This is Part 2 of a two-part Hi-Fi+ report on new Analogue Audio components seen at the Munich High-End Show 2013.
For the sake of simplicity, we present products in alphabetical order, organized by the names of their manufacturers.
Manufacturers covered in Part 2 of this report include: Kuzma, Musical Surroundings, Ortofon, Palmer, Primary Control, Pro-Ject, SchuchTronic, T+A, Thales, Theriault, Tone Tools, TW Acustic, van den Hul, and Well Tempered Lab.
Kuzma’s display featured a partially disassembled sample of the firm’s new Stabi M turntable, which allowed booth visitors to verify Kuzma’s claim that the ‘table is even more impressive when viewed from the inside out. But the biggest news from Kuzma was thadvent of the firm’s new CAR range of moving coil phono cartridges, comprising the CAR-20, CAR-30, CAR-40, and CAR-50. Kuzma makes the cartridge bodies while a Japanese firm supplies the motor assemblies built to Kuzma specifications. Shown here is the CAR-30, which will sell for €1,755.
Musical Surroundings showed a new second-generation of its well-liked and very affordable Nova phono stage called the Nova II (€1,200). Like its predecessor, the Nova II sports an extensive array of rear-panel mounted cartridge loading and gain control switches. Euro-for-Euro, this may be one of the most versatile phono stages on the market; it can be adapted to work with most any cartridge.
Ortofon displayed its entire range of phono cartridges at Munich, including relatively affordable moving magnet models on up to top-tier, cost-no-object moving coil models. The star of the show, however, was the firm’s new flagship MC Anna (€5,999, and named in honour of the opera singer Anna Netrebko), which is considered by some to be the finest phono cartridge Ortofon has yet produced, which is saying a mouthful.
The British firm Palmer prides itself on taking a holistic approach to turntable design, combining both old and new design elements as results dictate. The lovely and understated Palmer 2.5 turntable (~€6,900) was on demonstration in Munich, fitted with an Audio Origami tonearm.
The Primary Control tonearm (€5,000 and up) is the brainchild of Bernd Hemmen and if we understood Herr Hemmen correctly, the Primary Control combines certain performance aspects of both traditional gimbal-bearing and unipivot tonearms. Primary Control says, "the tonearm-base is in essense a stable mechanical grounding post which also functions as a precise VTA/SRA micrometer instrument." The arm features non-linear magnetic antiskating adjustment, provides for "a partial damping of the arm-cartridge interface," and allows precise azimuth adjustments. Hemmen can supply arm wands made of a variety of different woods, with several on display in Munich.
Munich is gratifying in that it gives visitors a chance to see top models not commonly seen outside of Germany. Two cases in point would be Pro-Ject’s Extension 12 turntable, which can be ordered with an Ortofon RS-309D tonearm installed (€6,500), and the very impressive Signature 12 turntable/tonearm system (€9,500).
Daniel Schuch of SchuchTronics showed a prototype of his Modell 1 tonearm, which drew large groups of inquisitive onlookers throughout the show. It is easy to see why. The Modell 1 is a beautifully crafted pivoting tangential tracking tonearm that uses an unusual system of knife-edge bearings and braided synthetic yarn control strings to maintain tangency between the stylus and the record grooves. If the arm sounds as good as it looks, which remains to be seen/heard, it should be a sonic delight.
Some turntable manufacturers prefer to offer analogue components on an a la carte basis, but T+A takes the opposite tack, choosing instead to offer ready-to-play turntable/tonearm/cartridge combinations. Two good examples would be the relatively affordable 1260R package (€2,790 - €3,450, depending on configuration) or the higher-end G 102 S package (€6,790 - €7,990, depending on configuration). We think the plug’n’play T+A solution will appeal to those who prize analogue sound quality, but would prefer not to tinker with their turntables on a day-to-day basis.
The Swiss-made Thales TTT-Compact turntable (€10,000) and Simplicity tonearm (€7,000) combine a number of somewhat iconoclastic ideas in a deceptively simple-package. For starters the TTT-C is a battery-powered turntable that claims as benefits both excellent speed stability and ultra low-noise, while the Simplicity arm is—get this—a precision made, pivoting tangential tracking tonearm.
Working in collaboration with the same people who make the impressive Kronos turntable, Theriault produces what may now be one of the most sophisticated unipivot tonearms (~€9,000) on the market. The Kronos people, who are not easily impressed, were using the Theriault arm in their demo room and couldn’t say enough good things about the arm.
Representative of a trend toward massive construction and brawny good looks amongst top-tier German turntables are the three models shown by Tone Tools in Munich: the Square (€7,500), the Radius (€15,000), and the Radius XX (€25,000).
TW Acustic turntables have won considerable critical acclaim from our US-based sister publication The Absolute Sound and now the German firm has pulled out all the stops to create a new flagship model called the Black Night (€29,500). Somehow, the huge Black Night manages to look massive, purposeful, and elegant—all at the same time (kind of like a Rolls Royce).
van den Hul
For Munich 2013 van den Hul introduced both a new moving coil phono cartridge called the Crimson (~€4,100, or above) and a new balanced-output phono stage called the Grail SB (€13,000). Those who find the Grail SB a bit too rich for their blood may be gratified to learn that there is also an unbalanced version of the Grail, priced at a somewhat more manageable €6,000.
Well Tempered Labs
Well Tempered showed its complete range of turntable/tonearm packages, but arguably the most interest were the firm’s top two models: the Amadeus GTA MkII (€ 3,999) and the similarly priced Versalex. Though different in external appearance, the two are virtually identical underneath and both models sport a newly revised version of the firm’s unorthodox (but very effective) hydraulically damped LTD Symmetrix tonearm. The new version of the arm features a machined aluminium upper bearing section said to provide better pivot point placement than the original LTD arm afforded.