High End 2011

One fun aspect of the Munich show is the arrival of hardware from the now-free countries formerly shackled by Commie scum. Makers from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bosnia -- they need to be taken seriously, because they’re in a better position than now-respected Chinese manufacturers were, say, ten years ago, and look how that nation’s output has matured in the high end. The Eastern Europeans had and have access to Russian tubes, they were not as distanced from recent audio technology as mainland China, and they have the deepest understanding of Western music, especially classical at the highest level. Culturally, they embarrass the rest.

With that preamble, from Bulgaria come ST Innovators’ Icon stereo tube preamplifier (center, €7000) and stereo tube power amplifier (left, 100Wpc, €20,000). They possess handsome styling and excellent fit'n'finish, contain genuine Tango transformers, use titanium and granite in their construction, come supplied with a spare set of tubes, and provide a seven-year warranty. How’s that for confidence?

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