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February 2022

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Superior Audio Equipment Review

Taiko SGM Extreme Hi-Res Music Streamer Review
The best music server I've ever heard.
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott

 

Taiko SGM Extreme Hi-Res Music Streamer Review

 

  Oh Snap! Did he just say that in the title? Did he use the "best" word as a reviewer? I didn't think they were supposed to do that....

A'yup. I did. But I qualified it!

SGM has been evolving for over six years, changing development, changing production sources, and changing core processes of implementation. When Taiko, with Emile Bok at its' helm, fully took over SGM development and production, they raised the bar with an attitude of going stratospheric or going home. Emile made it clear to me during our conversations that he wanted to do it right, from layout to implementation, without concern for cost or limitations in manufacturing techniques or pretty much any obstacles that stood in their way. One look at the exterior and you're seriously impressed.

 

Take A Look Inside
Take off the massive top cover and you're blown away at the guts of the component. This music server is what I have always thought a proper statement-level music server should be, a bespoke design to accomplish one single task; not a simple modified PC with an aftermarket USB board and a pretty enclosure. I have been a fervent believer in the incredible performance of my current digital source reference Memory Player. Its special nature and exceptional sonics coming, I believe, more from its massive computing power and software solutions to reduce internal processes and create a direct line of digital sight for those magic ones and zeros; yet its internal and external construction has never mimicked its performance.

 

Taiko SGM Extreme Hi-Res Music Streamer Review

 

As good as it sounds, and it does sound insanely good, it just never exuded that sense of pride in ownership and obsession to fabrication detail that I felt it needed to squeeze that last ounce of performance out of my digital bits and pieces. It also requires a full understanding of computers and Windows to get the most out of it, and is far from easy to operate; I always consider it the turntable equivalent of digital requiring a bit of care, love, and attention to get the most out of it. That said, there is a new and improved Memory Player that is due to hit the market with an easier user interface and a significantly improved construct, but exactly when it will arrive and what it will look and sound like I do not yet know. The Taiko is here now, and has been for some time. It is Faberge construction and NASA engineering.

It is fantastic!

 

 

Development Time, Lots Of It!
Windows servers have developed a reputation for being a touch needy in comparison to their LINUX counterparts. Yet, when striving for the best digital performance I believe that Linux, and its universal DAC driver allowing the user to plug and play without the need for a custom driver, means that there is never a specific driver used to optimize the direct connection between the server and DAC like you can do with a Windows-based unit.

Emile has spent an enormous amount of time and money in developing a windows system combined with touchpad controllers that fully and completely overcomes any complaints previously voiced regarding Windows servers. The iPad app reliably and seamlessly links to the Extreme every time I use it, and when utilizing Roon, it is as flawless as any typical iPad app. This seamless implementation is a massive accomplishment and makes the Extreme as easy to use as an Aurender or Lumin.

Yes, someone from Taiko does have to remotely get on the first time to set the system up in your network environment, but that process was seamless and, including uploading the proper DAC driver, took only minutes and needs to be done only once. Once that is done, the Taiko shows up on your network and you can upload files to its internal PCle module hard drives (2 to 64 TB) connected directly to the CPU with minimal effort from your primary computer anywhere in your home.

 

 

Great Support Too!
This is a good time to mention the absolutely insane level of support that Taiko offers their customers. If you have a problem, they are there to help. It's certainly not 24/7, nor should it be; we are talking about audio equipment, not a cardiothoracic surgeon. But there is no conceivable way, other than maybe a holiday, that I foresee a customer not getting a response to a query within 12-24 hours of submitting it and it was usually way faster. It's a crazy expensive purchase with crazy, supportive people to back that expense.

Natively, servers are optimized to give superior performance from stored files. Emile focused his entire hardware and software design on also optimizing streaming files and utilizing Roon. Considering the hardware, I will be brief and concise as you can read detailed explanations of their accomplishments on their website. The enclosure is fabricated from aircraft-grade aluminum secured with huge heat sinks to let the massive processing breath. The top alone is machined with (I was told) 6000 waveguide holes to attenuate emissions and reduce resonance.

 

 

Power
The unit utilizes a massive 400W linear power supply using Mundorf and Duelund Capacitors, Lundahl chokes and a generous supply of Panzerholz wood to mitigate vibration. The design highlights modularity for longevity and isolation. The layout utilizes a dual CPU design to optimize Roon as a source by separating Roon's massive CPU needs with the audio processing it requires for best performance. They use custom RAM modules selected for high tolerance matching and low current draw which permits faster utilization and reduced noise.

The passive (no fan noise) cooling system is entirely in-house designed and fabricated, and uses solid copper heat sinks to leach heat away from the massive processors. The result is bit-perfect output with low latency (processing time), reduced jitter, and essentially no noise floor. Speaking of output, they have developed their USB output board to optimize the connection between the server and DAC. Even the footers are custom designed and bespoke for the Extreme.

 

 

In Use
With the Extreme, the digital source location becomes essentially irrelevant. File performance becomes a matter of how well it was recorded, resolution, compression, and quality of the file itself; streamed or stored it is going to sound fantastic if it is fantastic. Roon, takes on a level of performance it has never before attained. The hardware and software implementation of Roon on the Extreme is simply incomparable to any other Roon experience. Yet my stance on Roon's music renderer stands; there is better out there. Although I did not experiment I am convinced that utilizing HQ player as the internal renderer for Roon on the Extreme would yield improved Roon performance.

This is not a standard setup and requires the purchase of HQ player and time to set it up. I will pursue that at some point in the future... Why didn't I try it during the review period you ask? Well, firstly I didn't want to bother the guys at Taiko to sample a software solution they don't overtly support. But also because Emile showed me how to use their native server software, TAS (Taiko Audio Server). As fantastic a user interface as we all know Roon is, TAS sounds better. It is cleaner, with a more natural presentation; quieter, and more organic.

Yet, TAS reduces the user interface experience significantly. In the end when critical listening, I used Roon to find my music, and TAS to listen to it. When more casual listening, I stuck with Roon as it was still insanely good. If TAS is a Ferrari SF90 Stradale, Roon on the Extreme is still an F8 Tributo! And to continue that analogy, most would prefer to every day drive the F8 over the SF90. My assumption is the same for most users, I expect Roon to be used most frequently and TAS to be used when critical listening or showing off the system.

 

 

So what does the F8, I mean the Extreme, sound like? Well, certainly better than the F8 and its passion-sucking twin turbos. Let's be real, nothing sounds better than a naturally aspirated Ferrari! That 458 tone is just sublime! Eh hem; Sorry. Got a bit distracted.... In a single word, and I know I'm going to be lynched for this, the Taiko Extreme sounds Analog. No, not wow and flutter, even-order harmonic distortion, vinyl pops and clicks analog silly. I mean the magic that comes off of a vinyl disk or reel to reel analog. The Extreme isn't at all the best digital I have ever heard, it's the least digital I have ever heard!

OK, it's also the best digital I have heard. The Extreme surpasses the concepts of CD as best digital source and finally allows the listener to rely on streamed files without feeling they are compromising. And that's all with Roon.

As a Digital source, its neutrality of tone is expected. Yet its ability to define the colors of that tone and the passion of those colors is delightful. The presentation is entirely lacking of any digital artifact or awareness there are zeros and ones buried in the waveforms. Without painting poetic pros of unrestricted highs and fathomless lows (you see what I did there?), the Extreme is in fact a paintbrush, not a printer.

Tracks flow into albums and albums into extended listening sessions, awash with brushstrokes of energy and palettes of emotion and harmony. The system with the Extreme in it (along with the majestic Wilson Alexx V's) was so superior to anything I had heard previously in my room that I frequently caught myself laughing out loud, or crying quietly. Mostly I sat there shaking my head in astonishment that reproduction of this level can be achieved with a digital source, or any source, in a room, from a recording.

 

 

The Best I've Heard
I can only report what I have heard, and what I have experienced in my room. And as of today, The Taiko Extreme gets me closer to the music, closer to what the musicians are conveying to me, and closer to the room/venue that the recording was recorded in than I have previously experienced. And it accomplished this while looking and behaving the part of an ultra-reference component, with the tech support to properly back it.

But... the best?!? Well, I have conveyed to you that I have never heard a better digital source in my room, and I have heard many. I have not heard the Wadax Reference DAC and server (over $100,000 each). But personally, I'd rather buy the Taiko Extreme and have money left over for that F8 Tributo.... If you are looking for a digital source and can afford it, I can not recommend the Extreme more highly; it's that good!

 

Manufacturer's Comments
We will have the successor of TAS (called XDMS for Extreme Direct Music Server) launching in the next months which does away with the simpler interface and quirky playback behavior of TAS, and sounds better. This has been completely newly coded from the ground up and uses no parts of TAS. And we have quite a substantial upgrade to Roon performance coming up, it virtually puts Roon at equal SQ footing as TAS is at now, but XDMS expands beyond this again. On the hardware side, we have a network upgrade card and switch launching in May 2022.

 

 

 

Associated Equipment
Analog Sources: Lyra Atlas SL cartridge, VPI HW40 turntable / arm, and Pass Labs XP-17 phono stage.

Digital Sources: Taiko Extreme (in review), Laufer Teknik Memory Player MP64, Pilium Elektra DAC, Light Harmonic Davinci 3, and DCS Vivaldi One (on loan from DCS).

Pre-Amplification: Pilium Alexander Preamplifier

Amplification: Pilium Achilles stereo amp, Lamm Industries ML2 SET monoblocks, and Manley Neo-Classic 500 monoblocks.

Integrated Amplification: Dartzeel CTH-8550 model two, and the Octave V80SE with Super Black Box Integrated.

Speakers: Wilson Alexia 2 and the Laufer Teknik The Note (plus Raidho TD 3.8 Floorstanders in this review of course)

AC Power: Dedicated Square D 125 amp panel w/10 gauge runs to each outlet, Furutech GTX-D-NCF Rhodium outlets, dedicated circuits for each outlet, Environmental Protection EP-2750 ground filter on each circuit, and EP-2050 surge protection/waveform correction.

Power Conditioning: Shunyata D6000, Richard Gray 400S, and Torus RM20BAL.

Rack And Shelf Support: Custom TimberNation rack, Adona SR4 racks, Symposium Ultra shelves, Symposium Rollerblocks 2+ doublestacks, HRS Nimbus, Shun Mook Giant Diamond Resonator, IsoAcoustics Titan Cronos (on the Timber Nation rack), Gaia 1 & 2, and IsoAcoustics Orea Bourdeaux.

Interconnect Cables: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream 1.0m XLR, Analysis Plus 1.0m Micro Golden Oval XLR, Shunyata Anaconda S 8.5m XLR, Cable Crystal Connect Reference Diamond 1.5m RCA phono w/ground cable, AudioQuest Wind 7m RCA, and Wind XLR 1m.

Digital Cables: Light Harmonic Lightspeed 20G USB, AudioQuest Diamond 0.75m RJ/E  Ethernet, Diamond USB A-B 5m, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Empirical  Audio 1.0m S/PDIF, and Crystal Connect 1.0m Monet Ethernet.

Speaker Cables: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream 2.0m (spade to banana), AudioQuest William  Tell Ag 8' (banana to banana), and Analysis Plus Big Silver Oval 2.0m (spade tospade).

Power: Shunyata Z-Tron NR 15 Ampere, Shunyata Z-Tron NR 20A, Enklein DAVID 15A, and Clarus Power Hi-Current 15A (12').

Vinyl LP Cleaning Machine: VPI

Acoustics: Dedicated room, Vicoustics, GIK, Acoustic Wings, and Auralax.

Room: 15'1" wide x 18'5" long x 9'2" high

 

 

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise
Emotionally Engaging

Value For The Money

 

 

 

Specifications
Type: High resolution digital audio music streamer

Connections
External connections consist of five USB ports, two Rj45 Ethernet ports, fiber SFP open slot Ethernet port, VGA port. S/PDIF, AES/EBU, dual or quad optionally available.

CPU
Dual Intel Xeon Scalable
10 core - 20 thread CPUs for 20 cores - 40 threads in total.

Cooling
In-house designed ultra high precision passive cooling system.

Storage
Standard storage provisions include 280GB of PCIe Intel Optane storage for the operating system, 2TB of PCIe storage for music files. Music storage can be increased in 2TB increments up to a maximum of 24TB.


RAM
Twelve 4GB custom order industrial memory modules for 48GB in total.

Power Supply
No compromise linear power supply, 400VA transformer, Lundahi chokes, 700.000uF of Mundorf and Duelund capacitors.

Software
Custom Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019 OS, Roon playback software

Remote Access
Setup and maintenance will all be conducted remotely, no user action needed.

Weight: 99 lbs.

Dimensions: 483cm x 455cm x 18cm (WxDxH) including feet.

Chassis
CNC machined hybrid copper / aluminum / 'panzerholz' chassis. Completely passive cooled for silent and fanless operation.

Color Options: Silver or Black.

Price: $32,000 on up depending on options / configuration

 

 

 

Company Information
Taiko Audio
Zandbreeweg 6
7577BZ Oldenzaal
The Netherlands

E-mail: contact@taikoaudio.com 
Website: TaikoAudio.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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