The final review of the Taiko Audio SGM is imminent, and before everything is summarized, there are few points worth highlighting before it is published in full. Something that was revealed in the past few weeks. Digital technology has made a huge leap forward in recent years, but now it seems that sound quality updates are taking place at much shorter intervals and its rivals in its complexity the analog that was refined for a much longer time. 

The recent introduction of the updated Nagra HD PREAMP HV in my reference system has brought exceptional results connected with both digital and analog. 

The system, which works with the SGM Extreme music server by Taiko Audio, followed by MSB Technology Select and Nagra HD PREAMP HV, brings revelations that I have never encountered before. 

I am a strong advocate of systemic gain, and it is an art in itself to get it right. With all the possible permutations and different outputs (mV), cables, etc., it is never easy to get it right. Even within the same branded audio products, the synergy is not mandatory. 

With the help of the Nagra HD PREAMP HV, the Thrax Audio Dionysos phono preamplifier, Taiko Extreme, and the MSB Technology Select DAC, I was able to achieve the tightly matching gain that allowed me to delve deeper into the secrets of the analog and digital worlds. 

But during this discovery, many questions, sobering facts, and findings emerged. 

There are many good examples of reference-quality music, but of convenience for this research is a debut album by Counting Crows. 

August and Everything After Analogue Productions 45 RPM Vinyl Record vs Tidal vs Qobuz high definition streaming album has opened up a Pandora box. Please note that we are talking about streaming and not about files from the hard disc! This is a subject matter of a separate essay. 

The Qobuz version and Analogue Production plated and pressed by Quality Record Pressings, mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound that expands on four sides maximize the dynamic range of the recording, which was equivalent or in a few attributes exceeded the Qobuz version. But... To make the issue even more complex, the Qobuz version stood out on its own with few parameters rivaling the rival antidote. 

When listening more relaxed and not ultra-critical, the differences were small and not immediately apparent even to a trained ear and audio connoisseur. 

With Roon and Taiko Audio SGM Extreme, the difference between the Tidal version and the high-resolution streaming version of Qobuz was day and night. The counterparts of Qobuz and Vinyl, as described above, were no different at all. 

There were the same differences with many more albums that I would like to have, but it proved that it is important what kind of files were made available to the streaming services and what kind of mastering was done. This raises the question of streaming quality. In order to give full objectivity to the story, one would have to know and hear the two final masters sent to each of the streaming services, and if they are equivalent, the differences in the quality of the streaming provided would be useful merit. It's unlikely this will ever happen, but the dots are connected with what's served. 

As with all these new discoveries that overlay the digital audio and especially the streaming process, every little detail matters. I recently updated my Internet bandwidth and among other things this is part of a big step up. It could be closely related to how the "packets" are delivered. Again, a subject worthy of separate write up. 

Taiko Audio SGM Extreme is a key player in my system when it comes to bringing the digital to full bloom and making all subtle changes apparent. It allows the digital to act in extreme operations where everything is definite and affected by even the minutest variations. 

SGM Extreme readdresses the important point I mentioned in my previous article. At the top level, it is no longer about analog vs. digital. It's more about approaching music for what it is, and no longer competing in two different fields, as was  popular a few years ago. It's about time to value both worlds and see their juxtapositions as different ways to achieve the utmost goal. 

These qualities are therefore more worthy of being described as one step closer to the core of music and not being juxtaposed. The omnipresent battle with analog vs. digital finally sees the balancing act.


What is the secret to getting to the point where all these qualities became obvious? Is it a combination of Taiko Audio SGM Extreme and Nagra HD PREAMP HV that, in conjunction with MSB Technology Select DAC, makes these discoveries possible? In the first part of the Nagra HD PREAMP HV, I touched on the subject of correct timing between the fundamental frequency and the overtones of the notes. Taking into account the temporary resolution of the ear and maintaining the phase could be the reason for this. The timing is all too often overlooked, but it brings back an important insight from some time ago. I had the luxury of listening to direct digital and analog masters in the studio. The differences between the two were marginal, and the sound quality was on par. What is the reason for this proximity? Then the Abendrot master clock is spotted and that is a rocket-high price clock even for our top league. At USD 43,000.00 Abendrot STUTE ignites many questions, but that is what could make all the difference. 

It seems that there is something inherently right about the analog in terms of timing. This particular issue has never been  particularly touched upon in any substantial way, as the usual attention to analog is not associated with timing or phase. 

The logic of these findings brings more than interesting facts, which not only point to the future mechanics of ultra-high-end audio, but lay the foundation for it. 

We live in interesting times, and I look forward to delving deeper into these areas. Not all, but a few high-end audio companies are pushing the needle when it comes to technological progress. It's one thing to introduce new technology for the sake of marketing. Thorough research costs engineering hours and research into materials, software, etc. It's not something you take lightly or forget whether the shift in performance justifies the means. After all this comes the price tag discussion...


One of the further findings was the reproduction of the DSD files handled via Taiko Extreme servers. With the recently discovered UltraAnalogue Records by Ed Pong and few other HD direct transfers to the DSD where no processing or editing has been done, the DSD finally feels less analog and warmer and closer to the high PCM resolution files. 

It's becoming more and more interesting within the digital domain, and I hope that we will be able to explore much more high-definition music that is offered and enjoyed, allowing us to bridge the gap between the great analog mastering of records and the digital masters. 

To conclude this essay, I must address the issue of value and the related pricing of state-of-the-art digital front-ends. 

There is a constant stream of requests for the top-of-the-line digital front-end, and the questions I receive from owners of high-end audio systems, refer to the price points. With the Taiko Extreme music server, people try to rationalize and question the given price and pure value. It all starts with the front-end. Whether analog or digital and both extremes are not affordable by any means. 

The requests for further insights come from people who own a high-end audio system where every single component is worth the sole price of Taiko Extreme. 

Where does this lead to a modern digital frontend as a Taiko Extreme server? 

Many of the high-end CD audio/SACD players or transports based on a modified mechanism or even OEM drives have never been cheap. Similar devices on the market come with even higher prices. Not to mention audio cables and the rest of the high-end audio paraphernalia. In the analog realm, a single cartridge easily comes with a price tag of 15k+… 

The popular idea of a computer-based audio front-end is that components should be cheap. 

Over the last few years, I have tried some of the DIY extreme options and even explored them on my own, with mixed results, like many of the people who wrote to me. 

Even two of the IT hardcore people who had gone crazy with their self-built music servers turned to a brand solution like the Taiko music server. 

With excellent parts, better processors, exotic cooling, etc, you can get to the point where you feel how the top end was reached. Then... Taiko Extreme appears and shifts the perspective considerably. 

It's worthy to note that something as complete as Extreme is not a happy coincidence. The proof is in the pudding. You may need rocket science to get to a certain point, but you do not need a rocket to distinguish sonic performance distinction. At least in a system capable of showing the shift in sonics. 

Yes, the state of the art digital sound of the 21st century is not cheap by any means. It comes with a hefty price tag, but there is finally a breakthrough in the performance that was not possible a few years ago and Taiko Audio it is playing hard to set the pace and lead the way. ⧉

Stay tuned!

Matej Isak