Après Munich

Après. With skiing it comes after the day's heavy lift-ing is over. Moguls have been rattled, slope bunnies greeted, disasters avoided. Now it's time to kick back and enjoy the afterglow. Of course every after must have a before. In hifi, after Lowther's initial sheen had dulled and before there were Cube Audio or Rethm 2022, it was Voxativ of Berlin who had single-handedly revived the solitary whizzer-sprouting widebander of high sensitivity. I reviewed their original Schimmel-lacquered Ampeggio in September 2010 in our first Swiss residence. Ever since I've kept an eye on what Holger Adler is up to as he builds out the line and refines existing models. So I knew of their new 9.88 system from the above teaser graphic.

Yet even with the explanation below, I still don't get it. By October 2015 I'd reviewed the Pi monitor atop the Ripol Pi subwoofer as the 9.87 system in our 3rd Swiss residence. It was my first exposure to Axel Ridthaler's cardioid folded open baffle invention whose patent has expired since to be open source like Oskar Heil's original air-motion transformer. So impressed was I by the combination of xover-less widebander plus ultra-efficient active bass that I affixed an award. Now tacking onto that what appears to be a midbass coupler, in a cabinet whose back protrudes beyond the top and bottom cabs… to my eyes it looks simply odd. I appreciate desire for modularity. It gives existing customers a painless upgrade path. Stack away. But as an expensive statement speaker, aren't the looks a real hodge podge? I'm reminded of the Two Greedy Italians, chefs Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, who upon a return visit to the motherland called much of Italy's new fusion cuisine con fusion.

Would the actual sound have vanquished all my cosmetic reluctance had I attended to hear this Voxativ exhibit? Shouldn't appearance be viewed as an intrinsic performance aspect particularly in this upscale sector? If so, I'm afraid that for me 9.88 doesn't add up. Incidentally, canvassing the massive photo dumps on Mono&Stereo and Hifistatement, I felt similarly about many of the MOC's upstairs statement exhibits. I saw opulence cross the line into gaudy, bling-bling as currency du jour, luxury kowtowing to the nouveau riche. On that score I'm sharply out of sync. For every my-kind-of-exciting discovery that I missed, for each acquaintance that I'd have really liked to chat with in person, I feel a simultaneous deep relief for not going. Much of the super-shiny stuff would have made me feel very much out of place. Which begs the question. Why go anywhere on one's own nickel and time only to practice skillful avoidance once we're actually there?

Before après. After our last podcast, I asked John Darko whether he'd attend Munich this year. Then he was still very much ambivalent. Covid pulled one way, FOMO another. That's fear of missing out. Having canvassed very many hundreds of show photos already, I'm actually glad that I missed out on much of it. FOMO. It ain't fear, John. It's the fun of missing out.

Après après. As it turns out, in the end John did attend and by all accounts had a good time enjoying the event's social aspects. That's a different focus than the hardware grind then cherry-picks the hardware one does cover. It's the sunny side of avoidance. As always, there's at least two sides to anything. For me, this year's impromptu collab with HifiKnights' Dawid Grzyb might be the way forward to a form of ongoing show coverage. It's trusted boots on German ground emailing in photos throughout attendance days. In the home office I then format those in virtually real time into a very selective short show narrative that expands by the hour. Dawid enjoyed it as well so we'll be doing it again. If I return to Munich in person, I'll definitely have to be wearing big blinders again. Mask off, blinders on? Add a tin-foil hat and this could just be next year's dress code…