Welcome to Munich High End 2022

Finally, after three dark years of COVID-related cancellations and postponements, one of audiophilia’s biggest and most important shows, Munich High End 2022, took place on Thursday–Sunday, May 19–22, at the city’s huge MOC.

As luck would have it, Julie Mullins, Michael Fremer, and this writer all ended up staying at the Innside Hotel in Munich’s shiny new tech center (above). Our proximity was fortuitous because we soon discovered that the show had discontinued free shuttle buses. Armed with iPhones and credit cards, we found it easy to hail cabs and Ubers and transport our band of the three to the MOC. Sorry for the extra expense, dear editor.

When we arrived at show central, we discovered that instead of the customary opening press and industry day, there were two press/industry days and two for the public. That made our work easier. From what I saw on Saturday, the day before I left Munich at an ungodly early hour, COVID seemed to have taken its toll on attendance from press and public alike. Rooms and halls seemed noticeably less congested than in years past. One reason is that many Asian members of our industry were unable to attend due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Although many Americans approached the show with caution, knowing that if we tested positive on the obligatory, within 24 hours of departure PCR test, we would be forced to quarantine in Munich for 10 days, most people were in high spirits. Indeed, we were all so happy to see each other that getting from point A to point B was far more difficult than usual.

The territory was vast. On the ground floor were four large, interconnected Expo halls, each filled with exhibitor booths. Only a limited number were enclosed and suitable for listening. The second floor brought two huge open areas surrounded on three sides by glass-enclosed exhibition areas, and four hallways lined on both sides with exhibit rooms. More hallways with more of the same awaited on the third floor. And there were a few multi-room exhibits elsewhere in the sprawling facility.

No one can possibly recount the number of elated hellos, handshakes, and hugs that were exchanged as we attempted to climb the stairs between floors and make our way from one place to the other. When we finally made it to our intended destinations, exhibitors were so delighted to see Stereophile again that fast ins and outs were impossible. Between that and the obligatory press conferences, coverage went far slower than ideal. At least from my perspective.

Post-show evenings in Munich were another matter entirely. Because of all the individual and group dinners that filled our evenings, and all the jet lag that has plagued us since, our reports are appearing after the show.

During show hours, spirits were so high and equipment premiers so numerous that it was fairly easy to overlook the sonic limitations of rooms with soundproofed ceilings, glass walls—some had both front and rear covered in glass—pitched ceilings bisected by bass-defeating support beams, and porous walls. If our reports say less than usual about sound quality, it’s because it was frequently impossible to accurately assess what equipment can deliver in dedicated listening rooms. For that, we promise 12 issues filled with reviews of all manner of new components and accessories.

And now, on with the show.

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