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High End 2017: Blumenhofer, MasterSound, Cammino and the final horn room

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Blumenhofer Gran Gioia Mark II.

This is it. This is my last horn-loaded loudspeaker room writeup from High End 2017 at the MOC in Munich. Some of you will lament this, other rejoice, but to both camps I say this: Listen to horns, it may just change you forever.

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Let horns into your life.

I don’t deny that horn-loaded (or throated)  loudspeaker systems can be very fussy when it comes to amplification, and room placement, they also sometimes require extensive crossover modifications – especially if you covet the vintage variety (just ask the Klipschorn crew) – but the palpable textures, tangible realism, dynamics and transparency to source, their ability to uniquely focus the listener on the musical qualities of recorded playback above technical demagoguery is their real strength in my experience.

 

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Mark of the horn-throated beast.

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Many people who consider themselves audiophiles often get lost in charts, graphs, and measurements, and refuse to just accept that while something may not measure well (per se) it can sound glorious, even if they hear with it with their own ears, they sometimes deny it. Why this is mystifies me, but many high-fidelity types I converse with in person or online tell me horns can’t sound good – even if they’ve never heard a pair. I’m not here to convert you, just to ask that you keep an open mind, and if something moves you in the listening experience – but doesn’t measure well – don’t turn to a flat-frequency response for comfort. Just go with your gut, and be happy.

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TEAC R2R goodness.

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Mastersound Evolution 845.

Now, back to Blumenhofer Acoustics in Munich. This was a fun, swinging room that had people smiling, and head-bobbing all over the place, and featured amplification from Mastersound of Italy, and cabling courtesy of Cammino. The setup consisted of the Gran Gioia MK II speakers, the Evolution 845 Integrated Amplifier, and the two custom analog sources I listened to were the TEAC 2T Master Recorder reel-to-reel w/A-7300RX controller, and Technics SP-15 Direct-Drive turntable w/custom plinth, and 14″ Kuzma 4Point 14 tonearm fitted with an Air Tight cartridge, and Air Tight ATH-2 Reference SUT.

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Custom-plinth Technics SP-15.

A large sound stage that extended roughly 15-feet deep between the speakers, and another 10-feet beyond the side walls were hallmarks of this room to me, that, and the deep insight into the recordings that I heard while in the room (which ranged from Genesis to Ladysmith Black Mambazo). The illusion of the recorded space through playback had me closing my eyes, and just listening a number of times – not easy at a large show in a crowded room with looming deadlines – and allowing myself to be fully immersed in the musicality, and soothing tone reproduction. This was a curated room of real pedigree, with a sound I’d like to hear much more of.

–Rafe Arnott

About Rafe Arnott (292 Articles)
Editor and Creative Director for Part-Time Audiophile & The Occasional Magazine by Part-Time Audiophile

6 Comments on High End 2017: Blumenhofer, MasterSound, Cammino and the final horn room

  1. Don’t get what so many of you have about trying to measure a hi fi system’s performance. High end hi fi and new clothes for the emperor must be the only areas where people believe bad measurements can be good! Or there may of course be something wrong with the measurements, in which case why don’t you try to find a way of really measuring things usefully. To my way of thinking, if a musical source can be measured near my ears, and is well recorded (which can be measured), I want the sound coming to my ears to be as similar as possible – that’s what high fidelity should be (at least for me). I appreciate that rooms mess a lot of this up, but at least we should be able to start with something that is reasonably accurate.
    Despite my old fashioned ideas, I do agree that poor accuracy can certainly sound nice, even if it is not my sort of hi fi! And I’ve enjoyed vinyl copies of many recordings more than the digital versions. But this is down to production engineering – often a total joke in terms of what is sent out by the record or cd manufacturers.
    I’m afraid I’m not a fan of valve amps that introduce ‘nice’ distortion or scratchy, feedback-sensitive, distorting vinyl rigs either. Digital can be much better if done properly…
    I will check out horn loaded speakers though, despite being an electrostatic sort of guy myself…

  2. Karl land // June 28, 2017 at 5:19 PM //

    Agree…im making radial horns my selfe…and therefore when measured nothing is flat…but when playing everything is beautifull

  3. Thanks for this.
    I am now running Altec A8’s in stock form, and any compromise made is lost in the music. Good fun.

  4. Thanks for this. I too have gone to large format horns, in the form of Altec A8 VOTT in their stock form. They deliver so much of what I want, that any compromise is lost in the music.

  5. The interesting part is, horns CAN also measure good and still sound lifelike. There are many types and variants, and how they are implemented..

  6. Geoffrey // June 28, 2017 at 8:26 AM //

    Lovely article. I will listen better when i visit my next show. I’m not against anything in hifi. Well maybe i am against one thing. Measurements:)

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