The State of Sound

AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE

Munich : Act 1

MUNICH ENTREE

Upon arriving at the Munich Show, you have to fight the feeling of being a kid in a toy shop. Indeed, imagine a group of children in an immense toy store. Do you think they will quietly explore it, aisle by aisle? Certainly not. They will be running all over the place. Here, you are seized with the insatiable desire to see everything, right away, driven by the fear of missing out on something. Therefore, after taking a deep breath, I conducted an initial, relatively detailed assessment of the show’s offerings, which, of course, gave me the chance to say hello to several acquaintances. Here is the result of that assessment: a description of some select new french products, as well as a few complaints…

Micromega has released the last product in its My series: the MyAmp, which it is introducing to the public here in Munich. According to the manufacturer, it is the smallest amp in the world; it is about the size of the MyDac but slightly taller. And, like all the other Micromega products, it is made in France. I will spend more time discussing it in the coming days.

IMG_0007Micromega MyAmp

At the neighboring Naim stand, the company is showing off a powerful 750-W machine : The Statement, which consists of a preamplifier (NAC S1) surrounded by two power amplifiers (NAP S1). It is both an emblem of technological prowess and a display of skill (however, it will set you back $200,000 and, yes, I double-checked the number of zeroes). It is a show of power that is not quite my cup of tea. On the other end of the range, you have the Naim MUSO, a wireless multimedia system that costs 800 €.  Focal, in turn, is offering up a new set of headphones and introducing us to the newest arrival in the beautiful Aria family—a small bookshelf speaker (Aria 905, 349 €). The company has also added a 2-way speaker model (the SR 900) to round out the home theater 5.1 system that you may have at home.

Statement_Wide_Low_On whiteNaim Statement

Atoll is providing an exclusive look at its SDA 100 & SDA 200 amplifier, the first amp in the series equipped with a streamer and that has numerous jacks, allowing the product to be used in a variety of ways. The SDA should be launched on the market before the beginning of the summer and cost from 2,300 €.

And, finally, I met the completely new brand Ppfff, which demonstrates audacity and courage in offering up a tube amplifier in addition to a speaker model. It is rare to come across manufacturers that make both electronics and speakers. The company’s approach is not to sell a particular brand of innovation, but rather to promote the expertise of the three founders (who have accumulated more than 100 years of experience among them), expertise that is based on the sum of their complementary skills. They have made a clear effort to choose high-quality components, to reject outsourcing of part of the manufacturing process, and to rethink how their products are put together in order to make them more simple and more natural. Their products are handmade; they are artistic handicrafts. Their products also benefit from cables made by Absolue Créations, which also took care of the internal wiring of the speakers.

gamme_prod_01ppfff i88 Amp

 

The idea is to situate themselves quite clearly on the high end of the high end market. You need to have 10,000 € to be able to treat yourself to the amplifier and around the same amount to buy a pair of speakers. Even though listening conditions weren’t the best (see my complaints below), I was able to savor the highly natural sound produced by the system during my first audition of it: Ella Fitzgerald and her man of the moment, the masterful Duke Ellington, truly made “Moonlight in Vermont” swing, a song of which I will never tire. As for everything else, we should wish the best of luck to this intrepid and unique company whose quest for authenticity should be applauded.

imgres

Made in France…in China

When it comes to companies touting that their products are made in France, I was very amused to see YBA (whose products are all now entirely made in China) fervently waving the French flag in every corner of its stand. You would think that Paris had recently been moved to Shenzhen (China’s center for the mass production of HIFI products). In the interests of transparency, the stand should be sporting at least a few Chinese decorations.

The listening conditions at the Munich Show are as terrible as ever. If retailers decided which products to distribute solely based on the auditions that take place here, then consumers should be really worried. When your eardrums aren’t being gunned down by the wandering Bavarian orchestra (whose powerful stream of decibels should strictly be used to welcome visitors outside), then there is the noise coming from adjacent stands; both are simply sources of auditory pollution. The worst is that it is sometimes the people running the stands themselves that you, as a humble listener, want to politely remind to quiet down. It really makes you wonder if these “noise” professionals care about the music at all.

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For your visual pleasure ( on my Facebook page), the Munich High End Show illustrated with pictures of some of the craziest, most beautiful, and most original products.

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This entry was posted on 16/05/2014 by in Reports and tagged , , , , , , , .
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