It appears that the vinyl “fad” is officially a trend. Everyone from cash-strapped millennials to well-to-do audiophiles is embracing or rediscovering the glories of the long-playing phonograph album (and 45s too). Of course, we know that vinyl never went away in hifi; it has always been a reference standard for audiophiles. As such, the hifi exhibits at the Venetian at this year’s CES featured a preponderance of turntables and other vinyl-related gear.
An interesting new product from a company called Sweet Vinyl sparked my curiosity this time around. The Sugarcube is described as a “hi-res all-in-one vinyl digital recording and playback platform.” Company founders Leo Hoarty and Dan Eakins demoed the Cube, which makes digital recordings from vinyl records and also incorporates an audiophile click-and-pop filter.
The Cube uses a 192k/24 bit analog-to-digital converter to filter surface noise from records in the digital realm. The listener can control the strength of the filter via a front panel adjustment or using a mobile app. Leo and Dan demoed this feature using an old pressing of James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James (which they had purchased in Vegas for $3). The noise removal from this well-worn disc was quite effective, but even more impressive was the passive internal audiophile-grade relay they use to bypass the filter. I detected little, if any, color from the bypass in the analogue realm.
The Cube also incorporates lossless digital recording capability. Using the front-panel USB jack, recordings of vinyl records can be made in almost any digital-file format to virtually any type of digital-storage device. What’s more, the Cube automatically inserts track separation, and its proprietary software allows for LP metadata tagging. Sweet Vinyl’s smart software accurately determines actual vinyl-album info, like sides, tracks and track lengths. Album information can be displayed via the front-panel or their mobile app.
There are other ways to accomplish this stuff, but I found the Sugarcube to be a very elegant and well-engineered piece of gear. It’s a lot less fussy than performing these functions via a laptop, and I really enjoyed the audiophile-grade headphone amp. The SC-1 will sell for around $1000 and the full-featured SC-2 will be around $2000. Interesting products definitely worth a look.