The mini 2022 No-Show Report

Munich 2022. I wasn't there. But Dawid Grzyb was. He sent a few smartphone pix of finds that made him stop. At the Audio Group Denmark exhibit, Aavik were showing their 200wpc class A p/p 880 integrated with LDR volume control, thick copper plates to lower the inductance of the transistors and a fast-switching highly efficient power supply. Cosmetics are now by Flemming Rasmussen.

Ansuz previewed their new Gold Signature cable range based on a new copper/silver/gold alloy. It's no longer just Crystal, Gryphon and Siltech who will serve the gold-infused wire realm. Børresen previewed their new X Speaker Series with carbon-fiber reinforced cabs.

For their Børresen brand again, the new M1 monitor premiered new diaphragm tech of bonding a 0.04mm surface-treated titanium skin to Nomex honey comb surrounded on both sides by spread-tow carbon. The matching basket now is 3D-printed zirconium. The motor system's trademark copper rings become pure silver for still lower inductance. These folks have done a very comprehensive rethink on how a classic dynamic driver ought to work.

Checkered back side meets equally checkered front with inverted surround.

Camerton of Berlin previously based out of the Ukraine showed their long-awaited Binom-ER planarmagnetic headphones. Headamp of choice was the French Liedson Orphéon MkII.

Dali premiered their new 140kg Kore flagship which brackets two 11.5" woofers around a 7" midrange and 10x55mm ribbon tweeter. The bass drivers load into 72-liter sub chambers vented out the rear, the integral plinth includes concrete for a low center of gravity. Give engineering-driven companies three years away from the public eye and they're bound to return with a few surprises.

EΛhibrid showed their PureDC-B1 linear power supply based on a 5'000mAh 2170 Li-ion battery which can output 9/12V at 2.5A continuous and 10A peak.

Dawid called Nikos Fanakis' hARt Lab gear from Greece "very promising. Their power amplifier is a zero-feedback tube/transistor hybrid with low damping factor and some 200 watts per channel from lateral Exicon Mosfets. The internal look is at their 6SN7 linestage with DAC and phono."

Having published a news announcement on them just a few days prior, I'll syndicate it here. From Club Med to your listening room, their gear promises tube sound without the compromise of conventional tube amps due to a unique topology. The Reference line consists of the Tune Two tube preamp with streamer, DAC, MM/MC phono and headfi; and the Tune Three hybrid stereo power amp with driver tubes and Mosfet outputs. The Superior Line includes the Tune Four paralleled tube preamp and Tune Five hybrid monos. The Tune Two's tube complement is a pair of CV181 "light polarized without feedback" paired with a "Class A tracking buffer for a hybrid path". There's also an alternate tube-direct output. A battery-emulator power supply has 12 fully regulated voltage fees and the dual-.mono circuit is star grounded for immunity to mains noise and ground loops. The attenuator is a relay-based resistor ladder. There are 4 x RCA line-level inputs plus phono plus RJ45, wireless, 3 x USB, coax and optical. Outputs are hybrid, tube direct and 6.3mm headfi. Voltage gain is 21dB, bandwidth 5Hz – 120kHz and power consumptions 50W at idle. Many different finish and backlighting options are available and the side panels are hot-swappable.

HEM OEM – The makers of the popular ferrum brand employ a team of 7-8 in-house engineers. That's an unusually big brain trust for a smaller company. During R&D of their ferrum Erco DAC/headfi deck, this team created a proprietary digital solution. It combines all digital receiving and signal routing on one board and codes USB HiD, DoP, full MQA, signal level functionality and 32/384PCM and DSD256 support onto an ARM Cortex M4 Core processor to avoid separate XMOS chips. The resultant 5x7cm red Serce [Polish for 'heart'] module supports board-to-board connections for USB 2.0, up to 4 x AES3-S/PDIF, I²S over HDMI, ARC with CEC controller, IR decoder and internal I²S for any extension. It aims at smaller hifi boutiques who may look for a convenient OEM solution for advanced digital machines sourced in the EU. Sales will happen through HEM since ferrum remains reserved for consumer machines.

A rose is a rose is a rose; until it's Hifi Rose's RA-180 integrated. About it Dawid quipped, "no idea what it sounds like but my eyes adore its steampunk looks". Like Merrill Audio and AGD Productions, faster GaNFet devices do the switching in what here is a 4-channel class D output stage for higher-power 400wpc bridging, bi-amping or to drive two pairs of speakers. Onboard too is a phono stage, a preamplifier, an active crossover, a subsonic attenuator, a speaker A/B selector, a pure direct switch, a volume meter and two level meters. An FMJ remote is included. Since it's hard to get too much steamy punk, we run with two photos. In South Korea the new motto must be "no more boring hifi"?

iFi showed what Dawid's email called "their latest Zen range flock and a new on-the-go bar launched today". The latter sports a USB-C input, 3.5/4.4mm outputs, four filter modes, analog bass boost, crossfeed, half a watt into 32Ω headphones, a 16-core XMOS processor and a Cirrus Logic converter fit for 384kHz PCM, DSD256 and full MQA.

Ilumnia from two Belgian brothers showed with SPEC of Japan to share the oyster that is today's world; plus a digital server from France's island of La Réunion compliments of Pachanko Labs. We reviewed Ilumnia's floorstanding Magister speaker in 2018 and the smaller Vocalis monitor a year later. Now they had a new subwoofer prototype on static display. Given how radical their inverted wideband driver is without a classic suspension, should one suspect that a lot of new thinking will pool into their subwoofer as well? "This will serve as an extension for Vocalis or Magister. It includes an analog active high pass with selectable points of 22, 45, 60 or 70Hz to one or two subs; and a low-pass filter with phase correction and time alignment over the sub's full transition range which becomes a 3-way system converter to boost max SPL. The sub is rated from 10Hz-100Hz with 500Wrms output. The driver is a common 10" cone, the cabinet sealed. Key to our design is the complexity of integration. The development of the active analog filter took the most time. We designed it such that it's impossible to hear in the midrange and higher frequencies whether it's on or off. There's no trade-off whatsoever using the three-way version. You simply get much more pressure/SPL in the lower ranges. That was the whole point."

Portugal's Innuos showed their new 3-deep Pulse range of Pulse Mini, Pulse and Pulsar. Already the Mini bundles 4TB SSD with 4GB RAM. The Pulse goes to 12GB RAM and a new linear power supply. Pulsar's exclusive USB output incorporates the PhoenixUSB Lite reclocker. All dress in bead-blasted aluminium.

Kroma Atelier formerly Kroma Audio of Granada introduced new models including the open-baffle Violeta with dual 12" woofers surrounding a Mundorf AMT tweeter and 6.5" Purifi midrange on a Krion plank, all driver magnets ensconced in hardwood cowls; the flagship Turandot with doubled-up mids and AMT so one tweeter out the back; and Extreme versions of existing models like the Mimi monitor which upgrade to the new drivers. Also, chief designer Javier Millán's son has joined the company and even his father is now involved.

LampizatOr had their new flagship Horizon DAC with Nixie tube display and outer panels floating on a massive sub chassis. Of course the real action is inside the cage and to narrate that, Lukasz Fikus has a series of YouTube videos in which he explains all.

About the next two photos, Dawid only had "odd Monitor Audio flagship?". His question mark feels fitting when one first sees them. Called Concept 50, this speaker sports…

… a circular cluster of six flat-diaphragm 2-inch midranges surrounding a dipole-run air-motion transformer tweeter [its back is visible in the overlay] all behind the elongated honey-comb grill. Behind that hide two stacked pairs of face-to-face so force-cancelling woofers. They fire through the longitudinal central slot. It's a bit like a KEF Blade with in-firing woofers and their coaxial driver executed with seven discrete drive units. Unlike the sleek Blade alas, the Concept 50 looks decidedly more as Dawid called it: odd.

Nagra can't drive really big speakers. Perhaps once that sentiment was true. But no longer. This the Swiss crew understatedly demonstrated by bringing this massive arsenal of luxury hardware centered on their new turntable then mating it to colossal Wilson Audio towers. If those don't count for 'really big', what does?

Qualio is a new speaker brand from Poland; so new in fact that the website hasn't gone live yet. It's from the same team who already brought us Cube Audio. Our preview has the details. Cube's Jazzon in the photo now runs its driver with a rubber no longer foam surround as was the case when I wrote about it. Dawid will review the revised version when he gets back to Warsaw.

Raal Requisite may have been in Munich or not but since I certainly wasn't there, let's sneak in their new VM-1a ribbon headphone amp. Its 'VM' is short for variable mode. That refers to selectable ultra-linear, pentode or triode operation for a quad of output EL34. Two EL34 phase splitters/drivers and a 6SN7 input tube complete the glassware. There's also a 24-step precision attenuator, XLR inputs and two headphone may be driven simultaneously. Input impedance is 50kΩ, input sensitivity 2V.

Schetl showed their Pathway speaker with under-excited transmission-line enclosure and 12" coaxial driver in a constant directivity horn which Dawid paraphrased as "quick snappy hi-eff speakers".

Sveda Audio's blipo home U22++ limited edition speaker is an active that does gloss colors really well.

From reader Vincenzo Picone who moonlights as sound|kaos brand ambassador for France come these pix of Martin Gateley's exhibit at the Marriott hotel.

Vincenzo & Martin

On rotation were the Vox 3a monitors, Libération open baffles, DSUB 15 cardioid open-baffle aka Ripol subwoofer and the very first pair of Liber|8 oval open baffles on the planet. On the left poster, Batboy was looking on to check that attendees appreciated dipole/Ripol's new way of hearing.

After the 1st day—days one and two at the MOC are for press only—Dawid already felt his attendance had been worthwhile. "I'm humbled that despite Covid and the war, I can actually be here. After two years, I was very happy to see many familiar faces. Returning to some normalcy was my personal goal. I've heard zero complaints from anyone thus far. All seem extremely thrilled to finally participate again. There's lots of press milling about but the halls do have some empty spaces here and there. So the MOC feels somewhat smaller also because of the wider aisles and increased spacing between exhibits. But it's all good."

Some companies who planned to attend had to pull out. The entire Tidal factory, Germany's upscale speaker house, contracted Covid. They had to cancel their presence which sadly also did in the planned public roll-out of their statement Bugatti range. Cable/connector stalwart Furutech meant to participate. Then their German distributor had to pull out thus a shared exhibit closed. It's good to know background before Internet rumors make up stories.

Verity Audio no longer are just loudspeakers. They've done their own electronics for years now. But new speakers still figured too, here with Arindal which combines a 6-inch 2-way monitor on top with a tall base containing a rear-firing 9.5" woofer for a classic three-way floorstander.

About the WLM room of active speakers, Dawid had "quick open sound that’s on the juicy side". Designer Martin Schützenauer's Franz-s hides two oval 9×12" paper woofers firing up and down which mate to twin 6" papyrus-cone mids loaded into a line with downward mouth. Those mids hand over to two 8cm AMT, one run in dipole mode. Each multi-lam cab packs 1'850 watts of power adaptable via rear-accessible analog filters. These designs are very clever packaging jobs. The cutaway behind the two right towers clearly shows the two vertically opposed woofers.

Left overlay, the Model 2 with 8 x NOS DAC chips per channel of Digitale Audio Systeme. At right WLM's own controller.

Aside from speaker backsides with rotary controls, we also see Sven Boenicke of the eponymous Swiss speaker house in a listening chair. Rather than exhibit, this year he decided to canvas the competition. And when you think about it, that's the only way to know how good you are. You must know what the best of the other guys are up to. Inspiration always includes bits of exposure, too.

About the Swiss Zeiler PA-01 amplifier, Dawid's email read "10 watts from one KT-150 per side configured as triode; lovely to look at". Ensconced in a glass-bead-blasted ceramic-coated enclosure milled from solid, the two output tubes mount horizontally in their own open bays. The power supply features choke regulation, the output transformers are custom Lundahl C-core fare. There's no feedback, the input impedance is 47kΩ and the input tubes are two 12AX7. Swiss understatement to the rescue?

And that wraps our short page. "I still wanted to go to the Marriott hotel for the alternate show but I'm flying home earlier than I thought." Thank you very much for the rooms you shared with us, Dawid. Safe travels back to Warsaw!