On a personal note, the TechDAS Airforce III Premium S that was provided for our Formats and EQ Curves presentations in the CH Precision room proved to be a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable performer. Paired with two of the excellent Thales Statement tonearms, along with cartridges from TechDAS and EMT (for mono replay) it was a stable, unfussy and un-intrusive player – in the best sense of those terms. Beautifully simple to use, even allowing for the vacuum hold-down, it was as musically inviting, it was utterly dependable and consistent, making for reliable demonstration of what some would suggest are subtle or non-existent differences. Whether it was the musical impact of the correct replay EQ on a 1970s Decca pressing, or the lamentable quality of ERC’s recent, ruinously expensive release of Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, listeners were left shocked by the obvious, smack-you-in-the-face significance of the differences being shown – sure testament to the qualities of the record player being used. I particularly enjoyed the listener who was reduced to helpless laughter on first hearing Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ replayed with the Columbia curve: who knew that old Bob really could sing?
Although there were plenty of high-priced heavy hitters when it came to amplification in Munich, many were also familiar. The CH Precision 10 Series were belying claims that they don’t ‘do’ bass, by not only controlling the Rockport Lyras but generating plenty of transparent, tuneful and informative low-frequency energy – all from 1% of global feedback. VTL’s Siegfrieds were on hand, as were new, more affordable (although just how affordable remains a mystery) Relentless models from D’Agostino. But the amps that really caught our ear were the Greek TLA (True Life Audio) models, driving the Divin Marquis speakers in the Göbel room. The SSP-1/PSU-1 line-stage and SSA-350 mono-blocs contributed mightily to the relaxed fluidity and responsive dynamics that made this system so enjoyable.Although a long way fro affordable, these electronics were invisible in the best sense, and they’ve gone straight to the top of my Would Like To Review list.
But whereas many of the products and systems I’m high-lighting here seriously expensive, amplification was one area in which serious performance was to be had at far more approachable prices. Living Voice was running the latest Auditorium OBX RW4 compact floor-standers. Those expecting to see (and hear) the Vox speakers were beguiled by sound that was both delightful and extremely engaging and, while the Kuzma R/Safir and Grand Prix Monaco/4Point14 front-ends (with CAR-60 and CAR-50 cartridges respectively) were obviously playing their part, don’t overlook the contribution of the SJS electronics. In typical LV fashion (although SJS is an independent company), these bespoke boxes are available in a range of different specifications and performance levels, despite being outwardly identical. At the show, they were playing the top of the line Model 7 Premier Silver line-stage (£29,000) and Model 5 Enhanced 300B power amp (£20,000), but those products start at around £6,000 and £15,000 respectively. The Model 7 Enhanced line-stage (c. £8,500) is genuinely remarkable, while the power amp has to be one of the most elegant pieces I’ve ever seen. Hand-built, limited production products like these are never going to be available off the shelf, but the wait will be more than worthwhile.