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

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.

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.


Mark of the horn-throated beast.
High End in Munich coverage brought to you by VPI Industries.

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.

TEAC R2R goodness.
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.

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