Having sampled HifiDeluxe during a prior year only to be sorely/thoroughly underwhelmed, I'd have planned another miss this year if not for this list of attendees: Acapella, Alsyvox, Amplifon, Analog Natural Sound, Audez'e, Audio Note UK, Audioplan, Blacknoise, Daluso, Elements Wiring Systems, Enacom, Etalon Sound, FM Acoustics, Forcelines, Harmonix, Hijiri, Jadis, JMF Audio, Kii Audio, Kroma Audio, La Rosita, Lovan, Malvalve, MrSpeakers, Omega Audo Concepts, Precision Interface, Prism Sound, PurePower Partners Inc., Quad, Reimyo, Rossner & Sohn, Sicomin, Soundwaves Loudspeakers, SPL, Stax, Stenheim, Tannoy, Timeless Electronics, TotalDAC, Vertere, Vibex, Viva Audio, Wagner Audio Lab, Zanden. With opening hours 12:00-20:00 Fri-Sat and free attendance, I'd visit there in the evenings. For the colossal crowd of M.O.C. exhibitors which attendees walk through in a growing daze, arms lengthening to Cro Magnon reach from carrying ever heavier bags filled with brochures and swag, go here. For a change, I planned to take no written notes at all but record onto my portable Nagra SD instead.

Friday morning before the M.O.C.'s doors even opened was for Final's 8:30 breakfast conference at the Rilano hotel. They would talk on a highly efficient new planarmagnetic headphone. It is based on a core idea by Heitaro Nakajima, a now 96-year old legendary engineer called 'the father of the CD'. "During this presentation we'll introduce the technology central to our planarmagnetic headphone due for release in September, along with stories involving its development." A breakfast meeting is a swell solution for a press function which does not upset my type of flow-as-you-go main venue coverage. Whilst that also holds formal press meets during show hours, I never commit to any. They tend to enforce having to be anywhere but where I happen to be just then. I prefer to systematically cover the atriums and halls during a first room-by-room aisle-by-aisle sweep, then go back for strategic seconds as time permits.

This year, Ivo & Paul from Æquo Audio decided to team with Sound Galleries and Audiopax to assemble a system around three of our award winners, with silver cabling by Tellurium Q. Being strategically located across the entrance of Hall 3, their exhibit's lunar theme would give us some very unexpected exposure. With a Blue Moon for their compact maiden loudspeaker, Best Product 2016 from Wojciech Pacula at HighFidelity.pl, 5 stars from Marek Dyba of HifiChoice, Outstanding Product from HifiPig and major thumbs up from Dawid Grzyb of HifiKnights, the Ensis could do no wrong regardless of writer, room or personal taste. Would Æquo remain a one-pony stable or follow up with a bigger or smaller model? It's questions like these which have the faithful trek to Munich not for beer and bratwurst but exciting product releases. That the M.O.C. serves sausage and swill as well is more reason why this show has become #1 in the world.

Under the winning baton of Sir Andrew Jones of the Kiel Philharmonic, Elac were one can't miss just to see what new genre killer they'd launch. I wanted to hear Bakoon's demo of their new AMP-51R which explodes the former 15-watt limitation of their now discontinued AMP-12R to a far more useful 100/200w in stereo/mono. Having by then reviewed Audio Physic's Codex, I wanted a close-up look at the rest of their range. Sven Boenicke would have to bring his finalized amp and new flagship W13 speakers. Elrog under now Thomas Mayer ownership begged a visit for current-production German vacuum tubes. Since my exposure to the über-priced LessLoss Laminar Streamer, I was keen to see what SD card readers might be more within reach - not that my hopes were high to find such a niche product even in Munich. Goldmund had announced a new generation of amplifiers I wanted to see. Gryphon are always good for a surprise. If Heco's Dreiklang was on active display, I had to hear it. Ditto MrSpeakers' new Æon headphone. I'd not seen Zu's Sean Casey in ages; or Vinnie Rossi who'd have "a small table in the Acoustic Signature room". And so forth. All attendees bring their own hidden agenda. Then life happens and with it, all manner of synchronicities and unforeseen surprises. Let's see what the lucky leprechaun had for me this year.

In years past, my top exhibit for sonics had been the massive Living Voice Vox Olympian system driven off an enormous 750kg battery supply to stand aloof from the M.O.C.'s heavily loaded utility spurs. Curious what our UK neighbours might bring for 2017, "we're planning to take a pair of Vox Palladian and Palladian Basso as long as they are completed in time. They're in the final stages of production now, in the same finish as the pair in these photos, namely American Walnut grown in the UK and veneered with a sunburst motif. It's a bit tight for time but we think just about doable. The Vox Palladian is a somewhat scaled-down Vox Olympian for want of a better description. We have done away with most of the elaborate cabinet lipping and stringing and kept the back panel straight-sided, then patinated all bronze parts in the same vintage brown. These choices all have hugely impacted on build cost. As far as the drive units, we have retained the Vitavox S2 compression driver and Vitavox AK151 but the ET-703 is replaced by the Vitavox Type LV4 ultra high-frequency unit. This was developed specifically for the Vox Palladian in conjunction with Vitavox." Those not attending but visiting London instead have a standing opportunity to hear a similar Living Voice system on permanent install at Spiritland [below].

That's how teasers accumulate until just days before the doors open. Tickled at Axpona but fully revealed in Munich would be at least two if not more new AURALiC products: fully overhauled Vega and Aries decks in 2 iteration sporting new all-black livery and tech. Spatial would bring their latest open baffles, Thrax from Bulgaria two new configurable integrated platforms, Voxativ their new Zeth, Z-Bass and 211 system. Leonid Burchev of WaLab would premiere his DreamDAC with tri-stage discrete R2R processing and variable reference voltage à la Metrum Adagio but with his own algorithm. Trafomatic's Sasa and Mica would bring samples of their new Experience range and hifi racks. Rieke Audio—Germany's Duelund for capacitors—would introduce new tube gear, Zu the new Druid VI.

Others would stay home. Louis Motek of LessLoss would be in his workshop filling orders. With Martin Gateley of soundkaos having started direct sales, I wasn't sure he'd once more erect his very own ground-floor sound room. That's a very costly if high-profile exercise to improve over the atrocious cubicles if one can't get a proper upstairs room; or decides against Marriott offboarding due to much reduced visibility and traffic. I knew COS Engineering wouldn't exhibit but walk the beat. Ditto Ivo Linnenberg. WIth Simon Lee no longer at April Music but now Simon Audio Lab, he might be there 'incognito' as well. And some prefer talk shows. Bel Canto's Michael McCormick had, years ago already, told me that he'd never again go upstairs to play DJ in an active demo. He writes far more business in one of the halls with a large static display.