The Taiko Extreme is a music server / streamer and in the arena of serious high end digital front ends there is a small handful of world class products, the Extreme being probably the most well-known and highly regarded of them all and it features in many big hitting systems all across the world including Japan, Hong Kong, China, the USA and of course Europe and the UK, it’s one of those products you frequently see when high end systems are shown on social media. The What’s Best Forum Thread on the Extreme is now fast approaching 1000 pages!
The Extreme was designed and crafted in the Netherlands by Emile Bok and his fastidious team of engineers and developers. They left no stone unturned in its development and this almost obsessive level of detail and commitment has continued with apace over the past couple of years, there are a number of new developments which I’ll be discussing in this post along with more exciting plans and upgrades due for release in the near future.
‘What is a Taiko?’ is a question I get asked quite often and in simple terms it is a storage device for your digital music collection and a streamer that will serve music from Tidal and Qobuz, simply connect it to a USB DAC and control it via your phone or iPad and you are set.
The Extreme is a genuine no compromise solution, using the very finest components, many of which have been designed from the ground up exclusively for Taiko. It is based around a Windows server, but one which is heavily optimised and customised to remove everything that is not required leaving only the very bare bones operational to ensure performance is of the very highest standard.
It is built around Roon as the primary playback device for control and as such it is very easy and intuitive to operate, Roon updates itself frequently and requires no real user intervention. The Extreme acts as both Roon Core and Roon Endpoint and it sounds like no other Roon device you will potentially already be familiar with!
The Extreme weighs in at back breaking 45kg and Emile and his team have paid huge attention to every aspect of the Extreme focussing on things such as resonance control and reducing electrical pollution and noise. The Extreme is optimised for a bit-perfect output, focussed on delivering the lowest latency possible (processing time) to ensure things such as EMI/RFI, electrical pollution, current draw are all as low as possible. The power and specification of the Extreme may look like complete overkill, but it is this attention to detail that contributes to giving the Extreme its sonic strength and purity. Taiko have even gone to the lengths of writing a number of bespoke USB drivers for use exclusively on the Taiko, using the correct driver for your DAC can make a profound impact on system performance.
The level of customer support Emile and his team deliver is second to none, remote sessions after hours at short notice have occurred on more than one occasion and nothing is ever too much trouble, I once required a bespoke driver to connect the Taiko to a rather unique product for a customer demonstration and the driver in question simply didn’t exist, 12 hours later it was installed by Taiko remotely on my machine.
Extreme service and always with a smile! It’s always a pleasure to catch up with them in Munich every year.
The Taiko comes included with 2TB of PCIe SSD storage which is enough for easily a couple of thousand stored albums, my demo Extreme has 6TB of storage fitted to it, I have around 3000 albums stored and I’m using just over 2TB of space. The Extreme can be specified with up to 64TB of storage onboard.
The Extreme is absolutely silent in operation, Taiko have designed a noise free passive cooling system, all of the heatsinks are manufactured from the highest grade of solid copper, the CPU interface is machined to within 0.005mm of tolerance!
As for the case/chassis yes it is very large and rather imposing, the case is designed to act as shield, the top plate has 6000 holes, which are in specific locations to help attenuate noise and the use of excessive amounts of copper and panzerholz inside the case all assist in giving the Extreme its unique voice.
As mentioned above the Taiko is built around the Roon interface, as a user experience Roon is a superb piece of software, the way it allows you to explore your existing library and the online library from Qobuz and Tidal is second to none, especially when it come to new music discovery and disappearing down the rabbit hole of links based on associated artists. It doesn’t take too long for people get hooked on Roon to be fair!
That said, Taiko, not wanting to simply sit back and accept something they have little control over have been working on their own control interface, which is called XDMS, which is almost approaching launch.
XDMS has been developed in-house by Taiko and has been designed to provide a great user experience whilst removing the extensive processing requirements of Roon and further improving sonic performance as a result. The sonic benefit of using XDMS isn’t subtle and when switching between 2 interfaces there is a quite a stark and obvious difference in performance.
We’re hopeful that XDMS should be launching over the next few months.
In addition to XDMS Taiko also have been developing an Extreme Network Card and an Extreme Network Switch, both of which launched in the Spring of this year. I’m sure it’s no surprise to say that a network environment is a fundamentally noisy place and this has a detrimental effect on performance, even on a device such as an Extreme.
The Extreme Network Card is designed to be installed internally to replace the Extreme’s onboard ethernet connection, this new card has a single socket on it and using an adapter you can use SFP, Ethernet or a DAC cable (Direct Attached Copper) to give the Extreme a network connection.
This network card is designed to improve performance of both streamed music and also local file playback by removing noise present on the network, it complements the Extreme USB Card which has proven incredibly successful since its launch, all of the Extremes I have installed have had the Extreme USB Card fitted and I anticipate every existing Extreme owner adding the Network Card in due course as well.
This card is being complemented by the release of the Extreme Network Switch as well, this isn’t a switch in the traditional sense as it simply is a ‘1 in and 1 out device’ to sit between your home router and the Extreme. On the input side of the switch you can connect (via a supplied adapter) either an Ethernet Cable or a Fibre Connector Module (SFP).
On the output side of the switch you can connect to the Extreme Network Card via the supplied DAC cable (DAC stands for Direct Attached Copper and has nothing to do with a Digital to Analogue Converter).
This switch has been designed specifically to improve performance of the Extreme by offloading processing power from the Taiko itself to the Switch to make it even more efficient and better sounding as a result. The Extreme Switch is milled out of a single billet of copper, it is only just over 20cm square in size but it is immensely heavy given its compact size (15.7kg)
The Taiko is comfortably the best source component I’ve ever experienced but when you install the Extreme Network Card and Extreme Switch they combine to elevate the Taiko Extreme to a whole new level.
The presentation is incredibly clean with amazing levels of purity and openness, it delivers a level of resolution that to be blunt many people will simply have never experienced before, combined with wonderful textures and intricate layering within your music the whole sonic performance is the possibly the closest I’ve ever experienced to being ‘in the room’ with the musicians. It’s a huge hi-fi cliché, but playing music you know inside out with the card and switch in play really becomes like listening to it for the first time with a veil lifted from in front of the loudspeakers.
The first time I experienced the Network Card and Switch it was one of those moments that realigns your reference point, it really is that strong an addition to the Taiko and outlines the importance of getting your network optimised for audio as well.
The Taiko Extreme Switch is priced at £1750 and the Extreme Switch is £5150, purchase them both at the same time for £6800…., not a huge difference but enough of a saving to purchase a few 24 bit albums.
The Taiko Extreme had been priced at £25,000 for as long as I can remember, they are one of the few brands who have not increased prices over the past 12 to 18 months. The Extreme USB Card was a £1750 option on top of this and Taiko have recently made the decision to increase the price of the Extreme to £30,000, but it now comes included with both the Extreme USB Card and Extreme Network Card, so the price rise isn’t as painful it could have been when you break it down.
Taiko are a visionary company and have exciting plans for the future, in addition to XDMS, the Network Card and Switch they also have close to launch their own router, a built from the ground up with audio in mind, an Extreme DC Power Distributor (an upgrade power supply for the Switch and Router, the raw copper unit in the image below) plus a state of the art battery power supply for the Extreme itself.
They also have planned an add on DAC card which will give the Taiko an analogue output which will turn the Extreme into a 1 box source component!
It is certainly an exciting time in high end digital audio in general, but to be involved with such a cutting edge trailblazing company like Taiko Audio is an absolute privilege, at its price point it is for the lucky few in reality but it’s a product everyone should experience at some point, it’s a seriously aspirational product and I’m confident in saying that the Extreme is one of the very finest digital front ends money can buy in the world today.
I keep the Extreme on permanent demonstration and it is fitted with both the Extreme USB & Extreme Network Cards and I also have the Network Switch as well, the first dealer in the UK to do so at the time of typing.
If you want any more information or you would like to arrange a demonstration please don’t hesitate to get in touch.