Hyperbole alert: Munich Day 2 was one of those momentous days in the life of an audiophile, a day where I heard something that changes everything. But before we get to that point, a year in the making, Friday at Munich 2023 was a day of big systems, expensive systems, rare systems, things I never thought I’d experience for myself. This is all code for “I have the greatest job in the world.”
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
Since my current review system is comprised of mostly Audio Note UK, it made a lot of sense for me to duck into the Audio Note Kondo room on Munich Day 2 and see how the other side lives, so to speak. I was not prepared, however, for this system, which featured several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of Kondo matched to a huge pair of old Jensen speakers.
The overall sound was warm and old-fashioned, almost too much so. It was warm to the point of me thinking that the average audiophile wouldn’t dig this sound. But the longer I sat, the more I wanted to stay. Neutrality isn’t everything–sometimes this hobby is all about being mesmerized. By the time I scraped myself from my seat and headed out the door, I noticed the other people in the room were also lost to this unique sound. This was one of the wildest and craziest systems I’ve heard, and I loved it.
I’ve talked about systems that produce a soundstage so large that you feel like you can get up and walk around in it and explore. This mega-system featuring Kawero! Grande loudspeakers, Ypsilon components and a glorious TechDas Air Force One turntable was physically large enough to do so. And yet the sound was so delicate and textured and detailed and rendered so lovingly that I kept thinking “Thank goodness for High End in Munich. I can’t imagine experiencing this system in the US.” On Munich Day 2, I was constantly amazed by the sheer possibilities of high-end audio.
Here’s another example of the magic of Munich Day 2. I’ve heard MBL systems on many occasions. I count myself as an MBL fan. But I realized when I walked into this room that I’ve never heard the flagship four-tower MBL 101-Extreme speakers before. When I sat down and listened, I quickly recognized that this system was the pinnacle of the MBL experience, one that reached a different level of musicality than before. It helped that the room possessed a serene atmosphere that was hypnotic.
This is more of a teaser photo than anything, because I didn’t have the time on Munich Day 2 to really dig into another stellar Von Schweikert/VAC system. In other words, this will be mostly saved for Munich Day 3. But Leif Swanson, Damon Von Schweikert and Greg Weaver were there, just like the old days, and they played me a live Michael Schenker track that sounded exactly like being at a big concert, immersed in the audience. I might have to pull out my old UFO albums after this.
This room was a surprise for me, too. Not too much of a surprise, though, because I was wowed by VTL room at AXPONA 2023 where I heard the deepest, purest bass I’ve heard at a high-end audio show. But this VTL/Wilson/dCS/Nordost room was the perfect transition between the raucous Schenker concert in the VSA/VAC and the climactic unveiling of the TIDAL for Bugatti unveiling on Munich Day 2. Luke Manley, one of the great gentlemen in our industry, treated me to an exquisite rendering of a Schubert piece that was achingly beautiful and melodic and involving.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the hyperbole. When I was younger, I was a bit of a roller coaster addict. I loved to push the roller coaster experience–Six Flags, Cedar Point, etc.–to the limits of my endurance. There’s nothing like the feeling a stumbling off a roller coaster, bumping into everything, all with a decidedly goofy grin on my mug.
That’s how I felt at the end of Munich Day 2, when I finally sat down and listened to the TIDAL for Bugatti system. I must have bumped into three or four show attendees in the hall outside the room when I left. Ain’t no joke–I was stunned like never before.
I’m going to discuss TIDAL for Bugatti, as well as the introduction of the TIDAL Audio Piano G3 and Contriva G3, in much more depth–when I return to earth. But here are some random facts, hyperbole and feverish dreams I noticed in the buzz after my listening session:
- I got Jörn Janczak to play “Chocolate Chip Trip” and “Yulunga.” I also got Jörn to play Hildur Guðnadóttir’s “Bridge of Death” from the Chernobyl soundtrack and it scared him.
- Jörn said that when he listened to the finished product for the first time, he wanted to run out on the street and grab random people and show them what he had done. “Proud papa” is a considerable understatement.
- This is not a system for the average audiophile, but it is a system for an audiophile who owns a Bugatti and takes it out on the track at least a few times per week. This is the unbridled race car of high-end audio.
In other words, I had an enormous amount of fun on Munich Day 2. I can’t think of a single day in this hobby that was so rewarding on a personal level. I can’t wait to see what Munich Day 3 will bring.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from Munich 2023, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
Also don’t forget to check out our latest collaboration – a solid bronze record weight available only for a limited run. This 800g of solid bronze features the PTA roundel on the top which also acts as a 45 adapter. You can purchase direct from the PTA Approved Store here on the site.