Headlines – Winter 2016

From the desk of Len Wallis

T he High End show in Munich has come and gone again for this year. This show has firmly established itself as the most important Hi-Fi show in the world. It is a large facility, with over 500 exhibits, many showcasing numerous brands.

The main difference between this show and other large shows such as CES is that it is dedicated purely to Hi-Fi. Home Theatre, Custom Installation and car stereo products are almost nonexistent. It really shows the scope of this industry: it takes a couple of days to get around all the rooms (and even then many of the rooms only get a cursory glance), it is extremely busy – and then you realise that there are still a considerable number of major manufacturers who are not exhibiting.

Once you get through looking at the brands and products that are relevant to us, it is fun to check out the weird, the wonderful, and the completely over the top – and there is plenty on show. This industry attracts a hard core of extremely passionate designer/manufacturers whose end goal is to wring the last ounce of performance out of their product – at any cost. The Acoustical Systems Apolyt turntable (below) is one product that caught my eye. It weights 380kg, is delivered in seven roadcases, and would cost in excess of $500,000 in Australia. Having initially dismissed it as a marketing folly I was surprised to learn that they had sold seven units – and that was prior to the show!

One company that was not at the show (I understand the decision to exhibit was made late, only to find that the show was sold out) was Bowers & Wilkins, but they did take the opportunity to secure space in a downtown hotel where they formally released their flagship ‘D3’ speaker, the 800 D3 (see overleaf on page 7 for details of our very own release night). The engineering behind this speaker, and the entire D3 range, is extraordinary. I have no doubt that this speaker, like the rest of the D3 series, will be a big success. It brought home to me what a disadvantage any budding speaker designer is at today when the resources that a company like B&W has to allocate to a project like this are vast, and impossible to duplicate on a limited budget.

The show proved that this industry is alive, growing, and still in the process of great change. I heard some great sounds (and some pretty poor ones) and came across many brands that I was not familiar with.