As much as I’d heard about the High End Show in Munich none of it really prepared me for the level of polish, and professionalism that the event exudes. This is an order of magnitude different from anything I’ve encountered in North America. The closest would be the Montreal Salon Audio, but in Munich it is on a scale that one must experience to truly appreciate. This level of controlled audiophile chaos is intoxicating.
Then there’s the demographics. Even though Thursday is technically for tradespeople, and press, there were tons of young people, children, couples, and women – many just on their own. This is something that is as rare as hen’s teeth in the U.S., and Canada, but here seemed everyday, common, normal. High-fidelity as large scale social discourse, and shared experience over multi-generational boundaries – and, ethnicities, and genders – has always been the goal in my mind of the experience of listening to music as a hobby, but in North America at audio trade shows the dominant human factor is the over-50 white man. This demographic, while obviously represented in Munich at High End, seemed to be a balanced presence, rather than the preeminent one. Listening rooms, and static displays are bright, white, and decked-out with modern furnishings, and designer touches with a future-forward feel ascendant as opposed to a bunch of brown slightly-worn dining chairs, in a beige room with drab drapes which is reminiscent of the ’70s, and seems to be the North American audio-show norm. Here every surface is finished to a high level of modernity, and the whole affair reeks of culture, and class. Very continental, if you will.
The show is also huge, I mean massive. It was only with a concerted effort, and the aid of maps that I was able to explore all the areas hosting manufacturers. Even then, it was with just a cursory glance that I passed by hallway after hallway lined with vendors – never mind the ground floor, and the enormous concourses filled to capacity with hundreds of static displays, record, book, and CD sellers.
I did my best to check the vibe, and tune in to several rooms Thursday, but to be honest I wanted a good lay of the land more than anything. With an event of this size, depth, and magnitude knowing where to go, and how to get there is almost as important as actually getting there because it’s easy to run out of time, and find yourself missing out on key rooms. Some of the standouts on Thursday for me were Tidal Audio’s mic-drop on the Atrium 4.1 level, the Living Voice Vox Palladian system and Kondo amplification, Nagra with Wilson Audio Alexx loudspeakers, Von Schweickert, and VAC, Thomas Mayer amplification, Moon by SimAudio, and Auralic’s newest G Series offerings.
Please enjoy the pictures from Day One at High End in Munich as it was a whirlwind, and made an outstanding impression. Check back again as we’ll be posting as often as possible from Munich.