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Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Financial Interests: click here
Source Digital: Metronome T-1i CD player with DAISy HE Remote Control
Preamplifier: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Bendix tubes; NuForce P9
Amplifier: NuForce Reference 9 V3 Special Edition monoblocks;
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha W/P
Cables Digital: Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic; NuForce digital cables
Interconnect: Bocchino Audio Morning Glory; Cable Research Laboratory (CRL) Gold with Bocchino XLR and RCA; Cerious Technologies; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; MIT Giant Killer MPC; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon; NuForce IC-700
: Cerious Technologies; MIT Giant Killer GK-1 loudspeaker cables; NuForce SC-700
Power: Cerious Technologies AC; Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; PSC Gold Power MKII; Shunyata Research Diamondback
Stands: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature equipment racks
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only)
Acoustic treatment: Fonic Designer panels and StudioCel bass traps
Sundry accessories: NuForce Magic Cube, Burson Audio Buffer, Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 17' w x 35' d x 12' h in short wall setup, opens to adjoining kitchen
Review component retail: AUD $6.530

The brave shall triumph

SGR Audio is a relatively new Australian company but ‘struth, is landing on the audio scene running. SGR’s team of father and son Harry and Stuart Ralston are grabbing the bull by the horns. They have launched an array of high-end weaponry with a product depth that’s almost unprecedented in our country. In a relatively short time the company has successfully launched three comprehensive high-end and fully realized ranges of loudspeakers - and there’s a growing stable of electronic components.

The speaker line-up includes the anything-but-entry-level Convex Series with its curved enclosures, gorgeous gloss wood finishes and leather baffles; the mid-level MT Series featuring twin-box designs, exotic drivers and high-tech enclosure materials; and the flagship Illuminator Series at this stage made up of a multi-driver multi-enclosure monolith resembling the Rockport Arrakis or Duntech Sovereign. The two newly released amplifiers—with more to come—will soon be joined by matching preamps, active crossovers and source components. Quite the staggering catalogue for a newcomer.

What’s more, the company has recently acquired a large factory unit in Melbourne’s outer suburbs which will serve as headquarters and house administration offices, design and development spaces, demonstration rooms, manufacturing and assembly facilities and expansive warehousing. I was also privy to the expanding range of machinery that SGR is installing, such as the CNC lathe for machining cylindrical-type objects like volume knobs, speaker spikes etc.; and two CNC mills for machining heat sinks and enclosure panels. A CNC router is used for machining timber panels for speakers and subwoofers. A wave-soldering machine is used for automated soldering of through-hole PCBs. As much of the manufacturing process as possible is done in-house. The Ralstons want total control.

On a recent visit to Melbourne I was given a private tour of the still-developing facilities which I found very impressive even in a state where there was still substantial building, painting and development going on. Later at the nearby Ralston home, I was treated to a delicious banquet (the word is no exaggeration and its emphasis is appropriate) beautifully prepared by Ann Ralston who not only kills in the kitchen but plays an active and important role in the running of the company. Post feast and as an extra treat, I was led into a couple of well-appointed listening environments where I briefly tasted some of the speaker creations. The Ralston men can do some cooking of their own.

For the Elite

SGR’s philosophy mandates active speaker design and being fanatical about quality and controlling as much of the engineering as possible, this led the company to design and manufacture its own amplification. The subject of this review is the Elite Series EL30s amplifier, part of the range that will power the high-end MT and flagship Illuminator series but which are also available as stand-alone products (the Convex Series speakers have high-quality plate amps built into the rear baffle).

The EL30s is the middle unit of what will eventually be a three-model range (the ‘s’ stands for stereo). What we’re looking at here is a very unusual aesthetic design with high-quality componentry in and out. Unusual is that the main—almost cubic—chassis is flanked by massive custom heatsinks and fronted by a rather attractive synthetic granite fascia which features a chromed brand and model metal plate, a bank of LED VU meters and an on/off switch. The rear panel is where the action is however. Here we have both balanced XLR and RCA connecting options (Neutrik and WBT respectively), WBT speaker connectors and an IEC socket with AC fuse next to it. Alongside the connectors there’s a number of small toggle switches, namely VU meter on/off; ‘Stealth’ mode which kills all lights including the internal LEDs; an auto mode which allows the amp to power down automatically; a protect option; and finally a switch to toggle between XLR and RCA inputs. SGR provides a choice of rubber feet or small machined cones which come with small surface-protecting dish/puck receptacles. All switches and connectors are of very high quality.

Interior circuitry also benefits from quality components. For starters, the EL30s features 4-layer PCBs with ultra-thick copper traces, a large low-profile Plitron toroidal transformer, Nichicon Muse and WIMA capacitors, Vishay and Mills resistors and a whole lot more goodness expertly sprinkled and spiced throughout. Let’s just say that the EL30s, small and devoid of artificial bling as it may be, feels sturdily built and intelligently engineered.

SGR quotes the EL30s as being capable of outputting 160 watts RMS continuous into 8 ohms, 240 into 4 and 275 RMS into 2. Bandwidth is given as 3Hz to 50kHz at -3dB, gain as 28dB and input impedance as 47kohm. Damping factor is over 1000, albeit with no frequency specifics, THD+N is 0.001%. SGR classes the amp as an AB design with the first 5 watts in class A. Throughout its stay within our system the EL30s did not get more than very moderately warm whether at idle or during many a mayhem listening session. I asked Stuart Ralston to discuss some of the engineering ideas and decisions made in the design of these amplifiers.