TAIKO AUDIO SGM EXTREME – ROON AND DIGITAL AUDIO EXTREMES
“There’s no doubt that Roon has taken over many hearts of audiophiles and music lovers and usually tickled some of the opposition. Especially the 1.7 update which introduces a notable step-up in sonic quality. But, in an ultimate sense, even after the 1.7 update and considerable optimization processor/software-wise, Roon still requires a hefty amount of processing power. Taiko Audio SGM Extreme – Dual Intel Xeon Scalable 10 core – 20 thread CPU’s with twelve 4Gb custom order industrial memory modules for 48Gb in total might sound like an overblown and over-specced affair in theory, but in reality and when addressing the utmost performance such “loaded” machine matters a lot.”
Like in the analog realm, it takes a lot of effort to advance the digital to the state of the art level. Yes, you can get considerable results even with the low-level processing power, but in the upper echelon dealings, every little detail matters and processing power seems to be of high importance. This is where satisfying sonic delivery differs from an enlivening experience and Taiko Audio did their homework beyond well with SGM Extreme’s parts and execution.
SGM Extreme is a technological tour de force by itself. When partnered with matching components of a similar level of performance the digital audio finally shifts to a new plane, which was unattainable a few years back. Taiko Audio SGM Extreme is a conceptual, contemporary state of the art digital hub, that can provide an unprecedented level of refining music playback but it won’t by default let badly recorded and mastered music sound glorious. I don’t think that an initial goal of the Taiko Audio flagship music server was to deliver an ordinary, instantly pleasing or saturated performance. Similar to the ultra performing sports cars, where one expects a certain thrill and more devoted experience, translating into the fully immersive encounter with the road and fathomless handling that can profoundly explore the terrain and let you enjoy the actual ride, Taiko Audio SGM Extreme grants the pure music enjoyment where the recordings grants such an extreme pleasure. Have no doubts Taiko Audio flagship music server does deliver a grander potion of captivating music enjoyment even with the mediocre material. It’s just not flattering the mistakes being made. Poorly sounding recordings sound accordingly. On the other hand, exceptionally well-recorded music portrays the sonic illusion scarily close to reality. Clarity of form so to speak.
With SGM Extreme I’m finding myself seeking far less of that particular analog thrill, that is to a certain degree undoubtedly connected with few peculiarities. Analog does have its strong, native advantages, but so does the digital counterpart. I’ve been using and evaluating many digital front-ends over the past few years and while I did encounter certain uber-shifts in the performance, I’ve never felt such a balanced and seamless way of music’s flow as I’m currently within my reference system fronted by the Taiko Audio server. SGM Extreme has penetrated the market in the digital audio’s finest momentum, where the borderlines with the analog are getting crossed or shockingly to some, even surpassed. While this can be a highly touchy perhaps the newly introduced qualities of digital need not to be compared to analog pole. We should allow them to simply differ. Splendid traits of the best virtues of tape machines and finest vinyl playback were never so familiar or so positively alarming positive as they are presently within the digital domain. And this sum-up comes from an analog fanatic, that could hardly bear the unpleasant digital properties for more than a song or two a few years back.
A lot has changed in the past decade and digital need not to be so frantically compared to the analog. I do believe that the state of the art digital playback has finally reached the point where it has a life of its own. The whole agenda is slightly complex and complicated, yet we come to the point where we should perhaps stop lurking back into the past and accept what 21st-century music material has to offer. Some of my recent reference level music was only recorded a few years ago and it’s no shy of splendid sonic virtues. We might not have the lavish luxury of the iconic recordings, performers, conductors, orchestras from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s of the past century. But… If one takes some time and has a will to explore, there is a fair amount of fascinating music that is recorded exceptionally well.
The latest highly noticeable shift up in SGM Extreme, and nonetheless Roon performance was closely connected with the introduction of the optical Ethernet network. SGM Extreme allows one optical input via a dedicated SFP Ethernet port. The newly added optical switch has introduced the level of increased clarity that recalled my initial reaction to the MSB Technology ProUSB module (USB to ProISL adapter) upgrade for my Select DAC. While perhaps Pro USB’s most important impact closely linked to a bit-perfect signal, the optical ethernet removal of noise and interferences and additional bandwidth capacity somehow grants very similar quality, translating into a better clarity and more organic sound. Yes, I know! Organic is not the usual advancement that is associated with the digital. Surprisingly, this is exactly what happened in both scenarios… This certainly seems to open more questions rather than provide meaningful answers… For a fact, the level of aural advantages cannot be ignored as they are not marginal at all.
THE SOUND OF OBJECTIVE MASS
A casual observer will undoubtedly look at what it seems overdesigned and massive forty plus kg SGM Extreme’s complex machining chassis as a major overkill. Again, not everything can be oversimplified to the nth degree. This is the major problem of the times we’re living in. Every little detail matters. The digital audio is no exception. Over the past few months, I’ve learned to fully appreciate and somehow understand why Taiko Audio has undergone such a painstaking effort on all fronts. Impressive innards like 400VA transformer, Lundahl chokes, 700.000uF of Mundorf and Duelund capacitors, copper heatsinks, etc.
The list goes on. Imagine the needed time for drilling 6000+ holes on the chassis for the optimized heat dissipation and utterly optimized and CNC-ed shape of the SGM Extreme enclosure. It takes several days just to machine a single server chassis and this luckily not only reflects in the premium price sticker but most importantly in the performance :). I would say the balancing act of the bang for the buck is weighted a bit differently with Taiko Audio SGM Extreme than what’s considered the usual norm. Ordinary logic follows a few percent performance gains, closely connected with the premium price.
With SGM Extreme the effect is reversed. Instead of refining the very last portion that starts from 90%+, the Taiko Audio top tier music server obeys the inverse logic. It offers a grander shift-up in the performance, reflecting more of Jing/Jang balance rather than striving for the incremental last specks of execution. Upon the personal installation of Taiko Audio SGM Extreme by Emile, we’ve spent almost an hour or two solely for moving the music server for millimeters on the Artesania Audio Exoteryc high-end audio rack and the difference was mind-boggling. More than a dozen times we just looked at each other with amaze and both nodded silently.
This “experiment” has clearly shown that SGM Extreme is remarkably sensitive to any changes, thus allowing to accelerate the performance to what it’s sheer name aims at; the extremes!