High End 2017 pt.3

Karl Heinz-Fink is the man behind the remarkable Q-Acoustics Concept 500 so I had to hear his Finkteam WM-4 (€65,000) that was previewed last year. This is a sculpted beauty that runs a pair of BMR style flat midrange units, seriously big 15inch paper bass drivers and a Mundorf air motion transformer tweeter. It sounded pretty dam fine on the end of Octave tube amplification and a modest but fully linear power supplied Mac Mini front end with an Ideon Ayazi DAC (€1,400).

Well Tempered apparently showed the huge Royale 400 turntable last year but I had to take a pic of its 16inch arm: the optimum length in William Firebaugh’s book. It has a Delrin platter, cotton drive belt and electronic speed control for €12,485. New on the stand was a prototype DPS MkII power supply for all but the Simplex deck and the forthcoming Well Tempered Phono Stage with ‘optimised’ RIAA stage (below).

Playback Designs don’t expect to ship their Dream team of MPT-8 Drive ($15,000) and MPD-8 DAC ($22,000) until the year’s end but they look pretty slick already. Connected by a proprietary P-Link that can transfer DSD from the CD/SACD transport, this pairing can decode up to quad DSD natively with a discrete FPGA based converter. The Drive is also a streamer with all the usual bells and whistles, the happy engineer is Bert Gerlach.

Auralic’s latest G2 components put it firmly in the serious end of the market, the Aries G2 (£3,899) is a streaming bridge with a new HDMI output for transferring digits to an Auralic DAC with two-way control. The idea is to eliminate jitter between it and new Vega 2 streaming DAC (£5,499), with DSD512 and 32/384 capabilities. These will be followed by the G2 Sirius upsampling processor and G2 Leo femto clock in November.

TechDas gave us a hint of what's to come with its Airforce Zero turntable by showing the Airforce Zero Engine with its current flagship model. The Zero Engine is a high torque motor drive with "enormous inertia" and Airfloat isolation to provide a "vibration free" drive for the forthcoming design. It is not available as an upgrade for the Airforce One apparently.

Melco revealed the as yet unnamed disc drive that they have been promising, it has a Pioneer drive and can be used to rip CDs to a Melco server or as a player when connected to the same device. In the latter state it runs at CD speed and Melco claim to have been very careful with data clocking. Price will be £750.

Primare has developed the Prisma board which can be added to most of its new products and turns them into network streamers and Chromecast receivers with Spotify Connect and Airplay. The premium varies with product but starts at €400. The I15 is a 65W, Hypex class D powered integrated with high spec DAC at €1,750 inc Prisma. The i35 integrated uses their UFPD 2 class D tech to deliver 150W with optional DAC for €3,500. CD35 is a player with Teac drive mech and 768kHz/DSD128 DAC for €2,800, and there’s a transport called DD15 with a slot drive at €1,250.

dCS has added an all in one player to its Vivaldi range. The Vivaldi One (£55,000) is a limited edition CD/SACD, streamer, DAC and clock with its own control app. The price given is for anodised finishes, gloss white, black or 24k gold plating will be extra.

Unlike De La Soul Moon has come to the conclusion that 8 is the perfect number. Hence its new 888 monster monoblock amp is rated at 888 Watts and costs $118,888. Apparently the Chinese quite like the number 8 as well.

AVM launched two new ranges at High End this year. The entry level 30 series consists of CD30 (€1,790) with a Teac drive and DAC, MP30 (€2,390) is a media player and the €2,990 CS30 (shown above), a one box streamer, amp and DAC with 100 Watts on tap. At the other end of the scale the Ovation 8.2 range includes the CD 8.2 (€6,490) pure CD player with tube output, MP 8.2 (€7,490) media player and streamer, PA 8.2 (€7,990) modular preamp with optional DAC, phono etc boards, SD 8.2 (€7,490) preamp streamer and CS 8.2 (below) one box solution with 500W under the bonnet at €10,990. Every 8.2 is supplied in its own flight case, natch.

Kudos took a room at High End for the first time and revealed the latest additions to its Titan range. Both are two-way floorstanders with isobaric bass loading but the 606 (£9,000) has 6.5 inch drivers whilst the 707 (£13,000) runs a pair of 8 inch units. They have the floating side panels, down firing port and SEAS soft dome tweeter of the big 808 but are single box designs.

Convert have made the ultimate version of their Plato media player, the Tempus has matched transistors in its class A amplifier, a new power supply, improved upsampling and Tidal integration including video. Price is £10,000 for carbon fibre or burr walnut veneer finishes. The are also putting their vinyl recording software onto an app, the Vinyl Recorder does all your metadata for you when used with a USB turntable and will be priced per song from £2.99/10 tracks.

Andrew Jones was demonstrating the impressively metal baffled Elac Adante Tower (€6,000). This incorporates an improved version of his coaxial mid/tweeter with a dispersion grille in its midst and a multi compartment cabinet that hides active bass drivers behind larger passive ones on the front to create a mechanical filter on the output rather than an electrical one on the input.

Japanese headphone specialist Final has developed a planar magnetic driver that uses air damping to control excursion of the driver at its resonant frequency. The technique comes from condenser microphones and has been made possible by modern materials and manufacturing. Still at prototype stage the Final AFDS will be available in September at between $2,000 - 3,000 but the technology will be trickled down to $200 designs next year.

Audioquest has two new Niagara power conditioners and a power bar with filtering. The Niagara 5000 (£4,000) and 7000 (£8,000) are 12 outlet designs with correction circuits to keep power amps happy. They keep out RFI, EMI and claim wideband linearity, the 7000 has more sophisticated filtering.

Audioquest’s Dragonfly DACs have been updated to address a compatibility issue with Android phones and to add MQA support, not a full decode because that requires too much processing power, but second stage unfolding with the PC doing the first. Tidal and AudirvanaPlus can do the first stage apparently.

No Munich High End is complete without Silbatone’s vintage Western Electric theatre horns, this year they played Shostakovich 5 through a Mirrorphonic M2 system from 1934 (one channel shown). I have to say it was a very entertaining experience indeed.

See the fourth and final part of our High End 2017 coverage here