At Munich High End 2016, one of my key coverage topics was Analogue source components. However, given that I visited over 110 manufacturers at the show, it quickly became apparent that doing a brand-by-brand show report would not be feasible.
So, as an alternative, Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom and I hatched a plan whereby we would each report on a ‘baker’s dozen’ of key components in each category that particularly caught our eyes and/or ears.
What follows are my descriptions of thirteen noteworthy analogue sources seen in Munich. Please note that my selections in no way reflect any lack of merit in the many components I’ve left off this list. Rather, the list is in a sense a concession to space and time constraints and gives some indication of the sheer richness and inventiveness of our industry.
Acoustical Systems Apolyt turntable
Neither words nor pictures can do full justice to the massive Apolyt air-suspended and air-bearing equipped turntable for Acoustical Systems, a firm perhaps best known for its cleverly and exquisitely-made Axiom tonearm. But if the Axiom is all delicacy, intricacy, and finesse, the Apolyt comes across with the presence of, say, a Panzer tank—massive and muscular in all the right places. The Apolyt weighs a staggering 380 kg and spins a platter that weighs full 85 kg. The turntable rests upon air suspension modules fitted atop beefy, tubular support legs, while beneath the massive platter assembly there is an elaborate, pull-out, air-control console to regulate air press to the suspension system and to the turntable’s main air-bearing.
It was fun to watch show attendees clustering in groups around the Apolyt, as this gave me the impression that they were not so much studying the turntable as worshipping it! The Apolyt is priced at €280,000.
Audio-Technica AT-ART1000 direct power moving coil phono cartridge
It isn’t often that the Japanese giant that it Audio-Technica pulls out all the stops to create a world-class phono cartridge, yet that is exactly what has happened with the new AT-ART1000 direct power moving coil phono cartridge, priced at €4,100 and available only in very limited quantities.
The phrase “direct power” in the product’s name hints at what makes it so special, since in contrast to virtually all other moving-coil cartridge designs the AT-ART1000, says Audio-Technica, “places the moving coil directly on top of the stylus tip to ensure that audio quality is not compromised with the negative effects introduced by the cantilever’s length and materials. With the coils in such close proximity, the stylus tip allows the cartridge to vividly render the most subtle sonic details with unsurpassed transient response.”
A brief audition in a purpose-built listening room centred on showcasing the AT-ART1000 convinced me that this is a very special phono cartridge indeed.
CH Precision P1 phono stage
The beautiful and very refined CH Precision P1 phono stage offers some uncommon options, such as two moving coil inputs featuring current-mode amplification (which eliminate the need for impedance loading adjustments), plus an FET-driven voltage mode input that can be used for moving magnet or moving coil cartridges and that provides a 500-step cartridge loading adjustment system. Finally, the P1 comes standard with an RIAA EQ curve, but offers and option EQ board that provides curves for EMI, Columbia, Decca, and Teldec phono equalization. The P1 is priced at €21,850.
D’Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum phono stage
Over time, Dan D’Agostino has gradually been building out the elements that comprise his flagship Momentum range of audio components, and now there is a Momentum-series phono stage, priced at €33,000. The Momentum phono stage offers what D’Agostino says, “may well be the cleanest AC power supply ever created for a phono preamp. The phono stage provides four inputs (two MM, two MC), adjustable gain settings, and five user selectable EQ curves: RIAA, FFRR, RCA Orthophonic, Columbia, and DGG. An extensive set of resistive and capacitive load settings are provided.