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Thread: German HiFi show, Munich May 2011

  1. #1
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    Default German HiFi show, Munich May 2011

    Just to confirm .... Alan will be there 18-21 May at the Harbeth distributor's stand (Input Audio).

  2. #2
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    Default Visit Report from Munich High End show, May 2011 - Part 1: stands

    I'm now back home after the show. It was a huge success on many fronts with a far bigger international attendance than any CES show I can recall. This is the high-end show to attend.

    I'd like to pay a special thanks to Bernd Homke, Input Audio, Harbeth Germany for organising the show so professionally and effectively. Second, I was very lucky to have services of Thomas and Martina Kruger the owners of the Harbeth retail outlet Das andere HiFi Studio, Frankfurt manning the Harbeth stand. This husband and wife team were simply exceptional in their knowledge of the Harbeth philosophy and their understanding and appreciation of what Harbeth users are seeking as an audio experience at home. Furthermore, they long appreciate that the path to natural sound at home requires them first to flush-out the misinformation and user 'brain washing' before they can begin to discuss natural sound in any meaningful way.

    Thomas is qualified in music and as he says, few hifi 'audiophile' have personal experience of natural live sound, and without that solid foundation the goal of high fidelity lifelike sound in the home is an impossible target. But it takes a huge time and financial commitment from the dealer to re-educate. We are all very lucky that there are dealers like this who will undertake this thankless but essential task.

    Second, I think we should adjust our 'official position' about matching stands for Harbeth speakers. Personally, I will continue to use whatever stands I have in our stores during development and listening. These tend to be of lighter construction, including Skylan and Ikea and there are some heavy-duty steel ones too accumulated over 20+ years. The Krugers have convinced me - and I am willing to accept this from them in the light of their overall sensitivity to fine sound - that the stand does make a difference to the sound. Why this is so I cannot say - nor can they - but they are convinced of it. And after experimenting with various stands over the years, they are certain that the Skylan stands are the best match for Harbeth speakers. I am convinced that Thomas and Martina know far more about this than I do and I bow to their experience when they say that the Skylan stands give the ideal combination of sonics, constructional simplicity, modest cost and ease of transportation.

    And that's really it. I wouldn't throw out perfectly functional stands that are doing a good job, but if you have an opportunity to re-equip, then you have our views. But do be prepared to wait - they are hand made in Canada.

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    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  3. #3
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    Default Munich 2011: Part 2 - Live demonstrations or not?

    Previous experience at hifi shows held in a large open warehouse (unsurprisingly) revealed the impossibility of live demonstrations of quality audio equipment. Even if the a small sealed 'cabin' is constructed the plasterboard walls and skimpy carpet make for a very lively acoustic, and clapped hands expose multiple reflections and their characteristic sonic twang. Despite some exhibitors best intentions and significant investment, I was unable to draw any reliable conclusions from any live system even in the cabins some had created. The room just dominated the overall sound.

    So my apologies to those who read the recent excellent SHL5 review in and around Germany and journeyed to hear them - they were only on static display.

    My recommendation is to please make an appointment to hear them at your leisure in the controlled conditions of your hifi dealer without the cacophony of sound at a public hifi show.

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    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Munich 2011: Part 3 - Cables

    There were many cable/connector companies displaying their wares in the most exquisite range of colours and textures on the biggest and most lavish stands. How the consumer could be expected to select cables on anything other than an emotional, sensual basis is not obvious to me.

    One, and only one (Russian) company made a bold effort to permit comparison of cables allowing the user to listen on headphones to interconnects introduced between a DAC and a headphone amplifier. Unfortunately (in my and Pluto's opinion) the fact that the moderately-specified headphones were open backed when there was a high ambient noise from other exhibitors music systems compromised our listening ability. Furthermore, as the exhibitor was strongly of the opinion that he could "hear the sound of the connectors" and that this would influence the results, he soldered and unsoldered the alternative cables into the test jig. This interrupted the music for about three or four minutes, and we know here that that is an eternity for the human hear.

    But at least he made an effort. The interesting thing to me was not the experiment itself, but dispassionately observing how I reacted. I anticipated that if there were to be any sonic differences this would be in the upper audio bands, and when listening to cable A I concentrated entirely on the high-hat. The music track continued, the headphones disconnected and the soldered change-over to cable B undertaken. When the music was again fed to the 'phones after the swap (about 3 mins. later) the first sound that hit me was a strong centrally-panned brass instrument which had not been playing earlier in the tune. This was so dominant that my entire attention was now taken by trying to come to terms with this new and unexpected sound. The high-hat continued as before but I couldn't give it proper attention. Because the spectral energy of the brass was (obviously) in the low-middle of the audio spectrum my first and continuing impression of cable B was of a richer, warm tone in contrast to the high-hat that I had been concentrating on. I did not wait to re-introduce cable A again.

    So to me, I am unable to confirm that I could truly attribute any audio quality to cable A or B - although the technician told me that A was "second from the bottom" and B "third from the top" in sound quality with a price ratio of 1:4. It goes without saying that B was 'much better', thicker, more attractive and more expensive. I congratulated them on the effort they had made even to bother to construct such a comparator and over the days brought several chums to hear the test for themselves. I took care not to pass comment on my non-preference. By the end of the show I was sought-out by the companies CEO who presented me (actually, Pluto) with a beautiful gift box containing a set of exquisite interconnects .... a tribute to our expertise. We are much obliged - and might even think about using the simpler speaker cables .....

    We were told that last month The Russian President, a known hifi enthusiast, purchased a pair of M40.1 for his own hifi system.

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    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  5. #5
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    Default Meeting at the show ...

    i attended the show and was glad to meet and talk to alan. what a friendly and nice person as opposed to all this marketing-driven blabla CEOs.

    thanks,
    delgesu

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    Default Munich 2011: Part 4 - Room tuning systems

    These divided into two camps.

    1) The 'hard' technical solution, based on the science of sound and acoustics, and implemented in hardware/software through predictable maths - such as the Trinnov ST2 loudspeaker/room optimiser system. Such systems implement a closed loop - first measure the 'raw' room reflections and all, then build that data into a maths model of the room and finally apply a correction via the loudspeakers mixed with the music being reproduced in the room which behaves as an 'acoustic mirror' and fully or partially cancels the room problem.

    2) The 'soft' technical solution. There was much more interest in these by trade and public visitors. This class included plastic moulded pucks which (apparently) when placed even quite randomly on the top of the speakers greatly enhanced the overall fidelity. My attention was drawn to a small rather nicely moulded plastic box which contained within an internal chamber some especially selected crystals. When energised via the wall-wart power supply, I understood that the "air molecules in the room are modified" and the effect was to "remove the walls, sonically, yielding a bigger sound stage, greater depth and above all, more bass." This unique (and relatively inexpensive at about Eur1500/set of two incl. some pucks, enough to treat the entire listening room) kit I'm sure would be of great interest to Arrup and I regret being so intrigued by the very generous time the salesman (who told me he dropped out of his physics degree course when he was introduced to this product) devoted to me (and chums) on various occasions that I forgot to name drop their firm.

    Again, full marks for the willing demonstration and the courtesy shown by their staff to an open-minded visitor like myself. The demonstration was better constructed than the interconnect one mentioned earlier. This time the music was continuously playing over rather large loudspeakers along with hundreds of other exhibitors. We listened (on several occasions) to the sound standing at the booth with the tuning system turned on, and to be absolutely sure that we could compare the sound with the devices off, they were disconnected by one of their colleagues who disappeared from sight with them under his arm heading in the general direction of the bar (again) to the consternation of their manager. Absolutely assured that the devices were unable to influence the sound from 30m away, we listened very attentively to the continuing music. When I turned to Pluto and said in generous and even slightly theatrical tones that the effect was 'night and day', 'can't you hear it old chap?' and reiterated what I'd been told that truly 'the walls had indeed disappeared', I was not best pleased with Pluto for humiliating me by pointing out that the stand itself had one open end.

    I fully understand that in a buyers democracy these sort of gadgets will find a customer, and that keeps the wheels of commerce spinning and pays for our hospitals and schools. I have no issue with that. What does seriously concern me is when nameless professional sales persons disassociated with the product but in hifi sales become so excited about the 'night and day' comparison that it becomes the sole subject of conversation for hours afterwards. To the point that having had more than my share of this I banged my fist down on the table and asked for an explanation of how such devilish technology worked. "Well" I was told, and it's a fair point, "we don't know how everything works in the world and as healing crystals definitely work, this must be drawing on the same life-energy forces ....". Questioning him further I was told that 'hundreds of people can hear the effect' and 'they can't all be wrong'. I resisted reminding him where we were.

    I'll pass on this new found discovery to my physicist buddy at the gym who is involved in the search for the Higgs boson at CERN that he really ought to stop wasting taxpayers money and get serious about crystal energy.

    P.S. Man went to the moon, and returned, in 1968.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Munich 2001: Part 4 - The German people

    Due to my own unbelievable carelessness, I managed to leave my Dell Steak (Android phone, similar to iPhone) on the yellow taxi between Munich airport and my small countryside B&B close to the hifi show. As the journey had been a little expensive and our accounts department like to balance the books with proper receipts, I asked for one. That ultimately saved the day.

    I've stayed at this small hotel before, run by an elderly couple who don't speak English. Nor is there internet and even using the room phone is beyond me. But I checked in, made my way to my room and then realised that the phone was missing. Sheer panic. I returned to reception and explained my stupidity to the owner as best I could, handed over the receipt and she called the taxi HQ - where they advised her that the taxi driver's registration number was not recognised by them. The implication was that he was not on their books, a fake receipt. Crestfallen, I went over to the MOC hall to see if I could help set-up, and was greeted by an old Chinese friend as I walked through the door who allowed me to call my phone from his - it rang without reply.

    And that was, I assumed the end of the Dell. And seemed to be just about the end of my digital life too. I went to bed early cursing my irresponsibility, and started to doze off. The room phone rang at 10.30pm. It was the taxi driver. Would I please meet him on the street outside the hotel in five minutes. Out of bed and out .... and there he was, greeting me with a huge German hug as a long lost brother. The phone was back with me.

    At breakfast I encouraged German speakers to enquire of the owner what had actually happened. Earlier in the day the taxi driver's wife, another driver, had pieced together the scenario and driven down herself to my little hotel to meet the proprietor to reassure herself that I was the rightful owner of the phone. And reassured, she'd asked her husband to make the motorway journey to bring it back.

    That one incident of human kindness speaks volumes about the German people today in 2011 and proves that old fashioned decency is still alive. I am extremely grateful to you Herr Taxi Driver and your wife. And that there are still honest folk around.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  8. #8
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    Default

    Love Part 4... :)

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    Default

    Alan,

    Great story. Thanks for sharing. It's a nice boost at the end of a difficult day.

    John

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    Default Support for Noel @ Skylan

    Alan, .. I have to honestly say.. THANK YOU .. for clarifying your position on the Skylan stands.

    As I commented in another thread "Supports for your Harbeths". I had switched from a pair of Foundation Stands (Canadian Distributor stand) for my M30's to a pair of Noels Skylan Stands (The new version of the 4P-24) and I seriously thought I was "losing it". I couldn't believe that the difference was THAT substantial.

    So.. I'm not going to blather on like a crazy person waiting for the men in suits to cart me off, I'm just going to thank you for validating that Noel is indeed making a product that truly does compliment the virtues of the Harbeth line.

    Sounds like overall Munich was supreme show uber alles.

  11. #11
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    Default Good friends across the water

    I like Germans. Just don't mention the War!

  12. #12
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    Default A musician's overview of the Munich show ....

    Although I sadly missed Alan on Sunday when I arrived at the Munich event, it is a breath of fresh air to read his comments and observations of some of the products on offer. I have rarely witnessed so many people talking such rubbish, and taking some ridiculous (horribly expense) products so seriously.

    Having spent a few hours traipsing around the show, seeing and hearing all manner of monstrosities, I made my way back to Harbeth stand just to set eyes on some honest, beautiful, well-made loudspeakers. Alas, they couldn't be auditioned, but the mere sight warmed my heart immensely. Bemused at these sights, I began to take pictures to remind me of my time at the show.

    I attach some of my "award" winners....
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  13. #13
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    Default Another Munich tale {or horror story?}

    So, on Saturday afternoon I started my tour of the show, just like any other punter. It was rather humid and many of the company demonstration suites were quite well air-conditioned, especially if there were not too many sweaty audiophiles filling the seats. It was nearly closing time and the strains of “Take Five” caught my ear. Seeing that it was coming from an almost empty room full of comfortable-looking seats I dived in, choosing a place near the optimum stereo seat.

    This was a company which has had a fair bit of (mainly good) publicity over the last year or so, which makes high quality audio electronics. It's name will not be divulged for it was immediately apparent that we were listening on their >30k speakers OUT OF PHASE! I enquired of one of the minders if he spoke English and, upon receiving an assurance that he did, mentioned the slight issue I had noticed. My concern was acknowledged with a shrug so I returned to my comfy seat to await developments.

    Nothing happened for about five minutes when it became apparent that other mignons, wearing the company T-shirt, were poking around behind the curtains examining wiring and stuff. After a further five minutes someone sat down beside me and announced that he was the R&D manager of the company and was I the gentleman who had mentioned the out of phase problem? Informing him I was, he promptly confirmed that I was correct and thanked me for pointing this out. I enquired how long he believed the system had been in this state to which he admitted, with a look that said “poo”, probably most of the show so far – which meant one trade/press day and one public day. He asked me if this would be a good time to switch off and correct the problem which he did, and what followed for the next fifteen minutes or so was one of the better sounds I heard at the show.

    Full marks for the R&D man and his honesty in not trying to fob me off, but how on earth does a significant company (and believe me, this lot are on the radar right now) get two complete days into the world’s premier home audio show without ANYBODY noticing, and commenting, that SOMETHING was wrong? Unbelievable. It will be most interesting to see what the press eventually have to say about this company’s efforts – whether they report that something was “not quite right” or thought the room a bit peculiar or whatever. This will be a fascinating test of the aural perceptiveness of many audio journalists - and the public.

    Depending on what The Papers eventually say, I may or may not reveal the name of the company in question but for the time being we will just wait and see.

    {Moderator's comment: Maybe the problem was the room tuning crystals?}

  14. #14
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    Default What does out-of-phase sound like?

    PLEASE NOTE ... THIS SUBJECT HAS BEEN MOVED TO A NEW THREAD. PLEASE RESPOND THERE NOT HERE ...

    Pluto...

    How did you know it was wired out of phase? What does that sound like? Maybe many visitors wouldn't know either. I don't think I would know what that sounds like, I'd probably think things just didn't sound very good - but I don't really know. Could I try it out with my P3ESR? Any advice anyone?

  15. #15
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    Default L-R reversal

    i had quite a similar experience in Munich with a well known manufacturer of active monitors: nobody heard that left/right speakers where confused. i sat there and definitely the first violins came from the right side and brass/wood from the wrong side(s).

    the guys where a bit embarrassed after checking my inquiry...

    best,
    delgesu

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