Munich 2022

Elsewhere, Metronome launched a totally revised version of their impressive and iconic Kalista, now morphed into a CD/SACD transport/streamer, with the option to add a slim-line DAC and digital pre-amp. The new unit looks more compact and muscular (although apparently the footprint remains almost unchanged) while the cleverly executed external power supply, includes space for another of the substantial power supply boards, dedicated to the DAC/pre-amp if fitted. But while the striking Kalista Dreamplay X (as it’s now known) was receiving most of the attention, the Metronome AQWO and Le DAC/Le Player product lines are also worthy of considerable attention. This is one digital space that’s definitely worth watching.

Meanwhile, CH Precision were doing a great job of demonstrating the versatility of their digital front-end, showing both the multi-format capabilities of the D1.5 and the benefits of the new C1.2, compared directly to its predecessor. Add in the T1 clock option and this was a demonstration of digital architecture with lessons for all, even those who don’t or don’t intend to own CH equipment. Given the enthusiastic public response, it would be nice to see more manufacturers following their lead.

Analogue Components

Whilst the Wilson Benesch GMT and Nagra 70th Anniversary Reference record players gain points for being present in person, for us, it was two other launches that stole our attention. Digital and amplification engineers Esoteric surprised us with a serious anniversary record player of their own. They might not have been running for as long as Nagra, but the Grandioso T1’s squat, compact dimensions manage to pack in a tonne (well, 45kgs) of heavy-hitting technology. The massive platter is magnetically suspended and driven by a variable torque, zero-contact, magnetic drive, while speed stability is derived from a 10MHz VCXO clock – which raises the entertaining prospect of owners hooking their turntable up to the same master clock as their digital components and Ethernet switch! This is definitely an intriguing package and, at €75,000 including a tonearm (exact choice as yet undecided, although the show player featured the elegant Ikeda arm) it undercuts many of the top-end contenders by a substantial amount.

But the turntable we’d most like to get our grubby mitts on is the Acoustical Systems Astellar. Tantalizingly, it was only present in the form of a computer -rendered image, but even just a picture and some sketchy details were enough to set the musical juices flowing. Another design built around a magnetically floated main bearing, the AS ‘table combines a double flywheel, belt drive with full air suspension that isolates the bearing/platter and armboards from the laminated base and motor level. Promising exceptional isolation and geometrical accuracy, the Astellar might be big and solid to look at, but its ‘table-top’ design is positively svelte compared to the monster Apolyt. Although no pricing or release date are available as yet, those searching for genuinely cutting-edge record replay will do well to keep an eye on developments –while also casing covetous glances in the direction of the latest, titanium, Axiom 12” tonearm.