This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below
Devialet of France proudly showed the white and black versions of their D-Premier phono-pre-streamer-DAC-power all-in-one amplifier. They had divided their space into two halves. Entering there was a long white table with embedded iPads running video of various stages of D-Premier usage and assembly. It’s always fascinating to watch a robot insert all those tiny components on a circuit board. Open models of the D-Premier were on display together with printed literature. Even our review of the machine found itself included in the press book - a website having gone to press as it were. With the shiny polished version of the D-Premier the French had made a statement amongst the traditional audio world dominated by black and matte aluminum. Now they’d added egg-shell white and matte black. These versions show the brand name very subtly on the lid covering the connectors.

At the back of the room visitors could take a seat either on a white Le Corbusier couch or on a Sitness ergonomic balancing-ball chair and enjoy Wilson Watt/Puppy speakers. The source of course was iTunes which streamed to the dual mono-configured D-Premiers. Plenty of Devialet personnel answered questions and Manuel de la Fuente told us that by the end of this month the new hi-res streaming capability plus a remote-control app will be available. This room combined excellent information from concept to finished product with fair listening opportunities.

Göbel of Germany caught our attention not only by their strategically placed advert but also shop-like window dressing. In the ad the term bending wave in combination with a photo of a flat panel atop what seemed dynamic drivers was one personal lure. The second was how the ad depicted what seemed like a room divider behind a static display of the loudspeakers – as though there was something else going on in the other part of the room. And there was. But first some background. A few years ago we met Shelly Katz, then owner of Podium Sound. He had developed a loudspeaker based on the bending-wave principle. We reviewed that here. Interesting was how it married bending-wave panel transducers with conventional dynamic loudspeakers, a combination Shelly dubbed Layered Sound. Sadly this concept did not mature due to, if we understood correctly, an issue between Shelly and his patent attorney*. However this same Layered Sound concept was our second trigger to enter the Göbel room.

* That's what we'd last heard from Shelly who we thought had gone back to performing as a pianist and music teacher. But a few days ago we chanced upon this video of a TEDx presentation by Shelly which is interesting enough to bring to your attention.

Behind their divider hid a clean well-lit listening area that felt comfortable from the start. The German company’s largest and latest speaker model teamed up with a PS Audio Power Plant, Perfect Wave Transport and matching Perfect Wave DAC. Amplification was via Audio Flight’s Strumento No.4 power amp. In the Göbel Epoque Reference we recognized some familiar ideas from our earlier Layered Sound encounters. The foundation here is the patented Göbel bending-wave driver in its latest iteration. Where the first implementation was basically a balsa wood panel excited by two asymmetrically placed motors, the current version sports an elaborate sandwich of wood and carbon fiber. Due to its construction with exciters at the back, the frequency response isn’t equal front and back. The panel is not omni-directional for its full 150 – 29.500Hz bandwidth. The back is limited to 150Hz – 4kHz, still within the majority range of instrumental fundamentals. In total the 201cm tall 190 kilo Reference houses no less than 12 x 18cm cones but only 4 of them are active. The other 8 are passive. In the photos you can only see the fronts so imagine the backs as duplicates.

The static display in the room showed the smaller Epoque Fine equipped with only 6 drivers plus the Göbel signature flat panel. Listening to the huge loudspeakers we had to make the same mental adjustment as we had whilst coming to terms with the Podium Sound bending-wave speaker. This type of sound is more diffuse than from a purely dynamic driver. This quality enhances the spatial cues and renders most recordings more natural. Göbel is decidedly a brand that needs more exposure. They also make smaller models outside their Epoque series. In Munich their room was inviting and with the subtleness of white acoustic treatments all around blending fully into the walls, the signature black accents felt very pampering. Personal attention was professional and friendly. This room was a real pleasure to visit and enjoy.

Grimm Audio is a Dutch brand and a cooperation between some of the cleverest audio minds of our Lowlands. Eelco Grimm lent his name to the enterprise. He is a sound engineer, media teacher at an art school and author. He put together a core team that includes Class D wizard Bruno Putzeys, Guido Tent known for his Tentlabs venture and Peter van Willenswaard, the Dutch tube meister numero uno. This team is assisted by a supporting group of further engineers and designers. Grimm Audio used to focus exclusively at the pro side of the audio market. This has changed of late with the tendency of pro meets amateur getting stronger. In Munich Grimm Audio combined forces with Manger and Manley Labs—both Danielle Manger and dear EveAnna Manley were present—and showed their LS-1 active loudspeaker with subwoofer.

Given the above team members, it won’t come as a surprise that the active electronics inside the speakers are a combination of Tentlabs—DSP, ADC, DAC, clocks—and Hypex Ncore amplifier modules. These electronics are placed inside one of the legs of the shallow but wide monitor. Grimm Audio has a bit of a luxury problem as demand for this speaker and the long-legged version that can overlook a mixing console is large. That demand comes not only from the recording studio arena but also consumers. With the addition of the subwoofer module the LS-1 has become a full-range do-it-all loudspeaker with good looks, a small footprint and above all a versatile active concept. We could thus forgive the otherwise ‘deadly’ Munich presentation a great deal. For Eelco and Bruno—whom we’ll meet later this report—this was their first consumer show. They were really impressed by the sheer size of it as events of this scale were unfamiliar to them from the pro-audio world.

Next time some respectful dressing up of the room or at least communication about it with their female collaborators would help a lot. Even a trip to the local Ikea would have been worthwhile. Sonically things were okay. The psychedelic panels were not really effective at damping the noisy talk in the room but during periods of relative quiet the sound was promising. Mind the extreme toe-in of the Eelco setup.