Munich Highend 2017 Show Report
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Munich High End 2017
19th May - 21st May 2017

Every year, my hometown of Munich holds one of the biggest audio related trade-shows in the world. The Munich High End. The show is always fun, with Bavarian coziness and almost always amazing weather to boot. Many exhibitors from all around the world join for everything audio-related. Here are some of my personal impressions.

MunichHighEnd_1.JPG

The big balloon in front of the MOC.

1) Meze

I always start off my journey with Meze. Why? Because they are nice guys. Me and Lorand (@MezeTeam on HF) were talking quite a bit about new releases. In particular, he was raving about the Electrostat from Sonoma. Beyond that, he showed me a prototype of their new upcoming IEM, featuring a custom tuned Balanced Armature Driver (x1). Very competent sounding, although it needs some more refinement in the highs. Pricing should be around 200$-250$. By the way, did you know they are developing an orthodynamic headphone?

MunichHighEnd_3.JPG

MunichHighEnd_4.JPG


2.) Audeze

Next up was the Audeze booth. They had their usual line-up of full-sized headphones on display. However my eyes were directed by the new LCDi4. It very much shares the LCD4 line of thought, with their warm and full-bodied sound. Great dynamics. Articulate and with wonderful extension. Pete Aldertons "So Cool" had me toe-tipping. Price is around 2500$. I also listened to the iSine 10s, which are slightly brighter and leaner. I'm hooked. (pun intended)

MunichHighEnd_5.JPG


3.) Shanling

Next stop was Shanling. I wanted to get a listen to the M1 and the new M2S. I left disappointed. The UI is slightly convoluted and the wheel feels unnatural to navigate with. Sound was quite good. For 129$ and 199$, they make a good entry level DAP.

MunichHighEnd_6.JPG


Interestingly, they had some DUNU and Fitear models available. The DUNU DK-3001 was very impressive, though a touch too pricey for what it does. I also listened to the Fitear Aya. A neutral sounding experience, albeit with underwhelming dynamics. I liked the F111 back in the day, but the Aya was just not for me.

MunichHighEnd_7.JPG


4.) oBravo

Then came oBravo. I listened to their eamt-1, eamt-2 and was very disappointed. They had this very bright and piercing treble which was unsatisfying. The guy at the booth gave me a variation with a wooden front-cabinet as opposed to the ceramic front. Very incoherent, even with the more tame treble. Tonality is all over the place.

MunichHighEnd_8.JPG


He also showed me their new flagship: The "Ra" (as in the Egyptian god). Very bass heavy, although the soundstage was impressive. They are super source dependent, with the two driver being somewhat mismatched.

MunichHighEnd_9.JPG


5.) final Japan

I checked out the new ortho-dynamic prototype. It was very mellow and relaxed sounding. Easy to drive, even from my old Samsung S3. Comfort was not ideal, though. Shout-out to the Ojii-san who spoke some Japanese with me and the guy at final. A very pleasant experience.

MunichHighEnd_10.JPG


6.) Astell & Kern


I never found the A&K DAPs interesting. Very unpractical, heavy and too much boutique for me. The sonics of the SP1000 were fantastic, however. I also took a listen to the A&K tuned Beyerdynamics T1. Very nice.

MunichHighEnd_11.JPG
MunichHighEnd_12.JPG


7.) Aune

Aune had the "new" M1S on display. Super impressed. So much in fact, I am going to order one. Simple, but fantastic. Stunningly fast U.I., superb sound and for "only" 249$. I really like the simple, no bullsh!t approach.

MunichHighEnd_13.JPG


8.) Fostex

Fostex had the TH610 and TH900 on show. The former was really fun and dynamic, coupled with the great set of AMPs, which made for an amazing listen. The HP-V8 is a monstrosity. Such power. The HPA8 + TH610 combo was rather mellow, with male vocals being a joy to listen to. However coupled with the V8, just wow. Superb articulation.

MunichHighEnd_14.JPG

MunichHighEnd_15.JPG


9.) Fiio

I checked out Fiio for the X5 DAP and F5 IEM. The X5 was great, but the Android OS seemed a bit mismatched. Build and SQ does punch above the respective price-points.
The F5 is alright, quite neutral, although the MMCX showed a lot of weakness. Good value.

10.) Audio-Technica

To my disappointment, ATH did not have the LS200, 300 and 400 available. The LS50 and 70 left me unimpressed. I also listened to the DSR9BT, which is similar to the MSR7. A good alternative to the Bose or Sony BT headphones. They also had the W-Series on display. Everything, besides the W3000ANV...

MunichHighEnd_18.JPG


11.) Acoustic Research

My top pick of the show. The upcoming E10 dual hybrid sounded exceptional. A touch bass heavy perhaps. Soundstage and instrument separation were amazing. The E10 really gives my FLC8s a run for their money. At 199$ no less.

MunichHighEnd_20.JPG


They also had an ortho on display. The AR-H1 was very neutral, but at the same time possessed great dynamics. The 99dB/mW sensitivity was too much (or rather too little) for my phone. Feed it well, and it will response accordingly. Pricing is around 650$.

MunichHighEnd_21.JPG


12.) Ultrasone

What a nice looking headphone. The Pro 9 (Tribute 7?) sounded well balanced, maybe slightly mid-forward. Isolation was surprisingly good. Did you know that Ultrasone is a Bavarian company? Me neither.

MunichHighEnd_23.JPG


13.) Furniture?

Ahem. I did not ask, but how much is it again?

MunichHighEnd_16.JPG

MunichHighEnd_17.JPG


Conclusion:

What a blast. While I was unable to get a audition for the Sennheiser HE-1, my overall impressions were quite positive.
All the exhibitors were warm and welcoming and many items have left me with a "wanna buy" impression. See you next year!
 

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bmichels

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I was also at Munich, and happy to see some interesting products.

Like this "battery vault" that provides during few hours 'clean' 220v regulated from it's rechargeable battery (20 K€)

20KE stromtanjk.jpg


IMG_3760.jpg



Or this 8000€ electrostatic "near field" speaker system. Some sort of "headphone alternative" from a small german company: Sombetzki.

Sound was very good and precise, with good spacialisation (sound coming from everywhere including... behind the head !). I wish I could find a justification, between a headphone and a regular speaker, to purchase them !

Near field Speakers.jpg

Sombetzki_inside.jpg


And this "levitation LP player"

LP levitation.jpg


and also I heard the TotalDAC twelve with Vincent's new D150 speakers (the D150 and the optional tower-Subs in the back). Vincent has done a very good job since last Munich, now his speakers sounded very good indeed. Note that the main speakers are 100% passive (even the bass)

 

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Nice impressions... I have TH-610 and like them very much. HP-V8 is so expensive though. :)
 
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Nice impressions... I have TH-610 and like them very much. HP-V8 is so expensive though. :)
Yup, I have seen them sold for around 8k$ - 12.5k$. Both TH610 and TH900 sounded truly special.
 
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Whoa, those acoustic research AR-H1 planars look interesting. Anyone have more impressions of them on how they sound?
I found a Japanese impression, and they have uneven highs?
 
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Whoa, those acoustic research AR-H1 planars look interesting. Anyone have more impressions of them on how they sound?
I found a Japanese impression, and they have uneven highs?
I played them out of their M200 DAP and found them not all that unbalanced in the highs. They were fairly lean for an orthodynamic, similar to the Oppo PM3 with a bit of extra warmth. The impressions were short however, as my personal focus was on the E10 Hybrid. Maybe they made some changes after the Fujiya Avic festival.
 
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I actually skimped by some of my notes I made for the day. (around 13 pages and terrible handwriting)
The H1 Planar did have a change in specs. Also I noted a little peak/brightness around 9kHz. I forgot what track it was, but I am fairly confident.
IMG_20170522_192352.jpg
 
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Some more pictures (most pictures came out very blurry, unfortunately):
AR M200:

I did not mention the M200, because the U.I. was still very rudimentary. But it supports 3.5 TRS and 4.4 TRRS connections. Sound was also really good.
IMG_2216.JPG


RME ADI-2 Pro:
The ADI-2 Pro was along with the Ultrasone Pro9, and they made all the difference to the Pro9s. Very cool looking.
MunichHighEnd_24.JPG


Fitear Aya:

IMG_2183.JPG


Audeze iSine 10:

IMG_2180.JPG


 
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Question on the Ultrasone Pro9: Is it a new model, or a prototype? I can't find anything on it on the Ultrasone website. Any ideas on when it will be launched, and pricing? Many thanks
 
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Question on the Ultrasone Pro9: Is it a new model, or a prototype? I can't find anything on it on the Ultrasone website. Any ideas on when it will be launched, and pricing? Many thanks
It think the Pro 9 might just be a more widely available Tribute 7. It looks the same, though I did not see any Tribute 7 branding around. MSRP is 2499$ on the T7, limited to 777 units.
 
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bmichels' picture made it to the front page. :darthsmile: Such a fashionable man.
 
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IMG_3692.jpg
Some infos I grabbed about the next TOL DAP from Astell&Kern, the AK Ultima SP1000 :

It was definitively for me (and my Head-fier friend) THE 'revelation' of MUNICH's show. It's a big BIG step Up compared to the AK380, expecially in terms of details.

We intensively tested the SS and CU version with a Shure KSE 1500 electrostatic in-ear.

I prefered the CU while my friend prefered the SS. He feels that he lossed some details with the CU. I could agere but still I prefered the added warms of the CU. Matter of taste ! :)



IMG_3693.jpg


- It is a very clean and PRECISE sounding- DAP, the 2 X AK4497 DACs is the most very exciting part...

- Besides a limited power output and a capacity equivalent to the AK240 & AK380 (still 256 Gb + 1 microSD slot), the biggest disappointment is "NO TDIAL Off-Line". A&K explained us : " We cannot offer TIDAL offline mode due to contractual agreements TIDAL has with the record labels. Offline mode is only available on TIDAL's native apps in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Offline mode is not allowed on third party hardware TIDAL applications per TIDAL's agreements with the record labels."

- We got infos on the A&K booth that this time the CU version will be protected by a transparent layer above the CU. So, apparently no need for polishing anymore ...

- Also please note that there are 5 (ground added since AK380) contacts at the bottom available for an external AMP but... A&K told us that they have no AMP in development since instead they open the specs to allow third party manufacturer top develop AMPs (and docking stations) for the SP1000.

-
Btw the UI is very snappy and rescanning very fast. It feel very robust and enjoyable to hold and operate

- after intensive listening to booth SS and CU with the SHURE KSE1500 I prefered the CU, but.... I am still wondering if I should order the CU or the SS
? Indeed, since I am considering getting the 64 Audio Tia Foutré IEM that apparently offers generous BASS and OUPPPSSS, may be.... with the Fourté the SS may be more appropriate ? May be "Fourté + CU" will be too much OUOPOPSSSS and BASS ?
A&K says that the only difference between the CU & the SS version is only the casing and that indeed the grounding is done with the case. A&K's chief developper told us that he prefers the CU version, but.... I guess it is a matter of taste again (Or may be, as A&K suggested, CU is better for Rock/pop and SS for classical music (details... ) )

- There is unfortunately NO direct line-out like on the KANN. The "line-out' mode of the SP1000 is only setting the volume to 100% but... the signal still goes through the volume circuits. However, based on what we heard with SP1000 3,5mm ->analog->KSE1500, the sound was so clear and precise that it seems that this is not an issue... And you can use the same adaptor made for the AK380 to connect the SP1000 to an external AMP with 2 x XLR 3 pins: The space between the 3,5 and 2,5 headphone plugs is the same, and same trick apply (signal from the 4 pins 2,5 mm and ground from the 3,5 mm)




- YES the USB can act as USB-IN (the SP is then used as a DAC/amp ) and also as USB-OUT to an external DAC. But... the USB can NOT be used to connect to an external USB HD. I asked this specifically and answer was NO. A YES would have been great ! (like the NuPrime OMNIA does)


- And... after few beers, I think that I "understood" that the SP1000 is the TOL of the new line, but this was really not clear....


AK SP1000 SS & CU.png
AK SP1000 CU & SS.png


Additional infos about headphone out SE v/s Bal :

In MUNICH, A&K's ingenieurs (I do not ask any more questions to A&K's sales guys) told us that they have now with the SP1000 fixed the issues that makes the balanced output of the AK380 not better sounding (or even inferior in some cases) than the SE output.

They explained that the Bal output of the AK380 has a too high impedence, and that this is why with some headphone, the result was no good. They swared that they have corrected this. This is why now the output of the Bal (3,9 volts) is now almost twice the SE (2,2 volts) while with the AK380, SE and Bal were almost the same 2,2 v/s 2,4 volts.

So... gentlemen rewire your headphones balanced...

but anyway ... we found that this was by far the A&K's best product:



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bmichels

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Best sound of the show (for me) : a 400 K€ set-up

Kondo set-up.jpg


Kondo Amp.jpg
Kondo rear.jpg
 
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Another good sounding set-up, at a relatively more resonable price...

Very good sound 1.jpg
Very Good sound amp 2.jpg
Very Good sound amp.jpg
Very good sound set-up.jpg
 
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bmichels

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And... a crazy 460 Kg Lp turnable :wink:

IMG_3851.jpg
IMG_3850.jpg


And a much more resonable and (IMO) a better looking LP player:

Trand rotor LP.jpg
 
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