HIGH END 2023 Munich Show Coverage
I recall with nostalgia some past times and the "Hi-Fi Show" trade shows in London in the 1990s at Heathrow Airport, as well as CES in Las Vegas in the 2000s, as two ultimate annual determinations for every audio manufacturer and self-respecting journalist.
During the same period, the HIGH END Show was also held in Frankfurt. More precisely, the Kempinski Hotel is located within the small town of Neu-Isenburg, a suburb of Frankfurt halfway to the airport. Not as glamorous as the previous two, this show was significant to manufacturers in Europe, primarily due to its proximity to the surrounding countries and good transport connections. Further growth and global primary importance were gained by the move to Munich to its current location, and to a significantly larger exhibition space. In addition, today's status was helped by the fact that the Heathrow Show was discontinued, and CES in Las Vegas has lost its meaning for premium audio / hi-fi manufacturers and is now mostly irrelevant.
Anyway, today the HIGH END show within Munich at the M.O.C. holds the status as the most important event globally, visited equally by premium audio / hi-fi manufacturers, sellers, and consumers. The official report of the organizer High End Society, after this year's edition, shows that 550 exhibitors with more than 1,000 brands were present within a 30,000 m2 exhibition area. This year's show was visited by a total of 22,137 people in four days. These numbers continue to be a confirmation of the high interest of both the public and all those connected in some way to this industry.
Like last year, a trip to the show was planned with a colleague Neven Kos. However, just a week before the start of the show, Neven had an accident in which he broke his arm and unfortunately had to cancel the trip. There was no other option but to go to a destination 550 km away alone, in the simplest way, by car.
Without the extra pair of eyes and ears, I had less time than usual, and that meant less time for more detailed individual listening sessions in just the two days I intended to stay. If you add to that the time spent meeting with colleagues and longtime friends you see year after year, selecting and picking exhibits was a must. Therefore, I decided to first visit exhibitors on the upper floors where active hi-fi demonstrations are located in the rooms, and after that to go to a tour of the stands on the ground floor featuring passive, no listening room display of exhibits.
Although first day of the show, Thursday, started somehow very slowly, with half-empty corridors, the same day in the afternoon and on Friday was the usual crowded condition characteristic for business days. The small crowd on the first day was welcome, so I used it to listen to the systems in the morning. By chance, during that quiet period (how it will eventually turn out), I heard all four systems that I think had the best sound this year.
By bypassing the established practice of writing show reports, this time we start right from the best, with the systems that impressed me the most in terms of sound. These were: Aries Cerat, Boenicke, Davis Acoustics, Jadis Electronics, and a well-paired system of MSB, Marten, PinkFaun, Ikigai Audio, and PS Audio.
Interestingly, for the excellent sound of the first three systems their designers / owners were responsible, while for the fourth I was not able to find out who was in charge of such a good tuning and pairing of components, even though the demo presentation was led by Jeffrey Dam (Ikigai Audio) so maybe there's the answer.
My last year's sonic winner – Aries Cerat, did not underachieve this year either, quite the opposite. The backbone of the system consisted of the three-way horn speaker Aurora (last year it had its premiere in Munich), and the complete Aries Cerat electronics, among which highlighted should be the new DAC Ithaka from the best Ianus series (two boxes, TriodeFet output), new monoblocks Ianus Quintessence (60 Watt, TriodeFet) and prototype integrated amplifier Ianus Protos (20 Watt, TriodeFet). This system put together by Stavros Danos was truly brilliant.
The sound of Aries Cerat was again so easy to listen to, unencumbered, flowing, and connected, with the big soundstage, dynamics, and the right excitement to the sound that cannot leave you indifferent. Perhaps for a simplified description of this sound, the best comparison would be to imagine being in a theater watching a play, and not in a movie theater watching some blockbuster movie. Everything is so tactile, imperfect, and yet so pleasant, real, and organically alive.