Munich High-End 2024

Day 1 – VTL, SUPATRAC, DS Audio and Stenheim

By Roy Gregory

The biggest (or at least, the most important) hi-fi show in the world got off to a quiet start. Just how busy a show is can be deceptive, especially a show that spreads over four days. You never get the full picture until long after the dust has settled and the last pantechnicon has departed, but there was no denying that numbers seemed down on day one in Munich this year. Seats in rooms were readily available, navigating corridors was extremely easy – at least by normal standards. We’ll see how things develop…

Despite the low-key start, there was certainly no shortage of interesting products. In no particular order, here’s the pick of a first day curtailed by press conferences and other commitments.

VTL’s ‘Son Of Siegfried’ gets in touch with its inner Minion

One of the products I was most looking forward to hearing was the near final version of the VTL ‘Son of Siegfried’ seen and heard in prototype form last year. Unfortunately, the curse of the German customs struck again, and the company’s entire shipment (including electronics and cables) was impounded pending clarification – apparently over the presence of Russian tubes that are freely available in Germany! To add insult to injury, the shipment finally cleared, only to be forwarded to the German distributor – who was of course absent, in Munich! Sadly, such events seem to be increasingly common. On a brighter note, with help from the distributor and a number of other supporters, VTL was still able to show, while they also had a set of metalwork for the new amps that they’d hand-carried from the US. Shorter in both height and depth than the Siegfried/S400, the new amp also sports an MB-450 style front-facing ‘window’ through which the tubes can be viewed. It’s a handsome hybrid design that is both compact and attractive. Just don’t paint it yellow and blue…

The SUPATRAC Night Hawk – a Blackbird on steroids!


One of the most interesting products to appear in the last year or so, is the SUPATRAC Blackbird tonearm, a product that has even succeeded in bridging the divide betwixt Mikey and myself – which is no mean musical feat. Hot off the press, 3D printer, lathe and workbench in Munich was the prototype of a beefier and more substantial version. Major changes include a spacer between the twin rectangular ‘arm-tubes’ (think I-beam or even RSJ) that adds mass and significant stiffness to the arm, along with reinforcements where the arm-wand meats the cartridge and thrust box. There’s a more substantial pillar with a mounting collar to match, again adding stiffness, with significant refinements to the structural elements, counterweights and filament paths/anchors. The arm literally arrived at the last moment, so details are sketchy with many of the finer points awaiting refinement/finalisation.

Much of the extra time and effort that goes into the new arm is centred on the arm-wand itself, which is even more labour intensive to construct. That, combined with the fact Night Hawks will each be custom built to user selected length and geometry helps justify a significant price hike – although be reassured that the original Blackbird remains very much alive and singing. Expect the new arm to start at around £11,900 for a 9”, rising to £13,000 for the 12” – so it’s just as well that initial impressions of the arm mounted on a Grand Prix Parabolica were extremely impressive, with all the bounce, energy and get up and go of the Blackbird, but underpinned by significantly greater weight, scale and power. Separation and depth were both excellent, the Night Hawk achieving that golden balance of substance, life and clarity without ever feeling forced or spot-lit. Why Night Hawk? It continues the aeronautical theme – and if that doesn’t explain it, you probably need to top up on the nerdy pills.

DS Audio DS E3 optical cartridge and E3 Energiser