HIGH END 2023 Show Report
A year after Europe's biggest high-end audio show returned to the MOC exhibition center in Munich there was some question over whether it would remain as popular as it had been before the pandemic, as it turned out that question was answered on the first of the four days with a substantial turn out from exhibitors and visitors alike. Last year there were very few companies from the Far East at HIGH END 2023, as they returned in force with one brand, ESD, bringing the biggest system ever seen at the event and taking over the largest room.
If there was any clear theme at the show it was an absence of CD players, while this format retains a following among enthusiasts it was hard to find exhibitors using the silver disc to demonstrate their equipment. Record players and streamers have essentially taken over with a few hardy souls going the whole analogue hog with reel to reel, but even that seemed pretty thin on the ground. Among the organizations concentrating on streaming is Audio Group Denmark, which is an umbrella for four brands which are designed and built as a complete system solution.
Ansuz makes cables, supports, and a wide range of ancillaries while Aavik is the badge found on electronics which starts around the $5,000 mark and rise to $67,000 for the new SD-880 streamer/DAC. The latter is built into a copper and titanium case designed by Gryphon founder Flemming Rasmussen which uses Tesla coils to keep noise to a minimum and a non-switching continuum processing DAC to eradicate timing issues. It sounded very convincing alongside the C-880 preamplifier, P-880 power amplifier, and Børresen M6 loudspeakers ($550,000). Designed by Raidho founder Michael Børresen these use a serial crossover to ensure phase accuracy, more Tesla coils and even analog dither technology developed for Ansuz power products.
At the other end of the group's range is the newly introduced Axxess Forté brand whose electronics employ the noise-reducing tech developed for Ansuz in streamers, DACs, and amplifiers starting at $5,500. They were demonstrating the Forté 3 system alongside Børresen X3 speakers to a highly entertaining effect.
A smaller affair is organized by Kevin Scott who runs distributor Definitive Audio and makes Living Voice loudspeakers. He has brought substantial horn loudspeakers to High End in the past but took the opportunity to showcase the Living Voice R80 loudspeaker, a bigger brother to the Auditorium model that is the company's bread and butter. The R80 was one of only two speakers at Munich to use ScanSpeak Elipticore drivers, the other was the substantial Kaiser Kawero Grande. R80 has a pair of 8" Elipticore woofers in parallel and a 38mm Elipticore tweeter, with the crossover housed in a separate cabinet.
They had two turntables, a Grand Prix Monaco V3.0 with Kuzma 4P14 silver wired arm and Kuzma CAR 50 cartridge and a substantial Kuzma XL Air with Safir 9 arm and CAR 60 cartridge. The latter did the lion's share of playback and sounded superb playing everything from Mari Samuelsen to Felix Laband, with more than a smattering of weighty dub in between. Electronics consisted of SJS valve-powered phono stage, preamp, and single-ended 300B vacuum tube power with nanocrystal output transformers.