Top end, two-way standmounts were all the rage in Munich. Crystal Cables showed its new Arabesque Mini, a delicious 12,000€ anodized-finished loudspeaker that builds on the success and design of the glass Arabesque flagship, but this time features a dome tweeter and a very refined Perspex-like three bar speaker stand. The company also showed a 36,000€ Arabesque III floorstander in a rich black anodized finish, while sister brand Siltech launched its new Explorer series of interconnects and speaker cables. Why is this last so significant? For a company where the name bespeaks of its use of silver (or silver-gold) conductors in its designs, the new Explorer range is made from pure copper.
Meanwhile audio enfant terrible Magico added two more products to its Q series, the Q3 and Q1. Most people will wax lyrical over the Q3 – for good reason, it’s pretty damn good – but the Q1 was for me the star of the show. As a replacement to the popular Mini, the new sealed-box two-way speaker is smaller, cheaper (that’s a relative term, it’s still 28,000€ per pair) and sounds like the biggest small speaker you’ve ever heard. This is the Manhattan Apartment loudspeaker par excellence. Yes, it needs a great set of electronics in front of it (it was powered, as is often the case at these events, by Soulution, which had its new 540 Media Player and matching - if huge - 530 integrated amplifier, the first from the brand). But also, yes, it lives up to the reputation Magico has created for itself in so short a time. It sounds like a grand audio cliché, but everyone sitting listening to these small speakers assumed they were the Q3, even when playing deep bass notes. Then they saw the speaker cables led to the Q1, and did a perfect double take at least twice. I stood outside the room to speak to one of the team, and learned how to swear in about 14 languages as other people walked out of the room, heads shaking in disbelief at how Magico gets that much sound out of that little speaker without fracturing the laws of physics.
At less breathless heights of audiophile extremism, the improved Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand loudspeakers are an elegant two-and-a-half-way floorstander at the very reasonable price of around 3,000€ per pair. The Mozart has been uprated to take the new 6” X3P bass units and features a heavily revised crossover network. Sadly, Vienna wasn't running a demonstration room, but the speakers show great promise.
Streaming and computer audio solutions were gaining ground, and there were countless new launches of computer-side products than new CD players in this show. Among the highlights, Plinius was showing its new 4950€ Toko streamer, complete with vestigial CD drive, Hegel was showing off its two newest DACs (one of which is USB only), Cambridge Audio finally launched the 598€ Sonata NP30 streamer originally shown a year ago, NAD announced the 800€ C446 does everything receiver and Burmester was showing its 111 Music Server from its Reference Line. The price of this player is still to be confirmed, but it won’t be cheap! It includes an integrated CD slot for ripping, can connect to the world through WiFi and/or LAN. It has an excellent front panel display, that is easily readable across a room, and there is the obligatory iPad application to drive it.
Meanwhile, burgeoning Chinese brand QAT demonstrated its MS5 host server (and was showing the forthcoming MS1 high-end server), but what was particularly impressive was the RP1 remote pad (with an Android app already to market and a very sassy looking iPad app in the wings). Expect much from this go-getting Beijing-based brand. Moving south to Shenzhen, IAG had a slew of new products, including new speakers from Mission and Quad and lots of two channel and multi-channel Audiolab equipment. Perhaps the most exciting of the lot for the audiophile was the upcoming Audiolab M-DAC, a half-sized DAC/headphone amp that is expected to take on the big boys.
The transition to file-based music is not quite complete, though. Both Vitus Audio and Burmester showed new CD players in new ‘entry-level’ lines, while Gryphon Audio and Densen showcased a whole new everything. Vitus Audio was showcasing its new ‘100’ series, currently standing at a CD player, preamp and integrated amp, all of which are expected to retail below 10,000€ per unit. All built to typical Vitus standards. With widespread distribution by Focal, expect to see more from this Nordic brand.