I saved the Silbatone room for last even though I knew they'd be playing records because I wanted to end the Munich High End Show on a high note with a skip in my step after four very long and admittedly wonderful days of hi-fi'ing.
Commenting during the Munich Show, Bob Stuart said: “We’re delighted with the continued and overwhelming interest in MQA throughout the industry and the reactions at Munich HIGH END have been extremely positive and highly encouraging.” Bob Stuart also observed “MQA is a philosophy and establishing MQA Ltd. as a separate ongoing business allows us to advance and progress all the activities involved in setting up this exciting new approach. Major announcements are planned in the build up to IFA in September at what will be a very significant event for MQA.”
I attended the MQA presentation and also had an opportunity to speak to Bob Stuart afterwards and I still don't believe I have a firm grasp on the full MQA picture. Yes, I can be rather dense.
Italy's North Star Design was showing a dizzying array of DACs including the Intenso (€1000), Impulso (€1450), Incanto (€1800), Excelsio (€2100), and the Supremo (€3000 pictured above). All of the North Star DACs employ ESS Sabre chips and support 32/384 and DSD. As you move up the line, you go from the ES9016 to the ES9018 found in the Excelsio and Supremo.
I've always enjoyed Atoll's kinda quirky art deco-esque designs. The ST 200 (€2000) is a UPnP/DLNA enabled network player/DAC offering up to 24/192 PCM playback using the Burr Brown PCM1796 DAC. Beyond the typical digital inputs, the ST 200 adds Wi-Fi and two analog inputs as well as an analog volume control for direct to amp connection. Remote control is provided by Atoll's custom app for Android and iOS devices.
No single audio product before the M-One delivers such a feature-packed and modern product that fits into such a small and elegant space – crafted from a single block of Aluminium.
Against all the odds, our engineers have managed to incorporate all the latest connections – Airplay, Bluetooth aptX, LAN-Network 24bit /384kHz Asynchronous, SPDIF Coax-Opto-AES 24bit / 768kHz USB asynchronous passing DXD, DSD, DOP…, Phono MM / MC, Analog balanced and unbalanced inputs, and DSP with automatic room correction (M.A.R.S). All in an amazingly compact module, whose cabinet is cut in the mass of a single block of aluminum.
It’s an absolute engineering miracle !
And I thought...have they not visited the Devialet room? I know, catty.
MBL sat right up near the very tippy top of my most enjoyable rooms at the Munich High End Show 2015. I very much enjoyed Juergen Reis' presentation on his speakers, the Radialstrahler mbl 101 X-treme (€202,000/pair) which was chock full of fascinating insight interspersed with sumptuous musical bits.
Dutch NOS DAC company Metrum Acoustics has developed their own chip for the Pavane DAC (€4000). "The parallel driven R2R ladder networks as used in the eight DAC modules performs, especially when combined with our FPGA-driven 'forward correction module', on a higher level." Metrum claims extremely high linearity "right down to -140dB" and "extremely high channel separation of 120 dB."
UK-based Leema Acoustics was showing their Libra DAC (£5995). The Libra employs an unspecified ESS Sabre DAC and supports up to 32/384 and DSD128 playback. The Libra can also function as a preamp offering both analog and digital inputs as well as Bluetooth along with RCA and XLR outputs. The Libra's modular design promises easy upgrade-ability including the DAC module for future-tech proofing. Leema represents the workings of ex-BBC sound engineers Lee Taylor and Mallory Nicholls.
That's the Media One (€9500 pictured on top) from Alluxity, a 32/384 and DSD128-capable network player/DAC offering a web-based control app. My notes on the Media One are rather sparse and the company's website offers no additional information. I did note there are RCA and XLR outputs. Apologies for the scant info. Alluxity is the brain child of Alexander Vitus the son of Hans Ole Vitus of Vitus Audio.
"Vermeer Audio has recently acquired the rights and the technology of the models LaSource and LaFontaine from the prestigious Audio Aero Company. These models will be used as basis for the development of the Vermeer Audio first range." On display in Munich was the Vermeer Audio TWO Universal Control Center (€20,000) the reincarnation of the Audio Aero La Fontaine. The TWO is a 24/384 and DSD-capable DAC and preamp offering both analog (RCA and XLR) and digital inputs (asynchronous USB, Toslink, AES/EBU, and Coax).
Italy's Audio Flight was new to me as was their FLS1 Pre/DAC (€4500). The DAC part runs on the ESS 9018 offering up to 32/384 and DSD256 playback. Digital inputs include 1x Toslink, 1x AES/EBU, 2x S/PDIF, and 1x USB in additional to 4 analog inputs (2x RCA, 2x XLR). There's also a headphone amp and an optional phono board for you vinyl lovers (I know you're out there).
Grimm Audio was also showing a multi-channel DSD system using five of their LS1 (€21,000/pair) Hypex powered speaker/DAC using the Oppo BDP-103 ($499) as front end. Pictured above was a 2-channel comparison where Grimm's Daen Van Aalst covered the center speakers "because our brains react to things we recognize" like three speakers. Music selections were from Channel Classics and I was impressed with the sound overall but when switching to multi-channel I found it a bit difficult to get a handle on the sound image as one coherent whole.