SGR’s AuStRAliAn muSicKube
Australia’s SGR Audio launched the remarkable ‘musicKube’ Digital Playback System at the Audio & AV Show. Not only designed but also manufactured here in Australia, it’s a high-resolution playback device for stored media, but “unlike any other, not just another PC motherboard disguised inside a fancy chassis”, says the company.
The software is all its own, it can support up to 32-bit/384kHz files, indeed “every format known to man at every resolution including double DSD”, SGR’s Stuart Ralston (pictured) told Edgar Kramer at the Show.
“We’ve been developing the musicKube for four years now from the ground up,” he told Edgar Kramer. “It’s a hardware and software solution with a complete software package designed and developed in-house. The operating system is a very streamlined version of Linux. We cut out everything that is not needed as best we could to purely play back high resolution audio files – bit perfect.
“The software application was designed by us from scratch as well, and it’s controlled via a Wi-Fi network using a phone, tablet, PC — any smart device. There’s no app or download required, you just need a browser.
“The best part of the system is that it accesses our metadata database which we’ve created from scratch. This is called Audible DNA and it’s our own, and as far as I know the only database that can accurately map the entire world’s music including the classical genre. We can draw relationships between any entity and how they’re involved in the music. There’s no third-party software on board so we’re in complete control of every part of the design.” EK: From the look of it, it’s a modular approach… SR: Yes, the production model is a modular design. The first box is the digital transport and actual server, the second box is the CD-ROM drive, for reading and ripping your music, and lastly the third box is an analogue toroidal power supply — which is an upgrade. Out of the box the unit will work with its switched-mode power supply but the analogue power supply gives an upgrade in performance. EK: Does the musicKube stream music? SR: No, it doesn’t stream — it plays from internal storage and it comes with a standard 1TB of solid-state storage. You can upgrade to 2TB and you can of course also expand your storage via a NAS drive. In the entire design there are no moving parts, no fans, so it’s passively cooled. It has a quad-core processor [an Intel i3] with 16GB of RAM, that’s more RAM than most desktop PCs, so it can play the largest DSD files. EK: The unit has a HDMI input, we see. SR: Yes, because it can playback surround sound in the DTS and Dolby Digital formats. There is some music out there available in surround sound formats so if you have a multichannel system the musicKube can play that in up to seven channels.
EK: The chassis is quite unusual and solidly assembled [see centre image, chassis on the right]. Where is it made?
SR: We make the chassis in-house as is the entire product, machined out of a solid billet of aluminium. It’s an expensive way to do it but it’s very accurate. And pretty cool. EK: And what will be the pricing for the units themselves? SR: The musicKube itself will be $3000. When you add the Drive and the Power analogue power supply to make the kube formation you’re looking at an $8000 package.
More info: www.sgraudio.com.au