Highend 2014 Munich

High End 2014 Munich Part 5 Best Of

High End 2014, M.O.C., Munich

Best of High End 2014

How can anyone say “And the winner is…” picking it out of thousands of superb products, from 434 exhibitors, coming from 40 different countries, alas not including my own?


The best (see what I mean?) I can do is to offer my own very personal opinion based on a critic’s perspective with 30 years of experience, on what impressed me most, caught my attention, or for some reason I just dismissed as expendable, either because it was too extravagant, bad sounding or just plain ugly.


Highend in Munich is an audio show, not a consumer electronics nightmare like CES, so I should only concentrate on sound, right? Wrong. Mostly on sound quality, yes, but how can I miss beauty, design, breakthrough technology, innovation, inspiration, professionalism, hospitality, attitude, comfort, the general atmosphere and apparent visitor feeling and comments; and people, yes in the end it’s all about people isn’t it? The ones that create, demonstrate, sell, buy, listen, care or write about audio like me.


“Best” by definition means you have managed to compare all the thousands of products on exhibition and reached the unreachable star: a definitive conclusion. An impossible task at…eh…best.


“Best” here means that after four crazy days, I finally sat down, opened the memory files in my brain (both visual and auditory), selected the few ones embedded on top of the pile, many of which have already been commented upon on parts 1 to 4 of the report, kept the rest warm for the final wrap-up, and dismissed for the time being anything else that needed further digging through the 500 pictures, 400 videos, hundreds of catalogues, brochures and the heavy weight show guide.


So if your product is not in the Hificlube “Best of Show” category it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not good enough, or even better than the ones that actually are; it only means it did not make that special lasting impression on me.


Or maybe I just missed either the point (some products don’t make sense to me), the room, in which case I apologize, or just couldn’t get in and you should apologize.


You have my email address to send all the important information I might involuntarily neglected, or you can post your own comment to contradict my choices.


It’s up to you whom to blame: the message or the messenger. But, please, don’t shoot me, I am just the keyboard player.


Note: as a disclaimer, being impossible to cover everything, we prioritize the coverage of brands and products distributed in Portugal by our partners, and new, different by design, revolutionary or cutting edge technology products.


Best people: Press Room staff


Allow me first to thank and congratulate Renate Paxa and the Press Room staff for making my work at the M.O.C a pleasure. So much so that it ended with a private musical performance courtesy of Trio Triplo. There is no sound like unplugged sound!...

Best Sound: Magico Ultimate III/Pass labs/emm labs

Magico Ultimate III active trihorn loudspeaker system, with associated Pass Labs First Watt and emm labs digital source

Magico Ultimate III active trihorn loudspeaker system, with associated Pass Labs First Watt and emm labs digital source

Best of innovation: Devialet SAM

And now for something completely different: an amplifier that understands your loudspeaker needs and talks to them through SAM

And now for something completely different: an amplifier that understands your loudspeaker needs and talks to them through SAM

Best solid state sound: darTZeel

DarTZeel NHB 458: the monoblock amplifiers with both golden finish and voicing matched the superb Marten Coltrane Supreme II very well indeed

DarTZeel NHB 458: the monoblock amplifiers with both golden finish and voicing matched the superb Marten Coltrane Supreme II very well indeed

Best tube sound: Absolare

Absolare Passion preamp and 845 tube amplifiers joined Rockport Altair loudspeakers to reach for the absolut

Absolare Passion preamp and 845 tube amplifiers joined Rockport Altair loudspeakers to reach for the absolut

Best domestic horn loudspeaker: Living Voice

Living Voice Vox Olympian gives life to human voices

Living Voice Vox Olympian gives life to human voices

Best electrostatic loudspeaker: Martin Logan

Martin Logan Neolith, the XXI century Monolith. After three years in development, it has to be the best kept secret in the world of hifi...

Martin Logan Neolith, the XXI century Monolith. After three years in development, it has to be the best kept secret in the world of hifi...

Best active digital loudspeaker: Avantgarde

Avantgarde Zero: just plug in the source and go from Zero to 100 in less than a second...

Avantgarde Zero: just plug in the source and go from Zero to 100 in less than a second...

Best loudspeaker design: Estelon

Estelon Extreme: extremely beautiful alien like loudspeaker with a (e)stellar performance

Estelon Extreme: extremely beautiful alien like loudspeaker with a (e)stellar performance

Best transport/DAC design: Metronome

Metronome Kalista+Nauticaa: il n'y a plus rien...

Metronome Kalista+Nauticaa: il n'y a plus rien...

Best solid state amplifier design: Dan D’Agostino

Dan D'Agostino's black beauty: a pure blood stallion

Dan D'Agostino's black beauty: a pure blood stallion

Best classic tube amplifier design: Unison Research

Unison Absoluto 845: true art never dies, it just gets better

Unison Absoluto 845: true art never dies, it just gets better

Best modern tube amplifier design: Amati

Amati: never heard of it, never heard it but it looks the part, or rather the looks is the best part of it

Amati: never heard of it, never heard it but it looks the part, or rather the looks is the best part of it

Best digital electronics futuristic design: Mizik

Mizik looks like a Nespresso machine but it makes even bad coffee taste good with its revolutionary conversion algorithms

Mizik looks like a Nespresso machine but it makes even bad coffee taste good with its revolutionary conversion algorithms

Best brand (re)design: Audio Research Galileo Series

AR Galileo. Some say tube technology has reached a dead end? Eppur si muove: this is what happens when you let loose designer Livio Cucuzza at the Audio Research factory...

AR Galileo. Some say tube technology has reached a dead end? Eppur si muove: this is what happens when you let loose designer Livio Cucuzza at the Audio Research factory...

Best corporate brand design: Kawero Classic

Kawero Classic. What can I say? If you are looking for something pretty and different look no further

Kawero Classic. What can I say? If you are looking for something pretty and different look no further

Best tube design extravaganza: Thomas Mayer

Thomas Mayer SE 211 tube amps. Yes, they really exist, unless I had a bad dream

Thomas Mayer SE 211 tube amps. Yes, they really exist, unless I had a bad dream

Best solid state technical extravaganza: Esoteric

With German Physics loudspeakers, Esoteric Grandioso Series of electronics: double chassis transport and DAC and monoblock amplifiers. The name says it all: Grandioso, indeed!...

With German Physics loudspeakers, Esoteric Grandioso Series of electronics: double chassis transport and DAC and monoblock amplifiers. The name says it all: Grandioso, indeed!...

Best loudspeaker design extravaganza: Corum Audio

Corum Audio Sinatra System: I just stood there flabbergasted. And Sinatra was not even singing...

Corum Audio Sinatra System: I just stood there flabbergasted. And Sinatra was not even singing...

Best hybrid design extravaganza: Pathos

Pathos Audio. How much Adrenalin do you need to start the Endorphin running in your system and kick boost your Synapses?...

Pathos Audio. How much Adrenalin do you need to start the Endorphin running in your system and kick boost your Synapses?...

Best horn loudspeaker extravaganza: Auto Tech

Auto Tech Uniwersum: they have no right to sound good but they do...

Auto Tech Uniwersum: they have no right to sound good but they do...

Best portable DAC: Askell&Kern

Astell&Kern new AK Series is an incredible portable HD (DSD 128) Player with an internal memory. And it works just as advertised.

Astell&Kern new AK Series is an incredible portable HD (DSD 128) Player with an internal memory. And it works just as advertised.

Best portable DAC: Chord

A smiling John Franks showing little Hugo, the most advanced portable HD DAC in the world. And the best too. Read my review and find out why. By the way all the videos were edited using Hugo as a fine tool courtesy of John Franks. Kudos to you John!

A smiling John Franks showing little Hugo, the most advanced portable HD DAC in the world. And the best too. Read my review and find out why. By the way all the videos were edited using Hugo as a fine tool courtesy of John Franks. Kudos to you John!

Best portable streamer/dac: Auralic

Auralic Aries can stream ANY music from a network attached storage or computer, be it PCM-Data in up to 32 Bit/384 kHz, a DSD- or double-rate-DSD-stream. How did they pull that off?

Auralic Aries can stream ANY music from a network attached storage or computer, be it PCM-Data in up to 32 Bit/384 kHz, a DSD- or double-rate-DSD-stream. How did they pull that off?

 Best new headphone and amp: Oppo

Oppo PM1 Planar Magnetic headphones and HA-1 amplifier is the closest aproach to Audeze CD3 for a fraction of the price. A product worth waiting for. But I tried it with a iPhone too and it sounded dull...

Oppo PM1 Planar Magnetic headphones and HA-1 amplifier is the closest aproach to Audeze CD3 for a fraction of the price. A product worth waiting for. But I tried it with a iPhone too and it sounded dull...

Best affordable amplification: Arcam

Arcam: you don't have to sell the house to get clean, fast, powerful sound.

Arcam: you don't have to sell the house to get clean, fast, powerful sound.

Best (very) affordable electronics: Advance Acoustics

With Advance Acoustics, nor do you have to sell your bike to listen to decent sound from all kinds of sources streaming directly to your loudspeakers.

With Advance Acoustics, nor do you have to sell your bike to listen to decent sound from all kinds of sources streaming directly to your loudspeakers.

Best car audio: Meridian

Meridian car audio. Is it the system that comes with the car, or the car that comes with the system? I want them both, please!

Meridian car audio. Is it the system that comes with the car, or the car that comes with the system? I want them both, please!

Best product presentation: Gryphon

Gryphon presents Pantheon. Only a company that cares about people (and music) deserves that people care about them. Excelent presentation of a new product.

Gryphon presents Pantheon. Only a company that cares about people (and music) deserves that people care about them. Excelent presentation of a new product.

Best closed door demo: Focal

Focal Grande Utopia III EM/Naim Statement. The demo was so good it allowed me to make the best video sound recordings of this report. I almost forgot about the staff'attitude' towards the press...

Focal Grande Utopia III EM/Naim Statement. The demo was so good it allowed me to make the best video sound recordings of this report. I almost forgot about the staff'attitude' towards the press...

Best open door demo: TAD by Andrew Jones, the master tape master

Best room décor: McIntosh

Mc Intosh had the best décor with some iconic american memorabilia. A memorable journey back to the...eh...future.

Mc Intosh had the best décor with some iconic american memorabilia. A memorable journey back to the...eh...future.

Best all in one box system concept: Poet

Poet Pandoretta can wirelessly receive music from iPhone, smartphone and computer and play it in 360º surround sound. A neat trick from Austria.

Poet Pandoretta can wirelessly receive music from iPhone, smartphone and computer and play it in 360º surround sound. A neat trick from Austria.

Best toy hifi for kids: Varios

Varios is a toy loudspeaker unlike any other. Your kids will love it. I kid you not...

Varios is a toy loudspeaker unlike any other. Your kids will love it. I kid you not...

Best toy hifi for teenagers: Jarre

When the question is to be or not to be Jarre Skull HD might be the answer for your rebel teenager son...

When the question is to be or not to be Jarre Skull HD might be the answer for your rebel teenager son...

Best show general attraction: Western Electric Horns

Silbatone's Western Electric old classic show. Some say the first hifi speaker on earth (1926) is still the best. I heard high dynamics indeed, but also glare and colouration, although the second take shown below on video was much better than on day one. The lowest WAF, that's what my wife had to say about it...

Silbatone's Western Electric old classic show. Some say the first hifi speaker on earth (1926) is still the best. I heard high dynamics indeed, but also glare and colouration, although the second take shown below on video was much better than on day one. The lowest WAF, that's what my wife had to say about it...

Best live concert: Fine Sounds Group

Live session of Barbara Belloni featuring Four Fried Fish (Italian rock-blues band).

Live session of Barbara Belloni featuring Four Fried Fish (Italian rock-blues band).

High End 2014, M.O.C., Munich

Magico Ultimate III active trihorn loudspeaker system, with associated Pass Labs First Watt and emm labs digital source

And now for something completely different: an amplifier that understands your loudspeaker needs and talks to them through SAM

DarTZeel NHB 458: the monoblock amplifiers with both golden finish and voicing matched the superb Marten Coltrane Supreme II very well indeed

Absolare Passion preamp and 845 tube amplifiers joined Rockport Altair loudspeakers to reach for the absolut

Living Voice Vox Olympian gives life to human voices

Martin Logan Neolith, the XXI century Monolith. After three years in development, it has to be the best kept secret in the world of hifi...

Avantgarde Zero: just plug in the source and go from Zero to 100 in less than a second...

Estelon Extreme: extremely beautiful alien like loudspeaker with a (e)stellar performance

Metronome Kalista+Nauticaa: il n'y a plus rien...

Dan D'Agostino's black beauty: a pure blood stallion

Unison Absoluto 845: true art never dies, it just gets better

Amati: never heard of it, never heard it but it looks the part, or rather the looks is the best part of it

Mizik looks like a Nespresso machine but it makes even bad coffee taste good with its revolutionary conversion algorithms

AR Galileo. Some say tube technology has reached a dead end? Eppur si muove: this is what happens when you let loose designer Livio Cucuzza at the Audio Research factory...

Kawero Classic. What can I say? If you are looking for something pretty and different look no further

Thomas Mayer SE 211 tube amps. Yes, they really exist, unless I had a bad dream

With German Physics loudspeakers, Esoteric Grandioso Series of electronics: double chassis transport and DAC and monoblock amplifiers. The name says it all: Grandioso, indeed!...

Corum Audio Sinatra System: I just stood there flabbergasted. And Sinatra was not even singing...

Pathos Audio. How much Adrenalin do you need to start the Endorphin running in your system and kick boost your Synapses?...

Auto Tech Uniwersum: they have no right to sound good but they do...

Astell&Kern new AK Series is an incredible portable HD (DSD 128) Player with an internal memory. And it works just as advertised.

A smiling John Franks showing little Hugo, the most advanced portable HD DAC in the world. And the best too. Read my review and find out why. By the way all the videos were edited using Hugo as a fine tool courtesy of John Franks. Kudos to you John!

Auralic Aries can stream ANY music from a network attached storage or computer, be it PCM-Data in up to 32 Bit/384 kHz, a DSD- or double-rate-DSD-stream. How did they pull that off?

Oppo PM1 Planar Magnetic headphones and HA-1 amplifier is the closest aproach to Audeze CD3 for a fraction of the price. A product worth waiting for. But I tried it with a iPhone too and it sounded dull...

Arcam: you don't have to sell the house to get clean, fast, powerful sound.

With Advance Acoustics, nor do you have to sell your bike to listen to decent sound from all kinds of sources streaming directly to your loudspeakers.

Meridian car audio. Is it the system that comes with the car, or the car that comes with the system? I want them both, please!

Gryphon presents Pantheon. Only a company that cares about people (and music) deserves that people care about them. Excelent presentation of a new product.

Focal Grande Utopia III EM/Naim Statement. The demo was so good it allowed me to make the best video sound recordings of this report. I almost forgot about the staff'attitude' towards the press...

Mc Intosh had the best décor with some iconic american memorabilia. A memorable journey back to the...eh...future.

Poet Pandoretta can wirelessly receive music from iPhone, smartphone and computer and play it in 360º surround sound. A neat trick from Austria.

Varios is a toy loudspeaker unlike any other. Your kids will love it. I kid you not...

When the question is to be or not to be Jarre Skull HD might be the answer for your rebel teenager son...

Silbatone's Western Electric old classic show. Some say the first hifi speaker on earth (1926) is still the best. I heard high dynamics indeed, but also glare and colouration, although the second take shown below on video was much better than on day one. The lowest WAF, that's what my wife had to say about it...

Live session of Barbara Belloni featuring Four Fried Fish (Italian rock-blues band).