Munich 2013

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Michael Lavorgna  |  May 16, 2013
French company 3D Lab. was new to me but they offer a complete line of electronics from multi-format players, to Network Players, to DACs, to preamps, amps, and integrated amps. On display and in use was the Nano UPnP [Network] Player (€1,700), Millennium Preamplifier/DAC (€6,000) that offers 2x Coax S/PDIF, 2x Toslink, AES/EBU, and USB inputs that can handle up to 24/192 data. There are also 5 analog RCA inputs and RCA and XLR output pairs. A pair of the M Millenium monoblock amplifiers (€3,200/each) drove a pair of the Jean Marie Reynaud Concorde Supreme speakers ($14,000/pair).
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 15, 2013
Germany's AMI-HIFI was showing a number of music servers in the large Atrium 4 exhibition space. Pictured above is the Purist Musik-Server HDR 5D (starting at €7,995) which supports gapless playback, FLAC, WAV, WMA, MP3, ACC, AAC, and AIFF formats up to 24/192. There's a 64GB SSD, 2TB of hard disc storage, a Teac CD/DVD drive for ripping, Coax S/PDIF outputs, and a Purist control app for iOS devices. If you visit the AMI-HIFI website, you'll see there are many options including a model with an internal Burr Brown 1792A DAC (HDR 5DA €9,995), larger capacity Solid State Drives, a Blu-Ray drive, Wi-Fi, and much more.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 14, 2013
The active display in the Amphion consisted of a simple €10k setup featuring the Amphion Two15 professional monitors (€1500/each), Lindell Audio AmpX ($1,599.99), and the Antelope Audio Zodiac+ DAC/Preamp ($2,695). The desktop/near field (trendspotting again) strikes me as the new hi-fi frontier mainly because so many of us spend so much time in front of a computer monitor with terabyte-busting music collections of increasing quality. With speakers and systems like this Amphion-based rig, you can get exceptional near field performance without busting your bank account.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2013
Amphion was showing off some colorful versions of their Ion+ speakers (€500/each) that were hand painted by Danish artist Kristian Hornsleth in a limited edition (€3,000/pair). For those looking to brighten up their listening environment with aural and visual art, these speakers fit the bill on both counts.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 15, 2013
the full text across the top reads, "The Power of Clocking"

Antelope Audio was showing their Rubicon Atomic AD/DA Preamp ($40,000) that offers up to 384kHz playback via its USB input, DLNA streaming via Ethernet, 1 Phono Input on RCA, 3 RCA, 1 HiZ Input on RCA, 1 Combo Balanced Input on XLR/¼ TRS, 2 S/PDIF, 2 TOSLINK, 1 AES/EBU, and Word Clock Input. Outputs include 1 Balanced XLR, 1 Unbalanced RCA, 2 S/PDIF De-jittered outputs, and Hi-Speed USB on standard B type connector.

That Atomic Clock in the Rubicon is, according to Antelope Audio, a jitter Terminator, "Rubicon is the first DAC to integrate a Rubidium atomic clock, which is 100,000 times more stable than a traditional crystal oscillator. Coupled with Antelope’s 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking technology, the Rubidium achieves a breakthrough in jitter management, improving the sound quality in an unprecedented way."

Michael Lavorgna  |  May 14, 2013
The Aria music server (€3,995) from Digibit offers unlimited extended metadata fields and access to the SonataDB of classical music extended metadata as well as AMG, GD3, Freedb, and Musicbrainz for a classical music lover's metadata dreams come true. The Aria provides automatic CD ripping using dBPoweramp, an iPad app for control, up to 2TB of SSD storage or up to 4TB of HSDD storage, DLNA/UPnP compatibility so you can also access music on your network-attached storage, and up to 32/384kHz and DSD playback capability. Aria uses a professional-grade Teac DVD-R drive, a custom ultra-low power industrial grade motherboard, an optional 24/192 and DSD-capable asynchronous USB DAC, S/PDIF (RCA and BNC), AES/EBU, and I2S outputs, all wrapped up in a fanless aluminum case.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 15, 2013
I admit to being more than intrigued by the Astel & Kern 24/192-capable AK120 HD portable music player ($1,400). The AK120 follows on the heels of their very successful model 100 and offers a number of improvements including dual Wolfson 8740 DACs, 64GB of internal storage and 2 micro SD card slots for a total of 192GB of music storage, and overall better specs and sound according to iRiver CEO Il Hwan (Henry) Park. Henry reminded me that iRiver developed one of the first MP3 players way back in 1999 to which he added, "MP3 has no heart, no soul. It is our job to bring this back." Amen.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 14, 2013
Copenhagen, Denmark based Audiovector was showing their Si 3 Avantgarde Arreté speakers that come in a passive version (€8,000/pair) and an active version (€13,000/pair). We listened to the active version and while I was there Jay Rein of Bluebird Music treated me to some tunes from an iPad using the Sennheiser BTD 500 USB Wireless Bluetooth Transmitter ($59.95) which uses the apt-X® audio codec streaming to an Arcam rBlink Bluetooth DAC ($249.00). If I was trendspotting, and I was, I'd point to another example of a simplified system along with the ability to feed your system music from a variety of sources including the ubiquitous iOS or Android-based devices.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 14, 2013
I was very happy to see and hear the Auralic Vega Digital Audio Processor ($3,500) that I so thoroughly enjoyed (see review) and continue to enjoy. The Vega was coupled with Auralic's Taurus preamplifier ($2,099) and two pair of Merak 400W monoblock amplifiers ($4,995/pair) driving a pair of YG Acoustics Sonja™ 1.2 speakers ($72,800/pair). All together, this system produced a clean, clear, and powerful musical portrait.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 16, 2013
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 16, 2013
The mysterious AVM Tec (check out their website for an explanation) coupled their Alluxity Pre ONE preamplifier and Power ONE amplifier with the Aurender W20 music server (pictured at the bottom of the rack), and the Estelon Model XB speakers ($32,900/pair). AVM Tec is the brainchild of Alexander Vitus Mogensen, son of Vitus Audio founder Hans-Ole Vitus, and the company specializes in OEM and DIY markets.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 14, 2013
The B.M.C. PureDAC ($1,600) that was first spotted at CES on silent display and will be shipping in June. The PureDAC is more than a DAC, adding a balanced preamplifier and balanced headphone amplifier while offering asynchronous USB, AES/EBU, Toslink, and Coax S/PDIF inputs, and balanced and single-ended outputs. The PureDAC can handle up to 384kHz PCM data as well as DSD, it includes a nice aluminum remote, and as you see from its mug shot is very nicely put together. All for 1600 smackers. Nice.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 13, 2013
Bel Canto Black represents a shift in the balance of power. Or maybe I should say a shift in DAC? The Black series consists of two components—the C1 Controller and the PMD1 Power DAC. The Controller can be viewed as a preamplifier/renderer which includes your standard digital inputs (Coax and Toslink), UPnP Ethernet, USB, and AES/EBU. The twist here is there's no DAC but there is a 32-bit digital volume control, multiple user selectable FIR filters, and an A to D converter for the analog input. Your signal gets re-clocked in the Controller and in the case of an analog signal gets converted to 24/192 digital before getting passed on to the monoblock Power DACs via ST Fiber or AES/EBU. The DAC portion of the Power DAC is capable of handling up to 24/192 data while the power side puts out 400W into 8 ohms and 1200W into 2 ohms. Projected pricing is in the neighborhood of $15,000 per box.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 14, 2013
Buffalo Technology had their LS400 Series NAS devices on hand (the stouter of the two black boxes in the pic) that are geared for the audiophile market. Capable of handling AIFF, ALAC, WAV, FLAC, and DSD data, the DLNA/UPnP compatible LS400 Series includes a 1.2GHz ARMADA370 processor and 512Mbytes of DRAM running TwonkyMedia 7. The LS400 Series comes in three flavors— the single-drive LinkStation 410D ($229/2TB, $269/3TB, $399/4TB), dual-drive LinkStation 420D ($289/2TB, $369/4TB, $469/6TB, $719/8TB), and the diskless LinkStation 421E ($149/diskless enclosure).
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 16, 2013
Burmester's components suggest (to me) that one needs to address them with a fair amount of reverence while being properly quaffed, properly attired, and with very good posture. The Burmester 111 Musiccenter ($50,000) combines a DAC, Preamplifier, CD drive for ripping, SSD system disk, mirrored 3TB (6TB total) of hard disk storage for music, UPnP Ethernet and WLAN connectivity, a 7" display, iPad app, 3x analog inputs, 6x digital inputs (3x Toslink and 3x Coax S/PDIF), supported file formats include "FLAC / wav / mp3 etc" and up to 24/192 playback. There's also a headphone jack and RCA and Tolsink output.

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