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Thread: Sound Galleries SGM 2015

  1. #1
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    Sound Galleries SGM 2015

    This weekend I had the pleasure of having Edward of Sound Test / Sound Galleries Monaco as my guest.

    Edward is a truly nice guy and we had a good time listening to music and talking all things audio.

    He brought along his T+A DAC8 DSD, because sadly my loaner is gone again and my resident Lampizator L4 isnít back from service yet. Together, we schlepped the piece of interest from his car to my flat, a SGM 2015 in black.

    This thing is a beast, being as heavy and as big as my former Gryphon Diablo amp!
    Casework and build quality is exceptional, with massive heatsinks and very good cnc work.
    First impressions are this must be a very powerful amp Ė yet it is just a computer.

    Calling the SGM just a computer however is a huge understatement. Kind of like calling Miles Davis a mere trumpet player. Almost everything inside is custom made, featuring an OCXO with of magnitudes better precision than the stock crystal oscillator used on commercial motherboards.

    I had the chance of comparing the SGM with my CAPSv4 Pipeline over a total of 48 hours and I very much took advantage of this opportunity.

    My CAPS is pretty much the standard v4, except the case (HDPlex), the CPU (xeon 1265L) and the USB Card (Paul Pang V2). The only real sound altering variable here from a standard CAPS v4 should be the Paul Pang V2 Instead of the SOTM card, but I consider both USB cards to be on the same level.
    My CAPS has for OS WS2012 with AO optimization treatment.

    Edward also brought his Sablon Panatela USB cable which was used for the test. It is a very good cable and definitely superior to my Aqvox.

    My system consists of a pair of MBL 116 omni directional speakers paired with a Gryphon Antileon Signature amp, wired with Gold Note Extra, Vibex power filtering and modded Entreq grounding. The room is quite small, but with Acourate room correction integrated in HQPlayer, this is a minor issue.
    We loaded my filters on the SGM to have equal conditions for both contenders.
    Edward was positively impressed with the result Acourate had on the sound and mentioned, that especially omni speakers seems to benefit from DRC. I think so too.
    Of course on both machines we used the same filters and modulators in HQPlayer as well.

    It took some time to fully appreciate the differences I heard between the two, I will save you the time to read about the developement of my impressions, and focus on my final findings.

    First thing that struck me by surprise is that the SGM sounded quieter than my CAPS.
    Normally you would assume that the louder unit is preceived as the better one.
    Well, not here and if you think about it, it makes sense.
    It sounds quieter because of less artefacts / noise that seem to make the music louder but actually have nothing to do with the music itself.
    Funny thing is, you only notice them when they are absent, a common finding in every component category. Sure a sign of good engineering and noise control.

    Further, the sound is more relaxed and therefor also more relaxing. I tended to listen longer with the SGM than with my CAPS. Sign of less fatigue.

    With the SGM the soundstage width seemed smaller at first, later I realised that it was definitely more natural and realistic this way.
    Vocals lost some pounds in sheer size, but gained in definition and expression and also impact.
    My CAPS seemd a bit bloated in comparision and definitely less natural.
    Coherence was a word that often came to my mind. I didn't find that I gained more resolution, I didn't hear new things like when I switched from my former Acer to the CAPS.
    But the musicians seemed to play better together, the sound was more wholesome and voices gained in what I would call personality.
    This was particulary aparent with Renť Marieís track Ącome on in my houseď from her Eartha Kitt album (which is fantastic by the way). Her voice was much better integrated in the soundstage and the rattle noise in the left channel was reproduced far more accurate.
    You could almost pin down which kind of metal was used for this, impressive.

    I couldnít really detect a difference in depth, but this may well be due to the size of my room and the omni nature of my speakers. They provide a really good sense of space overall, but fail to resolve the tiniest and finest spacial informations like direct firing speakers can.
    For me this is no downside at all, I love the MBLs.
    For example I have never heard Hugh Masakelaís coal train better than here with the SGM (and I heard this track on all kinds of systems).
    This is exactly the kind of music you want to hear with these speakers and the SGM served them really well.

    Although I would consider my system as quite good in resolution (Edward said, it was the best he ever heard MBLs sound), the MBLs are no magnifying glasses as others are. Iím sure that systems of even higher resolution and in bigger rooms would resolve even more differences.

    Now the 16.000Ä question: Am I buying the SGM for my system?
    No. But this sure has nothing to do with the SGM itself. I told Edward upfront that I currently donít have the means nor will in the near future. However he wanted to come by anyway, wanting to hear the MBLís, the quality of the job Acouarte was doing and to hear the Gryphon operating in pure Class A mode, awesome!

    To put things in perspective, how much better is the SGM over the CAPS?

    I think I found a good analogy:
    Before the CAPS I had a standard Acer Revo desktop PC as a source with no treatement / upgrades at all (except a REGEN).
    The jump in sound quality from my CAPS to the SGM is as big as the jump in sound quality going from my Acer to my current CAPS.
    When I told this to Edward he was very pleased and I think he has every right to be.

    Everybody who made this step (I guess many) knows just how much of a jump this is.
    Of course, the first step is roughly a 2400$ difference, the second considerably more.
    But this is the nature of high performance audio. The last percentages of improvement are the toughest and most expensive ones.

    Hats off to the SGM team for making the best digital source that I am aware of and thanks for this opportunity!

    and by the way: the T+A is an awesome DAC and will most likely be my next.

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    I added a picture, lots of cables, routers and keyboards which are normally hidden.
    The SGM is the big black box on the floor, the CAPS is located beneath the rack on the left.

    Christoph
    Last edited by tsaett; 06-13-2016 at 12:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tsaett View Post
    Everybody who made this step (I guess many) knows just how much of a jump this is.
    Of course, the first step is roughly a 2400$ difference, the second considerably more.
    But this is the nature of high performance audio. The last percentages of improvement are the toughest and most expensive ones.
    It just came to my mind that Roon, HQPlayer and OS optimization (custom made, not AO) is also included in the SGM price, which I had to buy myself (around 800$ total).
    That makes the SGM an even better value overall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tsaett View Post
    It just came to my mind that Roon, HQPlayer and OS optimization (custom made, not AO) is also included in the SGM price, which I had to buy myself (around 800$ total).
    That makes the SGM an even better value overall.
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    Fun day ahead listening to DSD512 with my good friend Spiritofmusic who I hope will be impressed with the SQ. We will not be playing with any filters today but just trying to express what we are hearing and how this appeals to our own ideals of reproduced music. A few beers will go down a treat too on this rare summers day in East London.
    Cheers
    Blue58

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    Just reporting in. Blue58 again the perfect host (ie doesn't hesitate to smile when I put the worst music on LOL).
    The SGM demo was QUITE the experience. First thing to say is, that despite the player sounding digital and there is no mistaking it's a digital product, for the very first time I heard a presentation which had all the hallmarks that good analog provides, namely true transparency (in my definition, the ability to properly discriminate btwn different recordings in terms of tone and spatial cues, so not presenting the usual digital drawback of everything sounding generic).
    Resolution was really first class with all sorts of spatial cues and tonal signatures apparent, but critically not drawing attention to itself. Hence a very holistic, expressive sound, but no hint of flashiness. Until now, this imho has been the preserve of playing a good lp, but now digital can provide it.
    Music was treated in a very even handed nature, Yes "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", a previous victim of harsh brickwalling and hard panning, now having a reinvigorated life, still a challenging listen, but with a vibe and lushness I struggle to get even from my prized Japanese lp.
    Scheherazade, Miles Davis "ESP", Sarah Vaughan live, all had tone, dynamics, and delicacy in spades.

    I've been thinking a lot about this, and on chatting to Blue and Audiophile Bill, we all seem to agree it's a lot to do with the vanishingly low noise floor the SGM provides. Notes are really able to rise and fall like the best analog, and tone is maxxed by the sheer absence of hash.

    IMHO, digital comes of age with the SGM and has made me reassess where I want to go, or more accurately need to go, to direct my upgrade funds.
    Trans Fi Salvation tt & Terminator arm, Soundsmith Straingauge SG200 cart/Eera Tentation cdp/Nat Audio Utopia line stage & SE2SE SET monos w.NOS '48 GE tubes/Zu Definitions 4 spkrs w.Duelund caps & Lundahl transformers/Stacore isolation platforms, Symposium Isis rack & Rollerblocks isolation/Sablon Reservas & Elites cbls/Westwick 8kVA balanced pwr, Oyaides dedicated lines w.Furutech US sockets, SR Black fuses, Entreq Silver Tellus grndng.

  5. #5
    Spirit,

    Nice to hear you got a decent demo of the SGM at last. I thought the demo in Munich had merit where I know you were pretty much nonplussed with the whole thing. The Munich dem would not have me rushing out and buying one (even if I had the funds) but I thought it certainly enough to want to explore it more when that comes. Glad you enjoyed the experience and hopefully Blue will come with a few more comments of his own. Looking forward to reading them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sencha View Post
    Spirit,

    Nice to hear you got a decent demo of the SGM at last. I thought the demo in Munich had merit where I know you were pretty much nonplussed with the whole thing. The Munich dem would not have me rushing out and buying one (even if I had the funds) but I thought it certainly enough to want to explore it more when that comes. Glad you enjoyed the experience and hopefully Blue will come with a few more comments of his own. Looking forward to reading them.
    Hi,

    I have one here at the moment on review. It is an astonishing machine - simply stunning. I don't want to give too much away else it will ruin my forthcoming review

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Audiophile Bill View Post
    Hi,

    I have one here at the moment on review. It is an astonishing machine - simply stunning. I don't want to give too much away else it will ruin my forthcoming review
    Prey do tell, a snippet or two? When and where is your review coming out?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sencha View Post
    Spirit,

    Nice to hear you got a decent demo of the SGM at last. I thought the demo in Munich had merit where I know you were pretty much nonplussed with the whole thing. The Munich dem would not have me rushing out and buying one (even if I had the funds) but I thought it certainly enough to want to explore it more when that comes. Glad you enjoyed the experience and hopefully Blue will come with a few more comments of his own. Looking forward to reading them.
    I attended the demo in Munich with Spirit and I was completely underwhelmed by the sound.
    Yes it was very transparent but very digital. The choice of musical genres was limited, mainly indulgent vituoso performances and to the best of my recollection no classical orchestral pieces or any classical pieces.
    The sound to my ears was far removed from the bulk of live music reproduction and sounded artificial and distilled to the extent that the essence of the enjoyment of music was just not there.
    I'll be interested to read Bill's review as show demos aren't always the best sound showcase but I was not impressed at all by the sound at the Munich demo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry2013 View Post
    I attended the demo in Munich with Spirit and I was completely underwhelmed by the sound.
    Yes it was very transparent but very digital. The choice of musical genres was limited, mainly indulgent vituoso performances and to the best of my recollection no classical orchestral pieces or any classical pieces.
    The sound to my ears was far removed from the bulk of live music reproduction and sounded artificial and distilled to the extent that the essence of the enjoyment of music was just not there.
    I'll be interested to read Bill's review as show demos aren't always the best sound showcase but I was not impressed at all by the sound at the Munich demo.
    There was indeed a reason why so little classical was played at the demo in BMW World, and that was because classical did not sound that great in that room. The walls on all 4 sides of the room were plastic laminate. The floor was steel panels with a thin industrial carpet. The ceiling was perforated metal. The flutter echo was like a machine gun when we clapped our hands. The flutter echo was tamed with heavy velour curtains left and right and the voicing of the room was adjusted by foam absorbers laid along the bottom of the walls. Naturally we wanted to pick tracks that presented well, and large scale orchestral did not do well in that room. During the pre dinner session we played a Benjamin Britten Cello piece that did not have a lot going on and sounded good.

    The other thing to note was that we positioned the speakers to maximize the size of the sweet spot, but never the less the first 3 rows had sound inferior to row 4 and behind. It's very difficult to deliver jaw dropping sound to a room with 50 listeners

    I installed the SGM at Bill's home last week. What a sonic joy but I bite my tongue as we all want to hear Bill's observations. I think we played about 80 pct classical, just glorious !

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    I have not heard the SGM yet but I think it is impossible to pass judgements on electronics based on hifi show demos - if you get to A/B then fine, you can get some clues, or maybe if it is an extremely familiar system. But otherwise places like Munich really don't allow one to judge such gear.

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