Sound Galleries SGM Demonstration

Geoffrey Armstrong (pictured above) of Sound Galleries, Edward Hsu (Sound Test), and Emile Bok (Taiko Audio) have put their heads and hearts together to create the Sound Galleries music server SGM 2015es (€16,000). The other important ingredients in this equation are Jussi Lasko's HQPlayer, which was used to upsample and filter all incoming data to DSD512 before sending it on its way, and Roon as the interface to your music. The demo took place at the BMW Welt, a place that looks and feels like Disneyland for well-heeled adults.

Enno Vandemeer of Roon gave an impassioned presentation

Here's the SGM's feature checklist from Sound Galleries:

  • Custom designed hardware for low RF noise and CPU timing precision, with fanless CPU cooling
  • Custom optimised operating system to deliver low RF noise during computer operation and computational timing precision
  • Best in class software for library management and user interface
  • Best in class software for upsampling and format conversion to DSD 512
  • 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
  • Custom High frequency power supply built in Sweden with better RF absorbtion performance than a Lithium Polymer battery
  • Dedicated AC transformer secondary and Schottky rectifiers
  • Mundorf AG caps
  • Two stage regulation
  • Careful selection of vendor and specifications
  • Custom heavy aluminum heatsinks
  • Selection of best sounding timing and operating voltage
  • Reduced Operating System RAM footprint
  • Custom 4 heat pipe copper CPU cooler block with individual pipe clamps
  • Custom finned heat sinks CNC machined from solid copper billet
  • Ample cooling capacity for full turbo speed on all 4 cores
  • CPU and mobo chipset timing is derived from a crystal clock that costs about 1 Euro, and has a frequency stability of 50 pp million, which is replaced by:
    • OCXO - oven controlled crystal oscillator
    • Custom cut and assembled for Sound Galleries in the USA, 5 pp billion frequency stability and low phase noise at low frequencies
    • Custom designed OCXO signal electronics and dedicated power supply from suppliers in Holland and Sweden
I'd boil this list down to addressing two things; Timing and Noise.

The system used for the demo consisted of the Vivid Audio Giya G1 speakers ($68,000/pair), Taiko Audio Kodo monoblocks ($4,000/pair), T+A DAC8 (€2,750), and cable from Sablon Audio.

While the demo music didn't ring many bells for me, the sound quality did. Here's my listening notes: "You know when you find yourself wanting to take control of the remote really, really badly, things are working." This system nailed many aspects of reproduction extremely well like dynamics, nuance, detail, clarity2, and more. For my tastes, I prefer a more colorful, saturated sound but that's just me. While it's difficult, and at times damn silly, to speak to a single component's performance within a system, I certainly did not hear many of the sonically detrimental digital artifacts I'm used to hearing from digital replay.

COMMENTS
christopher3393's picture

"like Disneyland for well-heeled adults." I'm feelin' my earth shoes. Nice thread on CA about this as well. Thanks for your ongoing explorations.

soundgals's picture

Thanks Michael for what, for the second time, is essentially a highly positive review for Sound Galleries and our partners. One thing I cherish about the Sound Galleries partnership is that it is truly democratic. Yes they always say "…it's coming some time"!

Personally I would have liked to have featured the same Audiopax L50 pre-amp, that we used in the system you reviewed last year. I drove up with it in my trunk to Munich hoping we would use it. I believe this pre-amp would have provided greater "tonal density", and a certain "liquidity" which would have brought the system at Munich Welt closer to your tastes, and mine, without compromising tonal accuracy or precision.

We put it to the vote and I was out voted 2 to 1. Fair enough! That's democracy in action!

Regarding the choice of music, I will own up to the fact that the Ray Charles track, followed by Renaud Garcia-Fons and Albert Pla's take on "Walk on the Wild side" were down to me. Music is so personal. What more can I say?

The only point I would like to get across regarding the Sound Galleries music server/T+A DAC 8 DSD combination, is that I consider it to be the finest digital front end I have ever experienced. I admit I have a vested interest in it; but I have also had a hand in shaping it.

The SGM itself though is DAC agnostic. It's elimination of RFI/EMI and computational power, will provide users of any DAC (PCM, DSD or both) with complete peace of mind in those respects, at least.

Here at Sound Galleries I listen to it through almost the same system as you heard at MOC last year (Avantgarde Duos, with Audiopax L50, M50 monos). In the context of that system I can honestly say it builds on the strengths of the system we had at Munich last year and takes it to new heights.

I sincerely hope your next encounter with the Sound Galleries music server will cause you to go beyond "ticking all the boxes" and allow you to be moved by the music in the way that I am when i use the SGM at Sound Galleries.

Let's recognise though that the system at BMW welt went well beyond "ticking the boxes" for some, who commented that it was the "best high-end system they had heard in their entire lives".

It's almost impossible to equally please everyone. Taking your comments into consideration though we shall endeavour to demonstrate that the SGM is the finest digital front-end available, whatever your tastes run to regarding the rest of the system.

I believe the best way for us to effectively demonstrate this will be to have two systems demonstrated in parallel. A system with Audiopax electronics and Horn speakers, more a along the lines of the the system you heard at MOC last year and another system which reflects the taste of those who prefer precision and accuracy over all else. That will be expensive and challenging. Hopefully though it will be coming to the USA later this year.

In many ways last years system reflects more closely my own personal tastes, whereas this years at BMW welt reflects more closely the tastes of my partners.

I hope that collectively we'll be able to demonstrate to you that the SGM is not only capable of eradicating "many digital artefacts"; but is capable of removing ALL digital artefacts.

There's the challenge! I'm confident that the Sound Galleries team will meet for you, as it obviously did for the majority of attendees at BMW world, judging by the other comments we've received so far.

Best,

Geoff Armstrong
Sound Galleries

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I agree - I had a very positive experience at your demo. The few points I referenced, music choice and more color, boil down to personal preference and I was easily able to hear beyond these potential road blocks.

I look forward to next time (and I agree about the preamp ;-)

Cheers

soundgals's picture

Thanks. We took a big risk running the event at BMW World, which is obviously more like an auditorium than a room at a normal audio show or a typical listening room.

Jussi claims that HQPlayer is able to look ahead in real time and remove all of the digital artefacts introduced during the recording process. This is an amazing claim. If true then any artefacts you heard may have been due to other aspects of the system rather than the SGM itself.

Anyway, the main thing is you enjoyed yourself :-)

I'll be sure to keep you posted on up-coming events featuring the SGM.

Cheers,

Geoff

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