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Joël’s highlights. This is my first show report. I generally don’t (like to) write about such events. I never know where to start or where to land. This time I was aware of landing in Munich and starting from hall C of the M.O.C. But then?

After first reading Marja & Henk’s report, then Jörg & Ralph’s, I decided to focus on a short selection of rooms and brands which piqued my curiosity, showed interesting newcomers to Europe’s biggest hifi exhibition and which weren’t mentioned in our other reports already.

Onda Ligera thus was my first interesting discovery. These folks arrived from Riga/Latvia and had just made a brief stopover at a Moscow exhibition before entering the big German arena. So they were complete newcomers and their booth was located in a small closed corner of nearly 20 square meters on the open floor.

This did not make for the most attractive place to actually listen to music. Yet despite these unfavorable conditions, the sound was abnormally good. The company's product range includes speakers, amplifiers and a D/A converter. Aesthetic choices were clearly not the fanciest of the show and had a distinct Eastern style. I only had opportunity to listen to the flagship floorstander called Wave 168D. It is rated at 93dB with in-house amplification and D/A conversion.

This three-way speaker is a ported alignment with an acoustic load design to improve control over the two 8'' push-pull woofers and reduce the energy at the port’s resonant frequency. The acoustic load acts as acoustic filter for frequencies above resonance to allow for a shallow 1st-order filter for the bass system.

The cabinet walls are reinforced with aluminium and additionally damped with an inorganic granular compound and soft glue. The Wave 168D sports active impedance and works with all amplifiers including low-power tubes. This unusual design delivered the kind of great sound normally the providence of prestigious well-established brands - very dense tone, a deep soundstage and outstanding dynamics. I am quite sure that we will hear a bit more about Onda Ligera in the near future.

The second surprise with relevant performance was the Lawrence Audio demo. This Taiwanese company attended the Taipei show last year, then CES this year and now the HighEnd. Founder and designer Lawrence Liao presented a whole range of loudspeakers including the Violin and Cello (all models are named after musical instruments). I made a long stop here because it was one of the all too rare places where the music was definitely engaging. Lawrence Liao is said to be a talented musician, multi-instrumentalist and also is an interior designer with thirty years of experience. Over the last few years Lawrence has created a whole range of loudspeakers with stunning craftsmanship and a very specific angular design that evokes musical instrument shapes in a semi-cubist flair.

I had opportunity to listen more closely to the Violin, a two-way design with carbon fiber mid/woofer and line ribbon tweeter with response to 40kHz. This was driven by the ‘small’ ASR Emitter 1. I thought it was my very best audition of any Friedrich Schaefer amp ever.

The Violin had a beautiful midrange with very articulated bass registers and nice treble extension. The overall impression was of an uncommon natural and engaging sound with excellent resolution and transients. Thanks to its non-parallel geometry the Violin seems to benefit sonically from a reduction of box talk and diffraction. The polygonal shape also allows for a narrower front baffle and an extremely rigid non-resonant cabinet. One other noteworthy feature was the bottom porting which defied expectations and produced  very good bass resolution.

Among other newcomers was the Chinese Microlab Electronics conglomerate introducing its new hifi division with the Dome Phase brand of unusual loudspeakers and electronics.

The Poison drivers are dome-shaped coaxial units which more or less invert the geometry of traditional dual-concentrics. Both Poison speaker models (stand-mount and floorstander) use a tweeter unit and mid/woofer assembly with a steep dome diaphragm that protrudes from the baffle, allowing the tweeter free radiation without acoustic horn effects. The sound in fact seemed very clear with very precise treble response.

If the speakers had a somewhat futurist appearance, the integrated amplifier's styling reminded me of the late seventies and early Bang & Olufsen - albeit with more current specifications of THD+N < 0.03% at 150W/8Ω, S/N ratio >110dB 'A' weighted and use of negative feedback.


Certain Italian product attracted my eye for their audacious designs. Diesis Audio's Caput mundi is a 3½-way speaker based on dipole woofers and a coaxial compression-driver horn.

The cabinet’s structural frame is made of CLAD 58 (an innovative compound of mineral powders and resin) whilst the horn is molded heat-treated Corian. The Caput Mundi achieves a sensitivity of 94dB and an in-room response of 40Hz -25kHz (±3dB). Midrange output can be adjusted with interchangeable resistors.

The Montagna loudspeakers are manufactured in limited editions and can be fully customized with various automotive lacquers or wood veneers. The Spark-03 is a three-way design with metal parts of light alloys—Ergal and Anticorodal—which are anodized, chromed to high thickness and finished with oven-dried epoxy varnishes. All drivers are custom and except for the tweeter use overrated Maxalco C.O. magnets. The 1.3'' metal dome tweeter crosses over to the 4" metal dome midrange around 5kHz. The 4" dome midrange magnet weighs a massive 5lbs. The 15" woofer kicks in at 5000Hz and takes things down to below 36Hz. Tweeter and midrange pods can be rotated and positioned for better phase alignment and in-room response. The sensitivity is a surprisingly high 98dB and rated impedance is 4Ω.

Arte Acustica is a complete newcomer introducing a range of mid to high-sensitivity speakers without electrical crossovers to minimize phase distortion. The only component in addition to the drivers is a capacitor whose sole purpose is protection.

These speakers whose focus seems to primarily be on sonics rather than aesthetics were designed to be used mainly with OTL or single-ended amplification. The flagship Concept 103 is a 3-way with 38cm woofer, twin 18cm midranges and one central Heil tweeter. Frequency response is a claimed 30Hz–30kHz and sensitivity is a whopping 103dB with 8Ω impedance. The enclosure is made entirely of aluminium and covered with wood, with support arms for the midrange and tweeter units also aluminium.

Also deserving of a highlight mention was the impressive performance of the PMC 20th anniversary series for a very decent price; and the T.A.D. demo which always sounds excellent despite stratospheric pricing.