high end 2016 - munich

High End 2016 - Munich - Overture

Note: Highend Society official promotional video for press release.


The High End Show is a Bavarian pagan feast in honour of the gods of sound that happens to fall on Ascension Day. With lots of beer to wash the sin of audio lust away.

I’ve been covering the High End Show since ever. From Frankfurt to Munich. This is a very special show indeed, both for professionals and the general public. Entire families will gather around a loudspeaker system as if it were a Christmas tree, tube amplifiers play the part of fireplaces, turntables are authentic pieces of art and 50K electrostatic headphones play as privacy havens. And there’s room for both modern art design attempts, sometimes verging on the weird, and old style memorabilia like Western Electric horns.

Professionals will find here the largest assortment of highend goodies and product premieres in the world. No company or manufacturer can afford not to afford being here, lest they have decided to go out of business already.

Plus there’s lots of fun, entertainment, live and canned music, fresh and canned food and drinking, enough to satisfy the rushing crowds of visitors and cult followers, analogue and digital alike. Even dogs are allowed in but not smokers. And who cares if noise from the next room creeps in through the feeble curtain and glass walls and makes it impossible to demo open-backed headphones in open spaces.

I have watched the High End Show grow to such proportions it is no longer ‘coverable’. One has to make choices, and inevitably some of the hundreds of companies and thousands of brands and products will never be caught by my candid camera and digital sound recorder in the act of playing music, or just ‘sounds’ for that matter, depending a lot on the mood of whoever is flipping discs. And, boy!, do they talk a lot before they do play some piece of music…

Even the press and industry only day is so busy one cannot just ‘loiter with intent’ in the large halls expecting to enter a room and be amazed, or even chat with a friend distributor for more than 5 minutes, much less stay for long closed door demos and presentations. It is an endless river.

Of course my report will feature mostly high end audio. I leave the more mundane products to the non-specialized media delegates who spend their time around cars and girls, or sitting at the bars outside when the sun is shining copy pasting press releases...

Normally, I just peek into a room, take a few photos, listen briefly, scribble a few notes only I can understand, and tentatively tag the systems as ‘forgettable’, ‘listenable’, ‘highly listenable’ or ‘high end stuff’ for my own use later.

Tomorrow or the next day I will come back anew to the ones tagged as ‘highly listenable’ and above to make live recordings, videos and more photos for the final election of ‘Best of the Show’. Under these stressful conditions it is a personal and ‘political’ choice rather than a technical one. And I say ‘political’ because this is an editorial game we all engage in to win over more readers who strive on conflicting opinions and polemizing views.

‘Better’ must necessarily mean one has compared them all, right? Well, that is not possible, sorry. ‘Best’ ought to mean I judgingly picked one and singled it out from the pack. No way, Jose.

So, please take all of this with a pinch of salt. What it really means is: ‘The Best of My Show’, and even that is debatable as my mood changes with listening (and walking) fatigue and the time of day and the music they play or where I stand, sit or stay. And since I also give special priority to the brands distributed in Portugal, it will fall most likely on one of them (which is almost all anyway, so…).

Now that the cards are on the table, let’s shuffle and deal them up! Each photo is a face card. Watch the game carefully and make your ante bet for ‘Best Of The Show’. When the time comes for a ‘heads-up’ between you and me I might get a ‘draw-up’ card and go ‘All-in’. ‘Gutshots’ happen all the time in Munich…

To speed up the editing process each hand of photos will be dealt as a Youtube or Vimeo slideshow (like the one above from last year) this time to be watched in full screen at 4k resolution. I’ll try to take the shots so as to include some background information about the systems and brands as they are displayed, since I have a strict ‘no comments’ policy at this first stage of the report.

Enjoy and comment yourself on Disqus if you may.