Magazine article Gramophone

Shakedowns and Some New Adventures: A Special Report from the Munich High End Show

Magazine article Gramophone

Shakedowns and Some New Adventures: A Special Report from the Munich High End Show

Article excerpt

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The annual High End Show, held in May in Munich, is always one of the year's best forums for those in audio to gather and put the world to rights. There are new products--lots of them--to view, familiar faces in new roles to discover, and lots of opportunity for discussion, the odd argument and of course gossip.

There was no shortage of new things to see at the show this year, from the likes of KEF's latest Reference series and the reinvented Devialet amplifier range --see page 113 for more on those--to a large number of new brands, helped no end by the show organisers' initiative of providing a 'newcomers' area. And stands ranged from small booths to the rather massive--Burmester had a Mercedes and two Porsches to show how strong it is in car audio--in a space expanded to accommodate some 450 brands across five exhibition areas.

We sat in wood-lined rooms rapidly turning into saunas under hot exhibition lights, and on everything from director's chairs to little foam cubes and upholstered L-shaped wedges, and heard products ranging from the tiny to the massive: Silbatone's huge vintage theatre horns were as always a real crowd-puller, while other extravagant speakers divided opinions, and smaller ones continued to surprise.

But most of the talk in the meeting areas around the exhibition wasn't to do with what was being shown but what was going on behind the scenes. At the time there were lots of 'whys' and 'hows' about reports Apple was in talks to buy headphone company Beats: the 'why' seemed to revolve around getting its hands on Beats' streaming services or boosting Apple's presence in 'wearable' technology or whatever; the 'how', given Apple's enormous cash reserves, was something along the lines of loose change found down the back of the sofa.

Also under discussion was the announcement that Focal & Naim, the company founded when French speakers and British electronics came together a little under three years ago, had new owners in the form of French-based investment company Naxicap Partners and private equity firm Aquasourca, and a new name--it's now Vervent Audio Group.

Since the announcement was made, reaction from enthusiasts and commentators has varied from 'this will assure future investment in R&D' to 'hell in a handcart, I tell 'ee--hell in a handcart! …

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