Our last night in Munich for the 2016 High End show was on Friday. Normally when we attend a well-organized show, we avoid the various side shows. We dislike the idea that some people exploit the efforts and investments of others who get attendees to the main event, then piggy-back on their promotions. This year we made an exception as the side show was an invitation-only affair organized by Monaco's Sound Galleries dealership. It was all about the introduction of their SGM music server project. Those invited were computer-audio interested members of the press, active What's Best forum members and other folks of the audio industry. These attendees came from all over the world and the introduction of the music server coinciding with the High End show was a logistic advantage.
So as the MOC was about to close its show doors on Friday night, a bus awaited to whisk us away to the BMW Welt some 15 minutes from the MOC. We were met by Manuela Mattes in charge of all logistics. Being fluent in a number of languages made her very handy with the multi-national visitors. Manuela also has a strong affiliation to music. She worked for many years as sound engineer for UK tours of some real big names. When the bus was filled to near capacity, it was off to BMW Welt. Munich and BMW are joined at the hip. Everywhere you go there is a plant or office of the famous car maker. BMW Welt is the company's showcase slash museum slash campus slash anything else a BMW aficionado might dream of. Here one can even pick up a recently purchased new car in person. The huge mainly open space is covered in curved glass whilst the roof is a large solar panel. Architect Wolf Prix really ate his heart out. A meandering path leads the visitor over and through various exhibition areas where old and new cars and motorcycles are on display. Our group was expected on the second floor with refreshments already rolled out. The Welt has a good reputation for food and drink and we fully enjoyed the latter for starters. Just to illustrate the variety of invitees, we met two audio lovers from New Zealand who were in Munich for the main show and who are active forum members. After our group had acclimatized, it was time for the presentation of the SGM.

The Sound Galleries Music server is a joint effort between Sound Galleries owner Geoffrey Armstrong, former SG customer now driving force behind the project Edward Hsu, also from Monaco, and finally Dutch Emile Bok, owner of Taiko Audio. Geoffrey had been looking at computer audio for a long time and performed a lot of experiments, albeit never to his complete satisfaction. Whatever combination of hard and software he explored, the desired sound remained elusive.

Thus is became time to roll up sleeves and their own. After many meetings, trials, tribulations and hardware iterations, the SGM 2105 became a final working fact. The user interfaces with it via Roon. Music stored on any digital storage device including the virtual cloud (e.g. Tidal) is then handled by Jussi Laako's HQPlayer software with its elaborate code and us of both the SGM's central processor but also the enormous power of additional graphic processor cores which even enable predictive processing – that is, pre-processing of the musical signal before it is ever processed in real time.

HQPlayer takes all incoming signal and by means of filters and DSP translates it to DSD512 for decoding by an external DAC. On the hardware side, there is not just a hefty off-the-shelf PC commissioned to do music server duties. Whilst, the base is a workstation mother board with a state-of-the-art processor, all other bits open to enhancements have been enhanced or tweaked. From the power supplies, cooling and special clocks to the selection of make and type of memory banks, everything is either custom designed and/or matched carefully. Two factors as the overriding theme in the design were lowest possible noise and best possible timing.

During the presentation the SGM 2015 was flanked by a T+A DAC8 and Taiko Audio Kodo amplifiers. The loudspeakers were Vivid Audio Giya G1. Taiko's monoblocks based on the Dutch nCore 500 class-D modules are powered by Hypex SMPS 1200 switch-mode supplies. All cabling was by UK brand Sablon. The SG team cleverly brought some spare equipment, hence a rack that seemed a bit crowded.

After Geoffrey welcomes and introduced the design team, the stage was cleared for a presentation by Enno Vandemeer of Dutch ancestry and also one of the former designers of Sooloos. After Meridian acquired Sooloos, Enno decided it was time for something new. That grew into Roon, a platform-independent music management system. It not only keeps track (pun intended) of your music and presents it in a fast user-friendly way, it adds value by crosslinking various background information from a cloud-based database. Enno emphasized how privacy is high on Roon's agenda even though meta data is sent to the Roon environment in the cloud. Basically, Roon brings back the old look and feel of vinyl LP sleeves with their large-format artwork and all manner of related information, albeit in an interactive 21st century context.

Then it came time to face the music. With Geoffrey a longtime 6moons reader who shares our and Srajan's passion for certain non-mainstream musical styles, his selection was one which not all attendees related to. We however did. This made it easy to assess what we were listening to. After a quite elaborate session for what after all was meant as just a demo, we concluded that an audition with an amplifier of larger bandwidth would likely have revealed a lot more. Later Geoffrey confided that the amplifier choice had been one of democracy. He'd been the only one to champion the Audiopax L50 he'd brought to the event.

During dinner we enjoyed a real feast of what the Fest's catering had to offer. For us non carnivores, there was a wide selection of perfectly cooked veg with tasty young and colourful sprouts. Before part II of the Fest commenced, we had time to meet other attendees like Adam Mokrzycki whom we know from the Warsaw audio show which he organizes. In turn he formally introduced us to Lukasz Fikus of LampizatOr who happens to be a customer of Emile Bok for transformers. Part II included a presentation by HQPlayer author Jussi Laako. This was not for the faint of heart since Jussi soon dove deep into the algorithms of his filters. We asked for his presentation slides to dig into his ideas at leisure and report on them later. After the presentation there was more time for music. We were privy to various settings of HQPlayer, from pure PCM playback to upsampled reformatting in DSD256 and DSD512. After a really long day of 'doing' audio, we thanked Geoffrey for all of his efforts and perfect organization to head back home to the Netherlands, but not without Geoff promising us the opportunity to review a complete SGM 2015 --> T+A DAC8 --> Taiko Kodo/Audiopax L50 set! Now that's something we really look forward to!