That was one of my favorite setups too. Smooth and involved sounding, for whatever that means.
did the Neumann open back sound as well tuned as their monitors do?
Some additional show impressions:
Zahl HM1 - we went back to this amp to listen to some more headphones from it. This was THE headphone amp of the show for anyone who heard it. I personally found it more useful to listen to closed-back headphones off of it to really get the full sense of how good it sounded, so I tried it with the DCA Noire and the Stealth, but I also heard it with the Diana TC. Truly a spectacular sounding amp.
A lot of those who heard these headphones off the Zahl felt they had significantly more weight and richness to them with more impactful dynamics, but for me it was also that it made use of some interesting widening functions to the image. Now while some amps have done this in the past, like the Pro iCAN and SPL amps, this did it in a way that felt more natural and organic somehow. Like, just a subtle widening of the sense of space.
We’ll do a video on the Zahl amp shortly, but I also wanted to highlight the craziest feeling piece of equipment that was next to it from Hifi Rose. Check this thing out:
Hifi Rose RA180 Amplifier
While I need to go back and spend some time with it tomorrow, I just had to highlight how crazy it looked and felt to use. I don’t normally care much about the whole ‘knob feel’ stuff, but this felt like interacting with the internals of a high precision watch or clock.
Ferrum Oor, Hypsos, Erco - we got to chat with the folks from Ferrum, and they were some of the most fun people to hang out with at the show. I listened to the Audeze LCD-2 pre memory foam, and it sounded great, but I also think it would’ve been well-suited to the Susvara because these amps had a ton of power to them. I think also it was difficult to make an assessment given it was show conditions and I’m not super familiar with that particular revision of LCD-2. Here’s the stack:
The Erco (pronounced Ertzo I believe?) seems like a convenient DAC/amp for those wanting a high end combo.
Raal CA1A prototype - Clearly one of the highlights of the show. I think it’s one that Danny is still working on refining and getting to production, but if the final versions sounds like this it’ll be a winner. Taron and I were both somewhat gobsmacked at how good it sounded. I think maybe just a tiny bit much in the treble but extremely detailed sounding, and also very well balanced for the tuning. I liked it better than the SR1a, so I think for me this is going to be the Raal to get.
Warwick Acoustics Aperio and Bravura - These are high end electrostatic headphone systems, you may remember these guys from the Sonoma Model One. I listened to the Aperio first, and had to remark that it was the best thing I heard at the show so far - with my specific flavor of jazz music. I think maybe it’s a bit sharp in the upper registers, but the sheer detail and separation ability of this system was nuts.
The Bravura was also very good, I actually think the more balanced tonality out of the two, just dialed back a notch for detail as well. I know they worked on improving the ergonomics, but I think even still for my big head there was a touch of clamp pressure. Normal-headed audiophiles won’t have any issues though and the build on these is outstanding.
Final Audio UX3000 - This is a $150 ANC headphone that was crazy good for the price. They told me they didn’t make it super aggressive ANC because they felt that would detract from the sound quality. In general it’s a balanced (neutral) tuning with a bass boost. One of the better tuned ANC headphones out there, and I kind of wish I could have one for the plane ride home!
Neumann NDH 30 - The Neumann open-back is… really nothing special for me, and honestly I don’t think it’s going to do much for audiophiles, as it was just kind of bland sounding, with a generally mid forward presentation that didn’t resolve all that well. I’m not sure if this is the case but it sounded like maybe there was also some strong front damping going on, and while it wasn’t doing anything outright bad, it just didn’t do anything exceptional either.
Abyss Diana TC - I heard this off a few amps, I think the Feliks Audio guys brought the unit but they let me try it off the Zahl as well. I was quite impressed with this one. While I still think they have a bit of distance to go when it comes to evening out the tonal balance in the primary ear gain region, I think this is a solid improvement on the Diana Phi. It’s also clearly got the technicalities and detail going for it, as it was one of the most resolving headphones I heard all day. Also, detailed and very punchy at the same time, maybe due to the non-seal design and incurring a slight air gap.
DCS Bartok - They were showing us some of the different modes they had added with this, but this was also the first time I’d heard it. I got to demo it with the Focal Utopia in their room, and honestly it just sounded great. I didn’t really find a significant difference among the modes, not like the differences we all found from the Zahl, it was more subtle than that. But I did like Mode 3 best for what I happened to be listening to. It’s one of those things that I imagine folks who already own one of these will be appreciative of.
Focal Grande Utopia Speakers
What the actual f…
So I had heard these before at Focal’s private listening room. But we got to spend more time with them with a wider selection of music at the show. They also had them hooked up to a NAIM source setup, where the system in total cost around 500 thousand.
This was the craziest sounding thing I’ve ever heard in my life, in particular for the bass and the mids, truly a mind-bogglingly punchy and engaging sound. Imagine like, a Focal Utopia just even more dynamic and engaging. People can have all kinds of discussions about sound online, and about measurements and whatever else - the stuff I get into of course. But none of that matters when you get hit with the visceral insanity of this setup.
Here’s DMS’s brain exploding.
I just found it to be a bit dull sounding. Very midrangey, but not particularly resolving.
I am really enjoying these small show bits. I saw and heard the Feliks Envy at the Stockholm High End Show in April and also found it to sound very impressive. Both the D8000pro and the Meze Elite sounded much better on the Envy compared to the solid state offerings on display beside it (Violectric DHA 226 and an Ear Men stack).
According to my buddy there the Zahl MH1 is a “star”. Can you verify they are only making a handful (I hear 50) and that they are already sold out at $12,000?
I’m listening to the HM1 right now.
Definitely the amp of the show.
I can confirm only 50 in a year being made. MSRP is currently a work in progress but it will be available for sale from Headphones.com.
We’ll also have it available to demo at CanJam Socal in September.
I won it as a door prize! Works like a charm!
That Riviera is a beast I hear, especially with susvara. Did you get a chance to listen?
Yes, it was great to see you Martin (and everyone)!
Ugh that MSB setup is perfection… I’d take MSB + Focal setup any day. MSB reference hp amp and the aries cerat genus hp amp are on my short list to try as well as spirit torino valkyria before I kick the bucket.
Switchable between NFB and off and what looks like a bit of EQ (low & high shelf?).
Also a fan of the HiFi Rose gear:
I did listen to it with the Susvara. I’d like to listen to the combo outside of show floor conditions. Unfortunately, Riveria was near quite a few speakers so it was hard to get a real sense for the sound. Just going off the cuff, I liked the Susvara better with the Feliks Audio Envy but they also had a proper listening room so I was able to get a much better feel for the sound.
The MSB setup was my second favourite at the show next to the Grande Utopias. I hadn’t had the chance to listen to their stuff before and it definitely lived up to the hype I’ve seen from others. The setup was also about $1m so just slightly priced out of my affordable range… .
Yeah I had seen HiFi Rose’s name floated around but I’ve never been able to check out their stuff before. Their streamers were at most of the booths at the show. Really impressive stuff. I know that @Resolve was ready to start getting into knob feel reviews after he played with the RA180.
I had an absolute blast in Munich.
This was my first time at the show and I’m already looking forward to next year very much.
I’m certainly glad I was able to do all 4 days, I honestly have no idea how I’d have gotten to see everything I wanted to see in just 2, the place was enormous!
I think for me there were a few particular highlights:
Raal Circumaural prototype.
This was easily the headphone that excited me the most. Take the SR1A and address basically all the concerns people had with it, particularly the lowend, and you get this. It was absolutely spectacular and I can’t wait to hear the final version hopefully at Canjam London.
I was really surprised by this for two reasons. Firstly I expected to hear an open 99, it wasn’t, it was so much better and an interesting departure from Meze’s typical tuning.
And secondly just for how good it is for the expected price. I think they’re going to sell a lot of these and certainly should do, they’re great.
And of course being Meze the build quality is simply the best of just about any manufacturer.
This thing honestly blew my mind. The sound quality alone was absolutely spectacular, comfortably beating the Enleum 23R next to it (which was a fantastic amp but the HM1 is something else), and with immense power to back it up. Peak power capability of I believe it was 14W. (Lower sustained but short durations is what’s important anyway).
But not only that, the featureset, being able to A/B inputs, add some EQ to the sound, and even a staging adjustment that doesn’t use a basic crossfeed, but instead an analog domain Mid/Side comparator which looks at what the L/R channels have in common vs what is different, and only adjusts the differences, meaning you can literally reduce/expand the soundstage with one adjustment.
It’s crazy good and I’m probably going to have to sell some of my gear to get one cause wow I need that in my life.
My top three rooms in order:
Western Electric 777 prototypes
These quite simply blew my mind. There was of course a huge amount of amazing setups in Munich, but none quite made my jaw drop like these did.
Never have I heard any audio gear present something so perfectly as these did.
And it wasn’t just myself, Skedra and DoctorJuggles who I was there with both said it was hands down their favourite system too.
I can’t describe how amazing this system was. And it’s the only system that I think might come close to the Grande Utopia setup that got me into audio in the first place.
Focal did actually have a grande utopia setup at the show but only for the first two days and I unfortunately missed out. I’d have loved to hear those amazing pieces of engineering (and art) again but hopefully will get a chance to do so soon.
Oh, and also Western Electric had one of the coolest posters I’ve seen and I really want one!
I went in there a couple times and they had swapped their speakers between days. I unfortunately didn’t get to hear their top end system, but the one shown in this image was spectacular.
AudioQuest had a setup with a dCS digital stack and Einstein hybrid amplifiers, feeding Wilson speakers.
This setup was amazing for two reasons.
Firstly, it just outright sounded amazing. I’d not had the opportunity to hear Wilsons before the show and each room that was using them was consistently fantastic. It’s pretty clear why they have the reputation they do, and of course the combination of dCS and Einstein source gear was brilliant too.
But what solidified it in my top three was just how well set up the room was.
It was interesting at Munich cause there were so many rooms with clearly amazing gear, including some I’d heard similar setups of before, but the room setup itself was ‘just ok’.
In fact, a room literally 2 doors down from audioquest used the same speakers as they did, and their setup sounded good, but going into the audioquest room, the speakers simply disappeared. It was like they weren’t there and all elements of the music were just laid out in a landscape in front of you.
It was pretty clear they spent considerable time with positioning and treatment in that room and the result was clear.
But, whilst of course it was absolutely fantastic getting to try all this amazing gear (that I will never be able to afford and makes me really want to buy some lottery tickets!), the best part of the show was the people.
I spent so long talking to so many people who were so evidently passionate about what they do. The stuff at these shows might be expensive, but for so many of them they clearly are not in it for the money, they’re in it cause they love it. And the further they can take their love for what they do the better.
Everyone was so friendly and I spent almost an hour in some cases chatting to people like Danny from Raal, Chris Connaker from Audiophilestyle, Nicolae from Rockna, Lukas Feliks, and all the guys at Ferrum (who also now have me hooked on polish beer. Man that stuff was good!).
I had dinner with Garth Powell on friday, who designed the power conditioners for Furman and AudioQuest and we spent ages talking about the engineering and design behind those products.
And both during and after the show, it was fantastic to finally meet @taronlissimore, @andrew , @Resolve and DMS in person. They are honestly the nicest group of people you could ever meet.
They were brilliant to spend time with, and it’s also so clear that headphones.com is going to have serious success in the future. It’s a team of fantastic people who are different from each-other with each their own areas of expertise and they work together so well, but most evidently, they are all so clearly passionate about what they’re doing. This isn’t a job for them, it’s something they love and want to do.
My friends Skedra and DoctorJuggles flew in on Friday night, and the weekend with them was a blast.
Meeting even more fantastic people, trying more fantastic gear, and spending Saturday night with Andrew, Taron, and the fantastic folks at Focal.
DoctorJuggles mentioned it first but It’s absolutely true; throughout the whole time I was in Munich I would constantly catch myself just smiling, all the time. Munich is a beautiful city, the event is amazing and the people are even better.
I’m sad it’s over cause it was truly wonderful, but I cannot wait for next year!
- Plus 1 on the Zähl HM1 amp.
Without a doubt the best amp I have heard period.
Looking forward to hearing Raal’s new creation!
D8000 pro limited
Only 50 made per year!
Good to see you posting here GoldenSound. You are a true journalist. Welcome to the Headphones forum.
Thanks for sharing photos and impressions to all who have. I’d love to go to the munich show some day.
The sheer amount of gear is staggering