Gilles goes to High End Munich 2022—an intro

Gilles goes to High End Munich 2022—an intro

Nagar Audio, MSB Audio, Wadax Audio, High End Munich, audio show, audiophile, hi-fi, speakers, amplifiers, PMA Magazine

High End Munich is an extraordinary event unlike any other. Nowhere else can you hear and see such a large display of high-end gear assembled by exhibitors from around the world. I had a chance to attend the 2022 show, which ran from May 19 to 22.

Over the course of those three days, I listened to dream systems that only a privileged few can afford to own. It wasn’t unlike a car show, where you might find Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces, Bugattis or Aston Martins. Like a car show, the audio show was a showcase for extravagant objects of great beauty.

But it wasn’t just that. Also exhibited was excellent gear at more affordable prices. One thing that struck me at the show is how far audio technology has come. The sound quality of entry-level products today is extraordinary. It’s possible to acquire an audio system for a few thousand dollars that can rival the sound of ultra high-end equipment of yesteryear.

If Munich is any indication, the audio industry is in fine health and seems to be on an upswing. It was striking to note how many of the attendees were under the age of forty and consisted of women. According to some exhibitors I spoke with, it’s a demographical trend that seems to have taken off with the pandemic. Did being cooped up for months foment among young people and women a desire to listen to music in better sound quality? Hopefully so. Either way, it was refreshing to see that audiophilia is not just the preserve of aging baby boomers.

Many people have asked me to name my top exhibits. I am loathe to make categorical judgements about the sound of audio equipment, especially at an audio show. Experience has taught me to be careful about what I say. It’s happened too many times that I had a negative opinion about the sound of a product and then listened to the same product under different circumstances only to conclude that my first impression was wrong.

Nagar Audio, MSB Audio, Wadax Audio, High End Munich, audio show, audiophile, hi-fi, speakers, amplifiers, PMA Magazine

So, I’ll say this: At High End Munich 2022, I listened to systems worth over a million dollars which didn’t initially impress. It would have been easy for me to jump to conclusions and cry foul like many amateurs do who blow through audio shows and make it their duty to bad-mouth an expensive system on social media within minutes of hearing it. It’s probably comforting for them to do so, to convince themselves that it’s not worth paying more for gear than their budget will allow and that the law of diminishing returns is a ruthless reality best avoided except by fools with money to burn. I went back to listen to these systems several times and by the end of the show most sounded divine. Why?  Because the exhibitors had improved the room’s acoustics, or the positioning of the loudspeakers, or else their gear had finally broken in. According to the exhibitors I asked, half their showroom gear was new.

If I had one recommendation to give to exhibitors, it’s this: Plan properly, and pay particular attention to your setup. Remember that whoever visits your exhibit will walk away from it with a judgement about you and your system, and that judgement could end up reverberating on social media for what feels like forever.

So here are my suggestions:

  • Don’t use new, unbroken-in gear. Break it in before the show.
  • Take the time to properly position your speakers and listening seats. If you’re not an expert on the subject, have the humility and business acumen to ask an expert to do it for you. Getting the soundstage right isn’t just about hearing the singer’s voice in the middle of the speakers. I heard too many setups that lacked image depth and extension beyond the loudspeakers, and were plagued with phase inconsistencies and timbres that sounded colored.
  • Bring acoustic panels, diffusers or plants to compensate for the acoustic issues of your space. It was not designed for music listening.
  • Be welcoming and considerate. Stop talking amongst yourselves and focus on the people who have come to see you. Stop the music and introduce yourself in a friendly and relaxed manner. There’s no good reason to act all serious and haughty. Take the time to present the components you’re exhibiting, to talk about your company and its products, what sets these apart from the competition, their price… In short, be prepared and interesting. It’s not normal for a potential client to feel unwelcome or, worse, to be ignored or to sit stupidly for minutes on end waiting for additional information only to give up and leave without knowing more about what they’ve just heard.

Some exhibitors did a remarkable job. Unfortunately, many didn’t.

Nagar Audio, MSB Audio, Wadax Audio, High End Munich, audio show, audiophile, hi-fi, speakers, amplifiers, PMA Magazine

My main goal at the show was to interview three people for whom I have the greatest respect. Each has taken his passion for audio to the realm of great achievements.

First interview: René Laflamme, world-renowned sound and mastering engineer, Vice-President of record label 2xHD, and Sales and Marketing Director of Nagra North America.

Second: Norman Varney, acoustics expert and President of AV RoomService. Norman created groundbreaking acoustics modeling software and has designed over 500 critical listening rooms worldwide.

Third: Trent Suggs, President of Audio Research Corp. An exceptional human being with a touching and inspiring story, Trent is a visionary who established a work environment in which excelling professionally does not come at the expense of one’s family life.

Beyond the latest in hi-fi and those megabuck dream systems, there was a palpable excitement at the show, similar to what I felt at this year’s Montreal Audiofest, which I’d sum up as people just being happy to be back among their tribe. If I can say something positive about the pandemic, it’s that it taught me not to take for granted times shared with other audio enthusiasts.

Stay tuned for some fascinating, eye-opening interviews.

2024 PMA Magazine. All rights reserved.

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