This year, the Halls saw an amazing combination of Swiss high-end manufacturers presenting a system that one might easily consider as candidate for Best In Show, even before listening to it. And after?
Main attraction were Stenheim’s new Reference Statement Ultimate Super Duper Supreme speakers (the name is just “Reference Statement,” but I want to be sure that you get the idea). Four towers, the full range pair with 8 drivers in D’Appolito configuration, plus another two “bass towers” to make sure the system is as full range as it gets adds another six 13” woofers per tower, each driven by integrated amps putting out 1200W each. The frequency response is a reference-ultimate-ultra 10Hz to 100KHz — this should settle the full range discussion once and for all. Other “uber” facts that you should consider (if you have $400.000 burning a hole in your pocket) are the weight of 1200kg, 122dB max SPL and the 10 year warranty.
Electronics came from CH Precision, and included the entire catalog that the company has to offer, with all cabling from the top of the line “Seraphim” line from ZenSati of Denmark. The analog front end came from Switzerland as well, and consisted of Audio Consulting’s R-evolution Minima turntable, Thales Easy tonearm with ZYX UNIverse MC cartridge, and again Audio Consulting’s new Meteor Silver Rock Toroidal Phono Amplifier (and yes, this is the real name of the phono stage, I am not embellishing anything here).
The price tag on this system would be close to $800.000, and as I said, it should be up there fighting for best of show. The system absolutely delivered in terms of timbre and detail, and the low-end was truly ground-shaking.
But there were two issues: the makeshift “room” and some lingering setup gremlins. In Munich, the upper floor rooms (arranged around “the Atriums”) do not have what anyone would consider “excellent acoustic properties”, but the makeshift iso-box ones dotting the base-level floor, “the Halls”, are even worse. That didn’t really account for the wiring being crossed, however (auditioning an Adagio by Albinoni / Giazotto, the music stopped and the organizers played a test-track with channel identification. “My voice is recorded on the right hand speaker” … but it was all coming from the left, and so on). Anyway, set up in an appropriately treated (and just plain bigger) room, with proper setup, this could have been among the best systems one can possibly imagine.
[Scot adds:] Aside from the major issues with the venue, this was a staggeringly impressive array of gear. Bass was completely percussive, and the build-quality of all of the gear in the room was absolutely beyond reproach. My favorite bits had to do with the completely odd-ball shapes of the Audio Consulting gear, with their … unusual … (American) football shapes. Unfortunately, none of it was in use during my visits, but that stuff deserves some air-time.
Very much looking forward to seeing (and hearing) all of this gear in more agreeable conditions in the future.