HIGH END Munich 2019
The iconic Munich Order Center, home for the High End Munich show for the past 16 years.
This was to be only my second visit to this sprawling, enormous show in Munich, the largest high-end audio show in the world. While my first visit had come in 2017, a massive project at my day job that forbade all members of the management team from taking any time away from our duties from mid-April (just after AXPONA 2018 in the USA) through June of 2018, had prevented my attendance last year.
When the opportunity arose for me to attend this year, I was going to make the most of it, even though my work and home schedule dictated that it would have to be a short trip. My plan was to cover the first three days of this four-day show, with the original plan being to arrive mid-morning in Munich on Thursday, which would give me half of Thursday, and all-day Friday and Saturday for coverage. My flight home was scheduled early enough on Mother's Day that I would have no time to spend at the show on Sunday at all. Yet as hurried and hectic as this trip had been expected to be to begin with, damn it if a flight scheduling snafu on my part didn't cause me to lose an entire day, preventing my arrival in Germany until late morning on Friday!
My plane landed at Flughafen München in Munich, the Bavarian capital and third most populous city in Germany, right on schedule at 9:30 AM Friday morning. I was through customs, got my checked bag, and was out of the airport by 10:15 AM, crossing the large outside courtyard (which was under a good deal of construction), to get to the S-Bahn train station. I intended catch an S8 train, which departed every 20 minutes, toward the heart of old Munich. My destination was the Hilton Munich City at RosenheimerPlatz.
The Hilton on Rosenheimer Straße
Well, when I got to the platform, half a dozen Police were herding everyone away from the S8 train platform toward the other side of the platform where the S1 train was waiting. I asked one of the officers if I should make alternate travel arrangements, and while he offered nothing to indicate what the nature of the holdup was, he assured me the delay should only be about ten more minutes.
Within that first ten minutes, considerably more police arrived on the scene, three brandishing assault weapons or machine guns strapped in place, over their shoulders and held at the ready. They all suddenly seemed very serious about something but would offer no explanation as to why they were so heavily armed. I even had three officers rush me when I tried to take a photo of the situation, insisting that I show them the photo cache on my phone to prove that I had not taken any photos of them.
Just as I was about to leave the platform and go hail an Uber, the S1 train switched its signs to S8, and the now very full platform of travelers boarded this train for the 25-minute ride into the center of the city.
A view of Rosenheimer Straße from the balcony of the Executive Lounge at the Munich City Hilton
Getting off at the Rosenheimer Straße station, I took the escalator up to the street level, and walked the final 120 meters or so to the Hilton. After checking in, a quick splash of water on my face, and reorganizing my back pack for show coverage, I headed back underground to catch an S8 on into Marienplatz, the heart of old Munich, where I would transfer to the north-bound U6 and make the 25-minute commute to the remarkable MOC Veranstaltungscenter München. So it was that just past 12:30 PM Friday I finally made my way into the press room and registered as a member of the press. I would have just about five hours left on Friday, and then eight hours Saturday (10 AM to 6 PM) to try to cover this monstrous event. Oh well, as the late Warren Zevon would say, I'll sleep when I'm dead!
The Neis Rathaus, or New Town Hall, in the center of old Munich's Marienplatz Friday night.
Just for the record, while I still have no idea what triggered the intervention of the armed and assault-ready police on the S8 platform at the airport, this was the last time I was able to catch an S8 the entire weekend. The concierge at the Hilton later informed me it would be out of service for the next 10 days.
Let The HIGH END 2019 Games Begin
"The HIGH END" is the oldest show in Europe, and this year, 2019, marked the 16th time that the event has been held at the MOC (the Munich Order Center) in Munich.
A view of the exterior of Hall 2 of the four hall Munich Order Center
Built in the early 1990's on behalf of Messe München International and designed by architect Helmut Jahn, the center hosts some 120 events annually. Just a 25-minute train ride heading north from the heart of old Munich, at Marien-platz, and coincidentally, just one stop south of Allianz Stadium, the MOC is an enormous campus of four glass and steel halls. Hall's One and Two are single story buildings, Hall three has two stories, and Hall Four has three. Halls 3 and 4 each offer a 30' tall atrium, with the entire complex have some 1500 underground parking spaces. In total, there is over 325,000 square feet of exhibit space!
Integral to the design are the many, many individual "rooms," which are adjustable "cabins." Each space has relatively thin, slightly flexible, movable panels for each side wall that can be quickly moved to expand or contract to the desired sized space, while the front and rear walls are mostly glass. This is clearly a case of what may be good and convenient for one event, say the textile trade fair "Munich Fabric Start," the shoe making "Moda made in Italy," or other conferences and company events, may prove nightmarish for an audio demo room.
Looking down in the atrium area of MOC Hall 3
Think about it; you have a glass wall front and back, highly reflective and necessitating some form of treatment. Then there are the flimsy side walls, which both allow your neighbors demo to impose on yours, as well as preventing any solid bass enforcement. You must hand it to the exhibitors who somehow manage to pull off even decent, let alone good, sound in a room at this venue.
This year saw 2018's record breaking performance shattered yet again, with a total of 551 exhibitors, representing a nearly 4% increase over last year's 530, who traveled from 42 nations! And, attendance was up by nearly 1300 visitors, or about 6%, with 21,180 people compared to last year's attendance of 19,899. This included some 8,208 trade visitors (up from 7,557 in 2018) from throughout the world.
Finally, the press center accredited 508 media representatives from 37 different countries for the four-day event, of which more than half of the journalists (61%) covering this gala, myself included, came from abroad. Yeah, and I was complaining about how big AXPONA 2019 has become this year! While there may be no way to really capture the scope and drama of this event, there is an interesting event trailer here as seen below.
But enough history; let me share just a little of the excitement with you now... just keep in mind I was one journalist, speaking only English, covering an event that utilized every square inch of the over 325,000 square foot facility. On top of that, and with only 13 hours to work with, I suffered a camera malfunction mid-morning Saturday. My Nikon shutter speed seemed stuck at about 1/15 or 1/20 of a second no matter what mode or how I reset it. It was sent off to Nikon Service the Wednesday after I arrived home. You'll have to forgive me the missed opportunities, mistaken or unknown equipment model numbers, and/or uncollected pricing.