This Munich Hi Fi show … as someone who works within the industry it is inspiring. The diversity, quantity, and quality of material on display across the three floors and the four massive halls makes the CES Venetian in Las Vegas, or the Harrogate show in Yorkshire, or the Hong Kong exhibition, poor country cousins of the real thing.

One is led to the observation that the undoubted cultural centre of gravity of the world is now that middle of the (mostly) united Europe as epitomized by the city of Munich. This fantastic accretion at this show of highly refined technology around the reproduction of music is a natural expression of that concentration of art and history.

The U.K, America, Asia, Russia, India, China are the past and future in this scenario whilst Munich is the now writ large. The combination of European technical prowess with niche manufacturing capability and an educated and wealthy consumer base hungry for the experience of good music - something that is itself undoubtedly part of our own humanity - makes the Munich Hi Fi show an irresistible siren call to those who live in the industry and those who love its products.

Thus the Munich show has become mandatory for those who manufacture, distribute, and purvey to attend. The number of familiar Australian faces one meets stalking the corridors between meetings as they acquire, consolidate, or predate agency agreements is bemusing. Occasionally there was a moment of suspicion on their faces when we met as I saw them wondering wether I too might be a competitor for a particular manufacturers favours.

Frankly I doubt I have the Machiavellian prowess required to successfully negotiate the distribution minefield. Retail level betrayals are simple and immediate, a customer buys something that you sell from somewhere else. With Wholesale level betrayals a half hour flirtation can undo years of business building and commitment that counts for nought against the value of a prepaid container of consumer electronics.

That being said … there was one undisputed and clear king of the show that nobody who worked there even bothered commenting on as it has so much become the raw element of their environment as a fish to water … and that is of course Vinyl reproduction in all its aspects and permutations.

If anyone possessed lingering doubts that the revival of record players is simply a hipster fashion phenomena destined to the way of turned up trouser bottoms in the next season then an event displaying an industry so dedicated to the manufacture of the format will dispel those uncertainties.

That this overwhelming of the high end music source has happened apparently spontaneously only adds to the foundation that it has recreated in the everyday business of people playing music in their homes. No marketing trained MBAs have sat down and devised a business plan for vinyl to resurface so strongly. No grey suited Japanese technicians and 100 hour per week corporate creatures have dictated its rise.

As far as I can glean the rebirth of vinyl is almost entirely consumer driven. Indeed its worst enemy will be those corporate forces that will endeavour to hijack it as a medium to create a new profit centre for their ailing business models. They will fail.

Perhaps if Apple make a record player then the worm will truly have turned … it had better be a good one. Steve Jobs only played vinyl in his home, on a Michell Gyrodec I gather.

When it comes to digital reproduction CD was very present as the reliable and hygenic old friend for the demonstration of amplifiers and loudspeakers, though there was very little activity around new release CD Players. I found myself pillaging the occasional software stand for audiophile CDs but they were very second fiddle compared to the masses of quality new and old vinyl for sale. I ached to kill my credit card with DMP pressings but my hand was stayed by my fiscally sensible business partner and limited carriage capability.

Of the supposed new wave of digital music consumption that those soothsayers of the CE market have told us would rule:
Apple, Android, Windows Media, DAB+, Deezer, Pandora, Sonos, MP4, Hard Drive Music Storage.
Nobody gave a ducks bottom …
There was only one digital service that was quietly in evidence everywhere there was a free fall demonstration and on all the tablets chained to the headphone stands … and that was Tidal. If this is our digital future then that’s not that bad. No other format got a look in. Even Chord Electronics the maestro of digital were using Tidal as their stream to show off the performance of their range of D/A converters.

So if Vinyl is the absolute monarch of high end audio it would appear that Tidal has struggled up through the sticky morass of digital alternatives to sit at His table for now.

The thing I liked best in the whole show … :
In the far corner on the top floor of the furthest away part I came across a large bright day lit room … this was filled entirely on one wall by a 1933 Western Electric Horn system set up in stereo running off an 800 milliwatt amplifier (that is 0.8 watts per channel just to be clear).
They were playing contemporary vinyl and Cd through it.
It sounded fantastic. This eighty two year old transducer and amplification system is very much the equivalent in areas of acoustic performance with the most modern and beautiful of the swarm of high end alternatives in the show. For me it was like discovering that a 1930 Brough Superior motorcycle actually has riding performance parity with my Kawasaki ZX14. I was overwhelmed with fact of the pre war engineering being capable of such a good musical performance.
There are photos of this set up on our Facebook page at the end of the Munich Hi Fi Show Album.

There is a fundamental message in this.
Good Hi Fi is not just a gadget to show and tell to friends on the basis of shallow advertised consumer values. It is rather more kindred to acquiring an excellent musical instrument that should be fundamentally ageless and capable of a generational transition.
Enjoy the music.