Munich High End 2012.2

Schopper & Swissonor
The most distracting room at the show was that inhabited by two Swiss companies, Thorens turntable restoration specialist Juerg Schopper and valve and horn monger Swissonor. Their weapon was that rare commodity, at hi-fi shows at least, great music. Schopper has some white label pressings of classic albums, including JJ Cale’s Naturally and ZZ Top’s Fandango, the first one caught my ear, the second broke my heart. Billy Gibbons is the king of tone and his Blue Jean Blues is a work of art. Combine this with a ’59 TD 124 running an SPU through push-pull tubes and high efficiency speakers and you have a sound to die for.

Aurender W10 Reference
I have been getting pretty special results with an Aurender S10 digital transport/music server for a month or so now so it was intrigueing to come across a ‘bigger’ version called W10 Reference. This will be around $15,000 and has two AES/EBU outputs for DACs that support the dual cable system from dCS, EMM Labs and Esoteric. Equally significant is a dedicated USB output rather than the dual function one on the S10. It also has a word-clock connection for those dedicated to the cause.
Equally appealing to the purist is a forthcoming S10 with only a USB output. The standard S10 has a state of the art clock for its S/PDIF output so removing this connection will reduce the asking price for what is one of the best digital sources on the market. It will be fascinating to find out how good this can sound with a hardcore USB DAC.

Audioquest Dragonfly
Audioquest showed a basic uncased version of its Dragonfly DAC at CES back in January but had the finished product in action in Munich. This is a compact USB stick sized converter with a 3.5mm minijack output that’s designed to get better sound out of a PC. It’s probably the smallest complete DAC in existence and undoubtedly the smallest one with asynchronous operation. It was designed by asynch inventor Gordon Rankin and will retail for a price that AQ hopes will tempt the man in the street, or $240 to be precise. It operates at up to 96kHz to avoid the need for drivers on Windows PCs and has an onboard analogue volume control. It may have been made for regular Joes but could well be a distraction for us music lovers as well.

Original Resource is The Ear