Contenders for largest loudspeaker at High End were Goldmund’s Gaias, these multi box behemoths forgo the Z frame seen on earlier Goldmund speakers in favour of a simple stack of aluminium cabinets. Not so simple under the skin however as this is an active system with 8 drivers and as many channels of Telos amplification and Alize DACs, Gaia (£500,00) has a 5-way DSP active crossover and 2.5kW of power on tap, it is also wireless, natch.
Dieter Burmester, founder of the company that bears his name, died suddenly in 2017 leaving something of a void in management and R&D. Now the German brand has a new CEO in Frank Weiss and two new power amplifiers which take over from staple models in the range. The 216 (250W, €23,700) and 218 (€34,600) replace the outgoing 909 and 911 amps with all new circuitry including Class A input stages, symmetrical design and a DC coupled signal path.Burmester also have a new loudspeaker in the B28, this €15,000 floorstander (below middle) has an AMT tweeter, glass fibre mid and high excursion bass drivers in a multi-layered cabinet with a high mass base. Burmester have also developed what they call an Augmented Reality app to bring a bit more science into speaker set up but this is primarily aimed at dealers.
For reasons unknown Spain is not well represented in audio circles but Admire Audio from Valencia are hoping to improve the situation. The 3-way AA4 horn system (€101,000) features an elegantly folded midrange horn with compression driver, separate horn loaded tweeter and three 15inch bass drivers in a 1.8m high design with 105dB sensitivity.
Western Electric have started to branch out from their tube amplifier roots with a loudspeaker system that is still largely at prototype stage, in fact only the midrange element is near to finalisation. Unlike the brand’s original horn systems the 777 midrange uses a U shaped array of AMT (air motion transformer) drivers in what appears to be a totally unique design. The system sounded remarkably natural playing a Beach Boys tune with a Western Electric WE91E 300B single ended amplifier.
The De Baer Topas turntable and Onyx arm from Switzerland is a beautifully executed bit of audio engineering. The Onyx arm is available in three lengths and uses three tensioned carbon fibre tubes with a two point bearing while the Topas drives a sub platter under the magnetically isolated platter. Both the POM platter and arm base are decoupled from the stone plinth, price is €70,000.
Renowned for their massive amplifiers Gryphon also build loudspeakers and at High End showed the smallest model yet in the EOS2. Not all that small by most standards (bass goes down to 25Hz) it is however designed for smaller rooms and has the option of running a front or rear reflex port so that near wall placement is not a problem. Internally it is built to allow this unusual arrangement and externally the treble output is adjustable to help achieve an even tonal balance. Available in three standard colours plus almost any colour at a premium it sits on a composite base and runs a 34mm beryllium tweeter that allows a very low 1.8kHz crossover point. Price is expected to be sub €20,000 but only just.
Not everything at High End is eye wateringly expensive but there is a clue in the name. Even Yamaha is taking aim at this apparently burgeoning sector with a new NS2000A floorstanding loudspeaker (€7,000) where all the drivers are made of a composite of spruce fibre and Zylon including the 80mm midrange dome. The beautiful RN2000A ‘receiver’ is almost affordable at €3,500 and rather more modern than it looks with onboard network streamer and hi-res DAC with inputs including HDMI and USB, and a symmetrical, balanced power amp circuit.
Nagra had an impressively large and appealingly natural system with which to demonstrate their Reference turntable (€175,000), a substantial beast with softly sprung suspension system and a complex multi-motor drive system. The latest addition to the Swiss brand’s catalogue is the HD series phono stage (below), this offers variable input impedance on the fly and naturally has an all tube circuit with step-up transformers built in for an €85,000 asking price.
The French still like to spin a disc not least Jean Marie Clauzel who makes the Kalista range of transports and DACs, a range which he has boiled down to two models dubbed Dream Play. The top Dream Play XC (€68,700) model demonstrated in Munich has a DMM drive mechanism that plays SACD and CD, a Leedh volume control as well as digital inputs, making it a digital preamplifier that Clauzel claims sounds better than the separate transport and DAC models made previously.
Crystal and Siltech make serious yet attractively slimline cables and this year showed new ranges from both brands. Crystal’s Future Dream 22 range uses silver and gold allow conductors in all cable types with prices starting at €4,000 for a 1m interconnect. Siltech has added to its Royal Crown range with the Single – an Double Crown models using full mono crystal silver conductors in all varieties of cable including interconnects from €7,000 and speaker cables starting at €17,000 for a 2.5m pair.
Engstrom demonstrated the appealingly named Eric Encore monoblock tube amplifiers that its makers describe as a “better Eric”. These run big 845 triode tubes and cost as much as you might expect at €155,000 for a pair. There is also a new M-Phono (€25,000) and Monica fully balanced preamplifier with separate power supply , yours for €55,000.