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An outright charmant reception we received at the hands of Mrs. Britta ter Wint of T+A who presented a small but quality all-in-one system which will enter the German market in August. Dubbed Caruso, the sticker will be at €1,600. Star tenor? Not sure yet. We do know what's in it: a CD/DVD drive, UKW radio and iPod dock. The Caruso also acts as music server and plays Internet radio. An inbuilt upgrade path points at the CM Active powered speaker.

When fairaudio reminisces about last year's HighEnd, one speaker house stands out despite our relative
unfamiliarity with the brand at the time: Brit studio specialist PMC. The boys were present again this year, inside their very own pressure chamber replete with their own fog machine for demos. We were keen to learn of the new i-Series.

'Baked and hand-lacquered is PMC's secret recipe'. Not merely optically gussied up in quality veneers and high-gloss plinth, we sighted a new SEAS co-developed tweeter said to add dimensionality. All mid/woofers and networks in all 2-ways further benefit from upgrades. The €2,200/pr GB1i is one model we eyed in particular for potential review.

Remaining with speakers while honing in on the design aspect, recall Klangwerk's Ella we reviewed in December 07. Now there was a wall-hanging speaker from this Swiss firm we'll be looking at soon, the €4,000/pr Muro said to work fine without subwoofer and sporting extremely broad off-axis response to support mounting flexibility even headphone style aka the point-source ideal below.

Further on the subject of speakers + design, albeit rather too heavy to hang up at 48.5kg per, there was Monitor Audio's €7.900/pr PL300, a 'fully grown' specimen by the book. To our eyes, this speaker's classical leanings of rare veneers, leather baffle and hi-tech driver contrast hit the optical bull's eye dead center. F3 at 28Hz, 90dB sensitivity and long-throw woofers with a fast ribbon in the treble should combine for sonic fireworks [lower left].

Cruising the show, one is easily pimped by expensive and flashy machines. Countering that trend was IAD's (formerly IAG) 3-way monitor Vardus VR-400 by Wharfedale [upper right]. While we didn't get to listen, what's included here for a mere €399/pr ticket is surprising. A near world premiere in the same display celebrated firm System Fidelity.

'Audiophile ambitions smartly priced' or thereabouts appears to be this newcomer's credo. Never mind, for sound the intended audience is upscale. The SA-250 integrated and matching CD-250 are yours for €275 each, the tuner is €225 – in black or silver respectively.

While on finishes, a color premiere of sorts occurred at Esoteric with their new (SA)CD player X-05 which is available also in black, a novelty for this company. At €5000, the X-05 enjoys a technology injection from the top 01 line called VRDS-NEO VMK-5 transport sled. The A-100 was another Esoteric introduction, a valve integrated which converts to
stereo amp use whose four KT88 bottles make 45 watts per side in either config. This 40kg humdinger starts shipping in May with a €17,000 sticker.

The show was ambitious as well on the subject of record players: Roksan proudly showed its top model, a combo of the TMS3 drive, Artemiz arm and Shiraz cartridge. This statement effort is €17,190.

Less tech-geeky and more lady-like struck out the €2,450 Diamond by Ulla Scheu. "Sexy, charming and simply pretty" is how the advert put it. The two
catalogues at table's edge show off the comprehensive finish options. Fully loaded appeared Scheu's top €4.800 model Das Laufwerk 2 whose motor has undergone a complete redesign and now uses a flat belt rather than string.

"Stare, don't sputter and spew" appears to be a strange Schwabian proverb and there indeed were cubits of variations, mass and colors at Acoustic Solid's display to incite such reactions and warning. The top hitter Solid 733 commands €49.000 and is more sheikh than lady-like [lower left].

There also was a diamond called the - um, Solid Diamond which is a mere €30.000 [lower right.

Highlights at Axiss were two phono pres by Sutherland whose designer Ron Sutherland enjoys a prestigious rep in the US which, if Axiss has its way, will now migrate over to Germany as well. The 'small' PH3D phono stage at €900 is a dual-mono affair fit for MM and MC carts. There are 5 impedance values and 5 output trim levels but the real coup are 16 batteries to eliminate power supply gremlins. Said batteries are claimed solid for 1200 hours of listening. The big brother PHD1 will ship in 2 months and commands about 3K.

Since one show isn't sufficient for truly diehard fi fiends, we checked into a second one late in the evening. Certain makers -- including Einstein Audio, NuForce, Marten, Acapella, Isenberg Audio, Odeon and more -- teamed up for a small side chapter to the main event. Close to High End's M,O,C, locale, hifideluxe was hosted by the Hotel Fleming in the Leopoldstraße for a severe change in ambience. Instead of the international flair and busy goings-on in the convention center, one now had an audience sipping red wine and lounging in couches while grooving to exquisite sound; charming too not only for the exhibitors. To wrap up, a few pix.