Register to win a Focal XS Book Music System (MSRP $299.00) we are giving away.
According to the company: "Whatever your musical taste, uncover all the power and emotion your music, movie and gaming collection has to offer with Focal’s elegant and compact desktop 2.0 active loudspeaker system. Based on 33-years of acoustic research and over a dozen patents, Focal has created the ideal powered desktop loudspeaker system that will delight your senses while delivering years of dependable service. Hear exactly what you’ve been missing; experience just how good desktop music can sound."
Here's another re-recommendation that originated from Stephen Mejias. Lucrecia Dalt's Commotus released on Human Ear Music in 2012 is her second record and its filled with ideas, rhythms, sounds, melodies, smokey and sultry stuff, with Lucretia's lovely vocals hovering near the surface all fragile-like and haunting. I've listened to Commotus on nearly infinite repeat and it just gets deeper with each listen.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "Das Schlaraffenland" (1567) which I got to see on my first day in Munich at the wonderful Arte Pinakothek
"It's how all hi-fi shows should be." I heard this sentiment expressed by more than a few people about the Munich High End Show and I agree. While the MOC where the event is held does not offer the last word in friendly room acoustics, the benefits of the place far outweigh the sonic pitfalls. And these benefits include location, location, and location. I'm not sure you can pick up the vibe at the Munich show and transplant it just any old place.
The Zero 1 (€9000) from Avantgarde Acoutic wins my award for best Trendspotting piece of kit because the Zero 1 packs up pretty much everything you need minus the source(s) into a horn loaded package. You get a DAC, preamp, and amp with USB, Toslink, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, and optional analog inputs stuffed inside a pair of horn-loaded loudspeakers. And I mean loud. The Avantgarde presentation was in German but the Zero 1s easily speak to anyone with ears who cared to listen and I found this room's sound to be among the most compelling and physically vibrant at the show. The Zero 1's speakers are rated at 104dB and their associated amps at 2x 50W for the midrange and tweeters, and 1 x400W for the bass and the combo had no problems filling Avantgarde's very large exhibition room with pulse pounding yet finely nuanced music.
I also covered the Munich High End Show for Stereophile where my assignment was to pick a few favorite things. You can read all about my picks right here but this task also led me to places I wouldn't normally travel, namely rooms without computer audio stuff. So I actually listened to a wider variety of gear than my typical AudioStream focus and I thought I'd share some of these rooms as well as things I've covered before or just frankly didn't get enough info on to cover more fully.
I got to hear two very interesting A/B comparisons in the JPlay/Thrax Audio room. For the first A/B, we switched back 'n forth between the same song by none other than Elvis playing from a 12" 45rpm single (A) and a 16/44.1 rip (B). The second A/B was a live LP (A) compared to the digital download of the same. During the A/B'ing in the first comparison, the differences were negligible at best. I would have been hard pressed to guess which we were listening to. In the second comparison, it was painfully clear that the LP sounded smaller, more condensed, and overall less engaging. And I mean painfully clear. But let's set the boundaries of these A/Bs as they are talking about the recordings and system context as much as they are about formats. But I still view this as good news.
The Soledge Maestro (€14,000) from France incorporates 2x 1TB hard drives for music storage, a 8.4" color touchscreen display that pops up when it senses someone is near (using a proximity sensor), a slot drive for ripping your CDs, Coax S/PDIF and Toslink outputs, fixed and variable RCA outputs, and 3 USB ports for accessing music from USB storage. But the real story with Soledge is their components all talk to one another via power line communication (PLC) technology which they call the Canto system, kinda like Sonos but for grownups. The other thing of note is Soledge quotes Jean Paul Sartre on their marketing literature which is a first in my experience:
"We shall call emotion a sudden loss of consciousness into the magical." ~ Jean Paul Sartre
The Orpheus Lab Vanguard Digital Audio Dock supports Firewire, USB (up to 24/192KHz), Bluetooth A2DP, iPod/iPad/iPhone, flash USB, LAN, Webradio, Toslink, ADAT, AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital formats. There's also a line in input for you analog guys and gals and a volume control so the DAD can function as a preamplifier as well. Nice!
Trinnov Audio from France was showing off their Amethyst (€8,000) which is a preamplifier, MM phono preamp, digital media renderer, 24/192 DAC, room/speaker optimizer, 2-way active crossover, and Wi-Fi access point all wrapped in one sweet package. Inputs include 2x XLR, 1x RCA, 1x MM phono (RCA), 2x AES/EBU, 2x Coax S/PDIF, 2x Toslink, Word Clock in/out, and 1x DLNA/UPnP Ethernet (supports WAV, AIFF, OGG, FLAC, MP3 up to 24/192kHz).
I first listened to this system at the NY Show (read my more in-depth report here) and remain impressed. The system consists of the The Weiss MAN301 music server ($9,083 or $12,262 w/Internal DAC which is the Weiss DAC202) which was directly connected to a pair of Klangwerk Ella fully active speakers ($7,495.00/each). The German-made Integrita audiophile music server ($5,500 for 10TB total storage/6TB for music storage) which is really a NAS stored the tunes and this all adds up to another addition to our Trendspotting list.