The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is the first trade show of the year, a huge event that is America’s opportunity to showcase new audio visual equipment as well as a plethora of new tech in every possible category of consumer electronics. Next on our calendar is the Bristol Hi-Fi Show in February, the UK’s largest hi-fi show and an unmissable chance to catch up with everyone and have a good listen to some new products (read our summary of Bristol 2017).
However, if you’re in Europe, the date everyone looks forward to is the Munich High End show. Indeed, many brands based in Europe and even from further afield choose Munich as the show of choice to release new products, because it is perhaps the largest show which is purely hi-fi focused – no white goods or other tech. This year is no different and 2017 is the most exciting year we’ve seen so far for new products. Here are our highlights from this years Munich show…
New KEF Q-Series loudspeaker range
KEF used Munich for one of the most exciting announcements of the show – a new Q-series speaker range! KEF announced sonic improvements all round with updates including a tweaked Uni-Q driver design, upgraded crossovers and improved cabinet designs.
The famous Uni-Q drivers now include the addition of a damped tweeter loading tube. This gives a gentle stop to sound created by the back of the tweeter which improves lower treble performance and allows the higher treble performance of the driver to sing with even greater clarity.
Crossovers now feature new low distortion inductors for cleaner bass performance. In addition, the LF drivers have larger roll surrounds and improved driver suspension to deliver more controlled and more impressive bass performance that allows them to faithfully reproduce the subtleties of powerful bass instruments.
The new Q series range features two new bookshelf models Q150 and Q350 and like the KEF LS50 and the KEF R100 models, the uni-Q driver array has been moved to the centre of the cabinet to reduce cabinet borne resonances. The range also features three new floorstanders: Q550, Q750 and Q950 along with a matching Q650c centre speaker.
We expect prices to range from around £400 to around £1400 for the flagship floorstander and they’ll be available in beautiful new satin black or satin white finishes.
Audiolab M-DAC Mini
We didn’t see this one coming but we’re certainly delighted to see Audiolab have decided to “shrink” their multi award winning M-DAC into a portable design. Given how popular other portable DAC/headphone amps have been over the last 12 months, this is a natural progression for the Audiolab range and we expect the M-DAC Mini to be just as popular, especially as it’ll be only half the price of an M-DAC at £299
M-DAC Mini is battery powered making it portable but also giving it a clean DC power supply (which audiophiles naturally love as there is less chance of distortions that can occur from AC powered equipment from the “junk in junk out” principle of power having travelled many miles to reach your house and ultimately your hifi, although this can be sorted with suitable mains filters – or in the case of switched mode power supplies is less of an issue, but we digress).
Inputs include aynchronous USB and USB mini as well as digital optical and coaxial and both RCA and 6.3mm outputs. Naturally then its not quite as portable as some models that only feature 3.5mm headphone jacks and mini USB connections, but this is basically proper hi-fi in a portable format and its still lightweight and very portable in size.
M-DAC Mini now fits into the Audiolab family as the baby brother of the M-DAC, which itself sits below the upgraded M-DAC+ that was deleased last year. Thankfully it features the same DAC design from the M-DAC and can handle the latest high res audio formats including DSD64, DSD128, DSD256 and OCM formats upto 32-bit/384kHz, in addition of course to the latest FLAC and other high res formats.
Wharfedale Diamond 11 Range
Wharfedale have launched their 11 speaker range and returned to the naming convention that puts these ahead of the 10 range (despite the Diamond 200 range that came after the Diamond 10 range that will continue for the time being).
As you would expect given Wharfedale’s naming conventions, the new 11 range includes several bookshelf models 11.0, 11.1 and 11.2, along with several floorstanders 11.3, 11.4 and 11.5 (and centre speakers 11.CS and 11.CC to make up 5.1 and 7.1 speaker packs).
As one of our best sellers is our exclusive UK deal on Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 speakers, we’re very excited to hear what Wharfedale have done with the new Diamond 11.1 (although they will of course be more expensive, we expect around £269 TBC). Diamond 11 range features all new drivers with a ribbed design that should deliver sound with exceptional clarity. In contrast to the Diamond 200 range, Wharfedale have also returned to the curved cabinet design that was so popular with the Diamond 9 and Diamond 10 range. This shape naturally acts to reduce internal vibrations that can result in a boxy sound (no pun intended).
Like the Diamond 200 range, they will be available in black, rosewood, walnut or white when they launch in several weeks time. In the meantime, you can get a fantastic deal on the current range of Diamond 200 range speakers.
Naim’s new Uniti range
Naim used Munich to showcase its new and very soon to be released new Uniti hi-fi range. Hotly anticipated since it was first announced several months prior, we expect the new range to arrive now within weeks. We were invited by Naim to listen to the full range very shortly after it was first announced and as you would expect, these will be class leading one box hi-fi systems when they are released. You can read much more about the new range in our Naim Uniti blog.
Focal New Utopia III Evo ramge
Focal used this year’s Munich show to launch their new “Evo III” upgraded range of Utopia flagship speakers, starting with new versions of Scala and Maestro, named “Scala III Evo” and “Masetro III Evo”. pgrades include Neutroal Inductance Circuit (NIC) and TMD suspension technologies that are designed to offer even smoother midrange and reduce distortions, respectively. As well as existing gloss black and gloss white finishes, Focal have introduced new “British Racing Green” and “Metallic Blue” finishes that look stunning.
In addition, Focal have added bi amplification connectivity. Surprisingly, even at this level, prior Utopia models (like existing Electra and lower ranges) were single wire, and although we’ve always advocated choosing a speaker based on sound and quality first, rather than whether its single, bi- or tri-wirable, this is a welcome update to these models – especially for listeners who want to run separate monobloks, which is more common for higher end loudspeakers like these.
Primare I15, I35 and CD35 New Hi-Fi Separates
The new Primare I15 and Primare I35 are set to replace the I21 and I32 amplifiers respectively, with the new Primare CD35 CD Player set to replace the matching CD32. So popular were the outgoing models that this is the first update to these in several years and Primare hasn’t made this decision lightly or in a rush, making sure the new models are as polished as possible, and we expect them to be class leaders.
All three models feature Primare’s new multi room app called Prisma. The I35 amplifier boasts 150W at 8 ohms, a fully balanced design like the I32, but now with an on board DAC that supports PCM 768kHz and DSD 128 high res music formats. The CD35 also supports these high res formats with a brand new onboard DAC and what should be reference level direct CD playback.
The I15 is the baby brother amplifier and features 75W into 8 ohms with the same support for high res files with its on board DAC and we expect this to be a new hi-fi amplifier to beat around the £1000 mark when it comes out.
Audio Technica Flagship Phono Cartridge
Audio Technica used Munich 2017 to launch their flagship moving coil (MC) phono cartridge, the AT-ART1000, a £4450 celebration of Audio Technica’s 50 years experience in making cartridges. Hand crafted in Japan, this new model takes inspiration from the 1986 MC-L1000 Victor cartridge, but is an entirely new model. Engineers were given a brief to develop a cutting edge direct power system. This design situates the moving coil directly on top of the diamond-tip stylus, minimising interference. Audio Technica says this also allows it to bring out the most nuanced of details from even the most complicated of vinyl record grooves.
Presented in a wooden presentation box this is a truly high end cartridge worthy of a place on any fine turntable. In addition, as one of the biggest concerns with high end moving coils is always that one slip could reduce the cartridge to nothing (as the stylus is of course not replaceable like on a moving magnet MM design), Audio Technica are offering a rebuild program. This will allow customers to arrange replacment of the stylus, cantilever and coil assembly should this be required in future. In the meantime, you can view the current full range of Audio Technica cartridges (including the latest VM models).
Thorens New 900 Turntable range
Thorens have announced three new models, the TD903, TD905 and TD907. This new range pays homage to the legendary Thorens TD150 and TD160 turntables from the 1960s and 1970s but utilises the latest technological advancements, including a reinterpretation of the sub-chassis turntable design, developed from the ground up.
Sound quality was the number one objective, but the next highest consideration given to user friendliness and future upgradability, should this be desired. The sub-chassis of these new turntable models is made of triCom, an aluminium/POM composite that has very good damping and is also very stiff, and to reduce vibrations, the synchronous AC motor is mounted onto the damped sub-chassis directly. Similar to a Linn LP12, the sub-chassis is suspended by three conical springs which can be adjusted to achieve uniform tension.
These new models can each accomodate 9″ and 10″ tonearms, although Thorens would recommend using their matching TP-92 tonearm (as pictured). They also include both RCA and XLR outputs for connection to a range of phono stages.
Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless Earphones
Beyerdynamic used Munich as the opportunity to launch a wireless version of what has been called the words most expensive earphones, the Xelento Wireless. Expected around July for around £900, they feature the same Tesla technology featured in Beyerdynamic’s highly regarded T1 Mk2 headphones and the latest Bluetooth aptX HD technology for best possible wireless sound quality.
In contrast to other Bluetooth earphones that feature a neckband design (like the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless), the Xelento features a cylinder section that contains the bluetooth receiver and batteries. This also features a 3.5mm audio input as a way to connect these to non Bluetooth source, giving you best of both worlds.
Many of these items will be available very soon. In the meantime, you can view currently available new hi-fi on our website.