What a high end audio show REALLY sounds like


munich_2016I spy: Trentemøller’s The Last Resort at Munich High-End 2016, a vinyl copy leaning against an equipment rack stacked with amplifiers by Dan D’Agostino; was this some kind of cruel joke?

There’s little doubt it got an occasional run on the system’s Sonus Faber loudspeakers and I even witnessed first hand the album’s bass-throbbing “Vamp” enjoying regular turns on Dynaudio’s new Contour standmount – both Dynaudio and Trentemøller are Danish after all – but this kind of music, contemporary music that might appeal to a younger audience, proved to be very much the exception rather than the rule.

Star Wars theme music was playing through the D’Agostino amplifiers when I snapped this photo:


The audio systems found upstairs in the three Atria are some of the finest in the world. They also come with price tags that start in the tens of thousands of dollars and stretch to hundreds of thousands.

With two days of talking to manufacturers under my belt, I spent the majority of Saturday going room to room in each of the three Atria; this was where one went to seriously listen to seriously high end gear. Megabuck systems for fatter wallets or, for those who can only dream, a taste of what’s possible.

The majority of rooms were immaculately decked out for high ocular impact and many sounded downright incredible. Exhibitors at Munich clearly know the importance of creating a listening experience. Visually, this show is a long way from the hotel hosted events seen stateside.

However, if your musical taste doesn’t meet classical, jazz, light acoustic, girl + guitar or white-guy blues head on, you’d probably come away none the wiser as to how Trentemøller, Depeche Mode, Giant Sand or Prince might benefit from a big rig. Thankfully, the latter three artists were served up by Chord Electronics’ digital DJ, Zu Audio’s Sean Casey and KEF’s Johan Coorg respectively. Such blasts of contemporary fare were few and far between.

Don’t simply take my word for it though. Here’s proof:

Of course, for show regulars this skinny genre diet is nothing out of the ordinary. Audio shows across the world sound like this. However, one might reasonably ask: is high end audio’s talk of capturing the imagination of the next generation of audiophiles nothing more than lip service?

Not convinced? Here’s more:

The technology and gear seen/heard at Munich High-End 2016 might well be better than twenty years ago but the music spilling from between the loudspeakers remains very much the same.

Further information: Munich High-End


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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. I agree with the fact that the music selections are rooted in the past or in safe selections from the present. I often read reviews of equipment tested with music that I never listen to ( and more importantly never purchase). Hard ,if not impossible, to relate to. It certainly sounds like a hobby for well off old guys. Are the musical selections more up to date -can you say D'[ Angelo – at the headphone displays? Let’s hope that things change.

  2. OK, two brief observations…1) I love all kinds of music, but this does not seem to be about the fun in the music, just the equipment. I had a friend with very high end equipment (Martin Logan and Pass amps). I brought over a new record to his house- I think it was A.F.I.- and he turned it up to 11, and ended up blowing the fuses on his dedicated line. This is what seems to be missing from these shows- passion for music, not passion for equipment… 2) Does anyone really set up their listening room with two mono-blocks on the floor, front and center, and a couple of seats in the sweet spots? I have a decent setup- nothing really high end, but even with my Magnepan speakers, I still have a normal room setup, with things like sofas, chairs and tables. I don’t make the room, or my friends, take second consideration to my equipment. I would rather have 8 people over enjoying the music in the wrong spots in the room than just me sitting in the ideal sweet spot… If we all got back to enjoying the music, cranking up the music too loud, I think our passion would be more infectious…

  3. Sad to hear Warner Music signed up for MQA at the show. DRM by another name isn’t sweeter. It is sad the press refuses to cover this angle of the software.

  4. This and the fact that human hearing needs at least a week to get used to changed sound (so listening to loudspeakers or equipment less than one week is absolute cr.p) made me decide to stop visiting audio shows more than 10 years ago, I agree it is good fun to do so because of the newly introduced equipment but more than for the eyes and not the ears 🙂

  5. Agree with some comments aim an old audiophile started in 1968 worked in countries which did not have much of an audio culture but we always found a way to get a decent equipment and we had lots of fun and dancing all night ! That seems to be missing this days many people only concentrate on equipment and how it should sound ! We concentrated foremost on music and equipment was secondary we simply enjoyed parties/dancing and nobody ever complained about poor sound .
    The essential should be that you enjoy music and if you have a decent recorded music it will sound good in nearly any system at least to my experience in over 50 years ! The rush to always change and have the latest is overblown to my knowledge progress is slow and takes time and sometimes the so called old or outdated equipment sounds pretty good .