The Hi-End Audio show in Munich lived up to its name yet again this year. There is not another event in the world that pulls together such an array of exotic and bewildering audio based products as this one, and it did not disappoint.
While most of the well known manufacturers were represented (there were over 500 exhibitors and 1,000’s of brands on display) there was a considerable number of new companies on show, some that are destined to become well known brands of the future, while unfortunately I am sure others will simply disappear.
As to be expected turntables were everywhere – and the bigger, and the more expensive, the better. Turntables that would sell for $100k+ in Australia were commonplace, while one had an asking price of €270,000 – and I believe they have sold a number of units.
Again as expected digital music was also widely used. The most dominant software product at the show, by a country mile, was Roon. Everywhere companies were proudly displaying the fact that they are ‘Roon ready’ or those in the process of incorporating Roon had signs up stating they were ‘Roon tested’.
The other source that continues to grow in popularity is Reel-to Reel. More companies were using this format as a source than ever before, and the number of companies selling pre-recorded tapes has doubled since I last visited. These tapes are taken directly from the master tapes, and the sound quality is superb. They are also expensive! Watch this space, we have a very good condition Revox B77 here that we intend converting to 1/2 track to use in the showroom – just for fun.
Valves were also omnipresent, in fact I thought there were almost as many valve amplifiers on display as there were solid state. There was also a considerable number of people showing horn loudspeakers (of all shapes and sizes).
One thing that was obvious is that for a number of exhibitors the driving force was solely performance.
While this is obviously a good thing many have little regard for realities of the market place. This was particularly true of speaker manufacturers. While some of the best sounds I heard at the show, and there was a number of very good sounding rooms, came from new and unknown (to me at least) companies, many designs would hold absolutely no visual appeal to most home owners. Some of these designs had absolutely no chance of gracing the average living room!
It was great to see Melbourne company SRG at the show. While they are not the first Australian company to exhibit in Munich I understand they are the first to exhibit in the Atrium section, which is where all the action was taking place. Part of their display was their newly re-vamped range of HIFI racks. It has taken them a long time to get this range get together, but it has been worth it, these are some of the finest audio racks in the world. While some models may appear to be expensive, they outclass many racks that cost a lot more. Truely world class, and something that you will see in our rooms very soon.
I came away with two very positive impressions from the show:
While many of the products on display were bigger, better, wackier and very expensive they all represented a considerable investment by the companies concerned. These companies, and there was a lot of them, obviously considered that the investment was financially viable, and redeemable. It was also very encouraging to see the number of people who turned up to the show, the last three days were open to the public. The venue was very large, over three floors, and it was packed, at some stages uncomfortably so.
This highlights a continued, and growing, interest in our industry.