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May Munich Hi-end show

Greetings all you audiophiles out there,

At the invitation of PT, I have decided to take a short break from my busy work schedule and will accompany the AE duo on a special trip to attend the Munich show this week.

I hope to post a few photos n comments on my listening impressions of the show. Since I am not affiliated to the hi-fi biz, I intend to report on the rooms with reasonably good sound (taking into account of the acoustic limitations) as well as those with bad sounds due to equipment mismatching as well as poor room acoustics (i.e. those with 'untreated' BIG glass windows behind their massive equipment).

By the way, I will be very delighted to meet and exchange notes on anything to do with audio (minus all the technical aspects) with the attendants including exhibitors at the show. You can contact me at : mr_zanden@hotmail.com.

Look forward going to the show & look fwd to meeting some of you there !

Regards
Mr Z
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Comments

  • That's faboulous with Mr.Zanden broadcasting the Munich show live! Thank you!
  • PT, Jlam, Mr. Zanden,

    I am sure you guys will have an enjoyable trip to Munich, may I ask you to say my best regards to Ulrik of Argento, Jorn of Tidal, Ralph of Cessaro, Yamada san of Zanden, Peter of DV, Tripoint, Analog Domain, Thales, Vekian, Neodio, and many others....wishing them good show!!
  • Taking off to Munich tonight and then spend a few days at the Virtu corner at Da Vinci in Switzerland. We will take plenty of photo and upload in this space. Stay tuned...
  • The Alternate 2011 May Munich M.O.C. high-end show report

    The much-awaited Thursday finally arrived and after a usual hectic day at work, I proceeded to the airport to meet with the AE duo to board our flight to Munich, my first ever visit to this famous city (I had been to Frankfurt on business several times in the past) where Europe's largest high-end exhibition takes place every year, in fact, the famed High Society of Germany is organising this special event for the 30th year in 2011.

    When I sat inside the plane, I saw a lovely near full moon on my left and to my surprise, when we arrived at Munich airport just before 6:00am, the same moon was still at the exact position on my left side – a lovely omen perhaps.

    After checking in, since it was still early, I suggested to the AE duo to have a German breakfast in a local cafe next to the hotel, we sat in the open to enjoy the most relaxing breakfast this year in the heart of Bavaria, the sound of the birds and smell of lovely “fresh” air gave everyone the feeling of serenity (perhaps this was what Ulrik of Argento had in mind when wh designed this model).

    DAY 1

    Finally, the moment had come for us to head to M,O,C, Munchen. We arrived right on time at 10:00am, some people said this year was the largest they had seen with 3 floors of exhibitors. My mindset about this kind of international event is to allow global hi-fi exhibitors to display their proud inventions/products to the professional dealers and ultimate users. To a normal audiophile (like yours truly), this is the only place where they can view and hear some really exotic brands which are not available in their countries, in other respect, the systems on demo may well be the system(s) they aspire to own some day.

    The first place we visited was the Cessaro/TW-Acustic where the very specious room show-cased my (PT's perhaps ?) dream system – The Gamma. After spending several minutes to adjust to this totally unfamiliar listening environment, I found the sound, although quick and totally transparent, the larger-than-life imaging and lack of bass to beef up the vital mid-range, leading to occasional hardness, ultimately deterred me from giving it further serious listening, I needed to do some soul searching to pull myself together.

    Next, we headed to Harmonix room, the tuning master was there with a complete suite of his own brand of equipments. I had used many of his tuning devices many moons ago and they are now in my storage room. The soundstage was normal and fairly good, imaging was in the right proportion but not wide enough. The host played a very demanding track, Martilda from Belafonte's Live at Carnegie Hall, a track I was too familiar with. The system earned full marks for producing harsh-free sound, very easy to listen too, however, the lack of dynamic and transparency made the overall sound unexciting as I could not feel the “LIVE” and “Engaging” atmosphere of the Carnegie hall which I could experience from a well set-up system.

    We then walked to the Thales/EMT room, the elegant & simplistic look of the brand new Thales turntable with 2 of its tonearms looked absolutely gorgeous. Although the sound (with EMT phonostage and EMT gold cartridge) powered by a vintage Japanese professional amp to a new pair of Swiss speakers was not my cup of tea, I could hear the potential of the turntable combo, maybe a demo at AE's showroom would do this T/T system full justice but we must wait for this to happen in the not-too-distant future.

    Next, we went to the the Tidal room where they had their middle tier models partnered with a German acoustic treatment company, the sound was smooth and engaging, it showed you don't need a mega-buck system to produce pleasant sound, the only shortcomings were the slight loss of upper extension and transparency, maybe this was due to the room having too many sound tuning banner like gadgets in the room.

    We then arrived to the Orpheus room (I was an ex-user of their digital products), the biggest surprise was the fairly large and unusual looking speakers made by Audiomanufacture (a Swiss company). The sound was the best we had heard so far with good imaging, transparency; dynamics as well as having achieved the correct tonality. The design philosophy was displayed in one of the banners which I would like to share with you as it had touched me, it said “ Perhaps I have spent more time in concert halls than most other loudspeaker manufacturers. Wherever I go the tone of real instruments is with me. In my memory, in my body – and I promise you can hear it in our products.” I must confess I am not a fan of transistor amps, the sound impressed me the most so far because I could feel the designer had almost achieved his goals, it would be very interesting to hear the speakers being driven by a pair of good valve amps but life is never that perfect, right.

    Next, we paid homage to the Tidal room with the Sunray T1 system but partnered with Constellation amplifications, the analog front was the ultra-expensive Continuum T/T pair with an Airtight MC cartridge. Maybe we were expecting the sound to be that of what we had experienced in AE's showroom, and when it was not, we were disappointed. I speculated it was the complete change of amps. Which had contributed to the not-so transparent sound as well as slow bass plus lack of dynamics. When I requested the lovely host to play the La Folia LP which I had brought for the trip, the sound was unengaging. In fact, the visitor sitting right in front of me kept shaking his head whenever music was played initially through digital source and when he heard the vinyl playback, he said to me “no dynamics” and left the room. There was simply not enough gain from the phonostage (Constellation) which was the main cause of the pretty low level of the overall sound. This incident further reinforced my fixed belief that owning a top-notched system is NEVER a ticket to creating a good sound in your room.

    The best sound on Day 1 came from a room which saw the debut of a pair of French horns called La Grand Castine made by a small company Musique-Concrete. The sound was transparent, deep, organic, however, the two 32" subs were just a tad slow but the sound was musical and engagaing.

    Well, what can I say dear AE readers, the the systems that I raved so much in the “Clash of the Titans” had to be renamed “Crash of the Titans” at this M,O,C, show.

    Honestly speaking, the 2 systems were not even performing even at 30% of their true potentials. Well, that's life. We planned to go back to the Cessaro room on Sat. to do a wee bit of acoustic tuning in order to give full justice to this potentially impressively-sounding system.

    More to come on the next day, good nite.

    Mr Z
  • I felt the summary of the show is "misallocation of resources". Some example:

    1. Analog Domain Calysto driving Sonas Faber Stardivarius speakers.
    2. Constellation phono/pre/power driving the Tidal without Argento cables
    3. Tube amplifiers from Greek driving the Cessaro Gamma

    The result of mismatch was driven by non-audio reasons, obviously. Mr.Zanden and I walked thru basically every room. He is much more critically than me but the general summary is the following:

    1. Hard sounding due to bad acoutiscs
    2. The room that sounds pleasing usually has fair degree of roll-off at the top end.

    We are probably using audiophiles in-home standard to gauge performance at show conditions.

    The room that impressed me the most is the NeoDio room with Edge amplification driving a pair of speakers called Estelon by Alfred and Company. The La Granded Castine horn from the French is interesting but upon 2nd listening, I felt the overall presentation is a bit too laid back from my own perferences.

    It had been a great fun to travel with Mr.Zanden. We had great Bavarian food, great convesation and wonderful time!

    I and JLam will fly to Switzerland to meet with the Da Vinci team this afternoon.
  • PT and Mr. Zanden were shaking their heads once they knew the amp for Cessaro. Oh !
  • This is what i want to listen in the show! Tidal is great.Today is the last day of Munich Show 2011, I hope Mr. Zanden , PT and I can discover some surprise ....
  • Eventually, I found a system that worth listening. This one better than all the sound from Munich Show. Virtue Master reference system was being listened by PT the very first time.

    Now he agrees it is one of the best in the World.
  • This is indeed an outstanding system that is hard to put it in words. But what I learnt the most is how to set up the Gabriel turntable that serves as the source of ultimate musicality. But what I am going to write here may not make sense here from the conventional wisdom. But after what Peter had showed me what to do, I recalled Mr.DV once told me that ever since Peter's original setting was changed, he could never experience the same level of musicality again even though the new setup is more precise and accurate. I didn't pay too much attention until what I saw.

    And the tricks are:

    1. Set the level of the arm higher (0.5mm maybe)at the armbase. Then you LOWER the height of the platter. That means the arm is now NOT in parallel to the platter. (This also means you will give up the VTA adjustment possibility.)
    2. Take away the magnetic screw that serves as a quasi anti-skating.
    3. Set the tracking force to at least 2.5
    4. The protractor is only used to adjust the 2nd null point. Peter didn't bother to even take a look at the null point.

    Now, the above may seem very rough and not precise. But there are real physical reasons behind the methodology. Frankly, if you don't set the Gabriel up like what Peter do, I beg you will never hear the potential of this masterpiece.

    That's why to him setting up a tone arm is a few minutes job but what I listened is the most enjoyable experience so far. The image is extremely stable. The flow of music is excellent..... and you just need to come to Switzerland to understand. Now, I understand what Johnathan Valin wrote in his review...
  • PT, undoubtedly I am nowhere near to know how to set up the tonearm properly but what you have described to us leaves me with a big question whether this would be detrimental to the cartridge especially whether it would distort the tip of the cartridge easily leading to a shorter life span...you would say if this is the case, this is the price to pay for greater musical experience...can you get some authenticated answer from Peter?

    Thanks.
    Marvel
  • PT, that true and I appreciate u go experience yourself, without the magic touch, d AAS drop 30% at least.

    I did tried explain and difficult to let u and mr.chik understand. Please note down the every detail for Peter's arm setting. i saw he was doing very easy at my place, but this is big shit that i can't tune it back in after two years.
  • What is that speaker and driver?
  • Let me explain it in a very simple way.

    We always set the arm weight in order to have good touching and tracking for the arm and the platter, right? OK, now, let's destroy this idea. We now use the height of arm board and the height of the platter to adjust and find the best setting for the turntable.

    We set the arm board higher than before and lower the leg of the platter until the arm parallel to the platter in the holding position (ref to Pic 1). Now, the most important, set the tracking force to 2.5 to 2.6. OK, after that you can see the arm will deep down the platter than normal setting (ref to Pic 2). The musicality is unbelievable.

    According to Peter, this set up is for the true music lover. He has a big group of friends who enjoy a lot of live concert music use this setting for long time. He also point out he is not the only arm builder using this idea to design and operate. In a nut shell, Peter said this is not for the one who concern about cost and price and life of the cartridge and second hand price. We never play music in a cheap way.

    This is the 100% authenticated answer from Peter.
  • 2nd part of the Munich show

    Although the last week's visit to the Munich high-end show proved to be a relaxing break for me, the continued listening throughout the 3-day show (4 days includ. the Thur's trade opening day) was rather tiring, not to mention the lunches & evening dinners with various manufacturers.

    Back to the report in the last 2 days, basically, we went to almost most of the rooms on the 1st day, the 2nd day was pretty much a re-audition of the systems we heard on the previous day to confirm our original findings. We returned to the Cessaro room to hear the system which was fine-tuned again by the designer after our earlier constructive comments together with some room tweaking by your truly, in the end, the sound was more enjoyable to listen to but the bass setting was still too light to my liking (one can easily raise the crossover point plus increasing the bass output to do the trick), however, since this was not my system, I had to respect the designer's listening preference. Overall, there was a 20%+ improvement in the sound.

    I returned to the Tidal room on the last day but could not discern any obvious improvement as obviously the system had not been fine tuned since our last visit. An elderly affluent couple were enjoying the system much more than me, so I guess the majority of the average audiophiles in the show would be easily impressed by maga-systems.

    The system which impressed me the most was the La Grande Castine French horn by its pure mid-range which completely had me bowed over because of its natural and stress free sound, however, the lack of upper extention (25k vs Cessaro's 45k) plus the slight problem in the bass (30-80 hz) slightly bordered me, my conclusion is this is a mighty fine pair of horns but still a work in porgress, once the slight problems in the highs & lows are successfully tackled, I am sure they will be among one of the small handful of world's best tranducers, period.

    I m leaving the most annoying offenders in the last part, the gynormous MBL system produced the soggiest bass, Avantgarde gave the hardest sound and PMC home theatre system annoyed everyone by its earth-thundering bass which could be heard in the corridor and surronding rooms, no wonder some rock atrists are using their system as some of them are having difficulty in hearing the highs.
    I was pleasantly surprised to see so many different horn designs but was rather perplexed by the partnering of powerful solid state amps by some manufacturers with these high efficiency beasts (transistors somehow distort the mids & the highs of the horns in my opinion).

    I had been to high-end shows in the U.K. and H.K. many times and the Munich show produced better sound than other venues, however, it looked to me manufactures were unable to treat their rooms successfully (except the Acoustic System International), hence, resulting in boomy bass, hard sound, lack of solid imaging. After returning home, I immediately turned on my system to have a reality check, to my ears, it sounded
    "so much better" than all the systems I had heard in Munich. My system produced sound with harmonic decays, coherent bass, good dynamic contrast, you could hear the bass sounding differently on different recordings, you could hear whether the singer was singing thorugh his/her throat or chest n the imaging was rock solid and 3-dimensional, so these are the crtieria I use to evaluate my/any system.

    The conclusion you can make from this report is the ticket to achieving a fine sounding system is to have perfect gear matching together with perfectly-tweaked room acoustics but in reality, none of us have come close to reaching hi-fi nirvana as most of us are unable to have a perfect listening room but we should keep tweaking until we succeed.

    Happy listening.

    Mr Z
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