Munich 2022

But there were even more affordable options available. The interesting Kora 400 integrated amplifier, with its novel hybrid circuitry, was delivering excellent results in the Diptych cabin, but the budget star of this show came from Aesthetix, whose Pallene pre-amplifier and Dione power amp combination look almost indistinguishable from the company’s pricier products, yet are priced at $6,500 USD each! For that you get an all-tube, balanced line-stage with a resistor ladder volume-control (and the option to add phono and/or DAC cards at $1,200 each). There’s even the option to upgrade the internal headphone amp. The hybrid power amp offers balanced and single-ended inputs and delivers 160W/ch 8Ω, 320W/ch into 4Ω from its substantial 20kg/44lb chassis. With the same fit, finish and operational niceties as other Aesthetix products, the sound from this pair was beautifully open, unforced and intimate. Aestetix has always been a high-value brand, but with these products they appear to have hit it out of the park. I can’t wait to get better acquainted with the Pallene and Dione…


The superb performance of the Göbel Divin Marquis came as no surprise, but the equally superb and superbly integrated contribution of the Divin Sovereign subs lifted the smallest (well, everything’s relative) Divin speakers onto a completely different level. Their facetted and tapered cabinets even managed to look elegant – and that’s no mean feat for what is basically one big driver in an even bigger box. The units at the show included built in electronics with blue-tooth DSP control from any phone or tablet (€44,000 each). However, what piqued my interest was the option to run the Sovereign as a passive sub, using the active cross-over that Göbel already produce for the Epoque Aeon series speakers. Being able to use identical amplification top and bottom in a sub-based system is a proven approach to superior performance and, judging from what we heard in Munich, that performance uplift could produce results that are spectacular indeed.

We’ve already mentioned the excellent results achieved by Diptych in their pre-fabricated cabin. The new Reference speaker (€44,000/pr) was making beautiful music on the end of a modest system consisting of a hard-drive, a B-audio DAC and the Kora 400 integrated amp. The sound had all the scale and presence we associated with the best planar magnetics, combined with real bandwidth, tuneful bass and superb coherence and integration. The novel crossed push-pull operation certainly seems to overcome many of the dynamic limitations of the planar magnetic topology, while maintaining the direct musical and communicative qualities that come from its inherent simplicity. Diptych’s smaller models are already garnering an impressive reputation, but the Reference has elevated performance significantly and the company has a new high-end contender on its hands. Lovers of panel speakers in general, be they ribbon, electrostatic or planar magnetic are going to find much to admire here, while this could be the first step towards the rehabilitation of those big panels that were once so dominant in certain markets but have recently faded from view. The Reference will be winging its way our way soon. I for one am looking forward to re-visiting my audio-youth!

And the misses!

With so many rooms failing to meet the challenge presented by the combination of the MOC rooms and the constant AC, there was no shortage of dreadful sound. Even so, certain trends did emerge. This isn’t a list of rank bad sound (although there’s a few examples in there): more a case of those products or product categories that failed to deliver on their promise…