Again on static display
were these Wilson Audio ToneTot monitors whose other side...


... goes like so.


Spatial Audio's most enthusiastic and ebullient German distributor Mach One aka Spatial Europe explained that not only do they handle manufacture for Europe with drivers supplied from the brand's US home. They design and incorporate certain crossover and mechanical refinements, the latter to rigidify the plinth/baffle interface. This makes the assembly more resistant to flex during high-power play. There are 8cm long bolts and an embedded crosswise steel shaft which connect the shown plinths to their baffles. In fact, our One Machers had just identified a supplier of laminated concrete with perfect finishing. This will henceforth become an option and likely more than just a modern décor choice. I was also told that sales at the show had been so brisk as to well deplete their inventories. Who needs us reviewers when customers already know what they want?


Perusing their rather extensive Munich lineup, it seemed to me that European customers have access to a lot more Spatial models than their US counterparts do. Or perhaps I was hallucinating. After all, I'm rather late to the Spatial party and likely don't know the lay of their land.

After belabouring that his new 3-way floorstander above our petite Aptica 'tower' was too heavy for me to handle, Albedo Audio's Massimo Costa, designer of my favourite 1st-order ceramic speakers, talked to me about a forthcoming 3-way monitor which might have my name on it. When I questioned him whether claims that Accuton's Cell drivers are designed to be time-aligned even on a perfectly vertical baffle, he replied that yes, they come close but that for real precision, some minor angling of the baffle is still required. With their first-ever table display at Munich, COS Engineering had nothing new to show since their planned class A/B amp remains under development to decide whether its circuit will become a 2nd or 3rd-order THD dominant design. But they were happy to display their existing three models and let visitors sample their fully balanced H1 with various headphones. Simon Lee was unfortunately in absentia but his friends at Davis Acoustics knew why. Suffice to say that his forced divorce from April Music had gotten difficult to delay the European launch of SAG aka Simon Audio Group but first production was said to be imminent.


Regarding style where the Italians like GoldNote's 28-year old sales manager Tommaso Dolfi always win, I was told repeatedly that I did better this year than others when in fact, I was just trying to go incognito as the 3rd lost Blues Brother. It occasionally worked, actually; but most saw right through it, including red-haired Linette of HifiPig.

Saving the best for last from a journalist's point of chasing the very newest, the Newcomer area had two attractions I considered very exciting.


The first of these was Paul Beckett's Onkk. Being from the UK, this clock maker's first clock commission was based on design cues from Egypt's ankh symbol to become god father to his turntable brand. Paul also admitted that a lot of tech talks during his study years left him thinking 'oink' so some of that flowed into the name as well. Because Paul is young and at this show rocked brilliant purple and pink hair, many visitors probably looked at his do, then the colourful direct-drive table, thought 'nice' and walked right on by. That would have missed out on a very serious man obsessed with precision engineering


I was so impressed by Paul's obvious tech savvy and detailed explanations for his design choices that I spontaneously offered up Dutch contributors and vinyl mavens Marja & Henk to do a full-on exposé and subsequent review. Joined by a love of punk, goth and Frank Zappa, our Dutchies and Paul should get on with a bang.


Like everyone else of course, Mr. Onkk will have to sift through and sort out his post-show contact grab. He'll have to carefully weigh all his options and schedule them to best fit his agenda. Should our offer make the final cut, expect the full oink in these pages well before the year is out.

Because the loudest part of any hifi room is inside the loudspeaker, their makers have long since paid attention to composite enclosure materials to deaden the box. It's the makers of electronics who, on a whole, remain oblivious that it's the 21st century now. They continue to sell us on the nth coming of the rectangular metal casing bolted together with screws. Rinnnng. Little seems the progress of applying modern lab-made materials to our other hifi components.


Enter the Greek team of Sylvia Ritsoni and Dimitris Karayiannis with their first-born, Little Zoe. With his architectural background, Dimitris applies highly trained discipline to form and function like fellow architect-turned-hifi-designer Jacob George of Rethm. Over a 2-year process of R&D that started with this white resin whose chemical vendor answered inquiries of how to mold it with "good luck, let us know if you figure it out", they've perfected manufacture of a cast enclosure whose subsequent detailing with a CNC router ends up with an organically contoured screw-less chassis which—what did the poor door nail ever do to deserve this reputation?—really is deader than a door nail.


That means that instead of transmitting vibrational energies most effectively like the proverbial railroad track or metal enclosure, their casing blocks them just as effectively. Trannies, caps, coils, resistors and tube sockets no longer talk to each other mechanically. Silence, chaps!

The Williamson-based EL34 demonstrator with Lundahl output transformers and Mundorf silver/gold/oil caps was lacquered white. The first 20 units will sell for an introductory €9'000 in either white or black until the end of September by which time the retail price will reach its intended €14'000. A non-refundable €2'000 deposit also secures pre-order clients a lifetime warranty on circuitry parts and labour. This offer hopes to counteract the inability of showgoers to actually listen to Little Zoe since any Newcomer stand means static displays only.


The lateral bays are for the optional tube covers. The recess above the speaker terminals serves as handle whilst carrying the unit.


Not a single aspect of this mechanical design is only for looks. Dimitris could/would give you a concise technical reason for any of it. Like Paul Beckett, he was a seemingly endless reservoir of know-how, deliberation and enthusiasm. That electronic circuitry very much cares for what it is housed in, I had anecdotal evidence for 15 years earlier. Then Grand Prix Audio's Alvin Lloyd had confided of two Arcam integrateds bought for an experiment. One he'd left in its original bent sheet-metal casing. The other's circuitry was transplanted unchanged to a custom carbon-fibre enclosure optimized for resonance control. Apparently now the two Arcams sounded nothing alike even though the 'only' thing changed were the mechanics of the enclosures.


Little Zoe now made that concept commercial reality for you and me. Its story is far more elaborate than my brief commentary does justice to. To tell it in full will require a lengthier sitdown with Dimitris and actual note taking. Whilst in Munich, I did none of the latter; nor much actual listening. It's just not what I went for this time.


This time was about talking with and to certain people without disrupting those who wanted to enjoy their music. The important stuff happened in the hallways as it always does. Lukas Fikus of LampizatOr too had decided that active displays equate endless DJing without getting any real work done whilst handing the bloggers live ammunition to bitch about sub-optimal sound in temporary installs.


Of course remaining quiet works well only if you're established enough to have people know already that your stuff sounds good. This year Lukas had a static exhibit to be much happier. We could talk for at least 20 minutes without interrupting anything or anyone. As a result, I learnt of the R&D he'd poured into their music computer. As an iMac fanatic—he owns eight!—he fully understood my flaccid attitude about servers in general. Just so, he guaranteed that his was a very different beast whose contents could easily be accessed without WiFi. So I did return from Munique with one 'server' in my crosshairs after all.

Another surprise was being gifted with the Live at Abbey Road CD of Joseph & James Tawadros, by an actual student of the legendary oud maestro. Philip O'Hanlon gave me one of his famous demo discs, this one with tracks from Chilly Gonzales to Kaleo. Gracias. To showgoers unaware of some of the behind-the-scenes travails other than the Kroma experience, let me add an exhibitor who arrived on Wednesday evening to do setup throughout the night; or another whose shipment was locked down by customs to require calling on their entire EU dealer network to overnight the required inventory of cable goods to Munich. Such things very much conspire against making fabulous sound at a conference centre or hotel even though some people do manage just that year in, year out. On my flight back to Dublin, I met Walter Schofield, VP/Global Strategist of Emotiva. His German distributor had failed to secure the promised room. As a result, Walter held back-to-back meetings in the M.O.C.'s ground-floor restaurant. Being represented in 40 countries meant that he went through about 10 bottles of water per day just to order something each time he hogged a table. He explained that they sell direct in some countries like France and Sweden, through dealers in the UK and as a mix in the US. Those who believe that the two schemes can't combine haven't paid proper attention.


A personal design award for best business card goes to John DeVore's, one for most useful if unpaid networker to Vital Gbezo who introduced me to some very interesting people. Of the US press, I saw and recognized Michael Fremer, Herb Reichert and Kalman Rubinson of Stereophile; Doug Schneider and Jeff Fritz of the SoundStage! network; Roy Gregory of TheAudioBeat; Robert Harley of TAS; and Steve Rochlin of EnjoyTheMusic. From HifiKnights, I saw both Dawid Grzyb and Marek Dyba. HifiPig's husband/wife team of Linette & Stu Smith was unmissable not just for her killer pink/fuchsia hair. Matej Isak represented Mono & Stereo and shared that his new sound room was just about finished. I did however manage to miss John Darko and Joël Chevassus often by mere minutes. That's the other side of refusing to make any appointments. But now you have solid leads for where else to look for show reports.


For OEMs, I received a solicitation and printed invite from Speed Matrix who believe that their DAC invention goes beyond "R2R resistor networks and binary-weighted resistor DACs which are practically impossible to implement." Since I don't review product meant for OEMs not end users, I'll hereby pass this invite on to interested manufacturers and/or investors*.


If you're in Munich and fond of Indian food, give Garam Masala a try. They're down a little side alley right off the Marienplatz's artery of Am Tal past the taxi stand toward the Isar Tor. I had dinner there three nights in a row. That might tell you something. I gave the CD/LP store on Beck's top floor a miss this year since by now most everything I really can purchase online. I did however find a small Asian shoppe who stock hundreds of bronze statues of Hindu and TIbetan deities of the sort our household loves. Now we have three more for our collection to bless us with their benign presences. This now concludes my short report. Sundry planned reviews will flesh out certain stories once their time comes. For the rest, you have all the embedded web links to follow up. So get ye busy -:)
For a very exciting digital tech breakthrough, flip the virtual page for Joël Chevassus's top pick of the event.

*
'Master Leonardo' referenced on this site and in their video seems to be none other than Leonid Burcev from Russia who, last year, had hosted an impressive demo of an entire system under the Etalon Sound banner. A year prior to that, he had solicited me for a review of his DreamDAC then still branded Wagner Audio. I'd agreed once said product had gone into formal production. It's unclear whether Speed Matrix is Burcev's fully balanced R2R concept with variable reference voltage as Etalon Sound still propose it; or a new thing/algorithm altogether. I was once again asked to review a prototype and once again declined as something we're not set up to do. It will be up to current digital manufacturers to investigate the merits of Speed Matrix and license this tech for their own products should they be convinced of its superiority. That's how we'll eventually learn how it sounds and what it is - Ed.