High End 2024 – The Munich Show, the Trade and B2B


High End Munich 2024. Once again, one of best organized audio shows in the world, with a wide spectrum of very high-quality audio solutions presented, and an excellent business environment. All perfectly complements this international trade show, making it highly valuable for all. A true “marketplace” for the audio industry in the best sense of the term. These are my first impressions.

Just returned from four excellent days spent in Munich, Germany, attending what is undoubtedly one of best organized audio shows in the world. It’s easy to enjoy attending a show like High End, given the excellent location and facilities, and the organization’s level of support to exhibitors, attendees, and press, particularly those visiting from other countries; but above all, because of the wide spectrum of very high-quality audio solutions that are presented there.

I have written enthusiastically about this show in the past, and one thing I can note over the years and particularly since the pandemic, is that there is consistency where it matters and an evolution for the best, with a wider range of exhibitors reflecting both the finished product and the parts and services side of the consumer audio industry focusing on the highest quality of experiences (not just high fidelity but also consumer enjoyment of high quality sound).

How to attract the High End crowds in the first hours of the show. Promote the launch of the new Technics SL-1200M7B Special Edition Lamborghini Direct Drive Turntable System ($1,599), available in Yellow, Orange Green, in direct collaboration with Lamborghini.

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First hours of the show. The International Parts Supply (IPS) section of the High End show is the extension of the successful Munich show, focused specifically to OEM/ODM and service providers to the home audio and high-end segments of the audio industry.

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Part of the IPS and ALTI exhibits in the previous year, Weiss Engineering, the company led by Daniel Weiss since 1985, decided this year to exhibit integrated with the other High End exhibits. This way, it could both promote its OEM solutions for other manufacturers, but also showcase the company’s unique range of premium hifi products, including the new HELIOS flagship DAC and analog output stage using the company’s own-developed operational amplifiers: the OP2-BP. Also captivating attendees were the DAC501/DAC502 network players and the MAN301R Roon-based music streamer and music library manager.

One important note for those reading these words. The High End is a very specific trade show, clearly segmented in terms of the types of products presented here and that are expected by attendees. There’s a wide range of products displayed in the hifi, premium, and luxury audio categories, and even room for unusual product propositions in high-quality home audio. But this is not a show that is friendly to mass market categories such as soundbars, affordable home theaters, or portable wireless speakers. Also, the High End has expanded positively to become a great showcase for headphones and in-ears in the premium category of personal audio. Not a show for mainstream TWS earbuds and hearables.

Any company with solutions and technologies for home audio and premium audio segments – including automotive – will find receptive attendees and will do business. Not the others, unfortunately. Mass market audio products have a natural home at the IFA Berlin, and that’s where all the companies offering technologies for hearables should plan to exhibit. There’s plenty of space and specific audio and B2B zones, and the show is also very well organized. No need to stay in hotel suites. And there’s plenty of distributors and channel partners that specifically target IFA to renew their portfolio/inventory.

Main exhibition hall during the first day of the High End show in Munich. Given that the first two days are for trade only, this was clearly a well-attended event. Finished product exhibitors we talked with confirmed those two first days alone were worth the effort.

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The Headphones special exhibition area in Hall 1 of the High End was the best ever, with a strong representation of top brands and several new products premiering at the show. Close to the IPS B2B area, the World Of Headphones is a central location for business, and attractive for younger visitors over the duration of the show. 

The B2B Zone

My impressions of the 2022 edition of High End – the first post-pandemic – can be checked here. I recommend revisiting it because it identified most of the trends confirmed this year. As I noted then, my words of praise for the event don’t reflect any particular preference for the specific market segment that the High End Munich show addresses. It’s just the realization that a trade show can be so well organized that it becomes not only relevant but essential for anyone doing business in this space. A true “marketplace” for the audio industry in the best sense of the term, that even the online retailers – traditionally considered a menace to the relevancy of in-person industry events (see Musikmesse and Prolight+Sound) – feel motivated to attend to stay in touch with the market trends.

Reklama

Also as noted in that 2022 report, the High End Society (the promoters of the High End show), have expanded the concept with a business-to-business (B2B) area, in direct response to the needs of some of its exhibitors. That area is called International Parts + Supply (IPS), and included in that B2B expansion of the High End show is also the participation of the Audio & Loudspeaker Technologies International (ALTI) Association, which promotes the concept specifically for key technology and OEM/ODM suppliers, which are its members.

The IPS concept resulted reasonably well in 2022, except for the fact that was just open in the first two days and then closed, leaving an ugly wall in the middle of the show. The IPS area expanded in 2023, with great success and a new approach, remaining open the four days. The B2B concept perfectly complements the international audio show and helps make the event even more valuable for all exhibitors and international visitors. A great way to expand the business opportunities while there and a great formula that many other trade shows should take notice. After all, the companies exhibiting also benefit from meeting directly with existing and new suppliers, and that certainly increases the ROI, by bringing together manufacturers, their suppliers, and service providers.

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The Atriums of the MOC are a showcase of some of the best brands in hifi and home audio, in most cases directly supported by their German distributors, and with meetings booths available for brands to meet their channel partners. A unique environment that makes the High End show one of the best in the world. Surrounding the two main Atriums are all the listening rooms.

 

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The corridors to the listening rooms during the High End show. Also, a meeting point for the industry, with natural light inspiring productive conversations.

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Some of the larger rooms of the High End show are impressive displays for high-end brands to captivate retailers, distributors, and attendees. For Colorado-based, loudspeaker manufacturer YG Acoustics, the Munich show enables a completely different level of engagement than what is possible at domestic US audio shows. Demonstrations are also complemented by some of the best electronics, including the flagship Weiss HELIOS as the main source for the demo system in conjunction with the new flagship XV 3 Signature speakers and Boulder 3000 series amplification.

Growing Pains

In a certain way, this year’s edition the IPS part was already a victim of the tremendous success that is the High End show itself – now that it returns to its pre-pandemic size. For one, the B2B area – with 20 listed exhibitors – is being squashed into a corner under pressure from the strong demand from more exhibitors. I always predicted this would happen. Before the pandemic, the High End show was already using every square meter/foot of the MOC Event Center, which unfortunately lacks an expansion area. One another aspect, there are always so many new exhibitors and so many things to see at this show, that basically many suppliers who typically would benefit from a focused audience in the B2B space, don’t mind being elsewhere in the lower four halls of the show, since the attendance will not be restricted in any way. This happened, and we found many “IPS exhibitors” from last year, now with booths elsewhere. It’s not a very big area, and it works fine to be anywhere.

Except for the companies in the ALTI Pavilion, which are a bit more specialized, don’t necessarily need a large booth, and are more interested in a space to have private business meetings and being hosted and supported by the trade association. This year, ALTI even tried to promote some talks and presentations in its own booth – with scheduled talks by SciEngineer, Kartesian, Composite Sound, Danville Signal Processing, Alango, and others. It didn’t work. Everyone is focused on doing business and seeing everyone else, with education or knowledge being less of a priority at the show (the Audio Engineering Society should take notice).

The High End is an “internationally renowned audio trade show,” and “the undisputed leader when it comes to impressively setting the tone for top-class music reproduction.” I purposely quoted the descriptions used by the organizer in its promotion, because they are accurate and reflect our impressions every year. It’s also true that, during four days in May, “the entire world of audio experts and professionals” gathers in Munich “to visit hundreds of exhibitors from more than 40 different countries as they showcase their latest innovations in the halls and atriums of the MOC Event Center.”

SciEngineer booth, representing COMSOL at the International Parts Supply section of High End, as part of the ALTI Association Pavilion. Arpad Forberger, senior application engineer and COMSOL Multiphysics expert, together with Bence Takacs, also experienced with COMSOL, finite element analysis and materials, were available to explain how to take audio R&D to another level.

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Glass Acoustic Innovations Technology Co., Ltd. (GAIT) was again a great presence at High End, as part of the IPS exhibits. With a demo room that captives unsuspecting professionals and attendees with the unique properties and great sound of glass diaphragm speakers, GAIT offers a comprehensive product line of drivers, from flat thin transducers, all the way to transparent speakers for consumer designs. This year, GAIT unveiled its 35um glass diaphragm innovation, a solution now available for tweeters, earphones, and headphones. These ultra-thin, glass diaphragms offer enhanced durability while achieving exceptional audio quality through a better frequency response and higher SPL. Manufacturers looking for innovative drivers for earphones and earbuds will want to try the available solutions from GAIT.

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The companies that most benefit from the IPS section of B2B have been at this show for many years. That includes Schmid Frontplatten GmbH, a manufacturer of front panels, milled parts, assemblies, and complete chassis doing business under the High-End-Alufaktur brand, specializing in the high-end segment. Also offering contract manufacturing made in Germany.

According to the preliminary numbers offered by the High End Society, the 2024 show was back to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, even exceeding the number of brands involved at the show – given that the space here is so limited, increasingly more brands share the same rooms and booths. For 2024, the organization reported 11,237 trade visitors and 22,198 visitors in total – which indicates the growing importance of professional attendees at the event. Also, press attention has increased with 588 media representatives registered – for the good and the bad. We’ve never seen so many video shoots at this show – and ridiculous to see rooms locked up while a lone camera inside is recording a listening session with a built-in microphone. Manufacturers need to call this for the ridiculousness of what it is. No, no one can appreciate “how your speakers sound” in a YouTube video recorded with a built-in electret microphone! This needs to stop.

Every space available at the MOC was taken by exhibitors – in that respect, the show was as big as before. And many companies continue to exhibit also at the concurrent Marriot “luxury audio” showcase, while many this year have finally discovered the spaces available at the Motorworld complex, across the street. I confess, with the IPS B2B area of the show now requiring direct engagement from audioXpress, we didn’t have the time to leave the MOC this year, and I only visited the listening rooms upstairs in the last two days (open to the public).

My main impression from this year’s High End is that the show was better than ever. The right level of brands and products were all represented. Hardly any soundbars were seen here, the headphones exhibits were the strongest ever, with all major top end brands represented, and there was more diversity of international exhibitors, showcasing all kinds of fascinating speaker designs. There were also many reel-to-reel players/recorders and even companies selling pre-recorded tapes side by side with the usual records retailers. And of course, as the hallmark of high end currently, there were more turntables, tonearms, and cartridges than ever, at least in the exhibit halls. The demonstration booths and listening rooms upstairs was a different story, with digital sources everywhere. But that’s for next week. aX

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Another great example of a German consumer company using the High End show to successfully promote more affordable home audio concepts to a more demanding audience. Sonoro introduced the Meisterstück Gen.2 all-in-one system (1399 Euros), revised and modernized, and supporting all music sources and updated wireless connections, in a design made of high-quality materials.

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As expected, the Pure Acourate Sound Project attracted lots of attention with the demonstration room permanently full and making a very positive impression. The listening room on the show floor was a huge challenge that Ulrich Brüggemann, Markus Grelka, and Ralf Höllmann, in partnership with Purifi Audio, Okto Research, GIK Acoustics, Klippel, Roon, AudioVero, Rose Handwerk, and Joachim Gerhard have handled in the best way. The beginning of an interesting concept.

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Dynaudio was back in full force to High End 2024. Besides introducing four completely new products in its premium hifi range, the Danish brand also promoted its professional studio monitors and the latest projects for its automotive division. Available for listening was the unique SUV Yangwang U8, the new luxury brand from BYD, the leading Chinese manufacturer of electric vehicles or new energy vehicles (NEVs) as they call it. The SUV Yangwang U8 is also the first Dolby Atmos equipped car available commercially in China and a flagship project for Dynaudio. Only available in the Chinese market for now.

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Remora, the name of a new business venture and a new wireless audio hardware solution, officially launched at the 2024 High End show in Munich. This was a “safe way” to premiere the concept, the world’s first Ultra-Wideband (UWB) transmitter and receiver solution for the highest wireless audio quality available. A prototype USB-C dongle form factor was also introduced to demonstrate the world’s first Headphone 3.0 platform from Sonical. Click on the image to read the story.

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German lifestyle brand Loewe was the only one showcasing a soundbar at High End 2024 and it paid off. Its demo room was always full and the sound from mostly live concerts was impressive in the company’s klang soundbar, reinforced with wirelessly connected front and rear speakers, and subwoofer, all connected using DTS Play-Fi technology. Only a German company could pull this off at High End.

This article was originally published in The Audio Voice newsletter, (#469), May 16, 2024.



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