NuForce is every bit the state-of-the-art brand, and it was showing products at both ends of the spectrum to great effect along with its new-found best friend in the audio industry, Amphion loudspeakers. The iDo will be an iProduct-chummy DAC that can output either a digital datastream or analogue/headphone output. It is sized like NuForce’s other desktop computing products. At the other end of the scale was the 5,000€ P-18 preamplifier, with it’s shaved off edges and running the length of the front panel display, it will be an exciting addition to match the company’s Reference 18 mono power amps. Headphone DAC/amps are fast becoming the next big thing. Along with NuForce, ADL and Furutech launched the elegant, wing-shaped 500€ Cruise… and then there was Funk. Not the post-Pink Triangle maker of decks and arms, but Funk Tonstudiotechnik to be precise. This is a pro-audio manufacturer of stereo and surround preamps, phono stages and the remarkable 700€ Headmaster II headphone amp. Remarkable because it allows impedance switching, balanced and single-ended connection, will drive anything with a large headphone jack and do it properly and even allows the sort of left/right switching and cancellation that studio engineers need and headphone fans love.
Everyone (rightly) associates Germany with big, shiny chrome turntables. Everyone that is, except Kuzma. Kuzma’s new work-in-progress 14,000€ Stabi-M turntable was the antithesis of shiny, with most people asking ‘is that your new record cleaner’. The deck is a large ‘wife and pet-proof’ deck with a lid big enough to accommodate 12” arms and a lid plus detachable side glass cheeks. As someone who has one wife and two cats, I can see the appeal, even if the aesthetics of the deck are, er, challenging. TW Acustic also went the ‘none more black’ route, in a far more decorative manner with its 16,000€ Raven LTD, which really is limited to just 50 turntables. Get your orders in quick.
Elsewhere though, the chrome shininess of German turntablism shone through, in brands like Transrotor, Acoustic Solid and Clearaudio. This last was showing its Statement Turntable and TT1 arm, a masterpiece of magnetic levitation and non-contact drive trains, all on a built-in pendulum stand that could just about continue to play records on a rough sea crossing. The new Statement Phono, a more restrained looking two-box phono/line preamplifier with a remotely controllable input loading and a full spread of equalization curves, also joined the Clearaudio family. We didn’t get a chance to hear these beauties properly and the price is in the ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ region. And just when you thought turntables were immune to the power of the iPad, along comes resident vinyl crazy guy (in all the right ways) Dr Feickert, with his free PlatterSpeed app, which measures a 3.15kHz test tone played on a 15€ vinyl disc.
Any visit to a German hi-fi show wouldn’t be complete without the wild and wacky end. They are into their big horn loudspeakers in an even bigger way in Munich. Cesaro, Avantgarde, Musique Concrete (guess what they are made from) and more are installed with manful amounts of blood, sweat and tears. And many of them made a remarkably good sound in the process. But my vote for crazed loudspeaker of the show was not even making a noise, and it wasn’t finished in anything like a commercial finish, or even any kind of finish whatsoever. It was just the one horn loudspeaker on the Blumenhofer Acoustics stand and when I visited it was just about to swallow an unsuspecting audiophile. Whole.
There’s a lot more. It only scratches the surface. To take in all that’s new in Munich is beyond the scope of one, weissbier-fuelled hack with a camera and a broken laptop. I was notionally tasked with covering the sub-$25,000 market, with my colleague Jonathan Valin discussing the market above and beyond that figure. Trouble is, last time we saw him, he was heading to Switzerland…