The day before yesterday, a demo Taiko Extreme unit was delivered to HFA Quarters, which was a very exciting moment! After lifting it on top of an Artesania Exoteryc rack, directly on top of the Carbon Fiber linear arms (something I will still experiment with), starting off with Roon and the CH C1 DAC, I extensively compared the server with two friends and we are all impressed. It started out great even cold from its shipping crate but got better and better with every hour that passed. As the unit warmed up/bedded in, the soundstage grew and its emotion-inducing quality increased.

The first thing that struck me is how fluid, organic, and deeply imaging the USB connection sounds (using a Final Touch Audio Sinope USB cable). Normally, in my setup and with all servers/renderers so far, the USB connection sounds more stilted, flat, and mechanical than AES/EBU, but now, both with the C1 and the Formula xHD, it’s the other way around!

Yesterday, I was joined for my first extended listening session by two friends who were eager to hear the server for themselves. We all use the Grimm MU1. The two friends were skeptical at first but the longer they listened (and the server improved), the more I could tell that they were cast under the Extreme’s spell.

The Extreme manages to be revealing and detailed but also deliciously liquid, extremely refined and subtle yet firmly planted and dynamic without limits, and above all continuous, truly stepless, in its portrayal of dynamic contrasts. It also has impressive distinctiveness for the 3D aspect, body, and location of all the individual elements within the sound image, which by the way is a huge bubble, both in width and height and especially in the depth plane. The Extreme is transparent and neutral (not at all colored) but with deep tonal saturation, richness, and body.

Arguably the Extreme’s most important aspect is that it immediately establishes an emotional bond and involves you enormously in the music.

Both friends were massively impressed and walked away slightly dismayed at the thought of having to continue listening with their own servers. And I have to say, even if the Grimm remains a very nice server, certainly at its price, and especially after the two recent firmware updates, compared to Extreme, it does sound considerably flatter, soberer, and more down to earth, and whilst nicely toe-tapping, significantly less emotionally engaging.

I will add more listening impressions as I gather more experience with the server and even without having heard TAS just yet, let alone XDMS, at this stage, I can already say that this is truly something special.

Christiaan Punter