vesuvius' (to quote one exhibitor barely stifling her smile), and when the show was reopened and we got upstairs to the scene of the incident, it was clear it had done so in a big way.

This is the cordoned-off room – formerly shared by unfortunate exhibitor Jean Hiraga (French-based manufacturer and critic), Audio Consulting and Hanss Acoustics – with the smell of burning still in the air and the entrance covered where the fire brigade had gone straight through the plate glass window.

Hoping sales will go through the roof is one thing: having several components attempt to do so is another...

Anyway, back to the happier stuff, and streaming and docking were much in evidence at the show.

This is the very pretty little Phiaton iPod dock from Korean company Cresyn, which was also showing some very slick headphones.

On the subject of neat, here's the compact Music Streamer from US company High Resolution Technologies. As with the Phiaton, a revew sample should be on the way soon.

Hong Kong-based Trends Audio, maker of tiny DACs and amps, was showing this cute little valve preamp/headphone amp, but not every system designed for computer-stored music was as compact.

This is the front end of the set-up being run by Ballmann Electronica under its Behold brand:

It combines preamp, storage and USB inputs, and feeds through to this massive amplification and speakers set-up.

Not exactly desktop, then...

Several companies were using the new Amarra Computer Music Player software add-on for iTunes: this package, from Sonic Studio, allows the playback of music right up to 192kHz, and delivers high-quality equalisation as well as seamless integration of smaple rates and formats.

It was being used in the Thorens demonstration room by Karl-Heinz Fink, who offered us the chance to compare the sound direct from his Mac laptop or through the Logitech Transporter digital music player, both running into the Weiss Minerva firewire DAC, and on to a Thorens amplification and the speakers.

One in the eye for the 'digits is digits' brigade; the different transmission methods delivered different results. Mind you, then K-H played the same tracks from LP, and it all went wrong: all present preferred the LP, and by some margin.

The most enjoyable sound at the show? To these ears it was one of the simpler systems on display: the KI Pearls from Marantz, demonstrated with the usual flair by Ken Ishiwata.

Through meticulous set-up, KI usually manages to get the awkward rooms sounding as good as possible. That was certainly the case this year.

And the maddest product at the show? Without a doubt this Horo turntable from Italy.

Dedicated to pianist Bill Evans, it's notable for its piano-shaped main plinth, but that amazing arm, based on a violin bow, is what really got most showgoers goggling...

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.