Munich High-end 2019 Show Report in 24x96 Videos with Commentary

I will include the summary, as posted on our blog, then I want to talk about each room, video by video, and what it was like there, going into a lot more detail than we did in our general show report.

This was an unbelievable experience. We are still fresh from the shock of the size and intensity of Munich. Hopefully I will be able to convey some of this here and describe what it was like so that those of you haven't gone can understand what it is like - because it is not at all what we expected from all the show reports and videos we have watched over the years.

And because we were so overwhelmed, this is the first show report in over a decade where I did not get to something like 98% of the rooms for the show report. In that sense I was totally unprepared for the scale of this thing. 2600 photos taken [more to be posted over on Ultimist Munich High-end 2019 show report in photos] and I still feel like it is a slap-dash, minimal overview of the darn thing.

I did get to record video for about 70 rooms, of which about 30 were also recorded in high resolution audio. The playlists are here:

Munich High-end 2019 in 24 bit 96 kHz videos

Munich High-end 2019 videos

The Shows

First, there are two shows: one is about 26 rooms in a Marriott hotel: the HiFi Deluxe show. This last is a pretty standard hotel-based show. The prices for the exhibitors are not much better here than the quite expensive rooms at the main conference. Exhibitors show here because they hope for better sound and less hubbub. It is about a 12 minute taxi ride or a one hour walk from the MOC [using Google Maps to help navigate a long walk through Munich along intersecting and forked bike paths, through business parks and around the back of office buildings and cutting though the rear exit of a hotel with the GPS-driven navigation working like a "you're getting warmer, you're getting colder" sibling who doesn't like you very much].

The other is in the big conference center - universally called The M.O.C. This show is about 3 to 4 times bigger than what the high-performance audio portion of CES ever was during its glory days. A rough guess would put it at about 500-600 rooms and exhibits [CES got close to 200 rooms plus Richard Beers' simultaneous THE Show, which had about 20-40 if I remember correctly]. And it was <em>Packed</em> with people. Even on Industry/Press day, it was crowded [presumably some enthusiasts also manage to get an extra day to do their shopping]. And when I say 'crowded' this is not like Las Vegas Venetian Hotel crowded where the narrow hallways used to be difficult to navigate at full speed because people were standing around chatting and hotel rooms were crowded because they only had seating for 6, leaving people standing. Nope. These are wide hallways at 10 to 20 feet wide and rooms that seat 20 or more.

You would think that the high-end audio business is actually doing quite well if you used this show to judge it by. [And maybe it is... just not in the U.S. yet.]


The MOC is divided up into two main areas: 1) exhibits and manufactured enclosed rooms in four Giant [as in very, very large] Halls, that are more or less are side-by-side (as an example from our videos: Aries Cerat was a room constructed in the middle of one of the halls on the main floor, Mag-Lev was an exhibit on the main floor). 2) Plus 1.5 two story atriums with a double ring of rooms around the periphery (most of the higher-price rooms were here) [plus some extra large rooms tacked on nearby, like the Silbatone + Western Electric horn and Kawero + Kondo rooms].

Atriums 4.1 and 4.2 were where most of the action was. 4.1 is above.

Atrium 4.2. Please note that the labels here on these graphics reflect only a small portion of the rooms that were willing to pay for such labels.

Although the rooms at the Marriott are no doubt constructed better than the makeshift rooms at the MOC, for my purposes the rooms at the MOC worked fine. Although there was sometimes [rarely] bleed through of sound from a nearby room [most notably in the TechDAS Zero/Vivid/CH room] there are usually so many people coming and going and talking that there is always going to be a high noise floor anyway [except in the TechDAS Zero room as people tried to listen carefully to ascertain the ultimate quality of the table]. And as for the compliant artificial walls and their propensity at absorbing bass and other frequencies: I didn't find it a problem. And, again, all the people in the smaller rooms at the Marriott had some human bodies absorbing sound anyway [and Audio Note had fixed curtains in just one corner, which also didn't help matters, for example].

Comparing the overall sound quality here to CES in its glory days... even though we are getting pickier about what we consider high-quality these days, Munich clearly had better overall sound quality. And fewer rooms played overly simple 'audiophile music'.

However, although the bar was raised on the general quality of sound for most rooms when comparing them to a U.S. show, there were few actual 'standout' OMG rooms. But the fact that there were just so darn many rooms, and hidden rooms in the back of exhibits all over the giant main halls, that it is easy for a treasure-hunt mentality to kick in, making this one hell of a blast of a show to attend!
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Likes: ddk

This was the first room we visited on the last, fourth, day of the show. Neli and Florian, a German native (convenient when in Germany, no?) who is an audiophile who lived in Las Vegas at one time and joined us at many CES's and I kind of stumbled by this room, hidden in the corner in one of the hallways away from the main atrium hallways.

For those that have been to shows, you probably know what this is like, but to open a door and find a huge room on the other side with a bunch of people listening to a couple of pairs of giant horn speakers driven by $$$$ electronics - it is such a OMG rush. Soon followed by the practical problem of search the room for the best seat available and making judgements like... is the front row too nearfield? or even...will sitting in the front row kill me? Should I just stand in the back a bit and scope this out first?

In this case I think we did everything, standing in the back a bit, then Florian and Neli found a centrally located pair of seats and I took photos and video. I later sat in the sweet spot center row to record the audio, and they joined me there [the front row being sufficiently far away from the speakers].

We regretted that we only got to hear the one pair of speakers [as discussed in the video] and subwoofer. It would have been fun to hear both sets of speakers back-to-back to hear how differently they sounded.

The sound was very dynamic and open, as you might expect, but with kind of low, pre-audiophile revolution, resolution - also as expected. They played great music, some of which was blocked on YouTube in every country in the world [a woman-led Reggae band whose name I forget]. The energy here I felt was very "This is awesome gear from yesteryear that we just had to share with everyone". I do feel that not all progress in audio land is ... uh... in the forward direction and systems like this remind one to take a step back and see how much we might have regressed in some areas.

This Cessaro Horn room was the room we were originally looking for when we, fortunately(!), stumbled into the Western Electric horn + Silbatone room. We arrived here soon after that experience.

It was perhaps unfortunate for our Cessaro experience that we had just heard the big Western Electric's. We were expecting big open horn sound here too [these ARE big horns and that IS a giant bass horn there between the speakers being the rack. Now I have to wonder about putting the gear in front of the 'subwoofer' like that]. But instead it did not sound big and open like the Western Electric speakers, which our brains no doubt, unwittingly, compared the sound here with.

Neli had also built up some suspense for me here, as she had found this room the first day, and later she told me the room number, but the WRONG room number, as it turned out [Yes, dear. You did]. For several days whenever I looked for it I could not find it - very frustrating. And I did not stumble across it accidentally either, which is strange, but not unheard of in such a large show like this.

The sound in this room did not sound necessarily analog-like and engaging and inviting, which I expected from the amps, until my show mates pointed out that, silly me, these amps only LOOK like Kondo amplifiers [to me anyway!], but are instead Cessaro-brand amplifiers.

We have a lot of respect for the Cessaro Horn speakers, being the owners and admirers of horn speakers that we are, but none of us were overjoyed by the sound here.

There isn't any music associated with this video, but these kind of static displays are awesome fun - or at least I think they are. There are two other videos like this: for the Acoustic Signature display and Mag Lev turntable display [there is also one of the Dr. Feickert turntable display somewhere...].

But back to this Transrotor turntable display. I find these tables to be very attractive, and this display seems to have them all [I THINK this is all of them]. Having them assembled like this for us to look at up close is awesome, especially after seeing onesy twosies at shows most of the time [though Arturo used to bring a dozen or so to CES back in the day]. I felt like a child entering a candy store for the first time ever playing Eeny Meeny.

I took two rounds of photographs here [until my battery died] then came back the next day and took this video [while Florian and Neli were getting water at the $ cafeteria]. Lucky me, lucky many of us, they had these little one ounce cups of lemon + cucumber water or something that tasted like absolute heaven after hours of all that listening and then all that talking about what we had just heard [and the inevitable "where should we go next?" conversations that sometimes take longer than one would think would be optimal in a time-pressure situation like this].

Several hours had now passed since the Western Electric horn experience. Please realize that we, like many no doubt, step into many rooms where it is like "Let's check this out.... uh... ah..... ew...... Nope" and on to the next [actually, that is me, because for the many show reports I am used to hearing all of the rooms, good and bad, but Neli is more like... "Get me the F out of here! Mike, what were you thinking?" in that "husband, you suck." tone of voice, IF you know what I mean... and Florian just kinds of screws up his face and looks at me like "Really? What is WRONG with you, Mike? Is this the sound you REALLY wanted me to hear? Do I even know you anymore?". Yeah, very expressive face, huh? :)]

A.n.y.w.a.y... I exaggerate. But THEY weren't going to be interested in this display of awesome industrial design in the service of high-quality analog playback... but I thought it rocked.
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We visited the Aries Cerat room twice, Neli and I on the first day and Neli, Florian and I on the last day. It was dark in this room, and the low-light performance of the video camera [while recording video] is not world-beating.

We were really curious about this room. I've seen them at shows a few times, but they didn't stand out for me. But they kept popping up on our radar [especially here on WBF!] and really wanted a closer listen. Their DACs and gear is really pricey - is it really competitive with the pricey gear we are more familiar with? Audiophile minds want to know.

In some rooms the digital and analog are pretty close in quality and others the analog playback sounds significantly better - which was the case here. My takeaway was that we didn't really get to hear their digital they way optimally configured, maybe the Fremer demos messed it up :) [check out his Munich video, the overflow video I think].

Each channel has a three-story amp, whose faceplate design pattern seems to indicate that they were made to stack this way. Definitely not something one sees everyday [or ever]. Very impressive. Looks expensive [unlike some gear we know and love :)]. Depending on your spouse and how much they approve of your spending habits and general lifestyle-aesthetic, this is a good or bad thing. Then again, their speakers have a different, 'form in the service of function', look. YMMW but isn't this whole train of thought interesting? It is awesome when the function and beauty come together, but not all of us can be Jony Ive [Apple's famous Chief Design Officer].

They tended to play loud here, especially the last day, sometimes too loud even for Neli. Too loud means, for me, that some frequencies can start to be over-emphasized and the sound starts interacting with the room in a very serious way. Here, one track in particular, the flamenco music's tap dancing was very impressive but divorced from the rest of the music.

Anyway, I came away with having some respect for the speakers here. Dynamic [like we like it] and pretty well integrated and even top to bottom, with little coloration.

The sound here in general was very walking that very thin line between being musical [engaging and emotional] and being analytical [just the facts Jack]. Certainly very clean and open sounding. I presume this is the Aries Cerat family sound [?]. Lampizator being more musical. Ypsilon being more neutral with less detail. Kondo being more musical with less detail. [as we survey the manufactures who are rumored to be basing their designs on the Audio Note approach, which itself is more musical and more detailed, using a broad brush here in these descriptions, BTW].

People seem to like the video recordings of this room and the quality of the audio we recorded quite a bit.

I stumbled across the room with the $300K? TechDAS ZERO turntable on the first or second day, but it had a tarp over it. I thought "Oh no! Something went wrong [shipping or whatever] and I wasn't going to get to hear it. But I needed to change a camera battery, so I sat in the near empty room and listened to the CH Precision electronics and Vivid speakers for awhile and just kind of relaxed from the chaos and hubbub out in the hallways and in some of the more popular rooms I had been recording.

Later, I came back and I was so happy that the tarp was off and I could get pictures and video of the table. But, still, they were not playing it. Life was still not as fine as it could be.

Imagine my delight when I peeked in on the last day and saw a crowd of people, many standing up pressed against the rear listening intently. I exchanged places with someone who was leaving and saw that, yes, they were giving a formal demonstration of the table. After rousting up Neli and Florian, we came back and spent some time here.

There was apparently some confusion about when the video of the table was taken and when the audio recording of the table was made. I try to make the recordings from as close as possible to the sweet spot, for obvious reasons. And, in this room, getting close to the table while it was playing is hilariously impossible. There are just too many people crowded around, most intently trying to hear what the table sounds like. Anyway, I made a value judgement that an audio recording was more important than video of the spinning LP. As it was I was in the back / rear rows, and there was a bit of live human sound dampening going on. But I still think a person can determine quite a bit about the sound of the table.

As I wrote elsewhere, the difference between the CH Precision digital and the ZERO-driven analog sound was pretty significant - obviously - but by any measure the amount of information retrieval by the ZERO is outstanding. As for ultimate quality of dynamics, harmonic color, intrinsic separation - these all need to be determined on a different day on a different system. I can say that the ZERO turned a middling system into one of the better systems at the show, one of the first times I personally experienced a source turning a sows ear into a silk purse [i.e. that the source made such a difference that I can understand why some people think the source is the most important component. Me? I think the most important thing to get right is the speaker / amplifier marriage. But a kicka** source sure helps! :).]

This room was one of those special moments where a group of people in one's vicinity are all very intently focused on the same thing. Pretty cool.


Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
Pleasanton, CA
I think your recording technique is working pretty well. I have no idea what resolution the YouTube video is playing, but I can hear transients and actual dynamic range in there, with some impressive bass notes coming through my headphones. I was kind of startled because the voices in the room made me think somebody might actually be around me because they made me take off the headphones to be sure.

I have no illusion it represents the actual experience, but to hear more enhanced dynamics, transients and bass in a YouTube video is a step up.
Thanks, cjfrbw. Much appreciated.

I hear the same things you do. And, yeah, Neli's voice is on a couple of the videos and I actually stopped the video and spent several minutes [literally] looking for her throughout the house to see what she wanted. I then looked outside to see if she had just left. Couldn't find her anywhere. Boy did I feel stupid [and this happened to me twice! :)] but also impressed by the fidelity as well.

Adobe Premiere says it renders the audio in the video at 48000 Hz, the max setting it has for this codec that is used by YouTube.

Some of the videos come pretty close to the fidelity of the original wav file. Others, like Radiohead's Kid A [recorded off the Acapella Sphaeron speakers after Munich....and which YouTube blocked] the video is grossly inferior [perhaps because it is one of the more complex pieces of music that was recorded?]. I would like to share the .wav files of the original recordings but have not found a way to do so without violating copyright laws.

We are now going to circle back to day one. I was circumnavigating HALL 1, doing the outside of the hall first [and it was taking forever, starting to panic...] , and then intending on spiraling in. But then Neli joined me [which is awesome, this is the first show in 10 years that I remember us just being able to go listen to rooms together].

As I remember it she had found TriangleArt while she was looking for me in the corner of the Hall that I had texted her I was waiting at. Well, I was wrong about which corner of the Hall I was in [oops :oops:] and so we agreed to meet outside the Hall in the hallway [which also took an inordinate amount of time, the Hall was crowded, even on Press day, and the Hall had many doors to the hallway. Which one had SHE exited by?.].

Found her. OK. So Neli, she had no intention of wasting time looking at things that are merely "interesting" [even though my boring methodical navigation did have me discover where Levin was location, and we now carry their marvelous outstanding and very, very nice record cleaning brushes :D. Neli just loves these.]. Dodging boring exhibits by method of random walk does not to me seem optimal, but it has certainly been around for 1000s of years and it can be quite enjoyable... the Hunt!.... so we took a beeline across the chaos of the center of the Hall angling kind of in the direction of TriangleArt, running into Aries Cerat on the way [where we stopped in to listen for several minutes, see other video and recordings].

We have been looking at being TriangleArt's U.S. distributor. Yes, they are based in L.A. but they are very busy and wanted to offload some of the work of managing their relationships with U.S. dealerships. Did you know that very attractive turntables, like attractive humans, don't get a lot of respect? It is OK to be an amplifier, or CD player or speaker and be attractive and no one then assumes that they are "all about looks". But turntables? I can name several brands who do not get a lot of respect just because they look beautiful. In any case, that is true for TriangleArt, and we have been trying to find ways to help put this stereotype to rest.

TriangleArt tables have excellent bass authority, are very pure with high, but non-intrusive resolution - and we wanted to hear their room to see if we could learn more about their sound and how they like to present their gear [and not just turntables, their big 350 watt amps are the best sounding big tube amps we have ever heard].

But, nooooooo. Tom likes to play Jacintha a lot at shows. Maybe other people can hear her songs and determine the quality of the sound of a system, but... I mean, it sounds good, real good. But she ALWAYS sounds good [I guess if it sounded bad that would tell us something!].

Glad YouTube did not block the video for copyright reasons! [most of these videos get dinged for copyright infringement but mostly we just give up rights to the income generated from the ofttimes mandatory ads. But a special few musicians [LOO-ZERS] do get blocked.]

Anyway, nice visit here. Made the video and recording. On with the hunt for fun things to listen to...
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After our visit to TriangleArt we quickly made our way to the Atrium and the 'better, high-end rooms'. The first floor must cost more, because it was mostly companies who traditionally spend more money on marketing - we see a lot of them in Stereophile etc. and at lots of shows. We decided to go check out the 2nd and 3rd floors first.

I think Neli opted to skip this Magico + Soulution room but I found it interesting enough to record it.

For one, systems like this are, what I think we might all agree, very neutral sounding. Neli and I, in fact, would say "overly neutral" and the sound is all Mind and no Heart - very little emotion or engagement. Would this show up in a high-quality recording so people could hear the difference between this and a system on the opposite end of the spectrum? [of which there were none at this show. Correct me if you disagree, but I think there were no systems that had more Heart than Mind and Audio Note in their relatively tiny room at HiFi Deluxe came closest at about a 50-50 split.].

Secondly, this room, for what it was, sounded pretty darn good. Maybe it was the width of these larger rooms which minimized sidewall reflections. Maybe it is because - as much as it makes no sense to me - manufacturers seem to be absolutely unable to set up their own speakers optimally and with the appropriate upstream electronics and cables to make them shine [sorry Alon. Sorry all the rest of ya, often enough including our own lines :confused:. Prana Fidelity and Acoustic Zen are notable exceptions who setup awesome sounding rooms - according to their respective family sounds - at almost every show].

Bad examples of these systems are those with harmonics that are off-key and just 'weird', are screechy, have uneven dynamics, are overbearing in various frequencies that attempt to impress but instead irritate during long listening sessions, and in general contribute to the general hostility of people who then yell at us on the freeways and give us hostile, hate-face looks in the grocery stores. You know that sound... That typical mainstream hifi dealership sound. The sound that is the reason IMO that the high end is shrinking faster than the number of CDs at a decent price on Amazon.

To me, the quality of this room's sound compared to that of similar systems at shows in the States proves that the sound at Munich in general was a step above what shows in the U.S. have to offer. Why is that? Some people tell me it is the over emphasis on sales versus quality of products and services, but they have a bad attitude about all this, and I just don't know.

Neli must be back from wherever she went by now.... and it is on to the next room.

Neli and I had made it to the other Kharma room, the Kharma + Kharma room (but like an idiot I did not record it and did not even go back there) before finding this room on a successive day. Did not spend all that much time here, but my impression was that this was a more accessible sound than that in the Kharma room (have never been overly fond of the big Kharma amps, but have great appreciation for their small cigarette carton amps) and that the more expensive speakers in the Kharma room were noticeably better sounding than these (which we have heard at length many times in the CES Lamm room) with respect to the ability to portray more deftly the various layers of dynamics and harmonics of the music.

The WADAX gear seemed to perform quite well and I'll have more to say about Engstrom in the Goebel + Engstrom room.

I am very picky about the sound in the rooms that feature our centerpiece brands [Neli, less so and is more forgiving of little flaws]. I found the sound here to be a little unbalanced top-to-bottom and even a little screechy.

Who knows - maybe the speakers are brand new or are placed in room nodes that suck out some important frequencies. I haven't heard these particular Lansche speakers before, and so not sure what they are capable of [I do like their little two-ways].

But very familiar with all the EMM Labs gear except the new PRE Reference preamp and new forthcoming NS1 Network Streamer (!). We like the Auralic streamer OK, but both it and the Lumin are to some degree unobtainium for some reason, we haven't heard the SOtM in enough systems, and the DCS is so very expensive [and presumably not to our preferred taste in sound] so something like the reasonably priced NS1, from a well-known top-flight digital manufacturer like EMM, is sorely needed. Hope to have one here once they get it through the certification hurdles.

This room was kind of the reverse of the EMM Labs room, where I thought it sounded pretty good, given the relatively small size of the Vandersteen speakers relative to the room size [most rooms had significantly larger speakers], but Neli was a little disappointed.

Usually we hear this system driven by the Vandersteen amplifiers and electronics to taste [often Aesthetix], so first time in a long time we have heard an all Brinkmann system like this [the Stereophile New York show 2007?]. Been awhile since we carried Brinkmann, and I lost track of the changes, but it looks like the Balance table has had a major redesign at some point [Neli probably knows - she is the attention to detail person, and recently helped a good customer pick up a recent model used Balance and set it up.... I just listen to music on these things :)].

The whole kit and caboodle on an HRS VXR two-high equipment rack and M3X2 platforms. Love these racks.

Not much to say about this room. To impress me playing jazz a system is going to have to be really, really good or the jazz very, very special. Interesting contrast in overall energy and playlist between this Ypsilon electronics-driven system and the next one [see next video].

I know, I know, it is very much the luck-of-the-draw what kind of music they will be playing when any of us walks into a room. We are not famous like JV and MF who can often get rooms to play THEIR music, and rooms did not seem to be taking requests here much at all [seems much more likely a possibility at the more laid back HiFi Deluxe show at the Marriott across town].

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

This was freaking loud and freaking awesome.

This was a dense sound, not a lot of 'air', not a lot of inner detail, but lots of authority, and it hung together top to bottom at a significant volume - even though it was very loud, it did not sound 'loud' in that terrible way that many system do which start to fall apart [to which I attribute in large part the Dohmann turntable's sophisticated suspension and vibration control system].

I'm not familiar with the Peak Consult family sound - it has been awhile since I listened closely to these, and have never heard their larger speakers so don't know what kind of sound they excel at. Maybe it handles other 'sounds' better than this driving powerful kind of playback [which works for BOTH tracks, did you notice?]. But this is what I would say is a very well designed system - it does what it does very very well. Within the bounds of that kind of sound, this may perhaps be an ultimate expression of that kind of system.

Funny, it is not my favorite kind of system sound. Not at all. But it was sure fun and I could definitely see myself perhaps enjoying more playback like this. I love shows for not only helping me learn about the exquisite details how music playback can vary from one system to another [good and bad] and about what seems to be selling [other people really like this? or do they just don't know any better?] but learning more about what I like personally.

I have no idea what the first song is, neither SoundHound nor Shazam knows. Loving it though. We bought the 2nd, an Issac Hayes live album [have to say that this song was one of the best recorded on that album].
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Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
Pleasanton, CA
They play so much slow tempo, lisping vocal or melodic stuff at these shows. Where's the 'Infected Mushroom'?
Likes: KeithR
I know....! Where is the Ozric Tentacles? [thanks for the reference... Army of Mushrooms is in my cart :cool:]

We are still new to Goebel speakers. It still surprises me how different these speakers look from their thin aluminium speaker line.

In any case, I was glad to see Engstrom amplifiers here instead of the CH Precision I usually see with this line of speakers. We first encountered Engstrom at CES in early 2010's [I think it was] and they were, and are, an attractive [to me] amp, detailed with the slightest bit of warmth. They were able to drive these massive speakers and fill the room with sound without struggling and this was the best sound I've heard from Goebel speakers.

Engstrom mentioned that there were in 3 rooms at the show, and we just saw the Kharma + Engstrom room, but we never made it to the smaller room. I think it is smart for brands to be seen in lots of rooms, in this case more than Boulder [who I did not see at all], Constellation, D'Agostino etc who were in none of the rooms that I visited [but who are in many rooms at U.S. shows]. Both CH Precision and Kondo were in two rooms, respectively.


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