High-end Audio Munich Show: What’s wrong with the U.S. anyway?


The High-end Audio Munich Show has been growing. Growing. GROWING.


From the Highendsociety June 2014 newsletter

452 exhibitors from 40 countries (+25%)
5.387 trade visitors from around the world (+3%)
• 17,855 visitors (+10%)

Compare with these charts below, and you can see that Munich is continuing on course to pop off the top of the charts.

[Charts from Lesnumeriques (a French site that apparently tracks statistics)]







Here at home, high-end audio shows are shrinking. Why?

CES High Performance Audio show attendance is about a third of what it once was

RMAF reached its peak a few years ago and is shrinking.

Newport, for all its upbeat energy, is [anecdotally] not growing anymore.

I don’t hear anything positive [to be kind] about any of the other shows [except that Capital Audiofest has been a good place to buy and sell things].


The security state makes it hard for foreign visitors to attend our shows anymore. Is this the problem?

Not if CES as a whole is still growing.

But is it?

According to Wikipedia: 2006 attendance was over 150,000 individuals in 1.67 million net square feet of space, making it the largest electronics event in the United States.

Yet in 2014 it has only grown to 160,000. Whereas Munich Show grew from 12,000 to 18,000.



So CES has grown 6.6% and the Munich high-end audio show about 50%.

The effect of the Great Depression on the shrinking Middle Class makes them too worried to care about audio. Is this the problem?

Note the tiny drop in Munich attendance in 2009, while CES was down 20% at 113,085 attendees. The Great Depression hardly affected Germany at all.

10% of American home owners lost their homes and 30% are way behind on their debt payments



[map from CNN ]

But this is just too depression. I mean depressing.


[infographic from the Wall Street Journal ]

 On a more upbeat note, has streaming music taken over here in the U.S. and we are ahead of the rest of the world in adopting this method of enjoying music? Is this the problem?

Based on this infographic, the future portends real problems, but right now, with the typical audiophile who is able to afford $10K+ systems probably being older than 24 years old, this is not a problem yet.

Are our shows just more boring? Hard to navigate? Do not have that synergy needed to make people excited about the show and tell their friends they should come too? Is this the problem?

Never considered this until now after watching Fremer’s video.

Certainly hiding High Performance Audio away at the top of the Venetian in elevators that are always hard to find [yes, and in a hotel that tries to trap you in the casino :-)] and always jammed and very slow – this can’t be a great thing to attract casual visitors.

Are hotels also just too boring? By isolating each system in its own room for sonic purposes, does this dampen any kind of enthusiasm for the spectacle of it all [the RMAF CANJAM, for instance, is not in a hotel room, and continues to grow and grow. Is this because of headphones or is this because of the synergy of seeing all the gear in one 'place'?]

Crazy to argue for a Munich-like conference floor layout for high-end audio shows… but this might work to our industry’s advantage, if not so much for the show goer’s ears.

Anyway, choose your poison – something is wrong and between reversing the security state, fixing the economy, or holding shows on conference show floors – I think the latter is way more the easiest :-)




Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note on Enjoy The Music.TV

This video has Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note being interviewed by Steve Rochlin of Enjoy The Music 2 months ago.

Interesting discussion about prices in high-end audio, using silver as a conductor, black gate capacitors and AN’s development of a successor capacitor, new metal foil resistors, the top-of-the-line AN TT3 turntable, and a new top-of-the-line DAC on the horizon

Recorded almost 2 months ago on June 23.

This video hits many of Audio Note U/K/’s core competencies.

a) Turnkey, 100% AN systems that sound decent with not at a lot of fuss and at all price points.

b) Truly high-end gear that sounds as good as it is expensive, with a multi-decade long hard-earned pedigree of producing state-of-the-art gear.

c) AN produces many of their own electrical components (like capacitors, resisters, transformers, etc.), giving them a competitive advantage over those who have to use off-the-shelf components

d) AN spends a good money performing advanced research into how to make better components, better designs, and better synergies between components

e) AN continues to try and achieve dominant footholds in all parts of the market by using innovative designs – in this case: turntables

f) AN champions newer better [now cheaper digital?] designs breaking new ground that few can follow [although AN has open designs, c) helps their implementation be always somewhat better, and always being a few steps ahead keeps them a few design leaps ahead of everybody else]

Let’s talk about a few of the points in the video. We invite you all to chime in.

1. Jeez, look how expensive some of this new gear coming out is!

No kidding. Ever wonder who is buying this stuff?

I have a theory. It is that a large percentage of the people left in high-end audio like to swap out gear a lot. They are not looking for the best sound they can get at their budget nor a system that will provide them enjoyment that lasts them many years.

Audiogon, and to some extent eBay, in their heyday, opened up the market. People could now buy new gear knowing that they could sell it for a fair price if and when they got tired of it, or just flat out didn’t like it. This allowed them to be more experimental with their gear buying.

But then this got pumped up another notch. The used market became saturated, and audiophiles realized they could, for not much money, try gear by buying it used, playing with it for awhile, and then selling it when they were done with it in what on average is what? A few months? And it cost them not much money at all to do this. This ‘Advanced Audio Nervosa’ has been very contagious and many many people have the disease. :-/

Well, of course it is not a disease.  It is quite fun.

It is just that at the current time, people with audio Nervosa account for a significant percentage of audiophiles. This diffuses the services that many manufactures and some dealers [like us] think they are providing for audiophiles. Some still do want the best sound, for their ears, that their money can buy. But others just want something fun and cool to play with for a bit.

[Co-commitment with this must be their feeling that they are going to live forever. For me, one more second of listening to some sound that is not As Good As It Can Be means one more of my last few seconds here on Earth wasted. Just fricking Ruined. ]

With the shrinkage of Audiogon, the pendulum may be swinging back towards the long-term audiophile buyer. Or maybe something will take Audiogon’s place and Advanced Audio Nervosa is here to stay.

People with a lot of money, and audio Nervosa, will buy $150,000 amps put out by a new company or one with no history of building amps of this caliber, because it scratches their itch to try something new. No matter that the thing really sucks at its purported job.

 2. Systems composed of gear from different manufacturers have little chance of sounding decent.

We do actually agree that 100% Audio Note U.K. systems do sound decent, no matter what the overall cost of the Audio Note gear is [and is one of the reasons we sell Audio Note]. However, most other manufacturers with 100% solutions are not as successful at the ‘sounding decent’ thing.

And, referring back to discussion point #1 above, for people with Audio Nervosa, a complete solution from just one manufacturer is so boring as to be like unto hell.

It is our approach, and practice, however, to mix and match gear from different manufacturers a lot of the time to tailor the sound to individual preferences. However, we spend a good deal of time thinking about what works with what. In particular, we think a lot about, and talk extensively here on the blog about, the importance of getting the amp – speaker combination right.

For the average Mary and Joe, this system configuration can indeed be problematic. And 99% of dealers could care less.

3. Black Gate capacitors are dead. Long live Black Gate capacitors.

Many people, including AN, have found that these are really good sounding capacitors for high-end audio gear.

When Black Gate decided to close their doors [figuratively speaking] AN bought up all the remaining Black Gates they could find. But even these are starting to run out.

So AN has been working to be able to restart production of Black Gate capacitors again. This is a good thing for AN to talk about, as it reemphasizes that they actually manufacture a lot of their own components – and do not just limit themselves to off-the-shelf parts that are widely available like the vast majority of other high-end audio manufacturers.

4. The new much-cheaper but even better DAC

Although we have heard snippets about this new DAC, AN has been very secretive about this Manhattan-like project … until now. Kind of wish, from a dealer’s standpoint, that this came out in a different way, but it was going to be a bombshell, regardless.

It sounds like this discrete DAC is similar to the same(?) approach EMM Labs cum Playback Designs cum P.S. Audio etc. are taking. Where instead of using cheap [sounding], ubiquitous and marginally functional off-the-shelf DAC chips, they encode their own DSP algorithms in some high-speed chip of one kind or another.

Previously, AN was able to wrap exceedingly well-performing supporting electronics around these cheap chips, and came up with, to our ears and many others, the best sounding DACs in the world.

What they will be able to do with their own great sounding chip, kind of afraid to find out. And to announce that it will be significantly cheaper… hmmmm…..







Your favorite music sucks. And you know it.

This came to me at the gym.

First, someone, a couple actually, brought and played some classical music in the weight room.

[Our gym is under-going a $5M remodel as they convert a functional gym into a new-looking non-functional gym. This means our weight room has been on the basketball court for about 6 months now. They used to hold aerobics classes in the basketball court - which needed a sound system with a couple of Sansui? speakers. So, for awhile anyway, people who pump iron at our gym get their own sound system that plays loud CDs]

No one said anything about their classical music selection – but, although kind of interesting in a ‘whoa, this is weird’ sort of way, it just didn’t help to psych us up to Arnold-like intensity and focus. When they brought music again in subsequent weeks, it was, BTW, not classical.

The second incident occurred, again at the gym, when someone was blasting ‘uplifting’ heavy metal. I did not recognize the band, but whereas some heavy metal is angry, and most rap is angry, this was more of ‘you can do it’ with a beat and a lot of guitars.

This was great!

But then someone complained because he was doing Pilates in the same room [part of the stupid remodel again] and he said it was hard to relax with all this loud headbanging music. And apparently he went to the gym to relax after a hard day.

Do you see what happened?

Your favorite music is very dependent on what your mood or activity is at the time when you are doing your actual listening. 

When we are traveling to or through New Mexico, we both like to listen to a few hours of Mariachi music. It is great. But we only listen to it at these times.

When pumping iron, heavy metal or techo-rap is great to help psych oneself up before attempting to do something that most times would seem really, really stupid. I like this music, but it is not like think it is great – but at the gym I think it is the best music ever. [And way better than the top 40 crap they usually play, which is way better than the crap they play now with commercials]

When  doing Yoga, New Age, calming music is great to center oneself by. But it is not like we play a lot [though we do play some] of New Age at any other time.

People love Christmas music, but usually they love it most around Christmas.

Now, we all know that young men think everything goes just perfect with the testosterone-fueled music of the day [rock & roll, heavy metal, and now rap]. Weddings? Yep. Funerals? Yep. Studying? Yep.

Putting your new baby to sleep? Y… Nope. All of a sudden, you’re singing ‘Chim chiminey Chim chim cher-ee! ‘ and ‘When I wish upon a star’ and your baby is laughing and this is the Best Music Ever.

I think most people, who lead real lives, have lots of ‘favorite’ kinds of music. It depends on the setting. All music requires an appropriate setting - or, sorry, its going to suck. 

Most older people say they do not like Rap, but have you watched Jet Li in ‘Romeo Must Die’? One of my favorite movies of his – and it has a Rap music soundtrack. Works awesomely well. Similarly for Eminem ’8 Mile’, one of my favorite movies of all genres.

All of you whose favorite music is Classical [or New Age, or Folk, or Opera, etc.], your favorite music would suck for these movies [and for the weight room]. And you know it. :-)

[Don't be bummed. This is really awesome. It means we all have lots more favorite kinds of music than we may of thought we had.]

High-end Audio Turntables – Pictorial guide

The Audiophile’s Guide to the Galaxy page on High-end Audio Turntables has finally been ported from the old site.

It is way more complete now [the Galaxy is a big place!].

Awesome photo of Neli and the Clearaudio Statement turntable from several years ago, don’t you think? Shows you just how big that darn thing is. Has the best dynamics I have ever heard from a table.

I keep having to think: are the brands of turntables we actually sell on the page? Are the brand of turntables whose designers we know well and frequently talk with on the page? Are the brands of tables who we are in talks with to potentially carry here in the store on the page? Are the brands of turntables I just photographed at the Newport show represented?

I didn’t put out-of-production high-end audio turntables like Micro Seiki or less expensive, more mid-fi Dual and B&O [are these really mid-fi? Maybe they belong here too?].

Please let us know if I left something out [and, you know, what it is that I left out ;-)].

Hmmmm…. Just trying to not embarrass myself is becoming a full time job as I get older.



High-end audio cables myth Trolls need to be booted off the island

High-end audio cables myth trolls need to be booted off the island. Now. And preferably with a BIG honking boot.


Because they are not audiophiles and all of us treating them as if they were is hurting the hobby.

Trolls, not Audiophiles

People who antagonize real audiophiles, insisting that running a signal through different kinds of wire does not affect the sound differently [violating the first or second laws of thermodynamics by the way], are just trolls.

Sometimes this is easier to see just how ridiculous our acceptance of these trolls are if we think of this happening in a more well-known hobby, like autos.

Saying that different cables all sound the same is like someone saying that different tires make no noticeable difference when driving a car.

Typically [continuing our analogy] these kinds of people would own a basic commuter car [modest stereo cobbled together from good, bad and terrible gear, typically wildly unbalanced sonically]. They put on some modestly nice Michelin V-rated tires [cheap cables one step above Monster] on it, and noticed no difference when using their car [stereo] the way they usually do – just plunking around [playing 3- and 4-piece jazz]  .


These are people with minimal experience, minimal qualifications, minimal equipment, minimal skills at listening, and tragic inability to understand science.


So what is the problem? The problem is that they then go on the forums and loudly bash real audiophiles, shouting that in their ‘expert opinion’, cables have no affect on any stereo and it is all just hokum

These people declare themselves ‘experts’ though they do not ever think about [going back to our tire analogy]  WHY they do or do not like the handling, about how it responds in emergency and under hostile weather conditions; how it could be better, worse or different; how it performs in the extremes of acceleration; and what parts of the design contributes to this or that behavior and subjective enjoyment or lack thereof. Etc.

These people are just trying to rile others and get attention by acting extraordinarily stupid. 

Let’s not give it to them. In fact, let’s take ALL our attention away from them.

Hurting the Hobby

This is serious.

‘High-end audio cables myth’ is one of the first suggestions Google gives when typing in ‘high-end audio cables’.

When noobs visit one of the forums, and they see people accepting as valid another’s opinion that cables have no affect on the sound, that it is just our imagination, they draw the reasonable conclusion that ALL improvements in sound may also just be the wild imaginings of us audiophools.

To a lesser degree there are also those who believe all solid-state amps sound the same, that all CD players sound the same, and that all computer DACs sound the same. These people are also trolls.

We have become a playground for trolls. People who get off on being a**holes and jerks.

I’m Against the Death Penalty in this Case

I’ve thought about it but…. no.

So, not proposing anything too radical here :-)

I just think we need to censure and, if necessary, kick these people off the reputable forums. If these forums are for Audiophiles, then let’s keep out the Audiophile-haters.

Face it, they hate us and yet they infest our forums.

Why are we putting up with this?



[Featured photo of big boot from Freshness Magazine]

Miles Davis: Pangaea – A genre of its own

On the front page of the Audio Federation website Neli and I get to post our favorite albums of the day, week, whatever.

[These favorite albums take the place of what was previously our Linkedin profile photos. Neli got tired of seeing this photo of herself everywhere. I think it is a great photo of her. Women... :-) ]

I currently have ‘Miles Davis Pangaea‘ as my Audio Federation front page album.

This double-album is part of a set of concerts during Miles’ electric funk space jazz phase. Agharta is another double live album of this concert series from Osaka, Japan. To a large extent Black Beauty, Dark Magnus, and even Miles Smiles are other examples of his of this genre. And as far as I am concerned he has this genre all to himself. Although Live-Evil is much more widely available, and many consider it part of this phase of his, I do not – it is more commercial electric jazz-fusion – nice but without the ‘space’ and ‘deep rhythm’ these other albums mostly have (Miles Smiles is missing a lot of the deep rhythm of these others, but it still stands above Like-Evil IMO in terms of groove and aggressiveness).

Here is what Amazon has to say:

“(2-LP set) Recorded on the same day as Agharta (FMN 811), Pangaea‘s 2 LPs of material are culled from the evening performances at Osaka’s Festival Hall. Featuring just 2 songs, both clocking in at over 40 minutes, Pangaea shows Miles’ band really stretching itself to the limit. Live electric jazz-fusion from the undisputed master of the genre. 180 gram vinyl in a gatefold jacket with a reproduction of the original black and white insert.”

I discovered these albums back in the late 70s, early 80s. There was a store on the ‘Hill’ in Boulder that sold lots of cutouts for $3 and lots of mostly Japanese and some European (mostly German) imports for $7. I spent a large percentage of my wealth here at the time [not much to speak of, but it was a lot to me...]. I got this as a Japanese import.

It was definitely an OMG experience that has lasted for 40 years. At the time it was also life-affirming in the sense that an ‘old’ master of ‘boring’ jazz could do something that was so now and ‘with it’.

There is nothing out there like it that I have come across. They lay down a groove with a significant beat and then overlay electric jazz and space all over it for over 40 minutes [on the album].

Make no mistake, this is NOT Kind of Blue. This is more like Funkadelic if you imagine them at the end of a week of playing in front of 100,000 people after being dosed to the gills over and over again. Or Sun Ra if Sun Ra knew what the heck a beat and a melody was.

There are some bootlegs of these concerts. Haven’t played them in awhile, so forget what quality they are [the music itself is, of course, awesome in the sense that It does Inspire Awe].

Neli likes these albums too and they are accessible to the average listener –  just Not At All what you would expect to hear from Miles Davis.

The sound quality is B+. It is really quite good IMO. I have mostly played the original Japanese import LP, though we have been playing the CD for convenience lately. 40 minute songs do require a commitment – there are no obvious places to stop the rhythm once it gets started – so you have been warned :-)


LIKE Audio Federation on Facebook (please)

We now have an Audio Federation Facebook Page.

Now, with Audio Federation officially on Facebook, we need people to LIKE US so we don’t look quite so darn lonely. :-)

We just added the old LIKE button from the old site to this new one.

And …. you might have noticed the number of Facebook ‘Likes’  we have is much lower now than what it used to be.



It’s up there, in the upper right header next to the ‘blog’ link. If you click our ‘Like’ button here Facebook will know that you ‘like’ Audio Federation.

Well, there is a wonderfully wonderful reason for that.


Previously, the Likes were for Audio Federation, the WEBSITE.  Now the Likes are for Audio Federation the FACEBOOK PAGE. [Crazy that FB can't figure out that they are one and the same thing. I mean, there are only about a  Billion websites who have had this problem. But no, they are just too understaffed and have no funds to hire a couple of more of best programmers in the world to do this little thing.]

You see, we just added Audio Federation to Facebook.

Yep. Good old 2014. What took us so long? Us? The geeky software geeks?

You probably already guessed.

Yeah, it was a husband and wife thing. Waiting for the other to do it. The other saying they were going to do it ‘sometime soon’, but never actually, you know, doing it. One of us [me] never going to FB and one of [not me] going there daily. But why would that matter in this battle of wills [yes, it was me who finally added Audio Federation to FB]

Spintricity was up there in 2009. In my mind that kind of put the ball in Neli’s court. I’ve dont it once. Not it is her turn. Not that she thinks this has anything to do with ANYTHING.

Before I get into even more trouble…

Please Like us again if you liked us before, because those previous ‘Likes’ now only exist in some dusty database table rows on one piddly disk on a forgotten server deep, deep in one of Facebook’s giant server farms.

If you haven’t liked us before, then please Like us NOW.

We’d really appreciate it.

Thanks everybody!


New Harmonic Resolution Systems HRS RXR Rack

These photos of the HRS RXR rack are from CES 2014.

They were [are] supposed to go up on the Ultimist show report – but time has been at a premium here lately.

So we’ll post them here, and hopefully later will get back and add these, along with a 1000+ other photos, to the Venetian part of CES 2014 show report on Ultimist.

The RXR is HRS’s least expensive rack. Though more modestly priced, it still has that high-performance vibration control technology that the SXR and MXR racks were so successful with. Hard to pin Mike Latvis down on what percentage of the performance of the SXR we can count on for the RXR – but that has a lot to do with its configurability.

The rack can use any one the 3 HRS platforms for its shelves. Or you can mix and match. As you can see in the photos, you can use their top of the line M3X, their somewhat more modest S1, or a basic platform that was specifically designed to work in the RXR rack.

The idea is you can get the rack and a few basic platforms. Then, when funds permit, upgrade to the better S1 and M3X platforms – thereby slowly building yourself a very high-performance rack over time.



The HRS RXR support system (equipment rack)


The HRS RXR support system (equipment rack)

IMG_0945-hrs-rxr-equipment-rack IMG_0946-hrs-rxr-equipmenrt-rack IMG_0948-hrs-rxr-rack-from-underneath IMG_0949-hrs-rxr-rack-platform-side IMG_0951-hrs-rxr-rack-platform-underneath

The underneath of the new basic platforms for the RXR. The corners there are made of the special HRS polymer similar to that which goes into their other, top-of-the-line products.

IMG_0957-hrs-rxr-rack-platform-from-bottom IMG_0958-hrs-m3x-on-rxr-rack


The HRS S1 platform on the RXR rack




Adjustable metal feet.



Finishing off this photo essay with photos of their Nimbus Couplers / Spacers, Damping Plates and Analog Disks


Another look at the HRS Nimbus Couplers / Spacers, Damping Plates and Analog Disks




Humor: slow tube amplifiers

We were just having fun at the expense of slow sounding tube amps; maybe you will think this way of describing them is as hilarious as we do.

Not sure why ‘slow’ is such an appropriate word for some brands of tube gear… but it is!

For each note is it like…



I am a note. I am coming to see you. Watch out! Oh, yeah, here I come!

Don’t worry, it’s be soon now. It just takes me awhile to gain a little momentum. Feeling tired, you know?

Ah, it’s a wonderful day isn’t it?

Oh! Here I am.

So. How are you? And the kids? Wacky weather we are having, don’t you agree?

OK! Now it is time for the big decay.

You ready? Sure?

Maybe take a little nap. Feeling sleepy….

Well, that’s better. Guess I’ll be leaving you. Hope you enjoyed my stay!


Bye now…….



Are you sure you’re not getting a little gray….?



Na-Nu Na-Nu

Photo of Mork and Mindy coming down the Boulder Canyon at the beginning of their show.

Robin Williams always portrayed Real. In-your-face Real. Fearless Real. Real with a smile and a wink.

The Mork & Mindy TV show with Robin Williams and Pam Dawber ran from 1978 to 1982.


It was situated here in Boulder CO, 2 blocks off the Pearl Street Mall.

I was in and out of University then, also here in Boulder. Like I have been for 41 years.

Boulder was still nice and wonderfully weird back then [probably before we became the smartest city in the U.S. (most BS and PHDs per-capita), and fittest city in the U.S.]

Being weird was… normal – lots of drugs, public drug-use, selling, buying… public laughing, singing, wearing funny clothes [even men!], be openly romantic… massive Halloween parties on the mall with 10s of thousands of people.

If you were a business and were going to make a go of it on the Pearl Street mall, you catered to the party ‘do whatever you want to do if it don’t hurt no one’ culture. This led to some very interesting business models.

It was awesome. It was relaxed. It was cheerful. It was non-commercial.

The Mork & Mindy show portrayed Boulder ass-backwards.

Mork was the normal one, the rest of the cast was your typical psychopathic Hollywood conceptualization of normal, normal hippies, normal bankers, whatever [well, not Jonathan Winters... he really WAS an alien :-). And Pam Dawber, she was a metaphor for all that less-weird women have to put up with when dealing with more-weird men].

They eventually included The New York Deli which opened on Pearl Street as part of the show in one of the later seasons. I knew people who worked there. I think my brother eventually worked there.

With the real house on Pine Street and this real restaurant, it was just really, REALLY, R-E-A-L-L-Y confusing at the time.

Where did Reality stop and Fake Real begin?

Seems like a silly question. Just like Robin Williams often seemed silly. But they are not. Not really.

For me, this is what the show was about, what Robin Williams was all about, what Weird Boulder was about, what being young and experimenting with life is all about.

A question which no one has answered and hardly anyone asks anymore.

But Robin Williams asked it. And kept asking it. And still asks it through his body of work.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.



Our congressman, Jared Polis, in front of Mork & Mindy’s house



Later, the front of Mork & Miny’s house

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