The SugarCube SC-2 Is Here At Last...Clicks & Pops R.I.P.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by DigMyGroove, Nov 12, 2017.

  1. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    One year ago while at the 2016 New York Audio Show I was able to attend a demo of Sweet Vinyl’s Sugarcube models, the SC-1 and SC-2 http://www.sweetvinyl.com/. These devices, in development for several years remove the pops and clicks inherent in the vinyl format. The SC-1 does only that, while the SC-2 also records your LPs free of pops and clicks via one push of the front panel button, a needle drop made ridiculous easy. I’d seen their demo online in a clip available on Michael Fremer’s Analog Planet blog and was intrigued, now at last my eyes and ears could witness the real deal.

    [​IMG]
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    The demo was given by Sweet Vinyl’s Leo Hoarty and Dan Eakins, I was quickly convinced this was something I wanted to have once available. In addition to their very scratched copy of Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out” used for the demo, they gladly played a 10” Frank Sinatra album I’d purchased at a flea market on the way to the show, one of a half dozen found that morning.

    Using the SC-2 which features a small LCD screen on the front panel, within seconds of the Sinatra LP spinning the network connected player found the correct meta data and artwork and was ready to record if desired. Like the Brubeck LP the music was cleansed of pops and clicks transparently, I was impressed.

    Dan and Leo announced that a limited number of each model would be available at a steep discount to those who joined their Indiegogo launch, they projected that units would be available in six months. I gave them my contacts and a short time later received an email following up on my interest. I joined for the SC-2, at $1,400 a price far easier on my wallet than the $2,500 it would cost when available at full retail, and just $200 more than the SC-1 would cost at retail but with recording capability. That meant forking over the $1,400 right away and waiting. Well it wound up being a full year until I received my SC-2, but no complaints here, I regularly received detailed email updates from Dan on the product development, often with photos.

    With just a few days to go until the one year anniversary of the live demo my SC-2 arrived safe and sound. And so you wonder what do I think a year later? I think it’s a pretty awesome device, revolutionary in the ease with which it does it’s job. I connected mine in line following the phono pre-amp I quickly took out a few records I knew to be highly problematic, the worst being a UK pressing of Elton John’s “11-17-70” I picked up last year for a few dollars. It was so noisy as to be unlistenable, a Spin Cleaning didn’t help at all (no vac cleaner in the house). On it went and voilà!, it sounded like a near mint record.

    On the SC-2’s front panel are an array of push buttons and two dials, one for the headphone levels, and one for click and pop removal ranging from 1 to 10 (default is 5). When in use it also does wonders for surface noise. The buttons are Bypass, Audio Original/Repaired on or off, and another that lets you hear only the noise being removed. There’s one additional red button for recording just atop a USB input into which you can go direct to a flash drive or with a cable to a hard drive.

    So the big question is of course does the SC-2 affect the analog sound quality?, a fair one since it’s output is no longer pure analog, the signal having been processed at 192k/24bit. Well in my opinion the sound quality is excellent, I’m hard pressed to say that there’s much difference at all. When listening with speakers in the room I really can’t hear a difference, with headphones I can make out a slight change, with the SC-2 output being slightly less bright, however it’s really minimal. With the bypass engaged I don’t hear any difference at all, the signal is completely removed from the SC-2’s processing chain. I went on to play another dozen or so records some with known issues, others vintage pressings given to me last year that while clean looking were full of noise, especially the soundtracks, shows and classical titles the SC-2 did it’s magic on all of them.

    I chose the SC-2 over the SC-1 for it’s ability to record. While I’ve long been interested in doing needle drops, I’ve read enough postings here on the Forum to know I’ve neither the time or patience to do all the work involved in getting superior results; the SugarCube SC-2 sounded like just what I needed to achieve the goal without my brain exploding.

    At this Beta stage the full recording software for the SC-2 is not yet ready for release. Once available it will enable the user to record to all of the various file formats, at present it records FLAC. If network connected it will also be able to retrieve the metadata and album art, giving you a complete file ready to add to you library. For the moment it will only record as single tracks with manual recording stops needed after each song completes, or will do the complete album side.

    I did some testing with the latter method, first recording side one of the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” from an original Artisan mastered first pressing, and then the Nick Drake Promo RSD reissue from several years ago which was the precursor to the fabulous box set reissues of Drake’s three albums that came out later. I chose these titles since I already had in my library high quality alternatives with which to compare.

    Listening on my new MacBook Pro via Audirvana Plus output to my Meridian Explorer DAC into headphones, the SC-2 recorded version of Exile went up against the Robert Ludwig Virgin remaster and the Japanese SHM CD. The first thing I noticed was the the Ludwig’s volume level was noticeably louder and the SHM CD louder still. The SC-2’s recording sounded very good, holding up nicely to the other two. Both the Ludwig and SHM had more bottom, but with some tweaks using Audirvana’s equalizer I matched the oomph of the other two. Overall I was impressed with this first test.

    I next chose the Nick Drake Promo reissue since I have the FLAC files for the three LP reissues in my library with which to compare tracks. In this case the SC-2 needle drop was the clear winner, sounding more analog than the official Flac file. Once the full software update is available I’ve little doubt I’ll be doing quite a bit of recording.

    So is one of these SugarCube’s worth getting?, IMHO yes but at the $1,200 and $2,500 price points it won’t be for everyone’s budget. Those owning a quality vacuum record cleaner might feel they already have the riddance of noise under control, and those who have mastered needle drops via computer likewise. But for people who don’t want to drop the dollars needed for an expensive record cleaning machine along with devoting all the time and expense required to do the cleaning the SugarCube might be for right for them. Of course a great cleaning still won’t remove the ill effects of scratches, but the SugarCube will. Others like myself who want the simplest method of quality needle dropping will also enjoy having an SC-2 on hand.

    Another benefit is I’ll no longer need to get irritated about the occasional newly bought LP that has minor issues. The SugarCube will get rid of the noise and save me the time dealing with a return. That said if I received an egregiously bad pressing I would most definitely send it back. It also opens up the purchasing of bargain used records I might have passed up before due to visible scratches knowing the SC-2 won’t let me here them. Having the SugarCube SC-2 in my system, I’m reminded of how I felt about another product which also contributes to a less stressful record collecting experience, the Vinyl Flat and Groovy Pouch used to flatten warped records. It too is a bit pricey (though at a much lower level), but buy it once and you are now rid of obsessing about warped records, you just fix them!

    I’m really glad to own this device and look forward to the final releases of the software and phone app. In the case of the app I haven’t been able to connect the SugarCube to my not very robust home network yet. I’ll be letting the folks at Sugarcube know, hopefully that will get resolved soon. Other than that the only hiccup I’ve experienced is that the SC-2 will often miss the first second or so of the record before audio is output. I’ve found that if I let the record play and give the SC-2 a moment to recognize the audio input I can then return the stylus to the beginning and it won’t miss any music. I expect this is a software glitch and will be reporting it as a beta owner along with anything else that comes up.

    Well here I am in New York City once again on a Sunday morning one year from that SugarCube demo, guess it’s time to head off to this years 2017 Audio Show now…

    http://www.sweetvinyl.com/
     
  2. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    I want to thank DigMyGroove for his excellent review of the Sugar Cube SC-2 pop and click remover from Sweet Vinyl. His measured yet enthusiastic response is much appreciated. His review is quite snappy, too, given that the SC-2 release to all the beta testers was only a few weeks ago.

    I am a beta tester of the SC-1, that the OP mentioned above. My review of this unit, after spending over 2 months with it now, is not measured at all, so please take the info provided for what it’s worth...

    I absolutely, 100%, love-love-love my SC-1! It is a revolutionary product that never fails to deliver the goods, never fails to impress. I cannot find fault: it removes all the pops and clicks, and I cannot discern any audio quality loss...and boy have I tried!

    I have a few thousand lps, and more than half are used. That means more than half have issues with scratches and scuffs that cause clicking. I have a very thorough cleaning system and regimen, just like the majority of us do, so my wear and tear issues are genuine record damage. The Sugar Cube takes it away, and maintains the vinyl’s sonic integrity.

    This device brings a pleasure that is palpable. It’s like every lp is mint...it’s that good. The only thing that it can’t do is fix groove damage; if a heavy cartridge in a record’s past has carved into its grooves, that constant carved-into sound remains. The Sugar Cube goes after the pops and clicks. Now, that said, a few groove damaged lps have been improved, something that Dan indicated to me probably would not happen, but thankfully has been witnessed!

    I am the sort that has no interest in doing needle drops; all I want is to listen to my records and enjoy them without needless background noise. That begs the question, then: Why not just listen to digital then, since this device ends up processing your music, anyway? Fair question. Answer...the music doesnt sound digital, it sounds perfectly unaffected, it sounds like my analogue records are supposed to sound, sans pops. This is, of course, the greatest compliment one can pay to this device.

    The software that remotely controls the device from my iPad or phone was easy to set up and operate. Works great. I never use it. I set the SC-1 to default and I never need to fiddle with it. Except with that particularly horrific Blind Faith original pressing I’ve got...It always sounded so bad, but the sonics were there, so how could I throw it out?...I turned the repair setting up two notches for that one to sound perfect.

    Yes, it’s that good. You need not hesitate, audiophile friends. It’s what we’ve always been waiting and hoping for.

    DigMyGroove is off to the audio show. I’m off to my used record store, undaunted by any lp that looks like it has seen better days. Cause better record collecting days are here, for me.
     
  3. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Really looks like an ergonomic solution to vinyl people with an aversion to reading a manual to solve their problems when a little knob-twiddling is what they got into audio for in the first place. The device does that work for you, lightly or as heavily as you feel you need. AND another brushed-aluminium brick on the shelf at the same time. Well done.
     
    Chemguy likes this.
  4. kwadguy

    kwadguy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    So these are better than the click and pop eliminators of the analog era? Are they working in the analog domain, or do they convert to digital to do the elimination?
     
  5. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    Read my above post. Got some answers there.
     
    rfs likes this.
  6. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Convert to digital, yes.
     
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    TheIncredibleHoke likes this.
  8. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    With respect, I'd suggest listening to it first. An educated opinion is better than an uninformed one.
     
    DigMyGroove likes this.
  9. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I need to hear a shootout between this and the old Garrard and the old SAE and the old Burwen.
     
    stuwee likes this.
  10. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frenchtown NJ USA
    OK, so I gotta ask this. Since it connects to the internet, how do we know that it's de-clicking anything, and not simply outputting whatever version of the album it finds on the internet? Seriously. Not that I'm saying that that's what it does, but how would we know for sure? :)
     
  11. goodiesguy

    goodiesguy Boulful Sallad

    Location:
    New Zealand
    But how do we know it's just removing the pops and clicks, and not removing actual musical information?
     
    mpayan, tin ears and McLover like this.
  12. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Strange and rather paranoid concept. Firstly, no streaming service has every album ever. Moreover, the device connects to the Internet for the purposes of being updated. The SC-2 can detect the specific album and prepare the appropriate tracks for recording purposes but the SC-1 has no such functions. It's purely a dedicated declicking/depopping STB. Both models' declicking/depopping processes are perfectly operational without an Internet connection.

    Any methods which manipulate musical info will change its content. That's the point! Whether it's possible to hear the difference is up to the individual and the settings used on the device. Higher settings will invariably have more impact on the music as the algorithms dedicated to removing the noisy artifacts in the music will be more aggressive.

    With the help of a couple members here, I've managed to create my own real-time declicking/depopping scheme while using ClickRepair RT. Various settings have different impact on the musical content. Out of a range of 0 to 20, anything up to 9 or 10 (depending on the LP) cannot be detected by yours truly. I'm still conducting tests at higher levels but it works *quite* well.

    I own a mono 6-eye copy of Brubeck's Time Out. It's not in NM condition, but relatively close with the odd crackle here and there. No difference could be heard when using level 8 on my setup and the payoff was completely clean playback.

    It's really not a big stretch to believe a STB manufactured many many years later managed to improve on a winning formula to offer even better results... albeit at a premium price.
     
    bluemooze, krisbee and goodiesguy like this.
  13. Wayne Bull

    Wayne Bull Member

    I loved the concept of the SugarCube but it was too expensive once I'd missed the Indiegogo offer.

    I've recently implemented the same sort of concept using the Clickrepair RT software permanently running on a NUC and it works brilliantly all for about £100.

    There's a thread on here discussing this setup.
     
    krisbee and Strat-Mangler like this.
  14. cdash99

    cdash99 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mass
    With the SC 2, does transferring the files to a hard drive or NAS (for portable loading or in home streaming) work wirelessly?
     
  15. Erik Tracy

    Erik Tracy Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Diego, CA, USA
    So, the opening description was the major point for me "needle drop".

    I get the value added if I want to digitize my LP collection, but that's not a path I want to go on with vinyl.
     
    mpayan likes this.
  16. ghost rider

    ghost rider Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Chicago
    I for one will never spend $2500 on a device like this besides I like the process of making needle drops and choosing what is removed or not. It would be interesting to see actual results a shootout with sound samples.

    I guess to use this you would need a processor loop or an external phono preamp.

    Thinking about it, a technically savvy guy could make one himself. Convert to digital then run though software like Clickrepair the knob would raise or lower the level that clicks are removed all done in real time then output the audio minus the clicks.
     
  17. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Coast, USA
    JohnO, krisbee and ghost rider like this.
  18. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    Because you're not going to find my mother and father inlaw's homemade record that they made in 1951 at the Empire State Building online anywhere!

    It took the pops out of that one, too.
     
  19. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frenchtown NJ USA
    Right you are; Alexa is never going to be invited into my house. :agree:
     
  20. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frenchtown NJ USA
    :)
     
  21. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    That's what the SC-1 is for.
     
    krisbee likes this.
  22. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Prescott, AZ, USA
    Agreed - no thanks and not for me.
     
  23. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Please label the photos you post

    Location:
    Austin, TX
    The point is that there is a model aimed for needledrops and one that isn't and still, the responses act as though that's the only thing they're good for.
     
    Bananas&blow likes this.
  24. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    The SC-1:

    Line-in/line-out two channel real-time click and pop removal component for vinyl LP listening. Front Panel: Bypass Mode, Click and Pop Algorithm Engage and Disengage, Click and Pop Monitoring, Algorithm Threshold Control and Display. Internal A/D and D/A – 192k/24bit. Includes WiFi USB adaptor and iOS/Android mobile apps for control.

    For real time click and pop removal. Note the analog RCA outs.

    [​IMG]
     

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