I made it to the end of High End 2019 in one piece. It’s Sunday, the last day of the show, an abbreviated work day that only lasted six hours. There were no major mishaps or frustrations. I didn’t damage any costly components. I’m sitting in my hotel room while I type this, reflecting on my first trip to Europe, and realizing I had a wildly entertaining time–especially when I came to a uniquely nutty assortment of Uber drivers through the weekend. The highs, mostly centered on Bavarian food and dark unfiltered ales, were oh so high. The lows were all temporary, minor mishaps that were easily solved once I took a deep breath and stopped stressing out about stupid crap.
The biggest highlight of the day was spending time with Damon Von Schweikert, Leif Swanson and Kevin Hayes in the Von Schweikert/VAC room. These guys set the bar so high for the other exhibitors that if I give them the Best Sound Award every show, people are going to start thinking I’m on the payroll! But while the Von Schweikert/VAC system was a (slightly) pared-down version of the groundbreaking systems they’ve been showing over the last few years, this was the lone system that tamed the famously tough rooms at High End 2019 and took those odd dimensions out of the equation. I went back Sunday and experienced it all again, the stunning realism, the nearly unlimited dynamics and, most importantly, the sheer fun factor of their approach. Music is more than rewarding with these guys–it’s celebratory and life-affirming.
I went back to the Living Voice room, where the $5000/pair A25 Anniversary speakers really impressed me on Friday. Scot Hull told me, “You have to go back to that room. They’ve put the big horn speakers in the system and it’s really good.” On Facebook he declared, “I can’t seem to escape the gravitational pull of the Living Voice room at High End 2019.” The Living Voice Vox Palladians with new Vox Basso bass units is one of those giant, beautiful horn speaker systems that aren’t necessarily difficult to live with–sure, they’re gigantic but I heard a sound that was well-integrated with the room. In addition, they were visceral and had unbelievably cogent low frequency response that I thought was nicely balanced.
I was able to confirm the rumors for myself–Dual turntables are still alive and well. My first decent turntable was a Dual 510 with a Shure V-15 Type III, which I bought when I was just 15, and I loved that turntable. At High End 2019 I saw a large sign through a room window that featured the classically spartan square logo, and I had to go in. Not only does Dual offer a full line of affordable turntables, they had a pretty nice little system in the room that sounded surprisingly strong. Maybe we should start considering Dual again as a viable option for vinyl newbies getting into vinyl for the first time.
In the morning it will be time to pack up my bags and head back home. I’ve finally been to Europe. Maybe I’ll stop having those recurring dreams about going to Europe the first time, strange and surreal dreams where I look out the plane window and see an ornate and mythical landscape full of all kinds of weird things. I finally experienced that for real, and Germany looked a lot like Upstate New York–sylvan, somewhat rural outside of the city and perfectly lovely. I can’t wait to go back next year.