SGR’s AuS­tRAliAn muSicKube

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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

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