Sound Galleries SGM 2015

May 20, 2014
56
0
6
Cologne
#1
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 isn’t 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 – 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 René Marie’s track „come on in my house“ 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 couldn’t 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 Masakela’s 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. I’m sure that systems of even higher resolution and in bigger rooms would resolve even more differences.

Now the 16.000€ 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 don’t have the means nor will in the near future. However he wanted to come by anyway, wanting to hear the MBL’s, 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.

SGM.jpg

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:
May 20, 2014
56
0
6
Cologne
#2
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.
 
Jan 20, 2013
335
0
16
London, UK
#3
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.
image.jpg
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
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,244
14
38
E. England
#4
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.
 
Nov 11, 2013
91
1
6
U.K.
#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.
 
Mar 23, 2015
1,434
10
38
UK
#6
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 :)
 
Oct 12, 2013
1,564
1
38
Essex UK
#8
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.
 
Sep 17, 2015
286
0
0
Monaco
#9
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 !
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,847
43
48
London
#10
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.
 
Jan 20, 2013
335
0
16
London, UK
#11
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.
Thanks for the kind words, and the beers, and happy you were impressed with the SGMS2015, remarkably so playing some punishing, from a SQ perspective, compressed, edgy, prog-rock. I think we redeemed ourselves by thrashing the system with the last movement of Scheherezade and annoying the neighbours in the process. Glorious soundstage, amazing depth and instruments delineated in space whilst those timpani thwacks plumbed the depths. I've not heard it better.

What is also very impressive is the seamless integration of Roon>Tidal>HQPlayer>T+A DAC 8 DSD. I was apprehensive about using Roon as I didn't want another piece of software to get between me and the music, happy to just insert disc and play on my CD player. What I didn't realise is how Roon builds your library in a very 'joined up' way and so your library is a mix of Hi-Res, CD rips, and streaming AND the SGMS just doesn't care! To my mind it's totally agnostic as to what input quality is fed into it and just produces incredible detail, warmth and dare I say it, an analogue quality to the presentation. Even MP3 radio stream was stunning. I could swear that streaming from Tidal actually sounded better than my CD rips and, for example, on both Holly Cole, Temptation and Ella Fitzgerald, Let No Man Write My Epitaph the PCM upsampled to DSD512 bested the AP DSD64 download upsampled to DSD512.
I think that just shows how good the HQPlayer software is.

I'll leave the in depth review to AudiophileBill and offer a warm welcome in East London to anyone who wants to have a listen to the SGMS2015.

Blue58
 
Mar 23, 2015
1,434
10
38
UK
#12
Prey do tell, a snippet or two? When and where is your review coming out?
Hi,

It will appear in Positive Feedback. I will likely have this written in the next 4 weeks or so.

A snippet. The delta between the T+A dac powered by an Aries at native rates versus the SGM @ 512 is so large that the dac sounds like an *extremely* expensive dac indeed. The resolution is better than anything I have heard before particularly the ability to hear the tiniest ambient details - these are important because they don't stand out in an analytical way but draw you into the event. The performance of lossless Tidal upsampled to 512 is so good that it exceeds my redbook rips, which has made me re-evaluate the whole paradigm of owning 16/44 on my NAS. Anyway - this is the future of digital playback IMHO.

Bill
 
Oct 12, 2013
1,564
1
38
Essex UK
#13
Thanks Eurodriver.
Yes that does put things into perspective and I'll look forward to reading Bill's report on how it sounds in his home which I am sure will be a much more relevant guide.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,244
14
38
E. England
#14
Time for me to add a bit of perspective.
Sencha is right in conveying my lukewarm opinion of the SGM at the Munich roll out. Music chosen was just too fussy, the space too challenging, everything sounded a bit disembodied and "audiophile checklist".
I found the sound balance between different HQ filters/modulations confusing to say the least.
Based on that experience I would not consider becoming a customer.

Back on Planet Earth, playing sonically challenging 70s and 80s prog rock, classic 60s modal jazz, good old fashioned jazz vocals and sturm and drang classical, in a system that I've heard evolve over an 18 month period into one that is expressive and involving, it was just amazing to hear the SGM be the first digital product that while unambiguously still digital in nature, crossed the rubicon into a presentation that I only ever thought was in the preserve of analog, and good analog at that.

The ability to be drawn into the music, with apparently no artifacts and zero noise conveying an analog like lack of cognitive dissonance ie ability to just soak up the music, and tonal discrimination between different pieces makes the SGM absolutely worth investigating, esp if like me you are coming from a place where digital has always struggled to convey the holistic event of lp playback.
 
Sep 17, 2015
286
0
0
Monaco
#15
Time for me to add a bit of perspective.
Sencha is right in conveying my lukewarm opinion of the SGM at the Munich roll out. Music chosen was just too fussy, the space too challenging, everything sounded a bit disembodied and "audiophile checklist".
I found the sound balance between different HQ filters/modulations confusing to say the least.
Based on that experience I would not consider becoming a customer.

Back on Planet Earth, playing sonically challenging 70s and 80s prog rock, classic 60s modal jazz, good old fashioned jazz vocals and sturm and drang classical, in a system that I've heard evolve over an 18 month period into one that is expressive and involving, it was just amazing to hear the SGM be the first digital product that while unambiguously still digital in nature, crossed the rubicon into a presentation that I only ever thought was in the preserve of analog, and good analog at that.

The ability to be drawn into the music, with apparently no artifacts and zero noise conveying an analog like lack of cognitive dissonance ie ability to just soak up the music, and tonal discrimination between different pieces makes the SGM absolutely worth investigating, esp if like me you are coming from a place where digital has always struggled to convey the holistic event of lp playback.
Hi Marc,

On the SGM team, we very much appreciate your comments above. The factors which have facilitated the delivery the musical experience you heard are many and varied, not the least of which is the superb craftsmanship and sonic artistry that Barry has built into his amps.

My feeling is a significant part of being able to cross the digititis Rubicon, is HQ Player's ability to detect and eliminate the artifacts created during the original Analog to Digital PCM conversion. This ability has not been matched in effectiveness with other music playback software as far as I know. This ability to eliminate the AD artifacts is pretty CPU intensive and results in an order of magnitude more CPU activity and its associated noise signature. The SGM team's goal has been to deliver the lowest RF noise and most accurate computational timing environment for Roon and HQ Player to do their job. Your observations are the best reward for us computer geeky audiophiles :)
 
Sep 17, 2015
286
0
0
Monaco
#16
SGM goes to Hong Kong

Sound Galleries is pleased to announce that Volent and owner Ben Lau have been appointed exclusive distributor/dealer for the SGM for Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Ben has a long experience in computer audio and a deep understanding, building not only complete systems, but also PC peripheral cards as well.

We are shipping 3 SGM's to Ben in Hong Kong this coming week and I will be visiting Hong Kong from August 6th to August 10.

If you want to arrange an audition, drop me a line or contact Ben Lau at Volent

eurodriversoundtest@gmail.com
 
Jan 20, 2013
335
0
16
London, UK
#17
Well, after two weeks with the SGMS2015 I have to confess to being both baffled by the amount of information contained within a simple, by today's standards, 16/44.1K container and overwhelmed at the stunning sound quality after upsampling to DSD512.

I initially had difficulty in listening with my eyes open due to the incongruity of what my ears heard and eyes saw. How can musicians be placed in the room when my eyes tell me they aren't? Complete mind fk.

This is the most transparent, relaxed, and yet dynamic sound I've heard, period. No, I haven't travelled the world listening to uber systems but the SGMS2015 belongs in most and dare I say competes with those rarified analogue systems.
You know when live music is playing in a room when you are listening outside because there is a telltale signature, probably dynamics account for most of that, well this is what I'm hearing outside the room. There is this density/solidity to the performance that is fundamental to how the server in combination with the T+A DAC 8 DSD replays music.

It streams Tidal content with the same aplomb too. I spent 6 months ripping my 2500 CDs for nothing, bar those not on Tidal. Tidal sounds better. My Roon playlist now contains Tidal content, CD rips, Hi Res and DSD files and all are played faultlessly. What an achievement.

I want to thank the SGM team for their incredible work and Eurodriver for being so helpful with setup and for his positive comments.

I look forward to Audiophile Bill's review. Wonder if he ShunMook'd it or added the Black Fuse?

Blue58
 

marslo

Member Sponsor
May 2, 2014
494
2
18
Poland
#18
Hi Blue,
Thank you for interesting input.
I plan to make an appointment with Geoffrey from Sound Galleries for audition of SGMS with Lampi with newest DSD 512 board in the beginning of September.
For time being I am in favour of native PCM and DSD from Aurender W20 but very enthousiastic opinions about DSD 512 make me give the SGMS a listen.
Cheers
Mariusz
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,244
14
38
E. England
#19
Well, I made the trip to Audiophile Bill to hear the SGM on the end of dsd512 HQ via the T&A, and 256 via the GG
Fascinating comparison. GG had the edge on tone and analog like saturation, but the T&A was superior on dynamics and verve
The impression I get is that the SGM has really upped the ante at Bill's in effect supercharging the T&A

For me, I remain amazed by the SGM's ability to eek out of digital a real analog like sensibility, the non existent noise floor diminishing previously irritating digital artifacts and allowing spatial and tonal cues to rise and fall totally naturally like the very best lp replay
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,847
43
48
London
#20
Well, I made the trip to Audiophile Bill to hear the SGM on the end of dsd512 HQ via the T&A, and 256 via the GG
Fascinating comparison. GG had the edge on tone and analog like saturation, but the T&A was superior on dynamics and verve
The impression I get is that the SGM has really upped the ante at Bill's in effect supercharging the T&A

For me, I remain amazed by the SGM's ability to eek out of digital a real analog like sensibility, the non existent noise floor diminishing previously irritating digital artifacts and allowing spatial and tonal cues to rise and fall totally naturally like the very best lp replay
I disagree with that, since I spent quite some time with both before you came in, and you barely heard the T+A (correct me if I am wrong but you left in about two mins when we put it back in, you did spend some time with the Lampi, beer and pizza though). The t+a was better on electronic bass, but when playing symphonies it was no match on the separation and orchestral dynamics to the Lampi with the 242