Munich High-End 2024

Or should that be, big-ass bass drivers? Not so long ago, speakers were reaching for the sky in an effort to cram enough small bass drivers onto a single baffle to actually move a convincing amount of air. Audiovector might have been getting all the attention for their ‘reinvention’ of their original Trapeze model, but this year big drivers in broad cabinets were definitely back. Even Scansonic (one of the most obvious members of the stick thin speaker movement) were showing their MB8, equipped with a pair of larger bass drivers to considerable affect. But almost everywhere you turned, the tall and shiny had transformed into the broad and squat – like the audio world has finally realised that C3PO is all show and no go, while R2D2 is where it’s really at. From traditional designs based on the Tannoy dual-concentric diaspora, through to single driver designs and the weird and wonderful (Boenicke – step forward and take a bow) there was no shortage of swept area on show. As someone who has always found that two 12” drivers struggle to deliver the same musical value and impact as a single 15”, things are moving in the right direction – even if there’s a way to go yet.

Big can be bad – and in some cases, truly awful…

You make eye-wateringly expensive product, you invest in the expensive exercise that is the Munich show, you are confronted by a room that measures 6m by 12m – why wouldn’t you take your biggest and most impressive equipment?

The simple answer is, that unless you are one of the very few people who really knows how to work with top-end systems and to do it in the limited timescale and hostile AC and RFI environment presented by the MOC exhibition centre, you are going to come badly unstuck – and in most cases, very badly indeed. Unlike Frankfurt, Munich has always been a show where great sounding rooms are as rare and valuable as white truffles, but this year, big systems hit an all-time low for sound quality, doing a better job of demonstrating the challenges of running a big rig than the advantages.

One of the reasons for that was that at least three of the rooms/companies you can generally rely on to show off big systems to superior musical affect were either opting to show a smaller set up or failing to meet expectations.

Göbel showed their smallest speaker yet from the Divin series, the three-way Comtesse, underpinned by a single Sovereign subwoofer. Look at the pictures and you might be misled into assuming this a two-way or two-and-a-half way design. Instead, in true Divin style, both the bass and midrange units use 8” diaphragms, maintaining midrange body and impact. The claimed 28Hz extension from the compact cabinet is naturally reflected in the 89dB sensitivity, while drive characteristics should be straightforward. Even so, Göbel paired serious solid-state muscle from Pilium with the Wadax Studio player and Kronos turntable to produce relaxed, open and convincing sound. Once again, this was one of the most enjoyable and convincing systems on show.