500 companies. 40 different countries. Those are the bare exhibitor stats for Munich High-End 2022, due to take place on the 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd May at the Munich Ordercentre (M.O.C.). The first two days will be given over to trade visitors with general admission restricted to Saturday and Sunday.
This year’s event will be the first since 2019 for reasons that don’t need explaining. According to Stefan Dreischärf, Managing Director of the event’s organising company, the HIGH END SOCIETY Service GmbH, “People want to meet up ‘face-to-face’ again and can’t wait to finally experience products in person after being separated for so long, They haven’t just missed the business side of things but also, and in particular, the personal contact.” It’s a sentiment that jives with those expressed by the ten or so manufacturers I’ve spoken to over the past few weeks.
The ambassador for Munich High-End 2022 will be Pink Floyd engineer Alan Parsons who will likely be asked to qualify (or walk back) this well-worn quote: “Audiophiles don’t use their equipment to listen to your music. Audiophiles use your music to listen to their equipment.” A little Googling reveals that Parsons was, in fact, making a broader point about room acoustics being more important than audio gear (about which he isn’t wrong).
Aiming to keep the 2022 Munich High-End event as COVID-safe as possible, capacity will be lower than in years past with an “appropriate hygiene concept” running alongside “larger minimum sizes for exhibition stands, wider aisles and clearly marked routes through the halls.”
And this is where the rubber meets the road. Munich High-End 2022 won’t take place in a vacuum but in Germany; eight weeks from now. And Germany has yet to put its fourth COVID wave on a permanent downward trajectory. Yesterday, the Guardian’s headline read: “Germany hits record Covid infection rate since start of pandemic”. Over a quarter of a million cases had been reported in the preceding 24 hours and, according to the UK broadsheet, “the number of people on German intensive care wards with Covid is rising but the rate of people dying of the virus is considerably lower than during the 2020-21 winter wave.”
And yet with a heavy dose of double-think, Deutsche Welle this week reported that Germany is set to relax COVID restrictions in the coming days. The majority of COVID protection measures were due to expire on 20th March but this has been pushed back to 1st April when mask mandates for schools and shops will be dropped and proof of testing/vaccination will no longer be required when visiting a restaurant. Masks will still be required when travelling on public transport, visiting hospitals and nursing homes and on flights.
It seems the German government’s ‘endemic’ approach to COVID-19 in 2022 is banking on a mild spring that will push social activity outdoors to drive down new infections. This runs contrary to the more sober warnings coming from German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach this week: “It is a situation that I would like to describe as critical. We have a sharp increase in the number of cases. We cannot be satisfied with a situation in which between 200 and 250 people die every day. The situation is objectively much worse than the mood.”
Munich High-End 2022 attendance is – as always – a matter of personal choice.
And with no mask policy forthcoming from the HIGH-END SOCIETY for this year’s event, the issue of masking up (or not) inside the M.O.C. looks like it too will fall to personal choice.
What won’t be a matter of choice is mask-wearing. And those blue surgical masks won’t cut it. The High-End Society has confirmed that FFP2 masks must be worn inside the M.O.C., except for dining areas:
“To ensure their own protection and that of other participants in the trade show, we kindly ask all visitors to our shows to comply with the obligation to wear a medical mask in the entire exhibition area. At present, only FFP2 face masks are permitted. We will carry out continuous checks to ensure that face masks are being worn. When using dining facilities, visitors are not required to wear face masks as per the usual rules for such areas. In such cases, the officially stipulated minimum distancing rule must be observed.”
To get a better handle on public mood re. wearing a mask at a hi-fi show in 2022, I polled the (global) Darko.Audio YouTube audience. Almost 10,000 people responded. That’s just under half the number attending Munich High-End in 2019. These are the results:
Whatever we decide this year, Munich High-End’s standing as the world’s number one hi-fi show is rock solid. Tickets for trade and the general public will be available from the beginning of April but only from the High End Society’s online ticket shop.
Further information: High End Society