German Physiks PQS-100 Plus and Vitus Audio SCD-010 CD player and SS-010 integrated amplifier: This system combined a few solutions that seemed to promote presentations based on them. First the transducers. Until now I wasn’t an admirer of these—let’s admit it—somewhat awkward designs. German Physiks uses a patented DDD driver shaped like an inverted cone that radiates as an omni. Proposed by Peter Dick, it was patented with the help of Holger Müller and is a variation on the Walsh Driver invented by American engineer Lincoln Walsh. To honor Peter’s contributions, it is called the Dicks Dipole Driver or DDD. In the PQS-100 Plus model it is made from carbon fiber. These were small speakers, actually stand mounts with integral supports also available as desk tops. Something about their size is worth noticing. Some exhibitors finally realized that smaller loudspeakers are easier to integrate in a room by avoiding lower bass problems. But it takes courage to display something so insignificant looking. Still, such an uncompromising approach can be profitable.

Here it was accomplished by putting emphasis on purity and simplicity and taking care of the acoustics. Vertical wooden panels placed along the side walls managed reflections and improved the décor. Because I was alone in the room, I spent time talking to GP’s manager Robert Kelly. I was a bit worried that the 40m² room was too large for such small speakers. Mr. Kelly responded: "The PQS-100 Plus can energize even 90m² without a subwoofer". And it was true. The sound was overwhelming but natural. At first it seemed that there was no treble or bass - but only until instruments entered which produced sound in those bands. We started with 50’s Sarah Vaughn Jazz recorded together with a conversation the artist had with the sound engineer. My God, this was how it really sounded. The sound was not localized in front of me in a typical hifi soundstage. There was a different room in front of me. Instrumental localization was based on the interactions between them as they connected fluidly through the air. The second part of the puzzle were the electronics. Vitus Audio is a Danish manufacturer of some very expensive electronics. Yet the CD player and amplifier I listened to were their cheapest offerings. Even so they sounded great. It’s hard to talk about any 'character' because it all sounded just like in a recording studio and without the usual tube/transistor concerns. Splendid!

Kiso Acoustic
HB1 speakers powered by Abbingdon Music Research CD-777 player, AM-777 amplifier, AM-77 phono preamplifier and Dr. Feickert Analogue Woodpecker turntable:
When I first saw those loudspeakers on the cover of the #171 Summer issue of Japans's Stereo Sound magazine, they seemed to me quite large. In fact they are very small. The accompanying electronics completely dominated them visually. But the sound! Jeff Buckley’s Grace LP spun when I entered the room. The sound from these small speakers was big and mature. The mid bass was slightly boosted but they played a medium-size room on the longer wall which might have had just this effect on the lower frequencies. Alas there were no negative influences on the overall sound which was juicy, palpable and mature. Naturally the British electronics shared responsibilities for such results.

Q. On to large speakers. This system with the American loudspeakers enchanted me with a combination of traits that might seem mutually exclusive - density and resolution superimposed on superb dynamics. The speakers seemed unlimited in the last area and in frequency response. Those elements simply disappeared from the equation just as they do in real life. So other elements surfaced like delicateness. These monsters are no brutes but exactly as I wrote – delicate. They approached the sound in a delicate way and reproduced it delicately. Fantastic.

The electronics were from Spectral Audio and their DMC-30SL Reference preamplifier and DMA-360 Reference monoblocks. There were two sound sources – one the integrated XDS1 SACD player from EMM Labs, the other a file player from Silverstone Technology, the latter mostly in use. Munich was witness to a slow revolution in fact. This year almost all digital sources were replaced by file players. Even though I signaled this change three years ago, it is only now that these servers as they are wrongly called made up the majority. From my last two nominations of best of show awards you can see that CD and vinyl still had something to say but the newer technologies are now on top.

The next system combined two ASR Emitter II, YG Acoustics Anat Reference II speakers and a Bergmann Audio Sleipner turntable
. The YG Acoustics loudspeakers are marketed as “the world’s best loudspeakers” by their makers. This is of course nonsense but it makes for a catchy slogan. Alas, their opinion is also based on solid measurements. When I listened to them in the past, they sounded cold and dry but this clearly was a problem of the electronics.

With the brilliant Emitter II which I reviewed some time ago plus the new Bergmann turntable, the sound now was great, with a big soundstage, powerful dynamics and a true virtual world between the loudspeakers.

The next stand-out room combined four
Soulution Audio 700 monos with their 721 preamplifier, Magico’s M5 loudspeakers and Dr. Feickert Analogue’s Blackbird turntable with Kubala-Sosna cables. Swiss Soulution Audio is a quickly rising star at the extreme hi-end. Mostly engineering-based, they prove that good sound can be achieved by chasing superior measurements.

Resident engineer Mr. Christoph Schurmann said “there is no other chance to advance”. For him, the basis is solid engineering. Only afterwards a device is ready for tuning but this should not change the base parameters too much. Although I heard similar opinions from representatives of other companies before, this was the first time I heard it from someone who actually knew what he was talking about.

This system virtually disappeared from the room helped by the splendid Magico M5. Mighty electronics, mighty loudspeakers and I was sitting as though front-row center in a theater where real performances unfurled.

tube electronics from their Jubilee series combined with Isophon Tofana loudspeakers
. Ceramic loudspeakers with grace and openness? It is possible. This big open sound was slightly warm but in a good way. The price was huge too but so were the results. Even at low levels the sound was good. At higher levels it simply grew and filled the room without any noises or clamor.

And that’s it. There were many more interesting, intriguing and inspiring presentations of course but the above (in random order following the path I took through the show) impressed me the most. Perhaps with other music or at another hour, I might have been enchanted elsewhere. But such are the show rules. We collect emotions, impressions and volatile details in a given place at a given time. Hence my choices. See you next year. The following pages show the rest of my pictures.

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