SGR AUDIO: FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO THE WORLD STAGE
The UK has Rega, Cambridge Audio, Linn, B&W, and dozens more. The US has Audio Research, Krell, Mark Levinson, and the list goes on.
In fact, many of our home-grown brands can be very proud of their achievements.
Greg Osborn’s loudspeakers were chosen by the Sultan of Brunei’s advisors over other speakers from around the world costing many times more than his.
VAF speakers were featured in Rolling Stone magazine.
Krix speakers are used in more than 80% of commercial cinemas across Australia, with many hundreds more around the world.
Not to take anything away from any of the esteemed Aussie brands above, but there’s one more contemporary Australian manufacturer however, that tends to fly under the radar.
They are arguably one of our biggest HiFi success stories, or at very least, the most advanced designer and manufacturer of HiFi components and loudspeakers.
Founded in Melbourne in 2001 as a humble home-based start-up, Stuart Ralston and his father, Harry, started designing loudspeakers and soon after, the SGR Audio company was formed.
Stuart’s experience in electronics, backed up by a degree in Digital Systems from Monash University, combined with the expertise of Loudspeaker Engineer, Michail Barabaz of Lorantz Audio Services, led to the company’s first range of Active Loudspeakers.
To cope with demand, a factory in Templestowe, Victoria, soon followed. With a growing team, Stuart would ultimately be responsible for electronic design and manufacturing while Harry would be responsible for cabinet construction and the flawless finish of SGR Audio products.
After a brief stint with outsourced Chinese production of the speaker cabinets, the result simply didn’t meet the high standards SGR demanded. Further investment was then made into the factory which would allow every process to be performed in-house.
And we really do mean everything.
SGR Audio now has dedicated electronics assembly areas including automated soldering machines, fully enclosed spray booth and painting facilities, multiple CNC machines and a complete line of aluminium surfacing & finishing machines.
Stuart even designed and built his own anodising plant after being displeased with locally outsourced work. This is typical of Stuart’s high standards and bordering on obsessive compulsive expectations of quality.
Initial sales were very strong, particularly in the local market as word spread about SGR Audio products.
It would be some ten years later that the SGR Audio team would exhibit at a show, debuting at Melbourne’s Audio & AV Show in 2011 and winning joint Best Sound of the show, as voted by show attendees.
The SGR Audio product offering continued to expand with the introduction of SGR designed and manufactured equipment racks. The result of thousands of hours of research into vibration, isolation and control, and as expected they’re also impeccably finished.
As one of the very first manufacturers to embrace an ‘active’ loudspeaker design for the domestic audio market, accolades continued to flow for SGR Audio after further demonstrations at shows abroad including CES Las Vegas (2013/2015), Hong Kong (2014/2016), and the largest HiFi Show in the world, Munich’s High End Show in 2015.
With distributors dotted around most continents, SGR Audio’s loudspeakers, amplifiers and racks have continued to enjoy sales growth and broaden brand awareness.
The popular CX Series of speakers was updated to MK2 in 2016. After extensive research and development and another world-first for a HiFi amplifier manufacturer, Stuart was the first to implement current-drive technology in a commercially available loudspeaker. You can read more about that here.
Never one to get too comfortable, for 2017 Stuart developed an entirely new line of speakers, the Discovery Series.
While many of the world’s HiFi manufacturers are finally embracing an ‘active’ approach to speakers, SGR Audio could arguably be the first to make a name for themselves in active loudspeakers, and only then design and release a traditional passive speaker range.
Stuart tells StereoNET:
Our CX range of active loudspeakers has been more successful than we could have ever anticipated. While we are very proud to offer a truly world-class, high-end product at comparatively affordable prices, we felt we needed a range that would introduce a new audience to the SGR Audio brand.
According to Stuart, SGR’s global distributors have also been requesting a passive range for some time.
Exhibiting on the global stage that is Munich’s High End Show, the Discovery Series made their debut in May this year under the banner, ‘Affordable Elegance’.
The range comprises four models, starting with the DS1 (2-Way Bookshelf - $8,500), DS2 (2-Way Floorstanding - $9,500), DS3 (2.5-Way Floorstanding - $11,500) and finally the DS4 (3-Way Floorstanding - $17,500).
SGR has always advocated the use of paper cones, bucking the current industry trend to use exotic metals or ceramic type materials. According to Stuart, paper cones offer the best combination of stiffness and damping, which results in better control of cone break-up and ultimately, produces better tone.
The new Discovery Series stays true to this philosophy, with the DS1 through DS3 using paper cone 6.5” midwoofers and a 1” soft dome Tweeter. The flagship DS4 is the only true 3-way in the range and adds two 8” paper cone bass drivers.
Unique to the Discovery range is an in-house computer designed waveguide with a sophisticated, software-optimised profile that is machined from 50mm thick billet aluminium.
Each baffle and waveguide takes 2 hours to machine by CNC. According to Stuart, the waveguide approach to the tweeter is the least compromised method of time-aligning the loudspeakers, which he says is critical for correct crossover operation.
Like all SGR Audio products, the enclosures are produced in-house at the SGR factory. Rather than using MDF like most speaker cabinets, SGR produces the cabinets from 19mm constrained layer damped timber. Stuart says that this material is much more inert, offering less resonance and vibration due to its significantly higher energy dissipation. It is also more stable than MDF in the long term, which is part of the secret to the impeccable seamless box construction.
The Discovery Series also features rear porting to achieve a lower frequency response. This is a deviation from all other (active) SGR loudspeakers which are sealed box designs.
Stuart admits that he is not a fan of using ports, but without active circuitry to equalise and boost the bass response, ports were a “necessary evil” in the new Discovery range.
We chose to locate the ports at the rear of the box to minimise their interaction with the midrange driver. Front porting has become popular these days for room placement reasons, but the sonic degradation we measured on the front ported prototypes was simply unacceptable.
We also spent significant time designing the internals of the loudspeaker enclosure eliminate all standing waves, as these exacerbated the port/midrange interaction issue.
Real timber veneers are used and if what we witnessed in Munich is typical of the SGR Audio finish (it is), the workmanship displayed on the Discovery Series is second-to-none. Painted finishes are also available from just about any automotive paint code known to man, for a 20% surcharge.
While the Discovery Series joins the SGR Audio catalogue as their ‘entry level’ offer, its price is still a considerable investment for any music lover.
What we can say is that if the price was truly reflective of the level of research, design, engineering, materials, and quality of finish shown in the Discovery Series, the final price would likely be many times higher.
And yet, the Discovery models are likely still made to a higher level of quality, feature higher spec’ components and offer a better sound and response than some of the biggest loudspeaker brands in the world.
Yep, SGR Audio is one of our own, and we should be proud.
For more information visit SGR Audio.
See SGR Audio at the 2017 International HiFi Show, November 3rd-5th, Albert Park – Melbourne.
StereoNET’s Founder and Publisher, born in UK and raised on British Hi-Fi before moving to Australia where he worked as an Engineer in both the audio and mechanical fields.