Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

Peak Consult, Ypsilon and Dohmann at Munich High-end 2019

Recorded in 24bit 96kHz at the Munich High-end show on May 10, 2019.

This was freaking loud and freaking awesome.

For one, it is so refreshing when a room does not play “audiophile music”. Luckily, at Munich, about 20-30% played real music.

It is even rarer that they play real music at volume.

The sound was, to my ears, very even handed top-to-bottom, very controlled, a little dense and not quite as much separation and ultimate dynamics as one might want… but it was awesome. This was a well designed system, IMO.

Peak Consult speakers, Ypsilon electronics, Dohmann turntable.

 

 

TechDAS Air Force ZERO turntable at Munich High-end 2019

Music and the video presentation recorded in 24bit 96kHz at the Munich High-end Show on May 12, 2019.

Closeups of the $300K TechDAS Air Force Zero recorded the previous day.

I spent about 20 minutes here the previous day [day 3] when the Air Force ZERO was NOT playing. Had to change a battery or card or something, and I just sat and listened. Not a fan of these particular Vivid speakers [the bass sounds constrained and separate from the rest of the music. Other Vivid speakers we have found to be excellent, so a little surprising] and though the CH Precision gear has sounded awesomely wonderful on Magico speakers in the past, I have been having a hard time appreciating their sound on other speakers lately, including these here Vivid speakers [often sounding harsh and even a little bright].

When I peaked in on the last day [day 4] I was very happy to catch them playing the Air Force Zero turntable . I listened again.

What a difference!

I am NOT one of those that think the “source is the most important component”. In fact, the opposite: I think “the amp-speaker combination is the most important component[s]”.

But the music with the “Zero” was now fleshed out and nuanced and dynamic and it sounded Good. Yes, if you try you could still hear the flaws in the system, and as you listen to the 24×96 audio recording, you can hear that it does not sound as good as the Aries Cerat recording, even though the Zero here is a much, MUCH better source.

I brought Neli and Florian back here to hear this and I know Neli agrees this is something special [Florian thinks the Zero is ‘ugly’?! It definitely does have a utilitarian look about it, but I could live with it :-)].

So many people praise mediocre turntables, including a few in the $$$$$ price range. But to my ears, the Walker Proscenium, the Acoustical Systems APOLYT, the Clearaudio Statement and this Air Force Zero have immediately audible superiority over most other turntables.

Yep, some [all?] of these have what could be considered a particular sound and other ‘fatal flaws’ [in addition to price! and floor space required!].

And there are other statement turntables I have not heard or not heard in a manner that allowed me to clearly hear the effect of the turntable.

But, yeah, this was a room worth visiting [the 2nd and 3rd and 4th times] this year.

 

Aries Cerat at Munich High-end 2019

Video and audio in 24bit, 96kHz was recorded both times Neli and I visited this room – on the 2nd day then later with Florian on day 4.

The speakers and bass horns [very impressive sounding, positioned outside of the main speakers, not seen here] were well integrated.  Clean, good separation, wide bandwidth, good dynamics, and a neutral sound. Analog sounded quite a bit better than the digital tracks I heard on day 2 – did not hear digital the last day.

Very different aesthetic than an Audio Note system at similar $1M price points which we find a little more musical and emotional and involving – though if we are talking about AN systems with AN speakers, this room had a bigger sound, more generally impressive [and certainly less room dependent setup constraints!].

Neli thought the end of the last track, the flamenco tap dancing, was too loud [I know! Didn’t know that was a phrase in her vocabulary!] The thumps of the feet tapping was indeed fantastically impressive and kind of distracted from the song – probably be fine if it wasn’t all being played back in such a small space at a hi-fi show at some significant volume [I thought it was fine, but I was in the front row, kind of between the bass horns].

 

Cessaro Horn Acoustics at Munich High-end 2019

Neli, Florian and I heard the Cessaro Beta II loudspeakers and Air II amplifier at the Munich High-end show May 12, 2019 , which I recorded in 24bit x 96kHz.

This was right after our visit to the Silbatone / Western Electric horn room and we were a little underwhelmed here [implying that at another time, this might have been more impressive to our ears]. Neli did like it enough the first day that she worked hard to make sure we all got to hear this room the last day.

There is a giant basshorn in the middle behind the equipment rack which was as hard to see in real life as it is here in the photos and video [it was a dark room].

Photos at: https://ultimist.com/experiences/shows/munich-2019/2019/06/02/cessaro-horn-acoustics-at-munich-high-end-2019/

 

Silbatone and giant Western Electric horn speakers – Munich High-end 2019

On the last day at Munich, Neli, Florian (Hi Florian!) and I went around to exhibits and rooms together. This was the first room we visited. There is an intro followed by music by Depeche Mode and not sure who recorded in 24bit, 96kHz.

Very big, dynamic sound. Not the best at communicating subtleties like emotion [which theoretically could be ameliorated by paying close attention to the upstream components like cables and vibration control].

We’re putting the photos over on Ultimist (Silbatone and giant Western Electric speakers):

 

Vincent Belanger ft. Audio Note U.K. at Munich HiFi Deluxe 2019 part 2

Recorded in 24bit, 96khz on May 11, 2019 at the Munich Marriott during Hifideluxe 2019.

Vincent was accompanied by, well, Vincent being played back from a laptop into an Audio Note U.K. stereo consisting of:

1. X? a prototype Level 5 DAC (on the Fifth Element DAC platform with Fifth Force power supply) with a brand new very bold architecture which is a big departure from what anyone has tried before and a clear advancement of the state-of-the-art
2. AN/E SEC Signature speakers (on “J” stands)
3. Ongaku Kensei stereo 211 power amplifier
4. M9 phono preamplifier
5. TT3 turntable with Arm Three/2 and IO1 cartridge and S9 step-up transformer
6. CDT-Six transport

Vincent Belanger ft. Audio Note U.K. at Munich HiFi Deluxe 2019

Recorded in 24bit, 96khz on May 11, 2019 at the Munich Marriott during Hifideluxe 2019.

Vincent was accompanied by, well, Vincent being played back on an Audio Note U.K. stereo with:

1. X? a prototype Level 5 DAC (on the Fifth Element DAC platform with Fifth Force power supply) with a brand new very bold architecture which is a big departure from what anyone has tried before and a clear advancement of the state-of-the-art
2. AN/E SEC Signature speakers (on “J” stands)
3. Ongaku Kensei stereo 211 power amplifier
4. M9 phono preamplifier
5. TT3 turntable with Arm Three/2 and IO1 cartridge and S9 step-up transformer
6. CDT-Six transport

Vincent was accompanied by the Audio Note system which was – frighteningly(?!) – realistic. From where I was sitting I had to look closely at what Vincent was playing to tell which notes were by him and which were previously recorded [Cellos are much harder for a Hi-Fi to reproduce, to sound correct, than, say, electric guitar for which there are several of these types of live demos]. I guess that is the charm and entertainment here, and with these kinds of demos, but seriously, this was impressive.

There is more to this session in the Audio Note room which we will hopefully get to post shortly.

 

Back from Munich

[pictured: Hermann Winters of Acapella and Neli of Audio Federation in the Acapella showroom]

But on the way back I caught an “airplane cold”. Bad enough that Neli enforced a 10 foot distance between the diseased one and herself until she left to jet down to Houston [where she gets to compare the Acapella Sphaeron Excalibur speakers we just heard in Germany with the smaller but similar looking Triolon Excalibur speakers, among other tasks like setting up an HRS rack and in general being the life of the party].

So now I sit here staring at 2600 photos and 70 videos and about the same number of 24 bit 96kHz recordings of Munich High-end 2019, Audio Note and Acapella factories, and try figure out how to get these up on the internet in a some kind of organized manner.

First I need to add more memory to my 16GB DELL, because video editing takes mucho memory, and Lightroom in any case likes to grab all the memory and open every single photo it can find on my disk not free any memory for like a day(!) anyway. And before that I want to thoroughly backup the DELL, but memory sticks / thumb drives were so slow, so had to get a nice cheap 2TB drive. Etc. Etc. Etc. can’t wait for AI to get here so computers can take care of their own damn selves.

And can’t wait until the show video+photo post-processing pipeline is all worked out. Steep learning-curve alert for this audiophile.

I want our videos to be quite different than AVShowrooms’s approach – and it may take some time to get them just right.  AVShowrooms has a professional “friendly reviewer” approach that works well for them, but I want to go more for an OMFG “extreme enthusiasts visit Wonderland” kind of approach.

Stay tuned 🙂

 

Mike and Neli went on a little audio adventure

Mike and Neli went on a little audio adventure to visit Audio Note in the U.K., the Munich High-end 2019 show, and the Acapella Audio arts factory where we listened to the Sphaeron Excalibur speakers (pictured) for most of the day.

Details galore forthcoming after sleep and uploading and sifting through several thousand photos, 100s of videos and many recordings of various systems in 24×96 hi-res audio.

 

 

 

 

Acapella Sphäron Excalibur – The holy grail of high-end audio loudspeakers

Acapella Audio Arts has upped the bar significantly with their new statement-level loudspeaker, the Spharon Excalibur:

Frequency range: 15 Hz to 40K Hz.

4 x 18 inch woofers per channel

Sensitivity: 103-107 dB / 1 W / 1 m

Impedance: 8 ohms.

Over 2500 pounds. Each.

1 x ION plasma tweeter per channel

From $620,000 a pair. Active version available for additional cost.

The specifications really do tell the story here. Very big. Very efficient. And, given the Acapella brand sound, it will sound like music, and not a high-school science-day project or mad scientist’s laboratory experiment gone bad.

Don’t believe it? Stop by the store in Duisburg Germany and hear for yourself.

That is exactly what the German Lite Lifestyle technology magazine did.

They go into quite some detail – it is a long article, but in German.

We translated the first paragraph to English below [you haven’t experienced life until you and your spouse attempt to translate the same bit of text together, let me tell you…].

Without further ado…

Acapella Sphäron Excalibur – The answer to all questions

What is the maximum amount of effort that we can put towards achieving the high-end ideal of pure, natural and undistorted playback of sound? How far can we go in pursuit of precision, vividness and coherence? An answer to these questions can be heard in Duisburg, where Acapella Audio Arts, renowned manufacturer of horn loudspeakers, has their rarely built Sphäron Excalibur on display. We seized the opportunity to listen to this magnum opus, and are happy to share our insights.

 

Audiophile power: The massive Sphäron Excalibur is 2.40 metres tall and occupies nearly 1.7 square metres. This loudspeaker system is finished in black acrylic cabinets with red horns.

 

Does anyone really need this level of performance? At the pinnacle of high-end audio, that is the wrong question. Here, one aims for a higher goal. One aspires to experience unprecedented quality. One strives for the maximum achievable performance, constrained only by the limits of known science and available technology. One ignores costs, number of materials and market analysis in order to gain new know-how at the leading edge of sonic reproduction. This is the driving force for Acapella co-founder Alfred Rudolph. After building the sensational Sphäron, the ultimate horn speaker system of that time, he asked: “Can it be done better? Will I be able to improve it further? Or, more poetically: “Can I, as in the Arthurian saga, pull this sword from the stone?” And so the Sphäron Excalibur was born.

More here.