Edward Hsu from Sound Galleries invitation to the BMW Welt was intriguing. I didn’t really now what to expect, but the level of exclusivity and dedication with the organization of the event pointed toward something very special and of different level then usual expected from most high-end audio brands.
Location, catering, bus etc. and everything surrounding the event pointed to the revealing of the product in the upper echelon pricing league. It was a great surprise to learn actual price of Sound Galleries SGM 2015 music server - 16.000 EUR.
Sound Galleries SGM 2015 music server
Taiko KODO Monoblock Power Amplifiers
SABLON Audio cables
Vivid Audio Giya speakers
System consisted of Taiko KODO Monoblock Power Amplifiers, that are optimized for the newest generation of DAC’s. KODO’s were designed from ground up to act as the ultimate audiophile performance Class D power Amplifiers. They’re based on the Hypex Ncore NC500 amplifier module and SMPS 1200 power supply and optimized to be used without a preamplifier, e.g. driven directly from a DAC which has a well implemented built-in digital or analogue volume control.
KODO’s feature true differential DC coupled input module with high common-mode impedance as well as audiophile class component selection, 0.1% tolerance parts used where possible high quality circuit board with solid 130 uM circuit traces.
SGM audio playback software is special HQ Player capable of of PCM to DSD512 realtime conversion o DSD64 to DSD512 upsampling. Via Roon Server library and Tidal streaming contents are delivered directly to HQPlayer. Further on Kodi media Server Library and Qobuz streaming as well as iTunes content are all delivered directly HQPlayer.
HQ player runs on the audio optimized custom Windows 10 build with Process Lasso management of execution priorities.
SOUND GALLERIES TEAM AND STORY
Let us look a bit more into the Sound Galleries before getting deeper into the SGM 2015 music server.
Geoffrey Armstrong, is the owner and principal of Sound Galleries in Monaco, a High End dealer with a special competence in computer audio. Geoffrey has been an audiophile for over 40 years, and in the Hifi Audio profession for over 10 years.
Emile Bok is the owner of Taiko Audio in Holland. Emile has been active in Audio building loudspeakers since he was the age of 12. Emile is a University graduate in computer science, but his love and passion is Audio. Taiko Audio's first commercial electronics product is the Kodo monobloc power amplifier which is based on Hypex NCore.
Emile designed and manufactures the input stage in Holland which features a very high input impedance, and a very high and wide frequency response. The Kodo amp is perfect for accepting input from DAC's with built in volume control.
Emile / Taiko has done the lion’s share of the engineering of the SGM 2015 and is the contract manufacturer.
Edward Hsu, is a very good friend of Geoffrey Armstrong's for the last 4 years. After the successful Munich show last year, Geoffrey suggested to Edward that he should undertake the project of developing a Music Server.
Delivering the best possible computational platform for Roon and Tidal to deliver music to HQ Player which converts and upsamples all formats to DSD 512 has been the challenge and goal of the SGM team.
Jussi Laako, the author of HQ Player made his first public appearance at the May Fest. Jussi spent 7 years in the Finnish Navy. Part of Jussi's job was training sonar operators, an intensive 6 month program after which the operators had any amazing ability to identify the sounds of different ships and submarines passing by. Jussi's other job was to write new computational algorithms for processing sonar returns. Every couple of weeks Jussi would have a new version to test. Then Jussi went on to work for Nokia. All cellphones use sigma delta modulation and not PCM. Now Jussi works for Intel in Finland.
HQ Player Software
All of the processing stages have an output in 64 bit floating point format. To maintain the precision of the out put of some stages, Jussi actually inputs 80 bit floating point data, so that the output will have 64 bit precision. To do the 80 bit manipulations, Jussi has had to write his own assembler code. There are no compilers available in the public domain to handle 80 bit floating point.
HQ Player's processing of PCM and other formats is totally another world from the small footprint, bit perfect MPD world inhabited by other high end music servers.
Sound Galleries SGM 2015 music server was designed from ground up to deliver a different and 21st century digital playback with no reservations.
Sound Galleries goal was to create the ultimate sound quality and realism of playback that is easy to use and can offer instant discovery of music combined with the easiest and best possible ownership experience.
To ensure best user experience SGM 2015 was designed to ensure instant locking with the owner’s existing system. By offering online support via remote access to customer’s SGM servers protected from obsolescence.
SGM 2015 Computational power of a workstation class PC is an order of magnitude greater than on hardware DAC solution with music track look-ahead capability, easier software upgrading, compatibility with future software playback solutions. Hardware can be also upgraded in the future.
PC workstations comes with computational intensity, that delivers higher audio signal accuracy, but creates greater RF noise in the PC. The fancier the Graphical User Interface and search capability, the more computation and file access is required, which in turn generates more RF noise in the PC. High CPU load also generates heat, not easy to dissipate without a fan.
Sound Galleries uses custom designed hardware for low RF noise and CPU timing precision, with fan-less CPU cooling and custom optimised operating system to deliver low RF noise during computer operation and computational timing precision. SGM 2015 has a very special motherboard. Here are few highlights:
- Steel potted transformer with copper foil isolation between - primary and secondaries
- Cree Schottky rectifiers
- Two 3.6 kg choke filters delivering microvolt ripple 660,000 microfarads of Audiophile Grade capacitors from Mundorf
- Fanless CPU cooling, motherboard’s RF noisy PWM fan control is disabled
SOFTWARE FRONT END
All platforms support Roon, that offer industry best music browsing and music discovery software, with integrated Tidal Streaming is always delivered to HQ Player and converted to DSD 512. iTunes on MAC, iPhone & iPad is fully supported.
If a customer prefers to stay in the iTunes eco system, then his music can be delivered to HQ Player and converted to DSD 512 by installing Sound Galleries’ iTunes script. As mentioned above Qobuz streaming with Kodi is also supported on all platforms with 16/44 and 24/96 resolution via Kodi media player with Sound Galleries Kodi add-on.
Why convert all formats to DSD512? Sound Galleries team believes, that higher sample frequencies translates to higher frequency low pass filters with gentler slopes in the DAC which degrade the sound less and DSD stream brings higher precision.
What about PCM TO DSD conversion? Sound Galleries R & D effort resolved in confusion, that elimination of artifacts which were created during the original analog to digital conversion can be remedied through the variety of intelligent interpolation methods that creates new image samples. Different choices for pre and post ringing, phase distortion, and computational intensity adds a unique option to explore the music and choice of 5th order and 7th order modulators acts on different level then sonic wise.
SGM 2015 DSD 64 to DSD 512 direct rate conversion with high frequency noise removal remodulate the signal at 22.6 MHz using HQ Player’s 5th or 7th order modulators. Interestingly SACD’s are only DSD 64 and use 3rd or 5th order modulators, but SGM 2015 offers the vast choice of digital filters and Sigma Delta modulators through the HQ Player interface.
EVENT AND GENERAL EXPERIENCE SUM UP
I know, I know. A lot to eschew and digest. Still, Sound Galleries SGM 2015 comes as a grand attack on the audiophile music server market with quite few unique solutions and 21st mind set. There is no doubt… Digital Audio came to the point where we’re finally witnessing real advancement and push forward mentality.
Sound Galleries SGM 2015 has shown great potency and clear orientation of contemporary digital audio. High End audio industry is finally taking music servers seriously and Sound Galleries SGM 2015 comes as a great ambassador of this growing trend.
Along my analog soft spot I’m also an avid digital geek, closely following its growth from early 80’s. Digital Audio momentum is finally in its full bloom with products like SGM 2015, focusing on both technical advancement and end user experience while embracing the un-compromised sound performance.
I was really impressed with all the efforts with the organization of the SGM 2015 world premiere. It was not easy to set everything perfectly as room was huge and filled with the crowd of fifty people from the industry. So, putting everyone at the sweet spot and offering the optimal sitting position was out of the question. Still, this was a great opportunity to learn about the Sound Galleries new music server and get a good glimpse of the sonic ability.
Due so many unknown factors its hard for me to pin point down the exact sonic attributes, but it was possible to peek into the grand potency of the SGM 2015.
Stay tuned for more where in due time I’ll try to elaborate in depth about hands on personal experience and conclude regarding the exact sonic virtues.
Text: Matej Isak
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
For qualified customers in Europe and North America it is possible to try 14 day home trial at 300 Euro fee.
Online support using remote access
From 9 am to 10 pm European time
2 year warranty on parts and labor + shipping
Futureproof with 3 year onsite upgrade commitment at parts cost plus:
In Europe + EUR 1,500 +VAT
In North America + USD 2,000 In Asia + USD 3,000
SGM 2015 Music Server specification:
High Performance computing with Audiophile quietness made possible Processor
SGM audiophile grade custom hardware
Intel Skylake i7 6700K 16 GB DDR4 1 TB
- 5 ppb stability OCXO with low noise power supply replacing the motherboard system clock
- Low noise dual choke power supply for computer motherboard and CPU
- Low noise, high frequency power supply for SSD
- Mundorf Mlytic capacitors with 660,000 microfarads storage capacity
- Steel potted power supply transformer with internal copper foil shielding
- High performance RAM with custom aluminum heat sinks
- Heatpipe cooling system for CPU connected to copper billet CNC milled heatsinks allowing
fanless high load operation with CPU overclocking
- Optimized BIOS settings for CPU and RAM
SGM audio playback software
- HQ Player capable of
o PCMtoDSD512realtimeconversion o DSD64toDSD512upsampling
- Roon Server
- Kodi media Server
- iTunes content delivery to HQ Player
- Audio optimized custom Windows 10 build with Process Lasso management of execution
Recommend price in Europe including 20 pct VAT, not including shipping Euro 16,000
• Includes Win 10 licence, Roon lifetime, HQ Player and Process Lasso
◦ Only runs on apple hardware. ◦ No support of DSD 512
◦ Lack of drivers for some of the best DSD DAC’s
◦ Remote Access solutions
◦ Sounds very good after optimization
◦ Well implemented USB ASIO drivers for native DSD (no DOP) for most DSD DAC’s
European price including 20 % VAT
SGM 2015 Euro 16,000
11 rue de la Turbie,
+377 97 98 32 60
+377 97 98 32 61
+33 (0)6 07 93 39 12