If you're a cable manufacturer like Hans Manfred Strassner of HMS who wants to show off their entire catalogue in front—rather than behind a rack in some dimly lit active display —that's where you'll be. Likewise for headphone brands who need nothing but a table and some electricity. Amphion's Anssi Hyvönen likes to hold court there too. I'd have to check out his new Argon 7LS. Whilst one doesn't make sound there, one never runs the risk of rooms being too full to get in or having their doors closed. And, the ground floor is also where the newcomer exhibits are hosted: new brands that haven't shown before to make their debut in a specially reserved area easy to find. One may not like Sauerkraut und Blutwurst but organizing a well-structured show is something everyone agrees the Germans do to perfection.


When it comes to weird, wacky or wonderful hifi sculptures in seemingly fluid-frozen metal here neither Giger nor Giya, nobody betters Kostas Metaxas. His above Siren which, depending on angle, looks like a pregnant woman with a broken neck, predicted copious photo ops in Halle 1 but the firm point at time-aligned Accuton drivers and a solid metal enclosure for bespoke sonic ambitions which can accommodate various Thiele & Partner drivers relative to the client's desire and wallet. For the less flamboyant, Kostas and his sins—it's Metaxas & Sins—had brewed up the endlessly scaleable Macrophone monitor which purports to be a microphone in reverse, hence the name.


When show ticklers default to excessive pricing like Joe Skubinski's $120'000 world's most expensive headphone system email, my internal circuit breaker trips. I've been turned off. Why should expense be an attraction? If it said most ambitious, I'd be fooled at least into thinking that performance was the overriding issue. If it's just about freakish money, I view it as more of an aberration to be avoided at all costs (pun intended) than destination I must pencil in. Shucks, I just broke my lead tip. What next? Vincent Brient of TotalDac would bring his d150 hornspeaker combining a widebander with, at 150Hz, a 15" woofer for 99dB system sensitivity. As the rendering shows, the 1.4m speaker with 86cm horn isn't unduly large and even the optional sub bass tower with 98dB 18-inch driver is kept to a 48x29cm footprint to save floor space, preferring instead to go up to 1.9m height. That looked like something I did want to hear.


DItto for one of Reflector's open-baffle Bespoke models. Depending on version, those stilted aliens use an Irish cloverleaf i.e. quad of 12", 15" or 18" woofers with a horn-loaded compression tweeter plus provide their own amplification. I wasn't certain how optics would translate in the flesh but from an engineering perspective's reduced room interaction via controlled dispersion, the concept sure made sense. Polish contributor Dawid Grzyb hoped to hand in his review of the P15 before I departed for Munich. Even if they were absent, we'd still learn about them.


Georg Arsin of Rike Audio—who, according to some, are Germany's very own Duelund for extreme-quality capacitors—had, at HighEnd Munich 2013, shown their €380'000 four-piece Edzard tube monos in the newcomer's exhibit. This year he would unveil new valve gear like phono stages, integrated amplifiers and such which were expected to come in well below €10'000/ea. To see this kit would simply mean a short walk out the M.O.C.'s main entrance past the usual smokers holding court there to the Maserati München service station. To not have Rike be lonesome, Martion Audio Systeme would also be there.


For big horns not of the spherical sort, Blumenhofer would bring their new €60'000/pr Gran Gioia Mk 2 shown below in Macassar, Olive and Palisander. Its 38cm/16" paper woofer mates to a 1.4" compression mid/high driver. They'd play in Blumenhofer's own Atrium 4.2 room off 300B Mastersound monos and in Octave's room off Andreas Hofmann's first-ever single-ended tetrode amplifier. Called Miniwatt, it taps 10 watts from a KT88 or KT120 and adds a headphone output. "For a year now I've been working on 300B and tetrode SE designs" divulged Mr. Octave. This came solely in response to dealer requests who had begged for a single-ended design from his house. At least for now, the vote seems to have come down against direct-heated triodes. What's more, unlike Audiopax, he prefers his single-ended KT88 in tetrode not triode connection, making the Octave Miniwatt a beast of different stripes.


With Kaiser Acoustics having signed with Kondo as their Japanese importer, they'd show in combination with those valve electronics and include the LessLoss Laminar Streamer SD card transport ensconced in a solid Panzerholz enclosure which is machined in Kaiser's own facilities. Kondo's electronics need just the right speakers to shine. Apparently the combination with Kaiser is superb. This I wanted to hear.