High End 2014 Show Report

High End Munich has grown to be one of the largest high end audio shows world wide. Illusonic being a small and new player in high end audio, focuses at this point mostly on this world-relevant show, plus a few other local smaller Swiss shows.

Illusonic’s traditional business is to invent & develop breakthrough audio technologies, and to license these to pro-audio and consumer electronics companies. Additionally, Illusonic develops specific technologies for customers, in areas such as international standardisation (MPEG, ITU) and consumer electronics (speakerphones, smartphones, tablets, TVs, cams, etc.).

Starting in 2010, High End Audio has been an ambitious new venture for Illusonic. Illusonic Audio Processors are Innovative first-grade audiophile hardware, coupled with Illusonic’s audio/acoustic/signal processing know how.

We were busy two full days, to set up our room. We were one of the earliest to start and latest to finish. We did not come with a detailed master plan, but improvised on site to optimise our room. For example, we purchased in Munich many lights to optimise lighting in our room. Yes, we have to become more efficient. But the longer we go on, the more we’ll have the experience and a pre-defined setup.

Like last year, we took sound quality very seriously. Again, we have treated our 65 square meter room modestly with absorbers, diffusers, and curtains from mb akustik. Renown sound engineer Patrik Schwitter, from Sunhill Project Studio, was again with us in Munich this year. On the picture above you see him tweaking the room equalization. As opposed to four hours last year, it took him only twenty minutes this year, thanks to pre-calibration with our new room equalization software.

The effect of room equalization was striking. Thus, besides the center channel demo, we had a second equally impressive demo! Once used to room equalization, switching it off made you feel like something was wrong. Not only in the sweet spot, everywhere.

Well deserved dinner after two long days before the show. Christophe, Markus, me (Christof), Renata, Patrik, and Corentin (from left to right).

On the show’s first day, we were ready with our 3-channel high end system, comprising of our new IAP 4 processor connected to:

– Soulution power amps

– Raidho loudspeakers

– Vovox cables

– Dr. Feickert turntable

– mbakustik panels

Thanks to these generous companies for providing their unique equipment to Illusonic for the show!

Note that the turntable is directly connected to IAP 4’s digital phono stage. An Oppo universal player delivered LPCM signals to IAP via HDMI. The amplifiers directly connected to IAP4’s analog outputs.

The new IAP 2 and IAP 4 processors were on display.

We did not forget the venerable IAP 16, still by far the most flexible AV-Processor on the market. It was demonstrated with our setup and room equalization softwares. These softwares and also room equalization got much more traction than what we had expected.

The first people arriving. Most of the time, we played a high quality music selection on 3 CDs, selected by Patrik Schwitter. As people wished, we could switch in real-time between:

– A: 3-channel presentation of stereo music (sound stage precision, large sweet spot)

– B: stereo music

– C: stereo music with room equalization off

In both cases, when switching from A to B, or B to C, people would often laugh visibly. This was an unambiguous sign that they heard the benefits of center channel and room equalization.

By comments from various people, we again had one of the best sounding rooms at the show! It has been worth the huge effort we had put into organisation and setup of the room. On the morning of the second show day, a journalist said: “The first time I am hearing music here at the show!”.

In the following, a few pictures from our equipment contributing partners (order by length of collaboration):

Soulution are famous for their beautifully set up and great sounding room at High End. Probably the show’s best sounding room. This year, they demonstrated their great amplifiers (and digital players and pre-amplifiers) with Magico loudspeakers and Critical Mass Systems racks. There was also no lack of a selection of Swiss chocolate.

Jürg Vogt from Vovox cables has again been a great supporter this year, providing complete custom cabling of our demo room.

It was an honor (thanks Chris Feickert!) to demonstrate our digital phono stage with one of the best turntables around: Dr. Feickert

Above you see the three absorber panels, one of two diffuser panels, and one of four curtains we installed to treat our room acoustically. Thanks to mb akustik and Home Acoustics Group for their advise and for contributing these acoustic elements!

After showing a massive 5.1 audio system with Focal loudspeakers last year, we wanted to show a lean system this year. Our new processors are compact digital preamplifiers, enabling the use of less equipment (IAPs are DAC, preamplifier, processor, equalizer in one device). This motivated us to show a lean system with small but good loudspeakers.

We wanted to be sure that we’d have a (small) loudspeaker adequate for the great Soulution 501 amplifiers we used. To be sure, I asked Cyrill Hammer from Soulution for advise. Our wish then was Rhaido C1.1. Thanks Raidho and Lars Krisitan Kristensen for your trust and generosity!

It was a busy week!

What I know now is: we have great first-grade sound quality. Be it IAP’s digital phono stage or DACs. After a decade of hard work, we got the center channel from stereo so well that it is almost universally well received. Same for room equalization, did not get a single critique – but many laughs when we switched it off.

We are one step further, in showing audiophiles that high end can be improved beyond the conventional. Indeed, the weakest link in a high end system at home is usually the room acoustic. It is a shame, without worrying about the room, first-grade equipment does not sound nearly as well as it could.