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As with our syndicated reviews which translate original German articles into English for our audience, this show report first appeared in's May issue and can be read in its original form here. All images are the property of fairaudio.

Show time. Size matters is a slogan and 230 exhibitors makes quite a number on the neighborhood curb. It's also the figure the 27th installment of High End -- meanwhile in Munich for the fifth time -- clocked for new record attendance. Yet sheer gigantomania isn't what bowls us over at fairaudio. More interesting is that High End attracts a growing cadre of foreign firms (24 countries had representation). Some exotic flair is always welcome, we think.

What's more, big size didn't equate to just the big guns being present. It's particularly the many smaller and often unknown brands encountered on the main floor which become a key attraction of such events and gain in gravitas from living legends like 70-year old Joe d'Appolito whose contributions to loudspeaker-dom have become part of audio jargon and whose work as head designer for Snell turned heads in Munich.

Snell enjoys a 30-year tradition in the speaker biz, stems from Massachusetts and celebrated its European premiere in Munich this year. Models displayed (with one exception) spanned the €1.500 to 7.500/pr gamut to buy real-wood veneers, pair-matched drivers and crossovers and bona fide
'made in US' credentials including the entry level models. What's more, each speaker pair, prior to leaving the plant, is compared to a reference. Anything outside a 0.5dB match is rejected.

Visually distinct as well as how it impacts the wallet was the Illusion A7 top model. That clocks in at €55,000/pr.

Not quite a legend yet but way notorious already is Berliner Thomas Funk (photo central) whose rep is in his segment of the recording professionals but whose kit has acquired near cult status with hifi hipsters as well. During our quick visit, it wasn't the popular Lap and MTX machines that were pushed but the brand-new Pico phono pre. 'Humility is a virtue' must have been godfather during its christening since smallness with the Pico isn't truly the case. The package includes MM and MC compatibility, 7 input impedances for MC, three capacitances for MM. The output signal can be tapped single-ended or balanced, the output can be finely trimmed in true dual mono fashion (middle of right photo). Amplification factor is adjustable, with LEDs to confirm saturation. There's a rumble filter, phase inversion, a mono switch, and, and, and... We expressed interest to get the full story and when the Pico hits the market in the fall, anticipated pricing will be around €1.100.

One of Germany's biggest players is speaker king Quadral whose small Rondo seriously impressed us during its review to make us curious about more, especially since many audiophiles erroneously shun the brand, likely because Quadral doesn't focus solely on the big and expensive. But to trim the budget while delivering quality product has always been the true mettle of speaker building.

The new Rhodium line includes two towers, a center, a sub and a monitor and slots between €400 and 1000/pr. Common to all models is a 46kHz-extension aluminum tweeter and Titanium-PP mid/woofers. The demo room was barely lit so out into the
light it was with the small €400/pr Rhodium 20 whose fetching cosmetics begged to be properly captured.

New items and prior review subjects were to be found at Reson too. For eight years, Michael Creek has shepherded Epos to prominence and Munich premiered the fully overhauled M range. Beyond noticeably better fit 'n' finish and new connection terminals, the drivers proper have undergone significant modifications, purportedly leading to improved treble integration, one of the very few criticisms our August 2007 review of the M16 had mentioned. First to market are the monitors M5i and M129 (€620 and €800/pr respectively), with the remaining models to bow in the summer.

KingRex doesn't merely trade in affordable miniature class D integrateds but offers its own €350 preamp as shown at Reson's stand.

Last but not least -- and rather pricier -- Reson also showed Resolution Audio's €4,500 Opus 21 CDP which separates power supply and display into its own box. The designer of this San Francisco firm was on hand for tech talk.

An equally fresh developer operates in Britain under the banner Music First Audio. Their Passive Magnetic preamplifier has garnered much international acclaim to finally have captured its first German dealers in Friwi Lübbert in Bielefeld und Aura Hifi in Essen. We've now put Mr. Harry O'Sullivan on our radar. His TVC concept seems quite interesting.

German firm WSS already has a good domestic rep for real-world cable pricing, a solid concept and utter absence of voodoo or garage shenanigans. Those hip to the contact resistance of commercial wall sockets and power distribution strips are prepped for the ca. €445 Power Cube which replaces your current mains lead and power bar, sports solder-free connections and offers flexible socket count and lead length. WSS cable were active also in the Cessaro exhibit below.

Cessaro's hornspeakers don't enjoy current German distribution yet but that's about to change. Designer Ralph Krebs underlined that the Alpha I [lower left] is merely his entry-level effort since the 1.6 ton Gamma I-8 was a bit impractical for temporary trade show installations. Something even smaller is in the works, the Affascinate I [lower right].

New German offerings also showed at Elac's, with for example their €4,500/pr FS 210CE, a 31kg 2.5-way tower with a special dual-concentric mid/tweeter assembly around Elac's popular Jet tweeter, their proprietary take on Dr. Heil's air motion transformer. The innards sport four discrete network boards to undermine crosstalk.

Austria too booked novelties. The team of Frick/Schützenauer/Gröfler better known as WLM launched, just in the nick of time for the show, the La Scala, a classic 2-way model in €2,500/pr monitor and €2999/pr tower guises. In typical WLM fashion, both sport minimalist crossovers and paper membrane drivers. In contrast to the Diva range, the La Scala models eschew dual-concentric construction.