Approximate system cost: €400,000.
The second day of High End 2022 was filled with me finding some of the most ambitious products you can imagine. But ambition does not necessarily equate to high prices. Though sometimes it does.
Approximate system cost: €380,000.
Approximate system cost: TBA.
Approximate system cost: £275,000.
Approximate system cost: €350,000
Approximate system cost: if you have to ask . . .
Diversity rules this installment of the SoundStage! High End 2022 product coverage. With prices that range from $699 to over $500,000 (USD), it’s hard to believe that, at High End, there are customers for both of these price categories and everything in between. It serves to remind us that the hobby of high-end audio and listening to music in the home is an attractive proposition for a wide swath of us. Prices for the products below are in US dollars, euros, or Swiss francs (CHF).
The two COVID years prior to 2022 meant no High End show in Munich, Germany. Two missed years were two too many. The pent-up creative energy at work in high-end audio was unleashed at High End 2022. And it was glorious. Anyone remotely interested in audio gear and fine music reproduction was in for a treat in terms of new product introductions and systems singing away. And there were some doozies. All prices below are in euros or US dollars.
If someone asked me a year ago if High End 2022 could be successful, I likely would’ve said, “I have no idea if it will even go on, let alone be a success.”
Perhaps the scariest thing that can happen to an audio enthusiast and journalist is sudden and near-complete hearing loss.
Ask me how I know.
Steyning, West Sussex, England, 26th March 2022
On the weekend of the 26th of March, 2022, a small contingent of the world’s top audio journalists and distributors were invited to witness the launch of a new SME flagship turntable, the first such launch in over 30 years. As if that weren’t enough to warm the cockles of even the most jaded hi-fi hack, we would be hearing the turntable in perhaps the most famous listening room in the world—the room custom-built by Alastair Robertson-Aikman, the legendary founder of SME, as an extension to his delightful Sussex home. Make no mistake: this is holy ground, the audio equivalent of being invited to Balmoral for a weekend of grouse-shooting with the Queen. Since his passing in 2006, even SME hasn’t used the room for listening tests, so its re-opening really was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Alastair, or A-RA as he was affectionately known, was not a man to settle for second best, and his pursuit of audio excellence led to the creation of a hi-fi dynasty revered the world over.
Sometime after the last Leo’s Stereo closed, my father would take me to The Wherehouse on Saturday mornings to shop for CDs. When that chain of stores folded, he moved on to Target or Best Buy or Sam Goody at the local shopping mall. That one could own music, a tangible thing for personal enjoyment, shaped my upbringing. What we didn’t know then was that store shopping—seeing the newest displays, rifling through plastic letter dividers and name placards—was an endangered endeavor.
I’m going to begin this part of the coverage with a confession: I almost didn’t write this article. That’s because, although I got my feet under me to do the second part of the coverage more efficiently, I’ve seen so many products and talked to so many people at Montreal Audiofest 2022 that, as I’m typing this, I don’t feel like writing more—I’m spent.
As I mentioned in the first round of show coverage, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by being the only SoundStager here covering the show. But by staying up late on the first show-day night and sorting through my photos and notes, I got my feet under me and was better prepared for the next day of coverage. Below you’ll find more of what I witnessed at Montreal Audiofest 2022, with all prices in Canadian dollars, except for the product described at the very end.
For the first time in a very long time, the first day of Montreal Audiofest 2022 had me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Not long after I got off the escalator that took me to the lower level, which had the largest rooms and the most exhibitors, I knew that there would be more new and/or interesting products than I originally thought might be at the show. This was just like Florida Audio Expo 2022, which I’d covered in February—it wound up exceeding my expectations. But unlike at Florida Audio Expo 2022, where I had Jason Davis to help me cover it, I decided to go to the first Montreal Audiofest since 2019 alone—we usually have two or three people at this event.
I was initially going to include the PS Audio Aspen FR30 loudspeaker in the regular product coverage, but when I realized that I wanted to write far more than a regular show-coverage caption, I thought it deserved to stand as a story on its own. The speaker was, without question, one of the most interesting new products at Montreal Audiofest 2022—and it was something I really wanted to hear because I’ve been wondering about it since about the beginning of this year.
I always arrive at shows at least a day early to get going on our coverage, but I get disappointed if no company is set up or there’s no one to talk to, because there ends up being nothing to do. But when I walked into the Hotel Bonaventure Montréal, which is home to Montreal Audiofest 2022, at about 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, I immediately ran into Lily Luo, owner of Motet Distribution, who said, “The guys from KLH just arrived. We hope you can make it to our dinner in fifteen minutes. It’s a casual thing.”
If you’re like me and use your audio system to both enjoy stereo music and watch films with multichannel audio, you’ll appreciate a high-quality, universal disc player. Optical disc players are still the best way to watch movies with 4K Ultra HD video and uncompressed Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, and there are also some audio enthusiasts who still like to play SACDs, CDs, and even DVD-As. Granted, there aren’t many audiophiles whose main systems do double duty like mine, and with the proliferation of streaming services for both music and movies, optical disc players in general, let alone universal disc players, aren’t as highly sought after as they once were.
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