Der Beste Ton, Das Beste Bild

For us, a trip to the Bavarian capital of Munich always is one of great anticipation. So far all our travels into Germany have had a special air about them. That is, we learned to see the German in a different perspective. We recently spent some professional time in Germany -- i.e. in our capacity as IT specialists -- and learned to appreciate their promptness. A meeting at 09:00 am is a meeting at 09:00 am, not a minute later, not a minute earlier. That's Pűnktlichkeit. Then we learned to appreciate the thoroughness, the engineering Grűndlichkeit of many a household appliance that proved to last and last and still keeps working.

Accordingly, the Lufthansa flight in our Bombardier CRJ-700 from Amsterdam to Munich proceeded smoothly and landed on time. For a quick 60-minute flight, on-board service was exemplary. The Munich airport's Terminal 2 is a big glass building combining architectural simplicity with visual openness. Airy, open spaces and wide corridors welcome travelers to the city. Luggage appears swiftly and one of the good things about the EU -- the open boarders -- made things even faster. Once outside and equipped with no-smoking signs one and all, there were plenty of taxis waiting to take one to the city center within minutes. We were lucky to get whisked away in a BMW Series 7. What a luxury that was. The ride was as quiet as imaginable even when the driver used his right foot to put the pedal down Autobahn style. How long this unique German no-speed-limit feature will continue to hold is questionable but once in a while, it sure is great fun.

Munich itself demonstrated a new trend in its local cuisine. Many chefs are going back to basics by relying on seasonal regional produce instead of flown-in exotica. Combinations with excellent traditional Sauerkraut or a version with radishes were delicious and May was asparagus and strawberry season of course so we - well, indulged.

After a good breakfast the following morning, it was off to the M.O.C., the congress center that hosts High End 2007. This venue is yet another large structure with an overwhelming amount of glass. At the ground floor this year, M.O.C. combined three great halls to house the European version of the CES zoo in Las Vegas. This was the trade's fair ground and for 2007, a record amount of exhibitors had signed up. The show's organizing High End Society continued with its exhibition slogan of The best sound - The best picture and emphasized that exhibitors should adhere to the highest standards. The results were squeaky clean booths and displays.

Above the ground-floor exhibition halls was an atrium circled by shop-like rooms and further inside the building followed a rather narrow hallway with more rooms on either side. Then the top floor added two rows of fairly large exhibition rooms divided by again a rather narrow hallway.

Before we begin our report, we have two general criticisms of the event. The first is something the organization won't be able to solve very easily. With the growing amount of visitors, the stairs to the second and third floor were extremely crowded as were the hallways. With the new availability of truly large exhibition rooms and fixed demo times, rooms filled and emptied in huge waves of visitors. This is no different from other successful shows of course but still, the sheer size of this undertaking is beginning to make itself felt in less practical side effects. The second criticism should be more easily addressed: smoking. Germans appear to be the most avid smoking nation in at least Europe. Exhibitors and visitors alike smoked like chimneys in the corridors and elsewhere. After a day at the show, we smelled like walking ashtrays - involuntary advertisements for the tobacco lobby. For non-smokers like us, that's the antithesis of fun and downright disgusting.

With that off our combined chests, let's enter the big exhibition halls.

Besides many static displays, quite a few exhibitors also rented sound booths. These fully isolated temporary enclosures mimic a small listening room and operate quite effectively. No sounds leak out and inside, the buzz of the hall is effectively cancelled. The first booth and listening box we chanced upon was
U-vola's. As the photo shows, their egg-shaped suspended loudspeakers form the perfect canvas for artistic life-style expressions.

A show like Munich is a real meeting ground for the trade where manufacturers meet and find distributors who, in turn, meet and find new dealers. While making our rounds, we took the opportunity to talk to various manufacturers and even accepted certain review requests for the coming months. To the many questions about why 6moons publisher Srajan wasn't present, we explained that at this very moment, he was with his wife who had undergone open-heart surgery for a defective mitral valve and was in rehab in a clinic in Schleswig-Hostein before being allowed to fly back home to Cyprus [indeed - thanks for explaining my unexpected absence; we had tickets and hotel reservations for Munich but had to cancel in the last minute - Ed.]

Walking and talking, we came to the
Greatech exhibit where Peter Grundig had expanded on his offerings and joined up with Flying Mole. On display were his miniature μVAC amplifier and companion μVAC loudspeakers. These tiny speakers offered a larger than expected frequency range. And just look at that veneer job, would you?

PS Audio had teamed up with Von Schweikert'sVR4-SR loudspeakers and the Metronome Kalista CD player. Fed by regenerated power from the Premier Power Plant, the overall sound proved that this precise combination of equipment wasn't mere happenstance but carefully considered. PS Audio boss Paul McGowan and his wife who were in Munich too certainly had every reason to be happy and feel well represented.

As with all recent shows, High End 2007 probably demoed with more vinyl than polycarbonate. With the increasing interest in spinning the good old black gold, the need to keep records clean is naturally also felt more and more by more and more. Of the many LP cleaning systems on offer, the ones by
Hannl stood out with their colorful designs. When performing the necessary record cleaning chores, one might as well look stylin'. Or that's probably what they figured.

A large show like Munich is always a great place to discover new brands, ideas and solutions. A newcomer to us at least was
Labor Limae. This Italian brand offers very specialized loudspeaker constructions. By the looks of it, they love carbon fiber and use it for a futuristically shaped ported design. Most significant was the use of springs to mount the speaker on the stand. The springs formed a cradle to hold the speaker. This concept was in fact used throughout this exhibit, with each component decoupled by springs. Well, not every component - the Rise CD player was soundly coupled to mother earth instead while the cables were from CableLess.

Celebrating their 30th anniversary,
Clearaudio went to Munich for the big time. Already known worldwide for never being shy at shows, here their tabernacle-styled exhibit was once again - um, one size larger. Inside, the trademark photos of their many turntables in gilded frames recalled previous sightings. To celebrate, there was of course live music and great things happened in the dark as one might say.

After a few rounds through the halls trying to get an idea of what new things were going on in audio land, we had no doubt already missed quite a few things. Therefore we promised ourselves to make the rounds once more the following day while ascending to the third floor for now. From the landing one could enjoy a nice overview of the second floor's atrium. It felt a bit like a high-end shopping mall crossed with a business lounge down there.

Following now are some pictorial impressions of select listening rooms. Basically, the rooms on the higher floors were occupied by the same exhibitors as last year. As well, even many products featured were the same so we elected mostly not to repeat ourselves from 2006's show report.