The Munich High-End Show has become one of the most important places for audio product launches. It’s impossible for one person to cover all 800 exhibitors across three halls, two atriums and dozens of rooms across three floors, and that’s before you include the numerous off-piste events at hotels further into Munich itself. So instead, here is a selective list of some of the best products from Munich this year.
Astell & Kern
A&K has taken the shell of the AK240 and applied it to the replacements to the AK100 Mk II and AK120. Now, here’s where it gets confusing. The replacement to the AK100 Mk II is called… the AK100 II. In the flesh, the two are significantly different, but be careful when ordering that you don’t end up with an older model. The resemblance is more than skin-deep, as both new players sport Cirrus Logic DACs too (one for the AK100 II, two for the AK 120 II), and both support DSD (albeit converted to PCM). Prices will be confirmed later in the year. In other news, A&K has announced a dedicated app for Qobuz, the French hi-res download site.
The AURALiC range is already pushing the envelope of what can be extracted from digital files, but the ARIES streamer extends the properties of any good DAC, by bringing to the party virtually every digital audio file format that’s in common circulation. Supplied in two forms – the crystal controlled ARIES LE ($999) and the femto-clocked ARIES for $1,599 – the streamer uses AURALiC’s Tesla hardware platform, and is controlled by the company’s really rather spiffy Lightning app.
An new UK-based brand, Bespoke Audio takes the high-performance properties of really good passive preamplifiers like the Music First Audio and delivers a six-input, three output, transformer coupled passive preamp with a remote volume and a finish to die for. The ‘Bespoke’ part of the name really is just that; you can specify the type and number of connections, the size of the cabinet, the engraving, finish, whatever you wish for. Prices start from around £9,000.