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This article first appeared in the June 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this report in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity.

As I wrote in my reportage of High End 2011 elsewhere, this year’s show was special. For me the most important trend was crossing the psychological fear barrier of audio files. Almost everyone used them now. Beneath this trend a completely different story pulsated -history with a capital ‘H’ as this was the 30th anniversary of the event. Starting small and dedicated to absolute madmen, it soon became a well-managed event known worldwide, taking over the reigns from many other shows including the Berlin IFA. There were many reasons but I think that it mostly was due to the abdication of Berlin. It’s where the most important premieres in the audio world had occurred and ten years ago anyone with anything to say or show attended there. But then IFA converted into a home appliance show focused on all products related to home use and specialists including hifi explored other venues. Frankly speaking, the High End of today looks exactly as the audio part of IFA did a dozen years ago.

Does this mean it’s now time for other smaller shows to take over where the madmen of today will once again find their place? Who knows. There is a high probability that it will end up so, that there is a successor of the High End show growing quietly somewhere already even if nothing yet indicates it publicly. In the end history likes to repeat itself. Everything is cyclic. Each cycle is of course a bit different than the one preceding it if one learns from prior experiences but the mechanism stays the same.

This is why I conducted a dozen interviews with select exhibitors just to freeze frame this moment and inspect it from all sides. At first those interviews were destined to be published in Audio but because the print magazine has limited capacity, together with editor-in-chief Mr. Andrzej Kisiel we decided that in his magazine an abbreviated version of the interviews would appear in parallel to their show reportage whilst the most interesting interviews publish to their full extent here

Kurt W. Hecker, director of the High End Society, CEO Kurt Hecker Marketing
Wojciech Pacuła: Do you remember your first High End show?
Kurt W. Hecker: I still think fondly of the beginning in 1982. Twelve manufacturers and distributors from our sector got together for the first time under one roof in a hotel to present high-end equipment. This coincided with a large audio exhibition in Düsseldorf. As a consequence the exhibition was viewed as such a success by all participants that today's High End Society was founded the following year as an association of manufacturers and distributors of high-quality consumer electronics. The High End was well on its way to becoming an annual trade fair of the industry.

What did you do there?
I was also an exhibitor of the first show with my product line of that time.

How do you feel about 30th anniversary today?
1982 saw the launch of our exhibition and today in 2011 I look back with great pride and joy over 30 years of the event in which I have had the pleasure of accompanying the High End personally since its inception up to now. Over the course of 21 years I have seen the High End as a hotel exhibition—then at the Hotel Kempinski in Gravenbruch near Frankfurt am Main—advance to become the leading trade fair for the high-end industry in the world. Despite the very legitimate concerns at the time, today I am extremely pleased that we found some years back the ideal conditions for our trade fair with the new location at the Munich M.O.C. once we had outgrown the hotel’s capacities.

What changed in our industry over the last 30 years?
There is no doubt that the market and industry have changed over the course of time. In the beginning the only focus was on analog technology in the form of record and tape media. Later came digital media such as CDs and DVDs and today audio and image information is increasingly stored centrally on hard drives and can be played anytime all over the flat or throughout the house via network players. But the High End has stayed young throughout all these years. It has always been open to changing conditions and has adapted its concept to the benefit of the exhibition. The development of what was originally a domestic event into an international trade fair today has been an integral part of its increasing success over the years. Today the High End is unquestionably the ultimate exhibition in the world for our sector and the most important annual meeting in the industry.

What new products did you show at 2011 High End?
Besides the highly regarded Ramses II cables I presented for the first time the DMA 03 sound modul from Switzerland to the international markets. The DMA 03 sound modul is the audiophile core component of a computer-based high-end audio system and responsible for the unique sound quality of such a system. It combines the best in cutting-edge D/A converter technology with a specially designed analog preamplifier of the highest quality.

What is the most significant new technology of the last few years?
A remarkable tendency is the synergy of high-end analog audio and digital mainstream power. A multitude of clever solutions are around today which all use computers as a basis such as streaming clients, multi-room systems or closed all-in-one solutions. As increasingly more Internet platforms emerge for downloading lossless digital music, the physical medium for digital data such as CDs, DVDs, SACDs and Blu-Ray is constantly being challenged.

What if any are the problems behind the show?
Fortunately I actually don't see any problems. We found the right place with the M.O.C., we still have space to expand if necessary and we do see an ever-increasing international acceptance of our show.

How will it evolve?
I have no doubt at all that the show will continue to occupy the position of world’s leading special-interest show for high-quality consumer electronics. We as the organizer will always continue to monitor future market conditions and will also continuously consider the needs of the exhibitors. If there will be reasons to modify the concept of the show we will do this carefully in an evolutionary way but never in the sense of a revolution.

AudioNemesis/AudioNautes, Fabio Camorani, CEO, owner
Wojciech Pacuła: Do you remember your first High End show?
Fabio Camorani: Yes, I do with joy. It was in Munich in 2005. It was my first high-level audio show as a manufacturer. I remember great success for me personally and a good feeling in general.

What product did you show there?
The DC-1 zero-oversampling audio DAC in its first version; the PM-1 phono preamplifier for the AudioNemesis brand; high-density graphite turntable accessories for AudioNautes; and for the first time in Europe the two basic drivers from Goto Unit.

How did your products change since?
I don't like to change products very often. Generally if this happens it's due to mistakes of many kinds. I don't follow trends that much. For these reasons my products stay on the market for a reasonably long time. This is also important for the customer because one recognizes greater value. So the DC-1 remained until 2009 when it was discontinued. Since 2008 an improved version named Upgrade Edition has been available and it still on the market. The PM-1 meanwhile remained current until the beginning of this year. Now an Upgrade Edition is available for the same price. The DC-1 VLE has been produced and sold successfully in only a short time due to its incredible quality. In general what I see now is a clear demand for many input solutions. This is why I needed (and need) to add more inputs to my products. Despite this stable catalogue, improvement is never ending and I always improve my products in the lab. When many upgrades have collected over time, a new version is introduced.

What changed in our industry over the last 30 years?
Everything. I'm an analog lover and I see an increase in LP demand each year (I also published my first LP in 2010!). Digital music allowed reasonable quality at low prices. LP was dead, now it is more alive than ever. CD was dead but really is still alive and will remain so for a long time I think. The very important aspect is that each new format lowered the average quality of music reproduction. Many high-cost products now available are no better than old ones. We don't have enough money perhaps for proper R&D. I see that companies—especially big ones—cut production costs with cheaper technology, cheaper personnel, less or no development and research but more and more expensive casings. They are loosing wisdom. Maybe they are not open minded but only margin oriented. These issues should kick off a lengthy discussion for another time but I'm confident that in the end we’ll always arrive at the truth.

What new products did you show for High End 2011?
Since 2010 I’ve been focused hard on introducing many new products over a short period of time. Now I'm on the way and though the journey is perhaps only 40% complete, I'm able to offer something brand new. I am proud to say that I presented the next level of AudioNemesis products heralded by a brand new aluminum chassis that will be used for some new models. This chassis is precision machined from a single block of aluminium, very unusual in this price sector. The first two products using it will be the already announced Echidna RS Class A mono amplifier presented in prototype form in 2010; and the DC-32 32-bit D/A converter using the ESS9018 which will surprise you hopefully soon; and more. We wanted to present also the very first AudioNemesis loudspeaker but we were too late because we want to present something that really outperforms the competition. It's a 3-way system with 12" woofer in a d'Appolito configuration with a ribbon tweeter at more than 93dB sensitivity.

What is the most significant new technology?
I think streaming is now considered the (near) future. I put an USB input on my DC-1 VLE and the DC-32 will have a 24/192 USB input. Everyone is asking for a USB input no matter whether it’s used or not. I have my own music reproduction standard but I cannot ignore customer demands even if the high-end audio market is so terribly non-standardized. Despite what I read in the early '80s, a lot remains to be done to improve playback quality. Every day I discover something new. Improvement is never ending. And this is the greatest fun for me - the daily challenge.