AURALiC Altair Music Server 1TB-SSD DAC Tidal Int-radio AirPlay Blutooth Roon

AC 03 MS ALT 1TB
NZ$ 4,495.01 ea (incl. GST)
AURALic Audio

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New
AURALiC Debuts ALTAIR. A New, High-Quality Streaming DAC - Fully-Featured DAC combines wireless streaming and optional hardrive solution. 

AURALIC LIMITED, is introducing the new ALTAIR Streaming DAC. The ALTAIR can act as Home Music Centre with more than 15 input sources including: Streaming Inputs: Network Shared Folder (on both NAS and computer), USB drive, Internal music storage (optional), uPnP/DLNA media server, TIDAL and Qobuz streaming, Internet Radio, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Songcast and RoonReady; Digital Inputs: AES/EBU, Coaxial, Toslink, USB device to computer, 2 USB host for storage and external DAC, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n/ac Tri-Band WiFi. 

Xuanqian Wang, AURALiC’s president & CEO, said: “After more than three years development, the Lightning streaming platform has now became even much more stable and powerful, we hence have decided to move one step forward, to introduce an one box solution for audiophile market. The new ALTAIR is both a high quality streamer and DAC, it is developed based on our VEGA DAC with Lightning streaming functions integrated as a convenient-to-operate Digital Source. 

“ALTAIR is definitely a Line Extension, and not replacing the ARIES MINI, or our award-winning VEGA DAC or ARIES Streamers — which represent the highest level of sound quality from AURALiC.” 

The ALTAIR Streaming DAC utilises AURALiC’s award-winning Lightning technology. Launched in 2014, Lightning is the audio industry’s first streaming technology that supports DXD and Quad-Rate DSD playback through a WiFi network. It also offers several new and advanced features such as Gapless Playback, On-Device Playlist and Multiple-Room functions, as part of AURALiC’s ongoing program of offering regular upgrades that download in the background. 

Memory Playback, the latest feature added to to the Lightning streaming technology, allows ALTAIR to fetch and cache the entire track in its memory or system storage in advance to improve the sound quality, and also play locally without the need of network data transfer. 

Using Lightning DS, you can also stream TIDAL, Qobuz and listen to Internet Radio at any time. ALTAIR’s AirPlay, Songcast and Bluetooth functions provide alternative ways to stream your favorite music from Apple Music, Spotify and other service providers through your smartphone or computer. 

ALTAIR’s streaming function, operated by AURALiC Lightning DS control App, is available on iOS platforms right, now with Mac and Windows version in development. It is also compatible with other 3rd party OpenHome or UPnP control software for playback. 

ALTAIR also works as a RoonReady endpoint to use with Roon software, bringing you a new way to discover and listen to music. The unit’s other inputs include AES/EBU, Coaxial and Toslink, and a USB connection to computer working as standalone USB DAC. When purchasing an ALTAIRiC, you can add an optional 2.5-inch HDD or SSD for internal music storage, turning the ALTAIR into a full function Music Server. Or, you can always buy an ALTAIR and install the storage yourself. 

Cosmetically, the new Altair shares the same size enclosure as the VEGA DAC, including a 512x64 pixels OLED Display (although the content is different from the VEGA). A headphone jack is located on the front panel. 

The ALTAIR, with all its top quality features and performance, available in silver and black colour. AURALiC will demonstrate the ALTAIR during the AXPONA at room 304 this week, shipment will commence in June, following the Munich HIGHEND Show.

* AURALiC Tesla Platform 
ALTAIR is powered by AURALiC's proprietary Tesla hardware platform that includes a Quad-Core Coretex-A9 processor running at 1GHz, 1GB DDR3 onboard memory and 4GB system storage. The Tesla platform has a calculation ability of 25,000 MIPS, more than enough to decode a vast spectrum of audio formats, including AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA. 

AURALiC has chosen this platform for its flexibility and long term support consideration. Future features planned include DSD Upsampling, Room Acoustic Treatment and MQA support. All these features can be delivered through automatic online updates without user’s attention. 

• Femto Master Clock 
The dual-frequency Femto Master Clock inside the ALTAIR is specially designed and optimised for its ESS Sabre DAC chip: with one frequency for playing music with a sampling rate which is the multiple of 44.1K, and a second for 48K, making it possible for ALTAIR to be able to lock on with highest clock precision (equal to VEGA’s ‘EXACT’ mode) at all time without dropouts. The Femto Master Clock, which is powered by a 9uV extremely low noise dedicated power supply, has a very low phase noise performance. It not only has a dramatically low phase noise, which is only at -151dBc/Hz level, but also an excellent 100Hz offset noise level which is only -115dBc/Hz. Driven by such a high performance clock, ALTAIR can bring you vivid music with natural detail and solid sound image. 

• Linear Power Supply 
With more and more DACs at this price range starting to use switching power supplies, AURALiC insists on using high performance but costly Purer-Power™ linear power supply technology on ALTAIR. With this technology, the dirty AC power firstly goes into a power purification module, and the DC current and noise from both within and outside audio frequencies can be reduced by as much as 90dB. The purified AC power is then feed to a high quality transformer, with a specialty iron core made to AURALiC’s specifications, and unique wiring to ensure zero vibration and very low noise to avoid impacting the sensitive audio electrical circuit. 

Comparing to the conventional switching power supply which generates wide-band noise that is hard to eliminate, AURALiC’s discrete component- based power supply feeds the DAC chip’s analog circuit with an astonishing low noise that is below 1uV (1uV = 0.000001V) within the entire audio band, making ALTAIR a perfect tool to re-discover your music with more details in the ‘last bit’ that you may never noticed before. 

• Flexible Filter Mode 
ALTAIR has four built-in filter modes which allows its user to customise sound best befitting their personal preference. Those filter modes were developed from AURALiC’s well known Flexible Filter Mode in the VEGA Digital Audio Processor, with each containing several digital filters optimised for a corresponding sampling rate. Flexible Filter Mode was developed under AURALiC's subjective auditory sense and objective testing data relationship models, to optimise the listening experience for different music and format. The “Precise” mode exhibits perfect in-band ripple and out-band attenuation performance, while the “Smooth” mode is better for overall enjoyment as it has no 'pre-ringing' effect. The other two modes, named “Dynamic” and “Balance” are optimised for different music formats as well.

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Specifications

Frequency Response
20 - 20KHz, /- 0.1dB
*

THD N
<0 .001="" 0dbfs="" 121db="" 20hz-20khz="" a-weighted="" at="" dynamic="" p="" range=""> 

Streaming Inputs
Network shared folder USB drive Internal music storage** uPnP/DLNA media server 
TIDAL and Qobuz streaming
 Internet Radio
AirPlay Bluetooth Songcast
RoonReady 

Digital Inputs 
1*AES/EBU 

1*Coaxial

1*Toslink

1*USB device to computer 
2*USB host for storage and DAC 
1*RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet

1*802.11b/g/n/ac Tri-Band WiFi

Analog 

Outputs

1*Balanced XLR (output impedance 10ohm)
1*Single-ended RCA (output impedance 50ohm) 
1*6.35mm Headphone jack 

Supported File Types
AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA

Supported Digital Formats
All PCM from 44.1KS/s to 384KS/s in 32Bit***
DSD64, DSD128, DSD256***



Analog Output Voltage
- 2Vrms@0dBFS (RCA); 4Vrms@0dBFS (XLR) 
 

Control Software

AURALiC Lightning DS for iOS 
AURALiC RC-
1 remote control 
OpenHome compatible software
uPnP AV compatible software 

Device Display
 -512x64 pixels OLED Display



Power Consumption
 - Sleep: <10w 

* Tested under filter mode ‘Precise’ for all sampling rates 
** With optional 2.5-inch HDD or SSD installed

*** 352.8KS/s, 384KS/s and DSD through streaming and USB only

*** 32bit through streaming and USB only
 

Reviews

Say hello to ALTAIR – Auralic's new “high-quality” streaming DAC.
JOHN H. DARKO

REVIEW SUMMARY: ALTAIR looks a good deal like the VEGA, doesn’t it? No surprise then that the newbie shares a number of features with its bigger bro: same sized enclosure (33cm x 23cm x 6.5cm); 512 x 64px OLED display; ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip; digital volume control; single-ended and balanced outputs.

EXTENDED REVIEW: For the digital streamer and head-fier looking to go all in on an AURALiC rig, pricing adds up as fast as feature set and performance. From top to bottom: the ARIES streamer with linear PSU, the VEGA decoder,  lastly, the TAURUS MKII headphone amplifier. 

Dropping the ARIES down to an ARIES MINI (covered here, here and here) adds HDD hosting but removes Roon Readiness and sees SQ drop a few notches. The Mini’s onboard decoder can try its best to stand-in for the Vega’s technicolour arrest… but “Yeah, nah”, as we say in Australia.

What if AURALiC were to offer a DAC that retained much of the Vega’s performance but added an Aries with its proprietary Tesla hardware platform, ‘flexible filters’, linear power supply and Femto clocking plus a headphone socket for more casual listening? What if that product were to sell for US$1899 (excl sales tax)?

Say hello to ALTAIR – the Chinese hifi company’s new “high-quality” streaming DAC. A single box solution for skinnier wallets. Also, one power cord.

The press release boasts of the ALTAIR’s 15 (count ‘em) input sources so let’s start there.

Should you insist, direct connections from third party streamers and disc spinners hook into the ALTAIR via its three S/PDIF inputs – AES/EBU, coaxial and Toslink. A PC or Mac goes direct over USB.

Bluetooth and AirPlay show up here to accommodate Spotify and Apple Music listeners but ALTAIR’s 802.11b/g/n/ac Tri-Band WiFi and Gigabit Ethernet connections are also for feeding the silver machine over the network from myriad other sources.

On ALTAIR’s network capability list sit Roon Readiness plus Songcast, uPnP/DLNA, TIDAL / Qobuz, Internet Radio, Songcast – the latter seven via AURALiC’s own Lightning DS (LDS) platform whose iPhone app is really something nowadays.

LDS for the iPad will be updated “soon” whilst control apps for Windows and OS X remain “in development”. Until then, non-Apple users are directed toward OpenHome or UPnP control software.

The main advantage held by Lightning DS over Roon is self-sufficiency. A NAS or server can be used for music library storage but it isn’t a prerequisite. With an external hard drive connected to its second USB port or with an internal 2.5” hard drive fitted by end user or dealer, ALTAIR serves itself.

ALTAIR looks a good deal like the VEGA, doesn’t it? No surprise then that the newbie shares a number of features with its bigger bro: same sized enclosure (33cm x 23cm x 6.5cm); 512 x 64px OLED display; ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip; digital volume control; single-ended and balanced outputs.

So far, so press release. DAR digs deeper…

Before you get ready to throw your VEGA up on the ‘gon, know that it one-ups ALTAIR in two key areas: 1) ORFEO Class A output modules and 2) a better quality power supply feeds its analogue stage.

“You are not expecting the same sound quality from the VEGA for this price, right?” says AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang via email.

Wang pegs the ALTAIR’s sound quality as somewhere between the VEGA and the ARIES Mini’s (analogue output) once the Linear PSU has been applied. We should therefore view the ALTAIR as a hardware extension of AURALiC’s Aries Mini but with an added headphone output.

And so it comes from the horse’s PR mouth: “ALTAIR is definitely a line extension, and not a replacement of the ARIES MINI or our award-winning VEGA DAC or ARIES Streamers,” emphasises the press release.

Details remain vague however on ALTAIR’s headphone socket and its supporting circuitry. That’s for attendees of this weekend’s AXPONA audio show in Chicago to uncover. AURALiC will be giving ALTAIR its first public outing in Room 304.

Back to software. In 2015, AURALiC’s software development team gave us quad-DSD streaming compatibility via USB (should you have any in your library) plus the more useful in-app playlist composition and multi-zone playback sync.

Coming in the Lightning DS’ next update is a brand new feature called Memory Playback. For all content streamed via LDS, including Tidal and Qobuz, ALTAIR will fetch and cache the entire track to its memory or system storage. That’s useful for those still living with 20th century Internet speeds (*cough* Australia *cough*) or where Tidal proves to be glitchy.

Memory Playback will also be joining the ARIES – but NOT the ARIES Mini – once the new LDS and its associated firmware update rolls out on ALTAIR.

Also on AURALiC software dev roadmap are DSD up-sampling (a la HQPlayer), room ‘correction’ capabilities and – wait for it – MQA support.

At this year’s CES I asked Xuanqian Wang about the possibility of a black VEGA. The man was very firm with his reply in the negative. So consider this a plot twist: the ALTAIR will be made available in silver and black finishes. 

Given the Altair's comprehensive featurization and attractive price most should be in - and in a big way.
Srajan Ebaen

SUMMARY: Selling for US$2'000 (excl sales tax), for the Streamer version, the Altair slots beneath the Vega in performance yet combines Vega plus functionality with the Aries by supporting 15 sources including NAS, USB, local files (optional 2.5" HHD or SSD internal storage), uPnP/DLNA media server, TIDAL and Qobuz streaming, Internet radio, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Songcast and RoonReady; AES/EBU, coaxial, Toslink, USB device to computer, 2 USB host for storage and DAC, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n/ac tri-band WiFi. Of course Lightning DS figures in a big way. It's the operating system and GUI, offering DXD and quad DSD support, gapless, on-device playlist and multi-room functions. Memory playback will soon cache an entire track to memory to improve sonics and avoid glitches with low Internet speeds or iffy connections. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: The latest Chinese lunar year kicked off February 8th, belonging to the sign of the monkey. By applying the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire and earth to their calendar, 2016 is associated with the fiery element and the colour red, making it the Red Fire Monkey year. Its launch set off the greatest annual human migration, of factory workers in the industrial south who, for New Year's, return home to their families in the north. The associated strain on the public transport system—planes, trains and overland buses—must be unimaginable to Westerns just as our kind couldn't envision how India's Khumba Mela, the world's largest religious gathering (32'000'000 a few years ago), can function without mass mayhem. 

Being Chinese, AURALiC co-founder Xuanqian Wang must be genetically prewired to a most solid work ethic and severe logistic challenges. Why else would he have spent the last few dogged years pursuing his own Lightning app? Any updates and refinements to such software are free to existing owners. It's not a money maker but royal pain in the pancreass. Each time when programs miscommune, when firmware patches lag behind changes in iOS or Android, one gets boo'd. Only someone bloody stubborn or blessedly resourceful (the same thing perhaps?) would even bother to challenge iTunes/Airplay, Sooloos/Roon, Sonos & Co. Whilst I covered most of AURALiC's hardware from the very beginning (think Vega, Merak, Taurus, Gemini), I didn't Lightning or products which run it like Aries and Aries Mini. That's because my wife and I are allergic to WiFi. Like cigarette smoke, it triggers physical hate when tablet remotes or smart phone sources get involved. Being made of sterner stuff, we left the Aries to Aussie contributor John Darko. WiFi doesn't bother him. He's 6'6". He's probably got more brain cells than the two of us combined.

If writing your own operating system is asking for free troubles, another occasion arises when you begin with high-end gear, then bow more mass-appeal models to enlarge your customer base. Give that to the usual hifi review press. Chances are, their perspective will be skewed to prompt a "you missed the point" manufacturer's reply. That happened more than once to the Aries Mini. It's what caused NuForce to break off into NuForce (mass market) and NuPrime (high end). It's strict apartheid to avoid confusion. It pursues different press, distribution networks and target audiences. With the red fire monkey rising, AURALiC rejoin the high-end gravy train and the hard side of ware. It allows this dinosaur back on. If I were a betting man, I'd have predicted that their next product would be an Aries/Vega combination; a purist server slash streamer with wired and wireless network connectivity, onboard storage and a premium DAC with volume control all in one box. Why let Aurender and Lumin have all that fun? Because I'm a cheat instead—Xuanqian dropped a crumb a week prior to their official press release—I knew that it'd be a streamer. I simply had zero details on its hardware/software configuration. I only saw as predestined that Lightning would be a major part. If I could log onto it via Safari and Ethernet over my standard iMac, I'd bypass WiFi. Dinosaur smiles or crocodile tears? As regular readers know, I've been quite the fence sitter on audiophile streamers. Instead I'm already on my 3rd PureMusic'd iMac running into sundry DACs. I use Apple's keyboard and mouse to access local files on the 3TB FusionDrive which for playback are cached in 32GB of RAM. I access Qobuz and Tidal through their desktop apps with a 15-metre hard connection to the router. And for me, the 27" Retina 5K display beats all tablet or smartphone remotes to kingdom come. Would Xuanqian's latest prompt me to finally come off my fence and join the audiophile server community? Or would I remain a lonely outcast?

Selling for US$2'000 (excl sales tax), the Altair slots beneath the Vega in performance yet combines Vega plus functionality with the Aries by supporting 15 sources including NAS, USB, local files (optional 2.5" HHD or SSD internal storage), uPnP/DLNA media server, TIDAL and Qobuz streaming, Internet radio, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Songcast and RoonReady; AES/EBU, coaxial, Toslink, USB device to computer, 2 USB host for storage and DAC, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n/ac tri-band WiFi. Of course Lightning DS figures in a big way. It's the operating system and GUI, offering DXD and quad DSD support, gapless, on-device playlist and multi-room functions. Memory playback will soon cache an entire track to memory to improve sonics and avoid glitches with low Internet speeds or iffy connections. For now, Lightning is exclusive to iOS but Windows and Mac desktop versions are in development. Housed in the familiar Vega enclosure, the Altair retains the on-chip digital volume of the ESS 9018 DAC and the yellow-on-black 512x64 pixel Oled display, then adds a full-size headphone jack of unspecified potency. The Tesla hardware behind Lightning DS relies on a quad-core Coretec A9 processor which runs at 1GHz with 1GB of DDR onboard memory and 4GB of system storage. This operates at 25'000Mips to support AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA. A future feature à la HQPlayer will be on-the-fly upsampling to DSD. Also planned are room-acoustic plug-ins and MQA support, to be delivered via automated online updates. 

A low-jitter dual-freq clock for the 44.1/48kHz sample-rate frequencies is powered by a 9uV dedicated power supply and said to operate with Vega 'exact' mode precision. The power supply isn't a switching but linear design to reduce line noise by up to 90dB. Retained from the Vega are four built-in filter modes called 'precise', 'smooth', 'dynamic' and 'balance'. Each of them is an amalgamation of various filters optimised for corresponding sample rates. Relative to my own search for a cost-effective audiophile streamer,.....Given the Altair's comprehensive featurization and attractive price however, most should be in - and in a big way.
....... Srajan Ebaen

Testimonials

Great sound. Cant believe they got so much technology in such a small box!

Hi Terry,
Got the Auralic Altair set up and streaming from my new NAS. Great sound. Cant believe they got so much technology in such a small box! 
Many thanks for your help and all the best in the new premises.
cheers
Sean