High End 2014
The largest exhibition of audio equipment in Europe is behind us so we are getting back to normal operation. Before this happens, we wrote a small summary of the whole event. The form of our reports is forced by the size of the exhibition. Even before exploring the MOC halls we came to the conclusion that it's impossible to see it all, but we tried nevertheless. We could of course focus on ten, twenty or thirty rooms with the most anticipated new stuff or just the most expensive equipment, but what kind of report would it be, if you have hundreds or thousands of companies and you only pick a few dozens? So we hope that our gallery at least allows you to catch the climate of High End and see some interesting devices. For now all the photos have been posted, also on our profile on Instagram. If you are interested in our impressions of the exhibition, if you were out there somewhere or you want to go to Munich next year, we hope it would be an interesting lecture.
High End in Munich does not really take place in Munich. This is obviously a slight exaggeration, but the MOC halls are located in the suburbs and actually some say it's easier to get to them from the airport than the city center. If you want to go sightseeing in the evenings, you can choose one of the hotels promoted by the event's organizer. There is a bus shuttle taking people from these hotels to the exhibition and if you don't like those for some reason, you can also take the subway or a taxi. If however you don't like living in the city center, you can book a room at one of the many small hotels located outside Munich. Here, instead of going to the bars and kebab shops, you will get to know the real atmosphere of Bavaria. Oh, yeah... We chose a hotel in Hallbergmoos, which turned out to be some local asparagus basin. We didn't know that a dozen kilometers from the borders of such a large city you can experience such rural climates. Small number of houses, one gas station and endless fields around. By noon nothing really happens there, but in the evening all towns gather at each of these hotels and the night feasting lasts till midnight. This is because the heart of each of these hotels is the tavern serving local specialities - beer, sausages, grilled meat and potatoes cooked in a thousand ways. If you want to eat anything else, it's probably just fat yoghurt or corn flakes for breakfast. Here the idea of a healthy meat is a mountain of fries with asparagus and lots of bacon. If you are not ready for such a dose of heavy food, take some pharmaceuticals with you or order a shot of Jägermeister after each meal. By the second day we started to wonder how can Bavarians live up to say 40-50 years. If you have no desire for such local adventures, better stick with the city center. Regardless of where you are, you can count on the help of very friendly people - they will show you the way, order a taxi and do everything with a smile on their lips. Only once, when we entered the exhibition area and the security guard did not see our press badges, we heard 'Halt!' behind us and instinctively wanted to raise our hands.
The exhibition is obviously huge, but well organized. If you want to see anything in one day, it is best to consult the plan and immediately pick a dozen rooms to visit, hoping that something interesting will also be shown on the way. If you go to Munich for a few days, you can consider seeing everything in order. We don't know if anyone did it, but if you don't take pictures or talk to anybody and just go ahead, you may indeed see the whole show. We obviously did not succeed but we don't regret it because we took hundreds of photos and met many manufacturers and distributors of audio equipment. Some of these interesting devices you will see later in our reviews. We also liked the pressroom located in a very convenient point of the MOC halls. All journalists could go get some rest here and enjoy a cup of really good coffee. We know that High End is a very large event, but this idea should be copied by the organizers of smaller shows. If you don't need a room for so many people, a few chairs and a power socket to recharge your batteries will be nice. The pressroom at High End was exquisite and very helpful.
The exhibition is obviously huge, but well organized. If you want to see anything in one day, it is best to consult the plan and immediately pick a dozen rooms to visit, hoping that something interesting will also be shown on the way.
Many visitors hoped to find the best sound in one of the rooms with the most expensive equipment, but on our private hit list there were only a few of them. We remember good performance by Kharma speakers, a full system by MBL, Albedo loudspeakers, Charios with Electrocompaniet electronics, Audio Physics, Sonus Faber speakers with McIntosh amps and of course Focals with Naim Statement amp. Other interesting systems were ones by Reimyo and TAD. We also remember a great sound by Existence Speakers from Finland. As for more affordable speakers – ELAC, Audium and Amphion. For us however an absolute hit was the room of Auris Audio and Boenicke Audio. In a medium-sized room we saw very small but cute speakers with beautiful tube amplifiers. Compared with ultra hi-end devices presented in rooms nearby, here the equipment was extremely simple and ridiculously cheap, but the system played so cool that it was hard to get into this room. And this was because hardly anyone left it. This presentation surely was the one we remembered best after the show.
Some may be surprised that the listening experiences from the exhibition were shortened to a few sentences, but the reason is simple. In most cases the equipment you saw on the pictures didn't play anything at all. And we don't mean it sounded badly - it just wasn't connected to anything and stood there for all the people to see and take pictures. This happened mostly in the boxes on the ground floor, but also in other parts of the exhibition you could see speakers and amps that were completely silent. No wonder if you have lots of rooms separated only by cardboard walls and windows at each end. MOC is a very nice place to walk around and see things, but if you want to listen to music and focus on it, these are not perfect conditions really. If someone managed to achieve good sound, they had to have three things - a great equipment, a talent to connect and set up a stereo system and some luck as well. There's no point in naming the worst performances, because here everything could go wrong in terms of sound. High End is a great event if you want to show your newest amplifier, find distributors in new countries, drink coffee and exchange business cards, but for audiophile listening it's as good as a field of corn for organizing an F1 race. You can of course capture something with your ears, but judging anything on this basis would be very unfair. That's why we just mentioned the best things from our point of view. See you next year!