Software versus hardware!? On the contrary. Software and hardware! No software can exist in the absence of hardware and with each passing year, there is no denying the fact that software plays a key role on all fronts. It has become an integral part of our daily operations and functions on which we depend more and more. Why should audio be exempt from this influence!? It isn’t. The fact is that many audiophiles and music lovers already prefer various software players to enjoy their beloved music to the fullest. 

I can easily draw the connection to software plugins in the pro-audio field where, as it’s known, the quality of the code matters and is directly reflected in the sound quality.

Code is of course closely related to processing power, optimization, and especially with TAS with SGM Extreme that works hand in hand with software. 

There is little doubt that the right software is imperative to extract the performance that the hardware is capable of. The logical conclusion and experience prove this undeniable fact. The hardware without the right software is meaningless. There needs to be an interplay between the two based on optimization through actual listening. And the team at Taiko Audio is obsessively fanatical when it comes to both; testing and sound quality. 

Throughout my evaluations, I didn’t round off with a simple double-mind check. Repeatedly and in a specific pattern, I’ve gone back and forth 20 times in a roll with TAS, only to find that my mind is not playing tricks on me and operating the placebo. 

This produced a series of listening notes that ensured that the final conclusion was not a matter of perception, but the actual practical experience of encountering a different quality of sound. 

But something very interesting and unexpected happened while exploring the TAS. With TAS in action, suddenly the dedicated audiophile switches and associated bells and whistles lost their hold on my system. 

Following this logic, network-related tweaks and adjustments succumbed to their effect in this scenario. At least in my setup and that rules out the exclusion of Startech SFP.

This above all raises questions and forms new equations; the importance of software interdependence of not just a particular type of hardware processing and control, but with implications for all major hardware perspectives.

And this is just the beginning, as envisioned by Emile Bok. 

We are already at the most exciting level of excellent digital audio reproduction, but the new experiences and insights gained continue to be promising, and undoubtedly TAS is pushing 21st century high-end digital audio reproduction into a new era. 

Although Taiko Audio TAS is still in the beta experimental stage, the current sound reproduction is stunning, to say the least. The unprecedented sonic gain gives new meaning to the “source first” philosophy. 

TAS offers a far more linear reproduction of music across the frequency spectrum and lifelike dynamism, colorless, with a pinpoint, three-dimensional embodiment of instruments sounding more a real thing with much harder hitting in your face realism.

With familiar tracks, my favorite music was reproduced with greater fundamental sound and harmonic integrity, 

TAS delivers far less grain and artificial glare, more heroic detail, brings a better level of density, harmonic integrity, coherence, tonal balance, and a larger, expanded soundstage.

It felt like Cleanex was used revealing a clearer, more transparent overall presentation with a few extra layers of blurriness removed. 

On top of it, I’ve discovered the newfound analog qualities. Many of us would not consider or imagine that the evolution of digital would reflect precisely analog-like qualities. TAS introduces a kind of juxtaposition between sonic translucency and harmonic reach content that simply draws you into the music. 

In this context, one of the most startling things was a sudden change of focus. Like with listening to records, I again took the time to fully immerse myself in the music and just play the whole album. Something I didn’t necessarily associate with fluid music, but with hearkening to vinyl or tape. 

Since the dawn of high-end digital audio, we’ve been dealing with various optimizations or upgrades that always involve either programming code (in various forms) or software, but in a way, we’ve finally reached digital audio heaven. 

But, why can’t the intoxication cannot be sweeter and more sublime? 

It is! A more real, more believable, and with a new level of being-there factor. 

Whenever brain processing is less engaged and logical safeguards are overridden and bypassed, it’s a great win-win. 

TAS is still in beta, but even with all the shortcomings of the remote app, I could easily (and I do) live with it day in day out for the richness of sound quality alone. 

The step-up, newly gained standard with Taiko Audio TAS opens up a new frontier and a quality that I have not been able to achieve with other “software” solutions/players. Period!

Taiko Audio TAS should not only fly under the radar of every SGM Extreme owner but for every high-end digital audio aficionado. I’m not sure if Taiko Audio will offer TAS outside of branded products, but for any SGM Extreme music server owner, I can’t think of a better upgrade. If this is just the beginning, then the future upgrade path of Taiko Audio TAS is far more than promising. It is absolutely exciting.

It’s rare to see such dedication displayed by Bok and his team at Taiko Audio. TAS is another example of the brand’s fanatical focus and service to the customers. And the digital future seems brighter than ever with TAS and what’s coming up. 

This is just an initial report. Stay tuned for more in the next installment. 

Matej Isak