It used to go like that…
…but now it goes like this:
Stuart Ralston isn’t quite re-enacting ‘Dylan goes electric’ with the SGR MusicKube but this once ripper-server-DAC has seem some dramatic changes since it first debuted at CES in January 2013.
That prototype promised a US$5K sticker price but Ralston has subsequently confessed that he couldn’t realistically bring the whole shebang to market for less than US$20K, about which he (rightly) opines, “There is no market for that!”
Discovering that not all CD drives ripped equally compounded his problems. Having tested ten drives from $40 to $400, only three ripped bit-perfectly. Guess which ones? Yup, the cheapest! The reason? No drive cache.
Ralston discovered that the cache built into expensive drives prevents the drive from re-reading the disc when the ripping software believes it has seen a ripping error. Instead of getting the laser to go back and re-read, the drive re-sends the contents of the buffer – complete with original ripping error – a second time to the ripping software. And a third time. And fourth. Fail.
Back to the drawing board in Melbourne with the MusicKube he went. Ralston re-focussed his efforts on the server/transport side of the equation.
In the SGR room at the Australian Audio AV Show in Melbourne the fruits of 18 months’ work on redeveloping the product from the ground up were finally ready for harvesting.
On display, the first of three parts that comprise the MusicKube’s now modular configuration. Each component stacks one on top of the other to form a cube.
The standard server (in hand above) sells for AU$3000 and ships with external SMPS as well as a Buffalo USB combo drive for CD ripping. Ralston says that even though it’s a relatively inexpensive unit “that gets the job done properly every time it rips”.
Inside, no moving parts: a Quad core Intel i3 CPU, 16Gb RAM and a 1TB SSD (expandable to 2TB), for which a lower power draw (than a rotating HDD) helps to minimise circuit noise.
Network traffic travels over 802. 11n Wifi or Gigabit Ethernet whilst audio sees output over USB or HDMI with which PCM up to 32bit/384kHz, DSD64 and DSD128 are supported.
On software intestines Ralston says, “It is a light weight, stripped down and highly optimised Linux Kernel with all the other software written from scratch. The playback engine, the meta-data database, the web-server, the ripping engine, the storage engine, everything – all written in house.”
Music selection and control comes from ANY device that can run a web browser.
However, if you want the full 14cm3 cubic visual you’ll also need to drop AU$3000 on the (optional) linear power supply and a further AU$2000 for the (also optional) Blu-ray drive, also house in an aluminum chassis.
A complete MusicKube system will therefore run you AU$8000.
Further information: SGR Audio