Munich 2016

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Michael Lavorgna  |  May 13, 2016
Narcissus, Caravaggio (1594-96)

"Systems lean." So read my notes in reference to the experience of listening to lots of systems at the High End Show 2016 in Munich. Systems lean.

Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
Now that's what I'm talking about: some color, some sexy. The Box-Design by Pro-Ject Audio Systems Stream Box DS net (€630) is a 24/-bit/192kHz-capable network player/DAC using the Cirrus Logic CS4344. Inputs include Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g, Ethernet, and USB, while fixed analog (RCA) & digital coax outputs (RCA) take care of connecting to your hi-fi. The Stream Box supports gapless playback and streaming from Internet Radio (vTuner), Spotify Connect, and Tidal. Since the company makes a point of stating that the Stream Box supports "FLAC decoding for all 9 compression levels including Level 0", my guess is they're using the streaming modules from Stream Unlimited.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
By All-in-One, Simaudio is referring to the fact that one need only connect a pair of speakers to the 50wpc Nēo ACE ($3,500), plug your network into it with a run of Ethernet, and you'll be off and running streaming from the Internet, serving from storage, and enjoying music in no time flat.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
You're looking at, among other things, a Western Electric 11A horn system c.1924 (before the advent of electrical recording) courtesy of the fine folks at Silbatone Acoustics. Silbatone's own electronics designed by J.C. Morrison provided the juice (using vintage, and I mean vintage VT-1 and VT-2 triodes), while one of Frank Schroeder's or Thomas Schick's tonearms rode the grooves. All-in-all, this was the most goosebumps inducing sound at The Show, at least according my goosebumps-O-meter, as it was able to convey the life in music. I find some systems, OK some modern systems, pale in comparison on this note, delivering a strained sounding imitation more intent on sound effects than music or in the worse case serving up music that is, for all intents and purposes, DOA. A corpse.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
While on silent display, the Technics Network Audio Amplifier SU-G30 ($3,999) web page is chock full of good information. For example:
JENO Engine (Jitter Elimination and Noise-shaping Optimization)
Jitter is a major cause of distortion in digital systems, and is caused by mis-timing in the master clocks used in digital-to-analogue conversion. To eliminate the degradation of sound caused by jitter, Technics has developed an original jitter reduction circuit, comprising a clock generator in the noise-shaping system to reduce jitter in the low-frequency range and a high-precision sample rate converter for suppressing jitter in the high-frequency range. Thus it reduces jitter in an ideal way over the entire frequency range. This works with a newly-developed and original high-precision PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) conversion circuit, optimising the noise-shaping speed, the degree and requantisation error, and the PWM gradation, in order to convert high-resolution signals to PWM without causing any damage to the dynamic range. These new technologies enable the new generation of Technics digital amplifier designs to reproduce the natural and delicate nuances of music.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
NativeDSD hosted a series of listening sessions at High End 2016 featuring the Merging Technologies NADAC ($10,500 for stereo version), which is here in-barn for review, and electronics and (very interesting looking) speakers from Daudio. Let's get something straight—while I listen to 'classical' music, I'm listening to Morton Feldman as I type, classical music is not my main squeeze (as I pointed out to Channel Classics/Native DSD's Jared Sachs, I'm from NJ). That being said, if you want to hear some of the best sounding and well-recorded classical music, get yee to NativeDSD and check out Jared Sachs work for his Channel Classics label. You will not be disappointed.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
The big digital news from Munich is something that you have to put together. It's not a single thing, rather an accumulation of things. I know, so much for simplicity. But it is simple.
MBL
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
I always make it a point to make time for MBL to listen to their unique and impressive systems and talk to their designer, Juergen Reiss. In Munich I was fortunate enough to sit in on Juergen's demo where he explained some of the principles behind the extreme Radialstrahler mbl 101 X-treme speakers and one of the key points he made is best illustrated here:
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 12, 2016
the Voxativ 9.87 System (left) and Ampeggio Due

Near the end of Day 3 at the Show, I went back to a few rooms to just sit and listen and the totaldac/Voxativ room was near the top of my just sit and listen list. But first a peculiar fact about the Munich High End Show: it has by far the worst sounding rooms of any show I've ever attended with walls bleeding sound from room-to-room as if they were made of grill cloth, you'll hear lots of horrid audiophile music including many a cover of real (good) music by vapid singers accompanied by acoustic niceties, yet, and this the odd part, the Munich High End Show is by far the best hi-fi show in the world. Go figure.

Michael Lavorgna  |  May 11, 2016
I covered Nagra's Classic DAC ($14,995) at CES 2016 (see report) but I went into the Nagra room anyway because I like looking at, listening to, and ideally touching the Nagra gear.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 11, 2016
The Vermeer Audio Two Universal Control Center (€18,000) is a network-ready DAC/preamplifier offering digital (Ethernet, asynchronous USB, Toslink, AES, Coax S/PDIF) and analog inputs as well as a tube driven analog output stage with volume control. The Two can handle PCM resolutions up to 32-bit/284kHz and DSD64 and sends its converted bits out via analog RCA or XLRs.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 11, 2016
When attending hi-fi shows, you sometimes come across a product in-use in a number of rooms, something sitting there silently doing its job largely unheralded because it's not part of the system being highlighted (i.e. the company did not necessarily pay to have it put there). One such case in Munich was the preponderance of Melco servers. Here's a Melco server feeding the CH Precision C1 Reference Digital to Analog Controller (£18,500) and while I didn't keep count, because I'm an idiot, I think it's fair to say that Melco outnumbered any like device.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 11, 2016
I already covered the RoonReady ELAC Discovery Music Server DS-101 ($999) at CES 2016 (see ELAC Are On Fire!) so I'm only going to say one thing:
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 11, 2016
When I go into the dCS room at any hi-fi show, I know that two things are going to happen: I'm going to hear great music and it's going to sound great. The former, and in many ways the latter, are due to dCS' John Quick. While I often make fun and sometimes complain about the music played at hi-fi shows since it falls somewhere between absolutely dreadful, painfully cliché'd, and "Really? Are you kidding me?" (especially in Munich), some people actually enjoy music. John Quick enjoys music.

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