High End 2016 pt.1

Someone described the High End show in Munich as the Superbowl of the audio industry, it’s certainly a fabulous event with considerably more audio hardware gathered in one building than you will find anywhere else, but luckily there weren’t any guys in shoulder pads and helmets around. Here is the first tranche of new products that grabbed us, but there will be more, a lot more.

PMC unveiled a complete new range of loudspeakers called twenty5. These celebrate the company’s 25th birthday and build on the qualities of the twenty series with woven glass fibre drivers and a radical revision to the advanced transmission line loading found in all PMCs. The Laminair vent seen at the mouth of the transmission line eliminates turbulence and reduces distortion in the process. The tweeter features a new dispersion grille designed for optimum dispersion and the G-Weave mid/bass and bass drivers are a hybrid of fine weave glass fibre and pulp with a new venting system in the cone neck. Prices start at £1,870 for the twenty5.21 standmountn and rise to £6,995 for the twenty5.26 floorstander. Watch this space for an and interview with designer Ollie Thomas (below).

Much vaunted turntable brand Continuum showed a considerably more affordable turntable than its original Caliburn in the shape of the Obsidian at $35,000. This has a high mass stainless steel and Delrin platter that features tungsten steel at “key points” for its natural damping qualities. The Viper tonearm ($10,000) is similar to the original Cobra with a large but light carbon fibre construction but has a unipivot bearing and again a lower price.

Ken Ishiwata (above) may just be the best dressed guy in hi-fi circles but he’s much happier playing music than telling you about his latest creations! But speaking to Marantz Europe I discovered that the new SA-10 SACD/CD player/DAC (£5,499) and PM-10 amplifier (£6,499) shown below are intended to “challenge our own Reference Series, SC-7, MA-9, SA-7” and will run alongside the 11 series and will be on sale in the autumn. They were driving WM-3 speakers (below) from the FinkTeam that will be made in limited numbers for an asking price of circa €100,000. These have a custom Beyma 15inch pro bass driver,  a pair of in-house designed flat midranges and an Air motion tweeter.

Constellation is bringing down the entry price for its beautifully hewn and oft great sounding amps with the Inspiration integrated ($13,500). This is made up of the guts of an Inspiration 1.0 preamplifier and half of a Stereo 1.0 power amplifier. So it combines an analogue line stage with a 100 Watt amplifier and a headphone amp.

This is a largely aesthetic revision of Gryphon’s Mojo S standmount speaker (€20,000 including stand) but it looked great in its orange garb so had to be included. The side panels are made of laminated MDF and can be replaced to suit different tastes, they are damped to kill vibration and provide a degree of dispersion assistance. Treble output can be adjusted with four supplied resistors that fit into the rear terminals.

Brits Q-Acoustics previewed the Concept 50 due to ship in September. It has a duo Gelcore cabinet with all six sides made up of a 30mm laminate of MDF and Gelcore damping (unlike the existing Concept models which have four sides in this material). The Concept 50 has a pair of 165mm paper cone woofers and is tuned internally for maximum bass extension. Treble output is adjustable and the whole thing stands on an aluminium base that will come in black or chrome finish, price will be circa £2,500.

Raidho’s latest floorstander is an unusually aerodynamic 3-way with four 6 inch alumininum/ceramic woofers and a planar tweeter in an aluminium baffled, five layer composite cabinet. This is internally divided into separate chambers and has four ports that exit the thin end of the wedge at the back. Price is a cool €100,000.

Cyrus’ latest amplifier breaks free of the aluminium casting that has defined the brand for so long. The Cyrus One is a class D hybrid integrated amplifier offering 100 Watts (6 Ohms), Bluetooth aptX, MM phono stage and class A/B headphone output. The third gen class D implementation is said to be the most efficient yet. Price will be £700 when it goes on sale this summer.

The EAR 825Q five band stereo equaliser was created for studio use and has a pure valve, fully balanced circuit as well as “adjustable attack points”. Apparently it can be beneficial in domestic systems and the colours aren’t just their for style, but they caught my eye.

The High End is all about scale and Trafomatic took this to heart with the Elysium single ended triode monoblocks, these produce a claimed 75 Watts per channel from an Eimac 250TL tube. They would also make the ultimate hostess trolley if they only had wheels!

Audiolab previewed two additions to its 8300 range of rectilinear electronics. The 8300XP (top) is a stereo power amplifier offering 120 Watts for £1,200 and due in September while the 8300N is a network streamer with preamplifier, Bluetooth aptX, Airplay and a new control app that will be around £1,000 at an as yet unannounced launch date toward the end of the year.

Nic and Simon from Trilogy showed a replacement pre/power for its 909/990 pairing, the 903 preamplifier uses valves for all gain stages and there’s an optional phono stage (£1450) with variable gain and loading. The 993 is a hybrid stereo power amp with a choke input supply and MOSFETs for lower outputs that hand over to “big” bi-polars for the full 125 Watts. Both inhabit attractively machined aluminium casework and sell for £4,995 apiece.

The DAC wizards at MSB have avoided the obvious and built a headphone amplifier and DAC specifically for electrostatic headphones. The Select headphone amp is designed for Stax headphones which need voltage as well as signal, it will cost $37,950. MSB has also created a renderer module (below) that allows its DACs to be used as UPnP endpoints, these come in different versions according to the DAC but start at $2,000 for the Analog DAC shown. I for one can’t wait to hear this at home.

Featuring the power amplifier section of the Classic Amp the Nagra Classic Int has three RCA and one XLR input, a pre-out, remote control, balance and 100 Watt output for $20,000. The Classic Pre (below left) is still a prototype but has eight FETs per channel to emulate a tube sound and a big coupling condenser, while the Classic DAC ($14,000, below right) has the same board as Nagra’s HD converter, runs DSD up to DSD256 and has a tube output stage.

Living Voice has created a version of its class leading Vox Olympian horn system with contemporary styling, patinated bronze metalwork and a supertweeter custom made by Vitavox. The reduction in elaborate veneer work and change of tweeter gives the Vox Palladian a lower £250,000 price than its stablemate but for my money it’s the more attractive design. The partnering Vox Basso subs were shown rather than heard but look equally dramatic even if the 18inch bass driver is hidden. That bronze ring on the front is the circa six inch reflext port. Kevin Scott was using a pair of early generation Vox Elysian subs with the Palladians and producing a sound that put this room among the very best in show.

Pro-Ject’s president Heinz Lichtenegger celebrated the brand’s 25th birthday with the Classic turntable, the first ‘sub-chassis’ model for the brand. It has an aluminium top plate that sits on elastomer suspension, an aluminium platter and a carbon and aluminium sandwich tonearm yet comes in at a very reasonable £799 including an Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge.

Astell & Kern have come up with a way to record vinyl into digital files using its portable players. The AK Recorder PRF11 ($795) provides an interface between the output of a phono stage and one of its 300 series players, it can record WAV at up to 32-bit/384kHz or DSD64 or 128 and offers low cut filters. The AK300 is the new entry level model in the 300 series, it has a single DAC and 64GB storage for $899.

High End pt.2