Highlights: Confessions don’t come easy. Despite homegrown fairaudio luv for anything Berlin, our town could take some lessons from Munich. While cliché, there’s the social angle, be it the coat exchange at the M.O.C., the taxi drive to the hotel or evenings at the bar. To put it mildly, Berlin equivalents tend to be somewhat more buttoned up. In matters hifi, Munich too has developed into a double hitter—Hifi De Luxe has settled in—whereas Berlin’s IFA over the last few years has hawked more washing machines than audio (we do have other hifi events like www.langenachtderohren.de). If you must throw soccer on the burner, I’d retaliate with ice hockey and basket ball. But let’s get with the program and pride of place which for HighEnd 2010 meant 18.373m² of display area and 258 exhibitors from 24 countries representing about 800 brands and a bevy of interesting novelties.

To the 14.860 visitors which the official tally counted, the name Joseph Brodmann probably wasn’t familiar at least not for hifi. That's because the Vienna-based Joseph Brodmann group is into piano manufacture*. And of late into the development and fabrication of speakers. Those build on predecessors by the equally Viennese Bösendorfer piano company which Yamaha acquired a few years back. Imposing was Brodmann's top model JB 205. It weighs in at €57.000/pr plus, 75kg per side and more than two meters in height. Not merely size was attention grabbing. How about certain technical details like five sidefiring mid/woofers? Those were mirror-imaged but slightly offset on the other side to engage strategic cancellation effects between driver pairs. The benefit is a claimed "distortion-free acoustic crossover function" between 500 and 1000Hz to optimize vocals.


* Such projects between musical instruments builders and hifi endeavors are growing. There's also Voxativ working with Schimmel Pianos, Lyngdorf with Steinway and Onkyo and Kiso Acoustics with guitar legend Takamine.

Those who miss visible woofers scaled up to match the speaker’s dimensions are pointed at the rear sound boards. Their total radiation area of 1.5m² is said to be precisely calibrated to act as one giant membrane for LF augmentation. Interesting. For those lighter of wallet, the folks from Vienna start us at €3.000/pr with their entry-level FC model from the Festival Series. Obviously, the high-gloss finish isn’t textured but was buffed to such a sheen that the carpet pattern telegraphed with a vengeance.

Two show premiers happened at the Quadral booth even though Hanoverian team developer Thomas Mengert was not complete news. He’d already worked for Quadral under Bernd Stark before subsequently pursuing other endeavors. During R&D of the just launched Vulkan VIII [starting at €6.500/pr], the returned Mengert had his fingers in the mix again. There’s a 30cm woofer radiating to the front and one side through a pressure chamber; a Montana lookalike midrange with beefier motor; and a newly developed ribbon tweeter with now ‘Laboratory Reference’ nomenclature. Quadral promises "extremely precise and extended bass, a realistic midband and rhythmic verve" from all that.

On the novelty meter, Reson’s René Reuter countered with Resolution Audio’s €5.900 Cantata Music Center machined from a solid block of aluminum. This machine multi tasks as universal high-end DAC (via USB and S/PDIF), audiophile legacy spinner thanks to its onboard transport and NAS-connected network player (UPnP/DLNA). Direct connection to PC or Mac automatically recognizes the Cantata Music Center as a USB peripheral, no driver installation required.

The €400 Cantata Pont Neuf [upper right] is a USB/Ethernet bridge to span distances where USB’s 5-meter limit is insufficient. Internet connection occurs between Pont Neuf and Ethernet link while the PC connects to the Cantata via USB or wireless WLAN. Regardless, the computer relates to the Music Center as a USB device. Data transfer is low-jitter asynchronous up to 24/96.

The Higoto booth weighed in on the low-jitter USB issue with the €120 M2Tech hiFace whose name recalls Star Wars. At first glance, it’s simply a USB-to-S/PDIF converter via RCA or optional BNC. To combat clock jitter, there are two onboard quartz oscillators and the built-in USB firmware bypasses PC drivers. Lastly, data transfer is a full 24/192. This is an exciting discovery that begs for a future review.