Hits (And Misses…) Munich High End – 2023

I could have quite happily wiled away hours of my time listening to this system. Several significant show visitors did just that. As a system, on paper at least, it rings so many personal alarm bells (streaming, class D, internal electronics…) that I might easily have dismissed it. But then I know just how fastidious VA are and just what a perfectionist designer Peter Gansterer is. If anybody was going to get it right, everything I know suggested that it was going to be Vienna Acoustics. And how! This little system managed to deliver what all those expensive, multi-box extravaganzas heaped up down the corridors couldn’t achieve: natural, communicative, enjoyable and accessible MUSIC. All for €12,000.

That’s not exactly pocket change, but it’s far from unaffordable too. And it does everything. You want to play vinyl? Just add a record player and a phono-stage (or even a record player with a phono-stage built in). You want to hook it up to the TV? It’s ready to go. Connectivity is everything you’ll require and the sound quality? Exceptional. Could I do better using separates? I’m really not sure that I could – certainly not whilst retaining the same versatility and facilities. In fact, I’m confident that the self-contained simplicity of the Mozart Infinity is going to outperform far more ambitious systems at far higher prices. But you don’t need to take my word for it: possibly the most influential single record producer on the planet was at the show. He was floored by the sound in the VA room and shocked and then seriously excited when he realized where it was coming from. His reaction? “This is it; this is the future; THIS IS THE FUTURE!” – and he is in a position to know.

Tidal For Bugatti

And lest all this talk of systems that barely cross the five-figure threshold is getting you down, it’s time to time to take a trip to the other end of the price scale. At one end of their room, Tidal were showing a new version of their popular Contriva speaker. At the other, stood a pair of the gorgeous, sumptuously curved and effortlessly elegant Bugatti speakers, safely separated from show goers by the obligatory velvet rope. This was essentially a static display, the two speakers mutely flanking their controller, the latter perched on a simple display column. However, a fortunate few (very few) got to actually hear these speakers in action. At €405,000 a pair, they are as unapproachable for most of us as the Vienna or AvantGarde offerings are achievable, but their significance lies in what they offer for what they cost: the sheer luxury they represent (a quality that escapes almost all, even the most expensive, high-end products) and their shockingly demonstrable performance.

Sit in the passenger seat of a stationary Bugatti Veyron and you’ll get the performance picture long before it streaks through the 100kph mark. The Tidal for Bugatti speaker is just as uncompromising in its delivery. Share space with this system (and it is a system) and it will never leave you wondering. With active speakers and a streaming capable controller, this is a source-plus solution that current conventional approaches won’t even get close to, for less than the price of the Wilson XVX – ON ITS OWN! That’s right: your €405K buys you everything you need to be up and running with a system that can challenge the presence, immediacy and dynamics of the best horn systems, the linearity, resolution and neutrality of the best solid-state systems, the intimacy and natural musical communication of the best systems full-stop!