It has been three full years since we were last able to attend the otherwise-annual and internationally renowned audio exhibition, High End Munich – and following such a long hiatus, the show did not disappoint.
So what did we see, which luxury audio products did we love, and what made our eyebrows raise and our eyes start to water when it came to the delicate topic of coin? Allow us to show you, music lovers...
1. iFi Go Bar Anniversary Edition DAC
We'll start small. Plug this little digital-to-analogue converter into the USB socket of your PC, laptop, tablet or phone and it becomes the middleman between it and your wired headphones – thus bringing the iFi's proven Go (or, in this case, Gold) sound standard to your portable music.
At one end of this blingy miniature DAC is an asynchronous USB-C input that can either connect directly to USB-C sources using the supplied USB-C OTG cable, or to sources with other connections via a selection of included cables or adapters – there’s even an iFi-engineered Lightning-to-USB-C cable, so Apple device owners won't even need the Camera Adapter dongle.
It might be small, but it's hardly shy and retiring and it promises to do big (big. Huge!) things with your portable sound too. iFi Go Bar natively supports PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 and double-speed DXD files, while also being able to fully decode MQA audio. And you even get iFi’s XBass+ and XSpace analogue processing modes for some sonic flavour customisation as well.
In honor of its 10th anniversary this year, iFi has produced this special ‘Anniversary Edition’ of the Go Bar, limited to just 1000 pieces, which swaps the alloy enclosure for a copper chassis – and naturally, it's gold! iFi Go Bar Anniversary Edition will launch in June in the UK, with an RRP of £499 (which is around $623 or AU$885).
2. InEar ProMission X in-ear wired headphones
Staying small but getting a little more pricey, InEar was founded in 2000 and Marius Schmitt, who is showing us the pinnacle of the dedicated headphone manufacturer's offering, proudly tells us that it is a proud family business – his father Andreas Schmitt founded the company.
ProMission X houses no fewer than 10 (!) drivers in a four-way system. The driver housings are fashioned from jet-black violet wood in your choice of finishes (our favorite is undoubtedly the flagship shimmering mother-of-pearl sky-blue acrylic) and although a smaller size is available, Schmitt is confident that the universal fit, generated from hundreds of ear impressions taken by the company, will suit – they certainly felt weightless in our ears.
And the price? Or course, ProMission X retails for €2,100, which is around $2,225, £1,780 or AU$3,145.
3. Monitor Audio Concept 50 floorstanding speakers
If you require more in-depth coverage on Monitor Audio's innovative and striking new floorstanding speakers, feel free to consult our Monitor Audio Concept 50 release coverage, but suffice it to say, they are large (at over 96kg), they house 11 drivers pair pair, including four bass units that actually face each other, behind the front baffle, and they're set to cost in the region of £50,000 when they come to market by the end of the year, give or take 20 per cent (around $62,150 or AU$88,825 before tax and duties).
Ideal for that beach house in Miami…
4. Dan D'Agostino Relentless power amplifier
Forget 'small is beautiful'; meet Dan D’Agostino's huge reference power amplifier. The Relentless – named after the Italian founder’s constant goal to increase power and performance – is a colossal 1500W monobloc design, kept cool by that copper and aluminium heat sinking, specially shaped to improve the flow of hot air.
Inside the power amp you’ll find a 5.5kW power supply and at the front is a glorious extra-large version of the brand’s trademark signal meter, measuring 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.
A single Relentless monobloc weighs in at 220kg (485lbs) and it's available now. Price? Oh, only £275,000 per pair (which is around $343,460 or AU$485,900). Pair for the den and a set for the games room?
5. Avantegrade Trio G3 speaker system
Large-scale, triple-horn stereo speakers are what German audio specialist Avantgarde is all about – and if they're not striking enough for you, the company offers 11 different colour choices (our favourite might be the 'shiny citrine' finish).
Avantgarde's designs are firmly rooted in its horn technology – the oldest physical principle for rendering sound – and it isn't going small with those. They need a bit of room to operate; the design comprises an 18cm tweeter horn, a 57cm spherical midrange horn and a huge 95cm spherical low-midrange horn – that's almost a meter in diameter.
Finally, you get to choose one of three compatible subwoofers. The largest option, the Basshorn XD subwoofer, is seen here between the set of floorstanding speakers. Yep, that's right… it's not a fancy bar, that's actually the subwoofer.
As you can imagine, all of this does not come cheap. Prices start from (but are certainly not limited to) €76,000.
6. T+A Solitaire T over-ear headphones
German high-end hi-fi brand T+A Elektroakustik's new reference headphones are called Solitaire T and will launch in July for £1,200 ($1,600, around AU$2,265) in your choice of white or black finishes.
The claim is a big one: sound that's just as good when listening wirelessly with Bluetooth and active noise cancellation deployed as it is over the supplied wired connection.
To this end, Solitaire T feature 42mm transducers, special cellulose diaphragms, and an optimised low-bass system in a bid for excellent audio performance. In order to more closely match the headphones' wired level of performance over Bluetooth, these 326g cans support the latest Bluetooth codecs, including LDAC and aptX HD, using a Qualcomm QCC 5127 chip and Esstech ES9218 Sabre DAC.
An active noise cancelling circuit can be toggled on as you wish, too, and T+A has worked hard to retain sound quality during its activation. We cannot yet vouch for the claims since they were presented to us in a case, but we're certainly excited to hear them.
7. Campfire Audio Trifecta in-ear monitors
Our first experience listening to Campfire Audio's latest release was so profound, we felt the need to write a dedicated piece about it. These are a very different beast to most wired in-ear headphones you'll come across – and not just because they would look just as comfortable in our jewellery box as they do beside our phone.
Trifecta's optically clear nylon housing reveals the three 10mm dynamic drivers with gold-plated cases nestled within, but these vented drivers face one another in a unique triangular configuration which also creates a rather comfortable shape, aided by the silver-plated, high purity copper ribbon cable snaking nicely around your ear. This is serious high-end territory though: when Campfire Audio's Trifecta in-ear monitors launch on July 30, 2022, they will retail for $3375, which is around £2710 or AU$4800.