Hits (And Misses…) Munich High End – 2023

Anybody wandering into the VTL room in Munich can be forgiven for assuming that the Alexia V speakers were being driven by a pair of Siegfried mono-blocs, the Company’s long-standing flagship amplifiers. But appearances can be deceptive, especially as the amps in question were indeed clad in Siegfried casework. But underneath there was a pair of prototype units getting their first outing. As yet un-named, the new amps are fully regulated, auto-biasing mono-blocs but with eight (as opposed to 12) KT88/6550 output tubes a side, paired with an all-new output transformer. The final version will be built into a shorter, shallower version of VTL’s elegant tower casework, with renderings suggesting attractive proportions and a compact overall footprint.

For lovers of high-powered tube-amps this looks like one to watch. Despite the ‘virgin’ status of the Alexia Vs, the amps quickly got a grip on the speakers, bringing the fluid agilty and expressive range I normally associate with the S-400 to a more powerful package that promises greater drive, weight and bass transparency. Running on the end of a GPA Monaco v2.0 fitted with a Kuzma 4Point and Lyra Etna SL, feeding the TP-6.5 II phono-stage and TL-7.5 line-stage, by Sunday this system had started to hit its stride, promising great things from the future amps, a glimmer of light at the end of this particular developmental tunnel…*

*That would be both the development of the amps and the ‘development of the Alexia V’s sound.

Design Build Listen Dark-Light Tonearm

As a fully signed up member of the Wand fan-club, I always look forward to DBL’s interesting and eclectic designs. This year was no different. Following on from the Wand Reference, the New Zealand company showed two new products: the 14-5 ‘outgrowth’ of their existing 14-4 turntable and an all-new arm.

The 14-5 ‘table features a double plinth (the lower level accommodating the battery power supply) provision for two arms, IsoAcoustics feet and a carbon-fibre top-plate and record mat. But the piece that really caught my eye was the radical new Dark-Light tonearm. This nominally 10.5” design features a massive, tapered carbon-fibre tube that extends past the bearing housing to accommodate the balance weight, a small counterweight being attached to the end. An elegant VTA tower allows for adjustment on the fly while a clever cam system incorporated into the headshell beam makes precise adjustment of zenith a mechanical process rather than a hit-or-miss fumble. As usual, DBL has taken a lateral route to familiar problems and the results should be well worth a listen.

Slaughter Of The Sacred Cows…

The Munich Show is something of a conundrum: on the one hand, it is the best available opportunity to see the world’s most ambitious audio equipment and meet the people who build it; on the other, it rarely produces exceptional sound. In fact, it rarely produces even acceptable sound and for a show with hundreds of active rooms, I seldom find more than a handful that deliver a truly rewarding musical experience. If you travel to Munich expecting to hear the best audio equipment in the world, performing at its best, you will be sadly disappointed!