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Blog - High End Munich 2023

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I have been planning on putting together a recap of the High End Munich trip since I was there but things have been pretty hectic and don’t seem to be getting any better any time soon, so if I keep waiting for time to put it together properly, it will probably never get done!

Therefore, the following is just a ramble about my trip to Munich, with some photos thrown in along the way and random comments in no particular order.

 

High End Munich 2023…

Last year I travelled to Munich for the show and made the mistake of flying in late on Friday evening and flying back out early on Sunday morning, resulting in not really getting to enjoy the show and also a pretty horrid flight at 6am when I had only made it back to the hotel around 3am.

This year I decided I wasn’t going to make the same mistake and wanted to make it to all 4 days of the show. 

Due to my real job, I couldn’t fly earlier than Thursday morning, which involved a 3am start and flying with a budget airline via Mallorca which didn’t actually get me to the show until around 1pm. It was also a fiasco as I needed to travel direct from Munich to Miami for a week (work related) and didn’t want to drag a huge suitcase around the show on the first and last day, so trying to fit 11 days of clothes and camera gear in just a carry on, limited by the usual budget airline rules, was quite an experience.

 

The Show…

But anyway, I made it to the show on the Thursday around 1pm and was surprised to see how busy it was even on the first press/trade day.

I decided I would try and get as much in the way of photos and content during the press days as, based on the amount of people last year on the Saturday, and the amount of people already present on the Thursday, it would be difficult to try and get decent content on the weekend.

The first thing I realized was that I had forgotten the cables needed for the mic set up I took with me, meaning that I couldn’t really get decent audio, so I guess there was no need to focus on interviewing any of the manufacturers. This is a shame as there are people who I would have loved to go into detail with but I guess it saves me having to translate it all to Spanish and, if you want decent interviews, the headphones.com team already have you covered!

 

The headphone hall…

My first stop was at the Hifiman booth, where there were quite a few new releases that, as the Hifiman fan that I am, I was interested in testing out. Show conditions are never the best for forming a decent impression on things but they do give you a taste and at least help me to know if I would like to spend more time with them.

In the case of Hifiman, the Arya Organic was a set that I was impressed by at first listen. I already have the Arya v2 and the Arya Stealth, both being sets that I really enjoy, but the Organic brings yet another flavour to the Arya that Ienjoy, so I would definitely be interested in spending more time with them at some point in the future. 

The Ananda Nano is another set that I hadn’t had a chance to listen to previously and I feel is a set that is worth considering for those who are interested in a decent priced planar headphone. I still prefer the older headband but that is just me.

They also had a couple of amplifiers that I got the chance to try out, such as the EF600 and the XXX, which are both very interesting devices but need much better conditions that show conditions to be able to really get to know them.

I also got to try out the new Hifiman Svanar TWS and was dubious about what I would think, based on my previous experiences with Hifiman TWS and the fact that I love the wired version of the Svanar, but I have to say that I was impressed by the sound. It is quite a bit bassier than the wired version but I am certainly looking forward to spending more time with it. I am usually not really interested in TWS but in this case, I actually am.

Finally on a Hifiman related note, I got to try out the Shangri-La JR system in the Hifiman listening room, which I like, but later in the day I got to try them out on the new iFi iCAN, which is an amplifier for both normal and electrostats, and was quite impressed with the pairing. Again, it was show conditions (and not even in a listening booth) but at least it was at lunch time and was fairly quiet at the time.

The iFi iCAN was actually one of the more interesting new releases in the headphone section of the show (there really weren’t that many new releases this year) and it has a few design choices that are very interesting. It will be good to see how it fairs once out in the wild.

I obviously couldn’t pass on the Meze booth, as last year they presented the headphones that were the star of the show, the 109 Pros. There weren’t any real new releases this year but there were some beautifully finished Elite’s, keeping the tradition of Meze making some of the most beautiful headphones there are (in my opinion of course).

The other manufacturer that was the star of the show last year was Feliks Audio, specifically the Envy, which paired with the Susvara has been my headphone end game objective since then. This year they had the Envy running Elrog tubes and paired with the Susvara, which only increased my love for the pairing! There were some other interesting amps at the Feliks booth as always, and Lukazs is always a pleasure to chat to. Hopefully I will be able to review some of his other models in the near future.

Another product that was on my list to try out was the Letshouer Cadenza, and I found that I liked it. It is a little on the brighter side but I have to say that listening to it side by side with the EJ07 and 09, it is certainly my preferred set by the brand. The prototype for the upcoming new release was also there and while a little dark with some tracks on first listen, I think it is another set that is going to be worth spending some time with.

Aune is another brand that presented a couple of new and interesting things at Munich, amongst which were the S10 Network Streamer and S9 Pro, devices that are very interesting and would be on my list of items to dig deeper into outside of show conditions. They also had a new Clock (something that I don’t really use in my set up) and a new system for cars which looked interesting but had no way of setting it up to try it out (come on Aune, at least bring a car with you 😉 ).

The X8000 prototype on show by Final Audio was certainly something different. Made completely from Titanium and with a very minimalistic build, it is ridiculously lightweight, think PortaPro lightweight (I am sure it will have a few more digits on the price in comparison to the PortaPro). The choice of 3D printed pads that don't seal is definitley something unique, it is just a shame that it wasn't ready to listen to yet as it certainly made me curious.

There is obviously a bunch more things I got to try out in the headphone related world, some very good (and some not so fortunate), but I can’t list all of them as this would take forever. Things like ZMF, DcS, Ferrum and the Dan Clark Corina are all items that I would be more than happy to check out in better conditions, but we can’t get to try everything!

But in the headphone section, there is one brand that impressed me enough to knock the Envy + Susvara off the top of my end game list, and that brand is Warwick Acoustics. I had heard good things about the brand from the likes of Resolve and Golden Sound but had never had the chance to test them out and I would probably have completely missed them if it wasn’t for the fact that I ended up sitting next to them while doing the usual evening passtime in Germany (drinking beer 😊).

We got talking about headphones and when asked if I had checked out their stuff, I said that I hadn’t and didn’t even know where their booth was. This brought a bit of laughter and I was (quite correctly) made fun of due to the fact that the Warwick booth was not only the first booth upon entering the headphone hall, it was also the most colourful!

So, the next day I did find the booth (which was very hard to miss!) and got to try out their systems. Now, Warwick only have two systems, the Bravura and the Aperio, both complete electrostatic systems, with the entry level coming in at around 6.000€ and the Aperio coming in at around 25.000€. 

At these prices, it is obvious that we should be expecting a very high end system, and there is absolutely no doubt that it is. I was absolutely blown away by how much I enjoyed the Bravura. I did find that the Aperio was more capable, with a performance that I have never experienced before, but there is something about the Bravura that just makes me want to sit back and relax. The Aperio is more resolving, more “look at how amazing I am”, while the Bravura is more “just enjoy me”.

These were only brief listening sessions (although I have to say that the Warwick listening room was amazingly quiet) but based on first impressions, I think that the Bravura would be quite easily a system that I could own without needing anything else.

 

Speaker halls…

While speakers make up 90% of the High End Munich show, I have to say that I didn’t really pay too much attention to them, mainly due to the fact that I don’t have a dedicated listening space at home, so I would rather not create a wish list of things I can’t use 😃

There were obviously some very interesting set ups and some very good sounding set ups (with some not so good sounding set ups in between). Sometimes it is much more about aesthetics than actual sound quality.

Saying this, there were a couple of things on a reasonable budget level, which, at High End Munich, means there were only 4 digits in their prices. One of these sets were something that Zeos insisted on everyone going to listen to, speakers by a brand called Cabasse.

These speakers are connected to the cloud, with automatic room correction, which made them sound pretty good for their price range (around 3000€ I believe). It would be interesting to see how the perform outside of a dedicated listening room with this technology (i.e: Put them in a a rando living room, or even a kitchen), but from what I heard, they seemed pretty good.

Focal obviously had a nice set up, as always, which was also very busy, as always. I was lucky enough to listen to their high end speakers in a nice quiet show room in Miami, so I didn’t need to try to appreciate them at the show.

The JBL speakers did surprise me and while the aesthetics are not my thing (with the orange or blue foam squares on the front), the demo I listened to was pretty good (taking into consideration that they really didn’t have a treated room like some other brands) and I would be interested in listening to them more in a quieter and better set up.

Klipsch also had some nice speakers if you are into the retro look and have 50k to drop on your speakers. I didn’t actually listen to them in Munich as I had already heard them at SuperSonido in Barcelona, fed by a McIntosh system that was even more expensive than the speakers, but they also had some more price friendly options for those interested.

There obviously thousand more speakers, ranging from budget set ups all the way into the millions of euros, so here are a few random photos from some of the booths…














 

The after show…

While it is an amazing experience to get to listen to all these audio systems, even if it is not in the best of conditions, the best part of the show, for me, is to spend time with even more amazing people. Some of which I obviously already know online but others that I got to meet for the first time and had a great time with.

Of course there is the headphone.com family, a great bunch of people who I was very happy to get to meet up with again this year. Spending time with people like Andrew, Taron, Golden and DMS, both at and outside the show, is always great fun (and usually lends to a great hangover also).

Focal, Hifiman, Warwick, just to name a few, are again all great people who it is great to chat with outside the audio world. People who are excellent in what they do but are also down to earth and easy going.

Then there are those who I got to meet for the first time this year, such as Zeos, who I may not always agree with on audio but is sincerely a great guy to spend time with. I am not going to go into details but if you watch the opening 20 seconds of his Munich Day 5 video on YouTube, that is the morning after the night before.

In the same way, guys like Skedra or Justin from Viking Weave Cables, who I got to spend time with last year and even more time with this year, are people who I would certainly choose for a night out, as long as that night out is not too often 😉

And finally the rest of the guys who I met and spent a couple of crazy nights with, who I am not going to name as I feel that they deserve privacy unless they choose otherwise (for the same reason I am not including photos in this section), well, I hope we can keep in touch and repeat this experience at the next one.

 

Closing words…

Munich is a blast! 

Yes, it’s an audio show which is an amazing experience in itself, but it goes much further than that. It is an excuse to surround yourself with like minded people and have fun.

If you can make it, do not hesitate, I have already marked the dates on the calendar for next year!


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