DAR’s top 5 trends of Munich High-End 2016


With Munich High-End 2016 coverage now in the bag, let’s turn our attention to trends. What themes shot through this year’s event? Here’s my Top 5:

1. Turntables, turntables and more turntables. Big black disc spinners were more prevalent at Munich High-End 2016 than any other show I’ve attended in the last five years. Especially, the big, high mass, expensive kind. If Godzilla owned a turntable it might look something like this:


However, this site, despite turntable coverage running directly in the face of its now outdated domain name, remains squarely focussed on those making a more modest visual statement. One’s ability to relate to a design doesn’t just revolve around a turntable’s street price, it’s also a matter of aesthetics and ergonomics. Hence articles on new wax wonders from MoFi Electronics, Technics, Pro-Ject and ELAC. The latter’s hot pink and lime green takes on their 90th anniversary ‘table leads us into to our next trend.

2. Colours. Loudspeakers should be wood veneered or piano black/white and electronics silver, champagne or black, right? RIGHT? Not always. Especially evident at this year’s Munich show were manufacturers, mostly loudspeaker manufacturers, who thumb their noses at the conventions of yesteryear. Their new direction favours of a splash of colour. Shout outs go to Crystal Cable, Meridian, Micromega, Focal, NEAT Acoustics, Pro-Ject, Progressive Audio, APS Audio and, of course, ELAC. Taste the rainbow! (With apologies to the numerous other rainbow-influenced designers that I missed).


3. Convergence Part 1 – streaming DACs. For listeners wanting to add Roon Readiness or Squeezebox emulation (or even HQPlayer capabilities) to their existing DAC, either SOtM and Sonore want to talk to you. I’m hearing GREAT things about the latter’s microRendu box. Computer Audiophile’s Chris Connaker enthused about it over coffee on the show’s final day.

Vinnie Rossi has reportedly admitted defeat on building a LIO module based on the microRendu’s circuitry – the board is apparently too big – but he’s still found a way to power the original external version directly from the LIO’s ultracap power supply. More details on that soon.

However, what struck me at Munich High-End this year is that the standalone external streamer is already under threat from networked DACs; manufacturers are now putting streamers right inside their decoders and so bypass the USB and S/PDIF connections of external devices. PS Audio, Ayre Acoustics and Merging Technologies already have network DACs on (or about to hit) the market.

Not far behind are Mytek Digital and Australia’s DEQX. According to the latter company’s Alan Langford, the Roon Ready compatibility soon to be announced for their PreMate+’s Ethernet input bests the SQ of a MacMini feeding the same unit over USB. Heck, even one of the most talked about streaming manufacturers of the past year, Beijing’s AURALiC, have included a Lightning DS streamer inside their latest ALTAIR DAC. That has me wondering why Xuanqian Wang does’t offer OEM boards to other DAC manufacturers for them to do likewise.


4. Convergence Part 2 – Super-integrateds. The traditional perception of an integrated amplifier is one that included bonus DAC or phono stage connectivity but rarely both. Those times are a changin’. Spearheaded by French company Devialet, the super-integrated (my term) can now be seen spilling from all corners. The super-integrated is a one box hifi system – just add Internet connection or turntable and loudspeakers – because previously external boxes like streaming modules, headphone amplifiers, phono stages and D/A converters are all included. New entrants seen at Munich High-End were single slabs from Micromega, MOON by Simaudio, Bel Canto and NAD.

5. Music. The marketing spun by show organisers tries its darndest to convince us that their event will be different. That the show in question will not only be a celebration of audio hardware but also of music itself. On this, once again, and with continued frustration, I’m calling bullshit. The opera, classical and jazz lover was well looked after at Munich High-End 2016. Slim pickings for anyone else.

Don’t only trust my camera, check out Moiz Audio’s Vimeo channel.

Of course, exhibitors can play what they damn well please – it’s their gear – but the net result of such homogenous aural fodder, year in, year out, is the continued homogeneity of the attendee demographic: cashed up, middle-aged white dudes. What point playing to younger tastes when da yoof have precious little disposable income? But not all middle-aged white guys subsist on a diet of jazz and classical. Many of us like psychedelic rock and techno. Others like Beyoncé and PJ Harvey.

I’m white, middle-aged and my musical tastes were once again catered to in Munich by the usual suspects: Zu Audio and KEF, with a nod of appreciation to Chord Electronics and Dynaudio.

Elsewhere, at the remaining 99.9% of this audio show, exhibitors pulled cuts from the usual letterbox-narrow pool of music. These showponies seem content with the Groundhog Day of their own making: the same old faces sat in the same old chairs. A under-30s drop in might reasonably summarise an audio show as dads playing dad music to others dads. It might keep manufacturers in business for the next ten years but what of the long game? A change has to come or the audiophile market is destined for a sunset of its own creation.

I don’t listen to soul or funk at home, not ever, but shows could do with a heavy dose of Isaac Hayes, James Brown or Marvin Gaye. Black music for white folks it might be but at least it stirs the mind (and body!) more than another take pulled from the frankly tepid girl + guitar songbook.

Also – where’s the mettle for metal?

To show exhibitors I say it more boldly and with more courage than in previous years: wake up – you’re asleep at the wheel. Stop playing that Nils Lofgren track, that Boz Scaggs track, Diana Krall and Hotel fkn California. It says nothing to me about my life and if you’re a regular DAR reader, probably yours. Hang the DJ.

Coincidentally, my Facebook feed yesterday lit up with similar complaints following a comment about perfectly good songs rendered unlistenable by over-exposure at audio shows. And this was from one well-known manufacturer. Evident was the unrest on the other side of the fence.

If you absolutely must trot out those clichés one more time, how about interspersing them with Radiohead or James Blake or Rammstein? One track for the old folks, one for those with more contemporary (read: younger) tastes. BTW – spinning Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” at the top of every hour doesn’t count.

You aren’t programming music for the retirement home. Your present audience might nod in appreciation of more Norah Jones, beards might even get stroked, but no-one’s gonna think about buying your gear if you keep spinning the equivalent of aural anaesthesia.

Not every audiophile is trying to re-create a live event in their living room. Not every audiophile buys an album because it’s well recorded or nicely mastered. Not every audiophile takes a hi-res or die attitude.


Throw those old discs and USB drives into the fire and start anew. Sure, you’ll have to stand firm as you spin Joy Division or LCD Soundsystem (or whatever) and watch the old guard bolt for the door in horror. And sure, it might not be an optimal recording, but people that love this kind of music will look past any shortcomings because you’ve gone deeper; you’ve made an emotional connection. Ain’t nothing more powerful than that. People buy on their emotions.

With your new audience’s attention secured, follow up the JD or the LCD with something that DOES sound good, something that you like. Musical snobs are what’s keeping you and your sales chart down. Y’all have Tidal Hifi so excuses about accessibility no longer fly.

Take courage, be free and I’ll see you at the M.O.C. in 2017. Until then, for these reasons and more (and RMAF 2016 aside), I’m bowing out of the two-channel audio show scene.

Further information: High End Society


DAR 750 x 290

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. With regard to –

    # 1. Turntables need to look like turntables, not an erector set gone stupid. And affordable. I prefer direct drive and automatic, if you please. I don’t believe or think for a New York Minute that either of those features will make the music any less enjoyable. It’s a record player, dammit! Not rocket science.

    # 2. Colors. Yup. I agree. That was easy.

    # 3. Streaming DACs? An Internet Radio is pretty much the same thing for a whole lot less and they sometimes come with a nice, large color display for album artwork, station I.D., streaming rate and the like. For a couple hundred bucks too. The ENC crowd hates this fact and will claim to be able to hear the “difference”. FTN.

    # 4 – As previously stated elsewhere on your fine site, “Super Integrated” doesn’t roll off the tongue all that well. Besides, these things are nothing more than today’s version of that old timey favorite, the Receiver. Call ’em Internet Receivers cuz that’s what they are. They lack an AM-FM tuner and instead have an Internet tuner. Simple. And great.

    # 5 – Music. If I were to walk into a room and was met by the (mel)odious strains of cRap or Hip Hop I would immediately leave. Jazz? Real Jazz? I would stay. James Brown? Stay. Sinatra or Fitzgerald? Stay. The Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks? Stay. Hank Williams Sr., Jr. or III? Stay. Connie Dover? Stay. June Christy? Stay. The Staple Singers? Stay. The Spinners? Stay. The Hollywood Vampires? Stay. Sarah Vaughn? Stay. Chet Baker? Stay.

    You get the idea. I like music by people with talent. I hate noise. Tidal Bowl? Way overpriced, so pass.



    • I mostly agree with comment 5. However there is one thing that bothers me. Most of the ”stays” are from another era. Don’t get me wrong I still listen to Sarah, Chet. H.W (and III), etc but they’re not making records anymore. We need fresh blood that also sounds good. When you look at the dismal DR rating Radiohead’s latest 24 bit digital download it’s no wonder high end audio manufacturers keep boring us with Nils, Boz, Diana and Hotel California. Of course they lack imagination but at the same time how can supposedly self respecting artists allow such crappy recordings to be produced. On one hand you have Roon, Tidal and high end DACs, streamers, etc and on the other you have a 24 bit Moon Shaped Pool with a DR3. WTF is going on?

        • Once again I agree that exhibitors shouldn’t candy coat everything. Most of us seasoned audiophiles/music lovers are smart enough to discern whether it’s the system that’s sounding good/bad or the recording. When I demo I play random tunes. That provides a realistic cross section of my actual music collection.
          Another thing – if an exhibitor is only playing perfectly recorded/mastered stuff than I tend to suspect the gear will be painfully revealing with ”real music”. Prove to me that your selling real gear for real people and I’ll definitely be paying attention.
          BTW – the DR3 on MSP was on one track only. That’s the lowest I’ve ever seen. What’s worse Diana with DR14 or Radiohead with DR3? I suppose it depends what system you’re playing it through.

    • Direct drive and automatic? Why do you think Linn Sondek LP12 three springs’ isolation of an arm plate and the main platter (itself over 3 kg) and a rubber belt works and a large number of quality turntables use the same core ideas – its ability to install different high quality tonearms and its isolation from the structure-born vibrations. Just go to a proper high-end audio showroom and listen to a record known to you on an LP12 and then talk about the importance of a good turntable design principles. BTW, there is no need to spend thousands on those massive monsters. A good s/h Linn LP12 works wonders! Provided it is well set up, the arm is good and cartridge is properly aligned and tracks at the right angle and weight. A separate wall shelf that has spikes to isolate the central support plate is a further helpful touch. It is a must for all other simpler turntables that do not have this built-in isolation from vibrations of all sorts. I fiddled with Thorens and Linn units, arms and cartridges from 1977 and played thousands of LPs on various t/ts/systems and I do know why I am telling you this. Of course, it all can be heard and appreciated only when the rest of the system is up to the same level. The parallel today is MP3 at 128kbps and high resolution music or DSD material. Most people will not know what I am talking about (native DSD advantages etc.) as their digital music replay tool of choice is… smartphone!? With stock earbuds! And they still talk and offer their opinions on the matter of music and irrelevance of high res. You see my point?
      Please do write to me directly if you are really interested how to get superb audio experience in today low or no-res world. Sergei sergei@interda.com

  2. Agree this guys should sit together and try to have different music for every taste! I One can assume there is enough music around to play every 3 to 4 mi. a different track .Yes certain speakers sound better with certain music . But the majority of speakers can play pretty much all kind of music .I attended a few audio shows not a large as Munich but they play only music which was very well recorded ! Meaning Classical ,Jazz and Vocal ! Pop, Soul, R&B, Chill-out ,Lounge ,Rock and the like did not exist .Shame because you do like to listen to a system with some music you like ! Some audio dealer provide a selection of various genre of music if you like to listen to an audio set-up . At least they know what the market wants and that can be very diverse ! Lets be frank the main focus is your music you like to listen to !

  3. Very interesting write up John. It seems that 2 channel has basically bifurcated itself into either ultimate convenience – one box digital integrated amps with streaming capability controllable via a smartphone – or basically the exact opposite of that – ultra sonic RCMs, 50 pound platters on 300 pound plinths, air bearing tangential trackers, and digital microscopes for setting SRA juuuussst right. And any of the other ways we can throw bleeding edge technology at a 100 year old medium.

    I would imagine that digital disc spinners were very few and far between. The CD has been on final approach for landing for quite awhile, the SACD is on life support, DVD-Audio is six feet under, and the very half-hearted attempt to try and turn Blu-ray into a new audiophile format seems to have gone precisely nowhere, as I predicted it would.

    By the way, I think Naim and the SuperNait would like to have a word with you over who came up with the “super integrated,” although ironically the current SN2 actually *lost* its integrated DAC from the original because Naim thought folks would be better served by an ND5 XS or NDX streamer.

    As for the issue of music at high-end audio shows, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Do only rich old white guys show up because the music is stuffy and boring, or is the music stuffy and boring because only rich old white guys show up, and that’s what they want to hear? I would imagine it’s probably a bit of both. You may find the occasional rich old white guy who wants to slam a shot of Wild Turkey, but you’ll probably catch a lot more flies with a nice Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and some brie. Maybe folks that have musical tastes like ours and don’t balk at the idea of spending more than $1000 on an audio product are just too few and far between.

    At the end of the day I’m not sure it will do Bergmann or TW Acustic any favors to play popular modern fare, but brands like Pro-Ject, Music Hall, Sota, and VPI should *absolutely* be playing that stuff if they know what’s good for them. As to who will be around to buy $50K turntables in 10 or 15 years, it’s a good question. China seems to have an enormous appetite for ultra high-end audio gear, so maybe that market alone will be enough to sustain these companies.

    I have noticed one thing though, manufacturers that are more than happy to switch the playlist from The Eagles to The Eagles Of Death Metal are usually manufacturers that are very confident in their products. When you show up asking to play a Radiohead or Jack White album and you’re greeted with a stern “NO,” there’s probably a reason behind that. Maybe that manufacturer’s product only actually sounds good with girl + guitar or other very unchallenging material. Maybe if you try to play some real music on it, you’ll discover that it completely rolls off at 60Hz, or that the drivers reach their excursion limits and the speaker starts distorting very quickly (more than a few hyper expensive Accuton based speakers do this) or that your speakers have SERIOUS cabinet resonance control problems (cough NOLA cough), or that, incredibly, your tweeter starts to break up and resonate *within the audible band (!)* A certain British company makes a speaker that does that, and if you have golden ears, if you listen to it you won’t for long.

    Just because a product costs a lot of money doesn’t mean it sounds good, it’s often just the opposite, and playing nothing but snoozy jazz trios and girl + guitar is an easy way to try and cover that up.

    Ultimately I’m actually fairly optimistic as to where 2 channel will be going. Now that the idea of dropping $300+ on a pair of headphones is no longer considered a big deal, people are starting to look at products like the M50x or the Momentum as a better sounding upgrade to the celebrity branded bass blasters that they started with. Rega and Pro-Ject are selling every table they can make, and Crosley blew past their yearly sales expectations for their Pro-Ject built C10 within the first month. That Crosley table by the way does not have a crappy built-in preamp or a USB port, so those buyers are having to think about purchasing a phono preamp, and an amplifier, and a real pair of speakers instead of just listening to MP3s on their laptops. So for as much damage as Crosley has done to vinyl with their groove munching ceramic carts, if the C10 is what gets people to high quality sound, I’m all for it.

    • Hi,

      Exactly, on your 6th paragraph…

      Try to bring something very dense and complex to listen to (not necessarily atonal) and you will likely upset an exhibitor in a matter of seconds with a condescending tone that it might alienate other listeners (but the truth is their system just can’t sift through the material without falling apart..) There’s only a minority of exhibitors who would even consider select tracks from Fripp and Eno’s No Pussyfooting worthy of being played (with ample volume..)

  4. A show like that is not a music diversity showcase. Which hifi brands do you suggest should turn their back on their highest probability sales, in order to please a request for musical diversity? I have not had a problem making an arrangement for a ‘special demo’ of music I bring outside of the busy periods, i.e. in the first 10 minutes after the doors open. One track or maybe two.

  5. I think you just went on a rant about music, but I enjoyed it. I’ve never been to any audio show, but I have ELAC floorstanders, an Emotiva amp, Sennheiser HD650s, a Schiit Valhalla 2 with upgraded tubes, etc.

    I just went and saw the band Black Mountain live and they are so great right now! Tonight I’m listening to Lene Lovich’s 1978 album “Stateless.” Tomorrow I may be listening to Townes Van Zandt or Tom Waits or The Cramps or Pavement.

    My music collection is gigantic and I know what I like, but I haven’t lost the desire to find the gear that makes it sound even better.

    • You won’t hear ANY of those (awesome!) artists at yr average audio show. Maybe a bit of TW, but more ballad than bawler.

      • I would think any manufacturer who can’t make a good copy of “Closer” sound really good has something (or a lot of things) wrong with their wares… No, it’s not audiophile approved like the same old tired DSOTM demo (if one’s gonna demo with PF, at least with something different like Obscured by Clouds..), but it’s far from Low-fi if you know what I mean…


      • It doesn’t get any better than “Swordfishtrombones” and “Rain Dogs.” Tom Waits can’t equal those records, and neither can you or I. Cheers.

  6. As Dave said, bring your own music and ask if you can play a track or two. If not, don’t be a jerk about it because while it’s your music, it’s not your show.

    But it is your money. And who really cares if it is a bunch of old, rich, caucasional men that attend these shows? I’ve only been to a couple of such venues and to me it looks more like a herd of nerds. And yes, nerds come in all shapes, sizes and colors. You want to see a gaggle o’ nerds? Go to a headphone related venue. Nerdvana.

    I’m listening to The Red Elvises “200 Flying Girls” as I write this and next up are The Mills Brothers. The Red Elvi are kinda sorta surf guitar fun but I realize that some (many?) people won’t care for such musical fare. I will stay in a room when something new or different is being played but not for a 30 Hz thud accompanying some Auto-Tune-Baboon.

    If I wanted to subject myself to that dross, I would just get caught in LA traffic. FTN.

    • “I will stay in a room when something new or different is being played but not for a 30 Hz thud accompanying some Auto-Tune-Baboon.”

      Just because music isn’t A doesn’t automatically suggest that the alternatives are Z. In between are B, C, D, etc. In other words, simply because I’m pushing back against the status quo of the usual suspects does not mean I’m pushing the case for David Guetta or Rihanna.

      There is a whole world of music out there that might not be to your taste but millions of people really dig. For examples, click to Pitchfork, Drowned in Sound, The Quietus or Resident Advisor.

    • The problem with a narrow aging demographic attending the shows is that its a contracting one and i believe the point John was trying to make is many that companies at these at these shows aren’t working to bring the next generation into the fold. This atmosphere along with the race to the top in dollars is what has lead to the death of a lot of dealers over the last 30 years.

      To me it no coincidence that personal audio products are beginning to take up more space on the shelves at many dealers because those companies seem to actively court new customers and seem to be growing rapidly.

      I don’t see the article as advocating removing the Audio Show Mix CD or Diana Krall, Norah Jones etc (though that would be my preference) but rather adding more selection and changing it up a bit to attract new customers.

  7. Come on… not going to audio shows cuz you don’t like the music. Seems a bit petulant. For a guy making a living from writing about stuff (or high priced shite if you will) seems a bit self limiting. I’ve experienced listening to things I like – ie Jesus and Mary Chain or even the Cramps as another comment indicated and the more resolving the system, the crappier it sounded. Whereas, for the symphonic, chamber, jazz end of the spectrum the more resolving system, the better sounding. Maybe the stuff you like sounds better on a boom box…. I guess if I’m hawking my wares, I’m going to show it off with the stuff that makes it sound best. And if my tastes are on the Steven Meijas, Mike Lavorgna marginalia end of the spectrum (i.e. difficult sounds), I would reserve this for listening sessions with fellow necrophiliacs in some grotto on the edge of a cemetery on full moon nights….

    • As I said quite clearly in the post it’s because of this *and other reasons*, the biggest of which will reveal itself in time, so not petulant at all. I’ve been hammering the audio show circuit for FIVE YEARS now. Heck, I’ve covered four shows already this year and I don’t have a team of writers with which I can share the load. It’s all me, which I think gives me a unique industry perspective. Taking a few months out will hardly starve this site of content – there are reviews aplenty to write. Besides – and this is a biggie – I don’t want DAR to be drowning in show coverage. Man cannot live on sizzle alone – he must get his steak.

    • You also raise an interesting point though Frank. I definitely think that there comes a point where most of the music I listen to – more leftfield mainstream fare – begins to show its uglier side production/mastering-wise, which makes upgrades no longer worth the money. That peak on the marginal return curve might not reach all the way into Magico and D’Agostino territory but it’s definitely a long way north of the boombox.

      • Touche. I hear you. Burn out is not to be minimized – esp with long distance travel from down under and jet lag etc. I can imagine that the returns from serial shows quickly reaches diminishing returns when the same stuff is shown over and over and I completely agree with picking the best show. My experience with bassier tracks is that they sounded better on my pre upgraded two way speaker system. I kept missing information though on more complex music as I gravitated to more classical fare. A higher quality more resolving 3 way system with new Dac and better amp paid off in not missing detail and resolution, but my 80’s punk stuff sounds worse. I kid you not that when I doing work around the home, the boom box is just fine to capture the flavour.

      • This is precisely why Alex and I started Metal-Fi. I’ve got a 1959 Columbia “Six-Eye” mono copy of Dave Brubeck’s Time Out that sounds incredible. I also have a 1974 Quadraphonic copy of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid that sounds *incredible*. “Planet Caravan” sounds so good that it gives you goosebumps. I’m sure any of the big ticket companies would be MORE than happy to spin my ’59 Brubeck. Ask them to play Black Sabbath though, and my guess is that there will be a lot of “no.” Their loss.

        Good sound quality, for the most part at least, has nothing to do with genre. It only requires that bands, producers, and engineers put in the effort, and not fall victim to “competitive” volume. Sadly that’s a very rare occurrence these days.

        • Ah, so true… There are whole swaths of modern music (past 20 years) that do not benefit from hifi playback. And not because they don’t sound “good” enough. (Only if they had been “bad,” I would jump for joy.) They are just simply unlistenable, well almost… (And this is coming from a person who likes shambolic lofi transistor-fuzzouts of Spacemen 3.) We have arguably the best playback technology today and the worst-sounding recordings. What irony.

          Sad to say, but I actually don’t blame these vendors for trying to put their best feet forward, albeit a boring one. But then again, I don’t dutifully attend these show, either, which might elicit a different response.

  8. So true! It also applies to websites. I buy speakers, but no one suggests alternative music, Steve Guttenberg apart…

    “Not every audiophile is trying to re-create a live event in their living room. Not every audiophile buys an album because it’s well recorded or nicely mastered. Not every audiophile takes a hi-res or die attitude.”

    • I meant: I buy speakers, I am a frequent reader of websites and I am a perfect target for bloggers… 🙂

      I would love to be inspired by articles on new alternative bands..

  9. I can certainly relate to the music issue, and as a middle-aged white guy. About 30-40% of my listening is ‘standard’ classical, and there’s some classic rock, and I listen to some ‘classic’ jazz as well, but beyond that, there’s African and Middle-Eastern and east Asian and tango music, R & B, soundtracks (I jokingly refer to much of it as ‘classical music for dumb people,’ but I love the genre, so count me as one of them), contemporary orchestral, etc. And at the shows I keep hearing light jazz, chanteuses, pictures at an exhibition, and of course, St. James Infirmary, so that a certain subset of listeners can go into rapture from hearing it on a 30K turntable.
    While the recreation of the ‘live experience’ is great, so are sheer dynamics, timbre from acoustic or electronic instruments, simply good soundstaging when possible, and overall heightened enjoyability. Fuck yeah, James Brown! Aphex Twin. Even Stravinsky (later period, as all we ever hear are the earlier ballets). Sun Ra. Jonny Greenwood soundtracks. Garcia Band. The Breeders. Whatever.
    I agree with Dave’s comment about manufacturer confidence- when I’d attend shows by Audio Connection (a New Jersey store) in the northeast US- with Audio Research or Aesthetix Gear, Clearaudio or AMG turntables and Vandersteen speakers- they’d typically let attendees play their own music, or take random suggestions; the selections just didn’t seem ‘curated.’ And people loved it, and they really hung around in the rooms, and probably ended up more likely to buy that gear because of it. My current rig as a whole is worth about 25-30K and it makes even so-so recordings sound fabulous- not because it’s the best gear in the world, not because it’s in a great room (it’s not), but because they are ‘value components’ for the price, because through trial-and-error I matched components and properly set them up, and because good gear well set-up makes any music you like sound better, whether the setup costs $700 or 70K.
    Buyers are of course better off selecting versatile gear and carefully matching it, unless they’re buying a ‘turn-key system’ with a voicing they like, and/or listen to a narrow range of material, or just want to show off.

  10. Oh, for anyone who’s interested, my latest fab soundtrack finds:
    Utopia, seasons 1 and 2, by Cristobal Tapia de Veer (they’ll make more sense in the context of the show if you’ve watched it). You can hear them in their entirety on youtube if you’re interested. But of course if you like them, you should buy them!

  11. Here is a list of my latest favorites from Tidal:
    Cinematic Orchestra, The Lumineers, Mendelssohn Quartets, Charles Lloyd, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Rush, Weezer, Fitz and the Tantrums

    So totally agree with you on music – its time to change

    • Some nice choices, not all of which are to my taste, but the point is that issue isn’t about what I like, it’s about broadening the range of music that seems to dominate the audiophile world.

  12. John,

    If you want to send me to Munich next year I’ll happily go and eat some pork knuckles and drink some (lots?) of beer on your behalf. I’ll take a few Diana Kralls and Nils Lofgrens on the chin for the team.

  13. I have never been to an audio show so I have never heard the type of music that gets regularly played. However, there does seem to be a lot of similarities in what type of music is played at shows and what kind of music the majority of audiophile reviewers listen to and review gear on (this site is an exception). Most of the reviewers for the mainstream publications, in my experience, listen to classical and jazz. Maybe start with changing the reviewers. John, I’m mid thirties and I would say that your musical preferences are almost on the extreme other end of the spectrum . It is rare that I’m intimately familiar with the music you reference in any of your reviews. This doesn’t bother me at all. We just have different tastes. If manufacturers and reviewers were really concerned about attracting young people then they would be playing and writing about Adele, Taylor Swift, Beiber, Drake. Although this is not my preference for music, this is the music that young people are buying and listening to. Everyone and their dog has heard “Hello” from Adele. Whether you like it or not you know it and it serves as a baseline for describing something. I’ve been in this hobby for a short time and it is fascinating how audiophiles seem to work really hard at being different. It’s Classical music or Underground music. Never the music that people actually buy and listen to. Good luck finding a chart topping album being used in a review or heaven forbid an audiophile reviewer include a chart topping album in their top albums of the year. Total disconnect. Regardless, manufacturers will change the music played at shows when people stop listening.

  14. John, typo: “…squarely focussed on the those making…”.

    With regard to music selection, wouldn’t the simple thing be something like the vendor/presenter to pass around a tablet with the Tidal (or whatever) remote on it and allow each person to add one track to the playlist?

    Maybe add a safety precaution – if over half the people in the room put up their hand when a track starts, skip to the next 😉


    • Maybe – but one can be *too* democratic in one’s approach – because there’s always THAT GUY who wants to punch in a 20 minute guitar jam.

  15. Those super clean bold recordings, Keith don’t go, Diana Kral etc, are acually very easy to recreate with even the laziest of set-ups, heck they will even sound ok on my clock radio, when I set up a system for a show, it is set up to play the dificult stuff, a real system will cut through layers of studio compression, hence you can play anything and we do (Arcam), do not trust a room playing it easy…!!! Make requests of the presenter if they do not oblige simply walk away, and I make that statement as someone who presents at shows around the world but 1st as a music lover…

  16. I started a retailing business 6 months ago cause I see a demand for good stereo equipment with ordinary people. By that, I mean 35-50 yrs old, socialized by music from Wham, TalkTalk, Prince, Sonic Youth via Public Enemy and RATM to Metallica, Mastodon, Sven Väth and Ricardo Villalobos. The average system age these people listen to is 20 yrs – a lot of Harmann/Kardon, Sony and Denon. A good percentage went with Sonos or Raumfeld next to that because of the connectivity. Most would never go into a Hifi retailer. So, I am chatting with anybody about Music and the Hifi System playing it – and see / generate interest everywhere. The price my prospects and customers like to pay is up to 5000€. They get great, modern hardware like the Xeo’s, NuPrime or audiolab bundled with Aries or bluesound and Excite or 244.3. One well funded guy has a Devialet & Wilson package – listening to Fugazi, Royal Blood, Mathew Herbert and Lindstrøm.
    Somehow, I see a correlation between: what kind of music does one listen to, how much money would he (or she!) be willing to spend for a really good stereo experience.
    If we listen to (their) music in (their) living room, they cannot believe, what is possible coming from 2000€, going to 4000€. The majority goes with the next level. But a 10 or 40K System? Since a stereo system is not magic (and needs to fit into a living room), this is only sth for very few people. My customers would call them freaks.
    Might also be, that its a tradeoff: people with extremely high-priced desires spare all their money for the system but ceased being curious and buying new music instead (20-40 yrs ago)…

  17. Even though I can understand your point on the music played, it is worth pointing out that it is called the Munich *HIgh End* Show. So to me it is pretty clear that they aren’t targeting the mass market. The question then is what is “High End”? I’m not sure because I don’t think I own anything in that stratosphere, but the higher into that stratosphere, is there a higher likelihood people listen to classical, etc.? If so then it seems justified to play that kind of music at that *kind* of show.

    I’m also intrigued how you and others link genres with age. Is there any scientific evidence to back that up? People born several decades ago liked classical and jazz but now no one does. Or people born several decades ago liked pop and rock and when they got older they like classical and jazz instead. My experience is that people’s tastes remain largely the same. If people born today don’t like classical or jazz, how is it possible that anyone ever liked it? Is an interest in a musical genre genetic or learned?

    • I’m asking: must ‘high end’ always equate to classical/jazz music? Why not well recorded electronic music or rock music? Not all of it has been dynamically compressed out the wazoo.

  18. I would literally “S” a brick if Rammstein was emanating from any of the demo rooms and it wasn’t me coercing the sales guy to play it.

    Heck, I’d even take (gulp!) Metallica.