April
2019

Country of Origin

Korea

SCDA & SIA-R

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen 
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, AURALiC Vega, Soundaware D300Ref
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Kroma Audio Mimí; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Cube Audio Nenuphar [on loan]
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL 3000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €2'500/ea.

Small. Attractive. Great.

It's not what SAG stands for. Not really.

It's actually short for South Korean brand Simon Audio Group as made and marketed by Simon Audio Lab the company. But considering today's dynamic duo of half-sized top loader CDP/DAC plus matching 4-input 50wpc integrated with remote, those three qualities could seem apt. Under the covers, that theme continues.

And no, these compact speakers with horn-loaded tweeters designed by Alain Pratali of Marseilles speaker house Rouault Acoustic are not part of today's assignment. But they are part of this growing product portfolio as is a matching Model One tower version with bigger Accuton mid/woofer now above the tweeter.

If you're suffering an undiagnosed case of déjà vu, it's probably because Simon Kwangli Lee used to head April Music. Their Stello range had similarly compact components, albeit not styled quite as ripped back then. To European eyes paying attention, this relaunch began quietly at the 2017 Munich show in the Davis Acoustics room. There Mr. Lee had early prototypes and was on hand to share his plans going forward.

If you haven't yet, familiarize yourself with the background story in my prior review of his AIO.

In short, he has decades of design work under his belt including for the April Music and Aura Note brands.

For SAG, there's already today's duo, a full-size pre/power equivalent, the all-in-one streaming receiver and two pairs of speakers. He's announced work on a flagship and simplified AIO above and below the first version for possibly later this year. Simon's audio group includes hardware engineer Thomas who's been with him for 40 years; SE Kim for chassis engineering; and his secretary. Building out their new brand currently happens via domestic crowd funding on their own forum linked to at review's end.

Today's source component is a Sanyo pure RedBook drive without SACD. That's allied to a 24/384 Sabre-based USB DAC with coax/Toslink i/o and RCA/XLR analog outs. The matching integrated is a minimalist push/pull circuit with one pair of complimentary Hitachi lateral Mosfets per side plus a single Burson Audio V6 'Classic' discrete opamp doing 100wpc into 4Ω. For those who need more—more expense, more size, more weight, more power, more connectors—SAG have full-sized models. But Simon's first love is simple compact kit which 'average' folks can still aim for and embrace without losing their living rooms to grotesque altars of gear worship.

That's why he's been so keen to co-develop attractive compact speakers with Alain; and often exhibits with Davis Acoustics whose monitors are shown next bracketing his mini stack. Simon likes to address things as a system, not just isolated parts.

On his forum just then, one could even witness sundry design concepts for a proposed valve integrated under the Philia label.

How many design iterations had the SCDA/SIA-R combo undergone before final production locked in?

… to be continued…