Audio Solutions of Lithuania would showcase their new 6-deep 5th Anniversary Vantage line priced from €27'000 - €105'000/pr; and announce pending plans to expand into the design and manufacture of electronics including servers and room-acoustics correction DSP. The new speakers have most their parts printed on an industrial-scale advanced 3D printer acquired by the company. They are finished in expensive vinyl tape "tougher than paint or leather". Common to all will be "self-locking cabinetry with a dense inner skeleton; custom high-velocity port tubes; custom tweeter wave guides; better tweeter alignment for the listener; mid/tweeter level adjustments on the back; downfiring woofers including the monitor; top-quality paper drivers; and midrange driver bandwidth of 200 - 8'000Hz."

Alsyvox from Spain would premiere a range of three-way ribbon dipoles promised to make bass like planars haven't before. Being in the Marriott, there was no predicting how much traffic they might attract but I certainly had them in my sights. Their pre-show tickle had done its job. Verity Audio would bow their new Otello 3-way with twin 15.2cm rearfiring woofers and a 12.7cm two-way front firing head with neo-ring dome tweeter, 93dB sensitivity, 35kg/ea. and dimensions of 106.6 x 24.7 x 44.3cm HxWxD. Louis Desjardins of Kronos Audio, maker of the turntable with counter-rotating platters (47lab are the other) would show his new Reference tube phono preamplifier. 

Ascendo would weaponize the depths with their new SMSG50 DSP-controlled 2.5kw subwoofer whose 50"/127cm driver (!) weighs 130kg and runs a 13.6" voice coil. Home-theatre mayhem for the lads. Egglestonwork would bring their new Andra Viginti to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original Andra (uno) speaker. M.A. Recordings would bring top-quality 180-gram vinyl issue pressed in Holland from their own high-resolution digital masters. Audionet would break bad and celebrate the European premiere of its flagship amplifier called Heisenberg. Western Electric's Charles Whitener promised pending 300B production via a mass email through newly appointed media ambassador Scull Communications.

Serbia's other main tube brand Auris—Trafomatic being the first—would bring the Fortissimo KT120 amp which in future iterations will become available also with EL34, 6550 and KT88; and the Headonia headfi SET powerful enough to drive two headphones at once.

Metrum would go semi-precious with their new Amethyst [€1'070 ex VAT], "a follow up of our Musette DAC.  We improved the data flow over the board and implemented an I²S breakout point for future options. Next we used the new Dac Two modules like in the Adagio to run 384kHz sample rates. Further we implemented a headphone amplifier which can drive 16Ω possible only with our strong power supply of 30VA transformer and two 22'000µF capacitors. By using the converter's output only, noise floor and hum are extremely low. When connecting a headphone, the outputs on the back mute automatically and the volume knob will adjust headphone gain only. The output on the back panel has a fixed Redbook standard level."

Manolis Proestakis of Tune Audio would bow the Avaton named after the ancient Greek word άβατον as a place for which entrance is allowed only to believers. This fully hornloaded speaker is a passive 3-way with 18" woofer, 5" custom midrange and 1" compression tweeter for 105dB sensitivity. "This is the realisation of a five-year long R&D project aimed at delivering a no-compromise hornspeaker for large listening rooms. Long work was required to create a layout pleasing to both the ear and eye. Avaton features our unique virtual mouth technology for bass horn loading, which delivers flat response down to 32Hz. The bass driver is a super-linear 18-inch woofer weighing a massive 27kg. The mid/bass horn has a mouth of 10'000cm² featuring a triple-layer construction with damping materials and finally the throat and beginning of the horn are coated with a epoxy/CNT compound for high rigidity. The high horn is a further development of the cast compound used in our Anima and the horn is mounted to an upgraded compression driver. 1st order filters connect all 3 ways and the internal cabling is waxed cotton insulated pure copper. The footers are graphite coated and as with all our models, we offer custom colours or natural wood veneer in virtually any choice and combination."

Apertura of France would bring their new Enigma MkII flagship, now a 2.5 no longer 2-way tower with "modified drivers, completely revised filters with new capacitors and a hybrid acoustic line/port loading whose tuning frequency is lower for even deeper bass." 94dB sensitivity remains unchanged.

Switzerland's Soulution would bring samples of their new 3 Series by way of the 325 preamplifier, 311 stereo amp and 330 integrated. As these teasers kept piling up and the countdown to my departure began, press junket and dinner invites arrived. With just three available evenings, which invites to accept without offending or a least disappointing others? These are opportunities to put faces to emails, to enjoy proper conversations or just the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts. After 17 years on the beat, I still don't have a foolproof recipe for dealing with the after-hours conundrum. Some journalists prefer to sidestep it altogether. They begin to blog or post from their hotel room almost immediately. That makes for near real-time coverage but misses out on the human element.

For Internet publishers without outside office to meet core staff on a daily basis, getting out of the home office—Michael Lavorgna's barn, John Darko's DARhaus, 6moons' HQ in Clew Bay—is to mingle with real not virtual people. That's part of the show appeal.

For me it's actually the one. Learning about product is just as easily handled by email or phone. Getting the real fix on a product only happens inside our own four walls; for guys like us over the course of a review. For me then, visiting Munich would be much more about the people and far less about the gear even though the actual report would of course focus on the hardware. That's not so different from the perennial "it's all about the music" when, to very many in fact, it's really primarily about the sound; far from the same thing. You can have great music with crap sound; awful music with terrific sound; crap music and crap sound; and, occasionally (though it should be habitual), a brilliant dose of either. Guess which type shows tend to be mostly on about?

The answer to the other $172'000 question would be Magico' new M6. Mostly it makes carbon-fibre the new aluminium. It adopts an edge-less six-sided 0.5" thick monocoque carbon-fibre enclosure. "This increases the structural strength-to-weight ratio by a factor of 60, reduces overall weight by 50% and yields outer dimensions which are 30% smaller without compromising internal volume." Aluminium remains part of the recipe for the inner baffle, tension rods and 3-point plinth. The midrange loads into a sealed carbon-fibre chamber shaped like a 'reverse horn'. The transducer compliment is a 28mm diamond-coated beryllium tweeter, a 6" graphene mid and 3 x 10.5" carbon/nanographene woofers. Specs are 22Hz-50kHz bandwidth, 91dB sensitivity, 177kg weight and dimensions of 143x66x51cm HxDxW. Those who wondered why Magico always bolted together flat aluminium panels with sharp edges prior to their extruded models now have an entirely new concept to embrace.

As an ex marketing guy, I'm always curious how changes to a company's signature MO are presented. When Anthony Gallo went from spherical enclosures to boxes, it breached semi-religious dogma. With Apertura's exclusive focus on 2-ways for their simpler filters, the new 2.5-way overhaul of the Enigma presents a smaller wrinkle but still repositions a previous company line. Magico's shift to hi-tech polymers which support molded geometries presents another opportunity to rewrite a story.

At times such changes can represent what a designer wanted to do from the very beginning but to accomplish, had to first build up infrastructure of know-how, machinery and financial backup by doing something easier instead. At other times it's an evolutionary process. One exhausts the possibilities of one approach by hitting practical limits. With aluminium weight becomes an obvious hurdle. This would quite naturally lead to a solution that eliminates mass whilst increasing rigidity and adding new form-shaping freedom. Wilson-Benesch was no longer alone in pursuing carbon-fibre loudspeaker cabinets.