High End show, Munich 2023
The madness of High End 2023 never disappoints. This year Germany’s busiest audio event brought forth a shedload of fabulous new gear, what follows is just the gear that caught our eye to begin with. There will be a lot more lovely equipment from Europe’s ultimate high end show.
PMC and the prodigy
Prodigy is the name that PMC have given to two entry level loudspeakers. Prodigy 1 is a standmount at £1,250 and prodigy 5 a floorstander at £1,995. With a silk black finish and optional grilles the Prodigy models reflect PMC’s pro heritage and use the 27mm tweeter found in the Result 6 pro monitor. The mid/bass driver is a 5inch long throw type with a natural fibre cone and high power voice coil. The prodigy models may not be big but they are designed to play at high levels with ease. Both have the brand’s characteristic advanced transmission line loading with a Laminair vent for reduced turbulence, the prodigy 5 has twin vents for easier breathing. Engineers Olly Thomas and Elliot White explained that they were designed to be easy to drive and “well tempered”. Both models will be available in July.
Heavy Melco metal
Melco unveiled a more affordable ‘music library’ in similar full width casing to the flagship N1 launched earlier in the year. The Melco N5-H50 differs from that model by virtue of a different power supply and external connectors (there’s no clock link) but is based on a new main PCB with a better linear power supply than the two box N10/2, and a larger HDD drive. The N5-H50 has a 5TB HDD drive, pro grade USB connectors and a chassis made of stainless steel and aluminium with cast iron feet.
Living Voice in a dub style
Living Voice showcased their new R80 floorstanders to highly entertaining effect at High End. With a system consisting of the huge Kuzma XL Air turntable with Safir 9 arm and CAR 60 cartridge (£87,000 all in), SJS Model 3 Silver phono stage (£23,500), Model 4 Premier Silver preamp (£32,000) and Model 5 300B Premier Nano X power amp with nanocrystal output transformers (£39,000). The R80 in the gloss ebony finish demonstrated is £52,000 a pair so this is a pretty serious system but not the most expensive at the event by a long way, yet it provided highly engaging sounds as well as the broadest selection of music with everything from Shostakovich to Scientist dubbing Culture. The system proves that 9 Watts is all you need if the quality is high enough.
Axxess joins Aavik, Ansuz & Børresen
Audio Group Denmark needed three booths to showcase the mass of new products that its four brands revealed before the event. The first room featured the new Axxess Forté 3 streaming amplifier (above, €10.000) driving Børresen X3 speakers (£9,995), watch out for a review soon) to excellent effect. In the middle space Frits Dalmose combined Aavik 280 electronics with the new Børresen X6 (€20.000) which made some every snappy sounds playing Lyn Stanley’s version of Route 66. The Audio Group viking, Lars Kristensen had the hot seat with the most extreme system from AGD, this showcased the new Aavik SD-880 flagship streamer (€67.000) which emulates the i-880 amplifier in casework made of copper and titanium, this pairing was joined to Børresen M3 speakers by Ansuz’s finest cables and made a terrific sound with some rather distinctive music.
Auralic break down the G3 series
Auralic announced its new and unusually large offering for 2023 earlier in the month so company CEO Wang Xuanqian decided to show the press some of the details of the range topping G3 models by taking them apart, an unusual approach but one that revealed just how much goes into the new Aries G3 streamer (£9,899) and Vega G3 (£10,699) streaming DAC. The Aries G3 has a substantial 4 GB buffer that allows the incoming clock signal to fluctuate as much as it likes whilst the clocking into the streamer sticks at the same rate which reduces the workload for the processor and in turn increases sound quality. The G3 models also boast the Proteus X1 upsampling board from the Sirius G2.1 upsampler all of which makes these new Auralics very interesting indeed.
More affordable AVM
AVM’s products are becoming more accessible to the real world music lover thanks to the introduction of the 30.3 range of electronics. The first model to go into production is the CS 30.3 all-in-one receiver (€3.990, above), this has a 125W Class D amplifier, CD player, streamer and digital and analogue inputs. It’s equipped with the X-stream streamer that includes multi-room and the amps have HDMI ARC for integration with TVs. They are made in the company’s Malsch facility near Stuttgart and supplied with an aluminium remote.
We didn’t expect a loudspeaker from AVM but with the help of Karl-Heinz Fink they have created the Audition CB 2.3 bookshelf (€2.990, below), a design distinguished by an oversize aluminium front baffle that allows the speaker to be tilted back when placed on a flat surface.
Perca & Lupe join Mola Mola
The marine life theme continues apace at Mola Mola with the introduction of the Perca (£7,299, below) stereo power amplifier. This inhabits the same casework as the existing Kaluga monoblock amp and is based on the Kula integrated. It’s specced to deliver 150W into 8 Ohms and uses a proprietary Class D output stage. The company has also finalised its Lupe phono stage (£7,299) which is app driven for easy load switching and works with both MM and MC cartridges.
Tannoy Sterling gets pepperpot
Tannoy introduced the Stirling III LZ (£11,995) a new entry level floorstander in its Prestige range with a pepperpot waveguide and alnico magnet powering the 10 inch dual concentric driver. This is a more ambitious version of the Stirling GR-OW (which has the tulip waveguide) with stronger bracing with a new port structure.
Custom IEM tips from Sennheiser
Sennheiser have teamed up with German hearing aid specialist Geers to offer custom fit silicon tips for its IE range of in-ear monitors. Customers looking for greater comfort and better bass from their Sennheiser IEMs can have their ears 3D scanned by a Geers audiologist in 10 minutes with the silicon earbuds supplied two weeks later in the colour of their choice. They can even have text on the tips for a full custom result. Price will be €180 and Sennheiser plan to role-out this service internationally in due course.
Mini mega Nait 50
Naim did the expected at High End and introduced additional models to the 300 series but sprung a surprise in the form of a 50th Anniversary Naim Nait integrated amplifier. This looks almost identical to the the first ‘chrome bumper’ Nait and will be made in a limited edition of 1,973 units to mark the year of Naim’s founding. It has luxuries not afforded to the original like a phono stage and a headphone output but eschews traditional inputs in favour of two DINs and has no remote control, the price is £2,699 and you get 25W per channel for the money. The outside looks traditional but under the skin this is a modern amplifier, it may look cute but it’s got balls.
Powerhouse NAP 350
For the 300 series there is the NSS 333 streamer (£7,900) with DAC inputs and outputs on DIN, XLR and RCA. This has an onboard power supply that can be upgraded with the NPX 300, it has Bluetooth aptX, a 5.5inch display and configurable inputs. The NAC 332 preamplifier uses Statement volume control architecture with discrete components (NSC 222 uses SMD for the volume control), has configurable analogue inputs on DIN, XLR and RCA again and is the first Naim preamplifier to feature an onboard power supply. The NAP 350 mono power amplifier (£12,000) replaces the NAP 135 and is the most powerful amp that Naim makes except Statement offering 175W into 8 Ohms . It has a dedicated power supply and uses the NA009 output transistors developed for Statement. The NVC TT is a new MM/MC phono stage (£2,699) that can be powered by the NAC 332 or the separate NPX TT power supply (£2,699), it has 16 resistive and as many capacitive load options with gain options for low and high output MCs.
Grimm DAC debut
Grimm have established their MU1 as one of the most convincing streamers in the game, so much so that Kevin Fiske bought one. This year they have introduced an MU2 DAC in very similar casework and incorporated a preamplifier into the design. It’s a discrete delta-sigma design with an 11th order noise shaper and runs at 1.5 bits to avoid linearity issues. Like the MU2 it’s heavily oriented to Roon operation and has a core onboard, also there’s a relay based analogue volume control and a headphone output. The MU2 also offers internal storage on SSD or external on NAS and USB. Price looks to be in the region of £16,500 when the DAC is released in October.
iFi headphone amp in disguise
When is a headphone amp not what it appears? When it’s the iCan Phantom from iFi which looks like two separate units but is in fact one hybrid design with the ability to drive not only virtually any dynamic headphone but the majority of electrostatic types as well. Using an SD card system it offers different bias voltages to suit specific types of electrostatic, a facility we’ve not seen on any headphone amplifier to date. It’s fully analogue and will be priced at £3,749.
Ifi also showed the iDSD Diablo-X portable headphone amplifier (£1099) which incorporates xMems technology for compatible IEMs, it offers 5 Watts of “prodigious power”, it says here.
Corinium rises again
Acoustic Energy had a rather attractive pre-production sample of the Corinium loudspeaker on display at High End. Corinium is what the Romans called Cirencester, the first capital they established in Britain, this flagship model incorporates carbon fibre cone drivers bolted to an aluminium front baffle atop 45mm thick MDF, the whole speaker weighing in at 45kg. Due to launch in September in black, white and teak standard finishes price looks like being £6,000 or £7,000 for a premium finish such as that shown.
Zero-Tech for less
Audioquest have been trickling down Zero-Tech from their range topping Thunderbird analogue interconnects into Black Beauty (from €869) and Pegasus (from €1.699) models. These are essentially the same with silver plated RCA or XLR connectors but have fewer conducting strands, one in Black Beauty and two in Pegasus with the latter also fitted with a 72v DBS pack, two in the XLR.
Ultima-te integrated from Chord
Chord Electronics have created an integrated version of their Ultima amplifier, the first one box amp from the brand in five years. This £8,500 amplifier condenses Ultima tech but has a large quad power supply which gives a conservative rating of 125W but can deliver closer to 170W with ease, the output nearly doubling into four Ohms. They also have a new desktop power amp in Berttie which replaces Ttoby with a complete redesign incorporating Ultima and offering 75W per channel.
Vinyl touches of Gold
Gold Note brought the belt-drive Mediterraneo X turntable complete with B7 ceramic tonearm. Featuring an aluminium/high-density polymer composite platter and black varnished aluminium upper plinth with solid Italian wood lower plinth (sitting on three height-adjustable feet), there’s a touchscreen display and hinged acrylic lid.
Also from Gold Note is the all-in-one compact streamer/DAC/integrated IS10 (€2.890). Fully-laden with analogue and digital inputs, it’s Roon-ready, has Bluetooth, wi-fi, USB and ethernet equipped and will stream from the likes of Qobuz, Airplay2, Tidal, Spotify and Deezer. There’s a headphone output and the amp is specced for 90W/ch plus full compatibility with the Gold Note app.
See part 3 of our High End 2023 coverage here