AURALiC Vega G2 Statement DAC/Preamp 32/384 DSD512

AC 04 DC VEGA G2
NZ$ 11,250.00 ea (incl. GST)
AURALic Audio

AURALiC, innovate technologies & inspire the music

New
For years our original VEGA has been a favorite among discriminating listeners. Now, the all-new VEGA G2 keeps the sonic spirit of its predecessor alive by pushing the boundaries of digital music. The VEGA G2 is a high-performance Digital Audio Processor with a completely revamped architecture that excels at the conversion and streaming of high-resolution digital music formats up to DSD512. The industry’s first signal-independent “Master DAC,” the VEGA G2 is redefining the sound of digital.

A one-of-a-kind Master Clock DAC - for the ultimate in Jitter-Free Operation

Designed to Innovate, Engineered to Perform
Years of research and development have gone into the creation of the G2 line and the all-new VEGA G2, resulting in engineering innovations that set a new standard for sound quality. With a completely new internal architecture focused on advanced isolation techniques and a new approach to clocking, the VEGA G2 is breaking new ground in the world of premium digital processing. Advanced galvanic isolators and always-in-control, hyper-accurate Dual 72 Femto clocks contribute to the extraordinary clarity and precision of the VEGA G2.

Master Clock DAC
The completely redesigned architecture of the VEGA G2 allows it to accomplish something amazing: it is the first DAC ever that operates independently of the source signal’s frequency.

Unity Chassis
Designed specifically for the premium lineup of AURALiC G Series devices, the Unity Chassis is machined from a single billet of aluminum that provides the VEGA G2 with superior shielding from EMI noise, so nothing interferes with the quality of your music.

Perfectly Balanced
VEGA G2 internal circuits are physically distributed to enhance overall balance. And with specially designed foot spikes that dampen and absorb vibrations, the VEGA G2 is always rock-steady, for ultra-smooth signal delivery.

Beautifully quiet 
The VEGA G2 introduces sophisticated galvanic isolation and Unity Chassis techniques that drastically reduce the potential for electro-magnetic interference, for an extraordinarily pure, clean sound. And the VEGA G2 is a full 20% quieter than the original VEGA DAC.

Customized DAC Chip
There wasn’t a DAC chip on the market that could satisfy our requirements for sonic performance with the all-new VEGA G2. That’s why we used a modified Sabre DAC chip scheme, optimized for audio signal processing of resolutions up to DSD512. It’s just one more way we made sure everything inside the VEGA G2 lives up the premium standard of the entire G2 line.

Fully Passive Volume Control
Precise control, distortion free, noise free. The only way to get all three is to painstakingly construct a R-2R resistor ladder network — and that’s exactly what we’ve done for the VEGA G2.

Inconspicuous
Eight coil-latch relays remain entirely passive when not in use, drawing no power and producing exactly zero EMI noise. Once set, the VEGA G2’s volume control system remains electronically invisible — one more detail that helps the VEGA G2 push the boundaries of sonic performance.

Turn Your Wi-Fi into a Music Streaming Ecosystem.
We developed Lightning OS to be the highest-quality streaming environment you’ve ever heard. A meticulously-crafted software architecture designed specifically to work hand-in-hand with the powerful Tesla hardware platform found in AURALiC streaming products, Lightning OS is full of cutting-edge innovations that bring your music to life like never before. Connect to all your of high-resolution sources, take control with user apps like Lightning DS or Roon, and meet true audiophile streaming.

Tesla G1 - Scalable Power, Custom-Built for Streaming Audio
Our Tesla G1 hardware platform is the processing engine that gives the VEGA G2 the power and flexibility it needs to meet the demands of modern high-resolution streaming. Designed around a high-performance Quad-Core Cortex-A9 processor running at 1GHz, Tesla G1 sports 1GB DDR3 RAM and 4GB of storage. Automatic updates keep the Tesla G1 platform outfitted with the latest features and support, so your device is always ready for peak performance and up-to-the-minute functionality.

Display Brilliance
A 4.0-inch true color in-plane switching high-resolution display provides complete operational feedback: input channel, volume, sampling rate, playback status, and configuration settings.

Flexibility to Explore 
Connect every source you’ve got to the VEGA G2 using its full array of ports. Traditional AES/ EBU, Digital Coaxial, and TOSLINK ports are all galvanically isolated for enhanced performance. Access network resources like UPnP/DLNA media servers, shared network folders, high-resolution Internet Services and Internet Radio via Ethernet.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Videos

Features

An Integrated Family of Devices
Built around cutting-edge transfer protocols, more powerful processing, and enhanced isolation engineering, G2 is a new concept in component integration. Four specialized components, working together to deliver a premium sound experience.

Lightning Link 
Jitter-free to maximize sonic performance, Lightning Link provides single-point control of the entire G2 audio system.

Dual 72fs Femto Clock
With a dedicated, low-noise 3uV power supply to minimize phase noise and keep it as quiet as it is accurate, our 72 Femto Master Clock is amazingly precise for less jitter, and immaculate sound. Its 72 femtosecond cycles — that’s 72 quadrillionths of a second — set a new standard for signal timing. Temperature-regulated for consistent performance, this clock is always there to keep things rock-steady.

Galvanic Isolation
One of the VEGA G2’s high-speed galvanic isolators lies between the Tesla processing platform and its highly sensitive DAC circuitry. Data can flow across the isolator, even while it physically separates and shields the DAC from interference. The result is a whopping 80% reduction in noise levels compared to the original VEGA DAC.

Flexible Filter Mode
Flexible Filter Mode gives you a nuanced level of control over your audio output. Its various modes were developed using a combination of objective data models and subjective testing, with each mode offering a unique array of filters to match the sonic quality of the source. Whether it’s modes to tweak in-band ripple, out-band attenuation, ultrasonic filtering and more, you’ve always got the power to dial in the performance you want.

ORFEO Class-A Module
Inspired by classic analog circuit designs, ORFEO is capable of driving an array of loads to match the characteristics of a variety of amplifiers. Using small signal components with excellent linear qualities, thermally balanced and biased into Class-A, ORFEO has the power to drive loads of up to 600ohms while keeping noise low — open loop distortion comes in at less than 0.001%.

Smart-IR Control
Smart-IR Remote Control lets your AURALiC device map its functionality onto any remote you’d like. Just let the device know which remote you prefer, and all of its operations (play/pause, volume control, track select, etc.) can be assigned to buttons just the way you like them.

Dual Purer-Power
The Purer-Power linear power supply reduces DC current noise by as much as 90dB with its power purification module. Using a specially designed transformer and unique wiring that minimizes vibration, noise from Purer-Power is kept below 1uV across the audible spectrum, leaving you to discover the details in your music, down to the last bit.

Specifications

Benchmark
Frequency Response: 20 - 20KHz, +/- 0.1dB*
THD+N: < 0.00012% (XLR); < 0.00015% (RCA), 20Hz-20KHz at 0dBFS
Dynamic Range: 130dB, 20Hz-20KHz, A-weighted

Streaming File Format
Lossless: AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, OGG, WAV and WV
Lossy: AAC, MP3, MQA and WMA

Sampling Rate
PCM: 44.1KHz to 384KHz in 32Bit**
DSD: DSD64(2.8224MHz), DSD128 (5.6448MHz), DSD256 (11.2896MHz), DSD512 (22.57892MHz)***

Control Software
AURALiC Lightning DS for iOS
AURALiC Lightning DS for web browser (device setting only)
OpenHome compatible control software (BubbleUPnP, Kazoo)
Roon (Roon Core required separately)

Audio Inputs
Digital Inputs: Lightning-Link, AES/EBU, Coaxial, Toslink, USB Audio

Analog Inputs: RCA Line-stage (2Vrms maximum)

Streaming Inputs: uPnP/DLNA Media Server, native TIDAL and Qobuz Sublime+ streaming, Spotify Connect, Internet Radio, RoonReady

Audio Outputs
Balanced: XLR (4.8Vrms at 0dBFS, output impedance 5ohm)
Unbalanced: RCA (4.8Vrms at 0dBFS, output impedance 50ohm)
Headphone: 6.35mm Headphone Jack (output impedance 5ohm)

Network: Wired: Gigabit Ethernet

Power Consumption: Playback: 50W at max.

Dimensions: 340W x 320D x 80H mm

Weight: 17.2 lbs (7.8kg)

Product Finishing
Anodised precision-machined extrusion aluminium case in matte black

Contents
AURALiC VEGA G2 Streaming DAC
Power cord
USB Cable
Lightning-Link Cable
User's guide

* Tested under Filter Mode Precise for all sampling rate
** 352.8KHz and 384KHz and 32bit are supported through streaming, USB and Lighting-Link input only
*** By 'DoP V1.1' or native DSD protocol through streaming, USB and Lightning-Link input only

Reviews

it sounds relaxed, dynamic and sophisticated. ……they bring a breath of fresh air into any system.
Carsten Barnbeck

ARIES G2 & VEGA G2
Sparkling, lively and dynamic: Auralic‘s new G2 ‘streaming bridge’ and DAC components score with excellent sound – and technically they bring a breath of fresh air into any system.

SOUND QUALITY -96% 
PRICE / PERFORMANCE - 4 STARS - EXCELLENT

Complex functionality combined with manageable complexity – those are the decisive components of a successful network player. And in case you think that means we’re overlooking the sound in that consideration, it’s only because that’s a given: we expect as much from high-end devices, especially those from Auralic, which has never disappointed us in that respect. With the innovative “Aries”, the Chinese company launched the first real “streaming bridge” a few years ago – effectively a network player without D/A converter. And in doing that, Auralic flew in the face of the then-current trend: at the time it seemed that even carrots from the health food store had S/PDIF inputs. Well, almost… 

Aries G2 vs Aries 

The fact that two components are shown in our lead photo may already reveal that the new Aries G2 has retained this same two-box concept. Like the original Aries, it’s designed as a pure “transporter”, G, BUT THEY’RE GOOD! Sparkling, lively and dynamic: Auralic‘s new G2 ‘streaming bridge’ and DAC components score with excellent sound – and technically they bring a breath of fresh air into any system. which is why we’re testing it with the Vega G2 D/A converter, which is also new. However, while the G2 suffix might be interpreted as “Generation 2”, that’s not the case: the original Aries isn’t being discarded, but the new model ranks in a different league.

But there’s a further reason to consider the new Aries and Vega models “en bloc”: Auralic has come up with a number of exclusive technologies for its G2 series, including the ultra-fast Lightning Link. This interface uses HDMI connections, but is audio only, transmitting potentially enormous bandwidths (in the gigabit regions) between connected devices. And Lightning is more than just a replacement for the S/PDIF interface: since HDMI is designed to work bi-directionally, the devices communicate in a master/slave network in which the DAC plays the leading role. Its high-precision dual clocks – one of which is reserved for the asynchronous USB connection – control the Aries G2’s digital operations, resulting in extremely low-jitter synchronous data transfer between the two. 

Master of time 

Compared to the original Aries and Vega, the new G2 models have significantly increased data-processing performance: what the company calls its Tesla G1 platform uses a quad-core Cortex-A9 processor running at 1GHz, with 1GB DDR3 RAM and 4GB of storage, as is designed for automatic update downloads for future performance enhancements. That he system memory is more than doubled, as data-caching – or buffering – plays a decisive role in the Vega G2. 

Incoming signals – including those from the analog input and its associated A/D converter – are stored in a digital buffer, then clocked out to the converter chip, thus filtering out digital signal distortion and jitter components from the source or from the home network. This process requires a signal delay of about 100 milliseconds – not a problem when listening to music, the already strictly two-channel Vega G2 fails when it comes as means of listening to TV sound, for example, where synchronisation with video is required. 

The converter chip is no off-the-shelf IC, but rather a modified version of the respected Sabre DAC, manufactured by ESS in small quantities for Auralic. It handles all relevant sound formats up to DSD 512, along with DXD and MQA ,and offers a choice of four digital filters, each of which brings its own character to the music. 

After conversion, the analog output passes through a complex level control system: while Auralic is an advocate of digital virtues, it recognises that, due to the mandatory bit reduction during digital volume control, even the highest resolution digital attenuator doesn’t come close to a good analog one. The Auralic solution was a passive network of resistors and relays, each arranged in groups of eight on sub-boards, and with the two channels handled separately, under the control of a digital encoder which also ‘drives’ input selection and accesses the units menus. You can hear the calming clicking and switching of the relays deep inside the device as you turn the front panel knob, and it’s worth noting that the relays are so designed that they draw no power when they are not in use, so once a level adjustment has been made, they switch off and are silent. 

Directly downstream of this relay/resistor network is a pair of Class A output stages, also shielded to minimise interference, which the manufacturer designates “ORFEO”. By the way, the idea of separate boards for each channel is primarily for maintenance purposes: for optimum channel uniformity, resistors, relays and output stage components are selected within narrow tolerances, so should something go awry at some point due to ageing, an entire channel can be replaced with a new matched set. That kind of forward thinking for ease of repair is rarely found in devices so highly integrated devices. 

The developers also used galvanic decoupling between all relevant modules, and each section – the DAC, DSP, output stages and S/PDIF input section – has an individual power supply, reducing interference and mains distortion to an absolute minimum. 

The electronics are in housings larger and more massive than anything previously seen from Auralic: milled from solid aluminium, the ‘Unity Chassis’ enclosure rests on specially-developed sprung-loaded feet, and is fronted with colourful and razor-sharp liquid crystal displays at the front, showing information such as the selected input and level (Vega G2) or the cover of the album currently being played back (Aries G2). 

Built-in redundancy? 

After connecting up Aries or Vega, you first have to decide which server you want to use, via Auralic’s own “Lightning DS” iOS app, of which more in a moment. Any UPnP or DLNA compliant NAS or computer in the home network can be used, and thanks to RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport) support, the music can also be controlled and supplied with data from Roon (see page 18). Finally, Auralic’s own Lightning OS server can be activated, which indexes any external data sources and displays titles according to advanced sorting criteria such as sound format and quality (kilohertz/bit rate). 

In a way, using both G2 components is a bit redundant, since the Vega also has streaming onboard – although this is a slimmed-down implement, for example missing wireless networking. In addition, the Aries G2 can be turned into a full-fledged music server via an optional internal hard drive or a USB drive plugged into it – another attractive trick the Vega does without. 

An (almost) perfect app 

The screens on the two units are pretty to look at, but you don’t really need them: all control is provided by Auralic’s ‘Lightning DS’ app, which has always been one of the most powerful and fluid network music remote solutions. However since the product range is now quite extensive, the manufacturer has had to change the logic of that app a little bit: previously, all component and playback requirements could be reached directly, but now there is a link in the device settings to “further options. This leads to a firmware-dependent subpage with device-specific menu items such as the digital filters or the active output –somewhat more long-winded, but unavoidable in view of the expanded portfolio. 

In this submenu, the Aries G2 allows deep interventions in re-sampling in order to adapt its high-bit audio capabilities to any lower-resolution DAC you may choose to use with it, and you can also disable its built-in digital volume control. However, when used with the Vega G2, the DAC takes full control of such matters via the Lightning connection and forbids the Aries to level anything. 

The remote app also benefits from the increased RAM of the two G2 models, making control even smoother and more fluid than with previous Auralic designs. This is particularly noticeable when using the supported web streaming services from Qobuz, Tidal or Spotify: Lightning DS imports your personal favourites and playlists into the device running the app, loading them into memory at startup, a trick the somewhat lame web apps of rivals can’t match. You can also create Tidal or Qobuz favourites and playlists directly from the remote app. 

However, the super remote app has to take a little criticism: Auralic could be a little bolder in supporting and displaying ID metatags, which at the moment are limited to the usual performer/album/ genre trio. After all, Lightning DS is already able to display the signal’s data rate in the playback view, even during web streaming via Qobuz and co. 

New life for music

In the listening room, we were instantly struck by the same transparent, dynamic and extremely musical nature we had enjoyed from previous Auralic devices such as the Altair. However, the G2 team takes these traits further, breathing new life into the music and projecting a large, three-dimensional – but never overstated – soundstage into the room. Above all this is a wealth of detail, which draws out even the subtlest nuances of performances like Adele’s “Lovesong”: we especially liked the way the sound is always silky-fine and balanced despite its incredible resolution and bandwidth. Despite its attention to detail, the G2 combination invites you to enjoy hours of relaxed music. 

As expected, the performance combination seemed a bit more confident and relaxed than the Vega G2’s internal network player, so if you want to tickle out the last ounce of emotion and fine delineation of detail, you should definitely consider the two-box solution. However, even on its own the DAC, which once again proves Auralic’s intuition for innovative technology, can rival such as Esoteric’s K-07X. 

Conclusion: 

Exclusive high-bit DAC with integrated preamplifier, complex network player and velvety-fine Class A output stage. In combination with the Aries G2 network transport it sounds relaxed, dynamic and sophisticated.

………Carsten Barnbeck

the level of resolution they delivered was akin to a very good turntable albeit without the character of vinyl.....I’ll be impressed if anything comes along that can do much better for the money.
Jason Kennedy

SUMMARY: Live recordings sounded especially magical, even the less spectacular ones have a vitality and presence that made them very hard to put down so strong is the sense of palpable reality once your eyes are shut. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals live version of ‘Hallelujah’ is a regular test track because it has so much scale and atmosphere, with the Auralic it was positively electric, with so much low level detail and immediacy that you could almost smell the excitement in the audience. I had a number of revelations using the Vega G2 and Zenith SE, the level of resolution they delivered was akin to a very good turntable albeit without the character of vinyl.
The Vega G2 is superbly built and capable of very high sound quality for the asking price, it has competition to be sure but not much of it combines such a broad feature set with such remarkable decoding abilities. I’ll be impressed if anything comes along that can do much better for the money.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Last year Auralic introduced two new products that significantly upped the standard of build seen in their range up to that point. It’s not that the standard Vega or Polaris aren’t well executed and finished but rather that the G2 products are bigger, more substantial and have a form factor that fits in with high end components as a whole. That said the G2 Vega and Aries are still not full width devices, rather they have machined from solid aluminium cases that are as large as they need to be. The fact that they are so nicely made gives them the quality feel that you should expect at this price point, the fact that some other brands still offer basic steel cases with a thick fascia at this level is testament to the value offered by Auralic.

The Vega G2 is a DAC with a streamer built in, it has a four inch colour display that you navigate with the multifunction knob and a volume control that when combined with five digital and one analogue input makes it a preamplifier into the bargain. There are two headphone outputs on full size jacks and connections for Auralic’s proprietary Lightning Link connection, used when combining G2 units. Two more G2s are due this year, the Sirius reference processor/upsampler with room correction and the Leo reference clock, so that link is pretty crucial.

The Vega G2 incorporates a 4GB buffer for incoming digital signals and runs a quad core processor at 1GHz that can be updated automatically via its Ethernet connection regardless of whether this is used for streaming music. With my sample arriving early this facility proved useful for ironing out the hiccups that streaming products in particular seem to be prone to, but by the time the new year came around everything was working as it should be. The actual DAC in the Vega G2 is a Sabre chipset customised for use without PLL (phase lock loop) so that it operates independently of the source frequency using dual femto clocks as a reference (one for 44.1kHz and up, one for 48kHz sample rates and multiples thereof). Which is a rare approach to clocking and quite possibly as unique as Auralic claim. The DAC can work with PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD512, which is not quite as high as the numbers go but more than high enough for real world music.

The volume control is a 256 step resistive ladder that is effectively passive once the level is set, so should you use this DAC with a separate preamplifier its max output is effectively the same as a fixed output. Level is indicated on the display using a scale that anyone understands; high numbers equal high level rather than the negative decibel system found in too much high end gear. Output is via a class A stage with single ended and balanced connections on the back of the box. This shapely chassis has sprung feet that are actually stiffer at the back to compensate for cable weight, they don’t seem quite compliant enough to offer total isolation but are clearly a step in the right direction.

Being a streamer it provides access to online music services Qobuz and Tidal as well as being functional as a Roon endpoint, where you need Roon running on a local PC. It’s not equipped to decode MQA in the conventional sense but offers upsampling at three levels which is designed to provide the same result. Control of the streaming side is via the attractive if occasionally recalcitrant Lightning app, I couldn’t persuade it to work with the remarkable Innuos Zenith SE server for instance (a fix is apparently in the works), but it was happy with most other sources. Operationally it’s possible to programme the Vega G2 to work with almost any IR handset and this can be useful for switching inputs but most of the time the control app is more useful as it also has a volume slider.

Sound quality

Most of my listening was done via the Townshend Allegri preamp with the Vega G2 at max output, the onboard preamp is good, better than most with decent openness and transparency but not as well timed. It does have decent bass weight though which is nice and with analogue sources the result reflects the quality of those sources well and you will need a decent standalone preamp to beat it.

As a streamer the Vega G2 is unusually revealing, it really let’s you hear what the source is sending over especially when it comes to detail and texture. The balance is slightly on the exposed side so if you have a very revealing source and a slightly edgy recording it won’t be smoothed over, this was apparent with a Bert Jansch album from the sixties and the Zenith SE server, it gave his playing so much attack and dynamic that there was a strong sense of being in the room with the man as he thrapped his steel string acoustic, but it could be a little edge of the seat for some tastes. Howver, the more polished the recording the smoother the result, so Samuel Yirga’s piano and double bass had lovely weighty low end with shiny piano notes the sax that came in had beguiling tone. The wide dynamic range of the recording (The Habasha Sessions) making for a very compelling result.

With a Rotel RCD-1572 CD player as a digital source connected by coax cable the Auralic extracted significantly more subtlety and low level resolution than the player’s onboard DAC. It’s a relatively inexpensive player but the transport element is clearly quite capable, delivering spot on timing and much improved bass extension via the Vega G2. With a USB input the result is also very strong, with loads of fine detail and many of the characteristics noted above, however, as soon as you compare it with Ethernet it’s hard to go back because this link offers so much more resolution. It really feels like a doubling of data, the depth in particular dramatically increases and you can hear so much it’s extraordinary. This result was in no small way enhanced by the Innuos Zenith SE, my regular server good as it has always seemed, turned out to be the limiting factor to the Vega G2’s potential. The server is after all the source so it’s no wonder that a DAC won’t be able to really shine unless this element is delivering the goods. Read the Zenith SE review to get a better idea about this but also note that I got more transparency and musical thrills with the Auralic than the three other streaming DACs I had to hand, one of which was a similar price and another more expensive. 

Live recordings sounded especially magical, even the less spectacular ones have a vitality and presence that made them very hard to put down so strong is the sense of palpable reality once your eyes are shut. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals live version of ‘Hallelujah’ is a regular test track because it has so much scale and atmosphere, with the Auralic it was positively electric, with so much low level detail and immediacy that you could almost smell the excitement in the audience. I had a number of revelations using the Vega G2 and Zenith SE, the level of resolution they delivered was akin to a very good turntable albeit without the character of vinyl.

Towards the end of the review period I got hold of the matching Aries G2, the dedicated streamer in the range, connecting this up with the HDMI based Lightning Link showed that the Vega G2 is a better DAC than its onboard streamer reveals. The Aries G2 filled in the small gaps with fine detail, giving an even more analogue like result albeit with better bass than most analogue sources, and the bass was already pretty good. The slight exposure of the DAC/streamer’s balance became more refined and relaxed once the strain of streaming was taken off its hands. I also had  a brief listen to an SSD drive onboard the Aries G2 which produced results pretty close to those achieved with the Zenith SE (which isn't too shoddy for the price of a 2.5inch drive). That said the Vega G2 is very capable indeed on its own and provided me with many hours of spectacular music, the like of which I’ve rarely encountered with a digital source. Its performance is limited by the quality of signal you feed it but that will always be the way with streamers and converters. The Vega G2 is superbly built and capable of very high sound quality for the asking price, it has competition to be sure but not much of it combines such a broad feature set with such remarkable decoding abilities. I’ll be impressed if anything comes along that can do much better for the money.
..............Jason Kennedy

AURALIC VEGA G2 STREAMING DAC/PREAMP
Chris Martens

At the Munich High-End show 2017 AURALiC held a press conference in which the firm announced that it had all new G2 versions of its popular VEGA Digital Audio Processor and ARIES wireless streaming bridge under development along with a new master clock called the Leo G2 and an upsampling processor called the Sirius G2. Of its next-generation VEGA AURALiC said, “with a completely redesigned internal architecture focused on advanced isolation techniques and a novel approach to clocking, the VEGA G2 is breaking new ground in the world of premium digital processing.” Going further still, AURALiC promised the VEGA G2 would incorporate “engineering innovations that set a new standard for sound quality.” Obviously, these are bold claims, but past experience has taught us that AURALiC typically does not make such statements lightly. Therefore, we were eager to hear the new G2 models in action and were pleased when, late last year, we received a sample of the VEGA G2 that is the subject of this review.

For those not yet familiar with AURALiC, the firm is a Hong Kong-based high-end audio electronics company co-founded in 2008 by President and CEO Xuanqian Wang and his business partner Yuan Wang. Xuanqian Wang has had formal training as an electrical and audio recording engineer and is an accomplished classical pianist, while Yuan Wang has a background in sociology and management science. The partners-to-be met at the 2008 Festival of Waldbühne Berlin and discovered they shared a passion for music and sound quality. Not long thereafter they launched AURALiC Ltd. and the rest is history. 

The VEGA G2 streaming DAC offers expanded features as compared to the original VEGA and is configured so that it can function as a DAC, a digital/analogue preamplifier, a streamer, and a headphone amplifier. Much like the original VEGA, the VEGA G2 emphasises cutting-edge digital audio design features, but also takes an almost old-school, purist’s approach when it comes to its carefully voiced, pure Class A analogue output circuitry. A review of some the features and technologies found in the G2 will show what I mean.

The VEGA G2 DAC section can process PCM files with sampling rates ranging from 44.1 to 384kHz and with bit depths up to 32 bits; it can also handle DSD files ranging from DSD64 to DSD512. There are total of six available digital audio inputs: one AES/EBU, one Toslink, one coaxial S/PDIF, a Gigabit Ethernet streaming input, a proprietary AURALiC L-Link (Lightning Link) input, and a USB input. The L-Link input uses an I2S-like connector and is designed to enable high-bandwidth/low-noise data exchanges between AURALiC G2-series components that incorporate L-Link interfaces. 

Where Ethernet connections to shared music files or music servers are available, the VEGA G2 supports OpenHome and RoonReady streaming protocols and is designed to work with OpenHome-compatible control software packages (e.g., BubbleUPnP, BubbleDS, Linn Kazoo, and Lumin) or with Roon—where a Roon server must be present on the network in order for Roon to be used. (Note that while the VEGA G2 serves as a RoonReady endpoint and can be configured under Roon as a zone or an output, it cannot act as a Roon Core or a Roon server.) Alternatively, the VEGA G2 also works well with AURALiC’s own control software packages: Lightning DS for iOS or Lightning DS for Web. Streaming digital audio file types supported by the VEGA G2 include both lossy formats (such as AAC, MP3, MQA, and WMA) and lossless formats (such as AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, OGG, WAV, and WV).

Digital audio processing is handled by what the manufacturer calls the AURALiC Tesla Platform, which is based on a “Quad-Core A9 chip, with 1GB DDR3 memory and 4GB of storage” and that provides a jaw-dropping 25,000 MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) of data-crunching power. The G2 processor is some 25 times more powerful than the one used in the original VEGA and this allows, says AURALiC, the “introduction of more sophisticated filter algorithms and oversampling techniques than ever before.” 

The G2 offers four menu selectable digital filter modes labeled Precise, Dynamic, Balance, and Smooth. AURALiC points out that these four filter modes employ “five digital filters optimised for corresponding sampling rates,” where the filter schemes were developed using a combination of “objective data models and subjective testing.”
.........Chris Martens

the big story here is the Lightning Link that joins Aries G2 to Vega G2.
John H. Darko

What’s the frequency, Kenneth? On the global audio show circuit, I encounter AURALIC's Xuanqian Wang more than any other manufacturer: in Denver, in Las Vegas, in Los Angeles, in Hong Kong and in Munich. And on each and every occasion for the past three years, I have asked Wang two simple questions: 1) When will we see a MK2 Vega DAC?; 2) Will it come in black? Wang’s reply was almost always, “Awwww, c’mon – why do you want black?”. Hats off to the man for tolerating my repetitive approach to hifi journalism.

In April, I followed up with Wang on the recently announced Lightning DS v5.0 Beta. An update that brought with it a new web interface. Here’s how that email exchange played out:

JD: I only see a way to setup an AURALiC device. Does the web interface allow us to choose songs and control playback? Or is that still to come?

XW: The web control interface is for device setup only, which enables non-iOS user to setup the unit with full function. Since Lightning DS is only available on iOS platform, non-iOS user still need to use 3rd party software for playback control. For Roon customers, they can access to web interface directly from Roon software through a button, which means they do not need to know or input IP address manually in web browser.

JD: With this choose-your-own-software approach, the open sourcing of the web client’s development and Roon landing on the Mini, does this mean you’re relaxing a little on which software you recommend end users use with your hardware?

XW: We never restricted customer’s choose and the company always listen to what our customer want. Our platform is getting more and more stable so we believe it is the time to add more features now. The ARIES MINI only has half system memory comparing to its big brother so there were always some limitation.

JD. You’re going your own route with MQA file handling. What motivated this move? And what can you tell us about your filter? I presume it’s only applied to MQA content and that a different filter is applied to normal PCM? What are you trying to achieve soundwise with these filters?

XW: AURALiC’s goal for MQA playback is to let our customers get the best possible sound from their existing equipment without need to purchase anything and that experience has to be free of any charge. The filters we applied to MQA file playback is a special optimised minimum phase filter with minimised pre-echo and ringing; it is quite similar to our upsampling filter but with some differences. We have already heard back from existing ARIES MINI customers whom tried the 5.0 beta firmware with MQA content and they really like the improvements we bring here. For customers who have already invested in a MQA certificated DAC, they can have an AURALIC streaming device not change the signal and have it sent to the DAC directly – they also need to disable the volume control function inside Lightning DS to make sure the MQA signal is unaltered.

JD. You’re about to introduce a new version of the Aries? What can you tell us about its tech specs and other features?

XW: Do I still need to answer this question?

As it turns out, no.

According to the man himself, Wang works (almost) every day from 7am until midnight. This explains his crazy fast email response time. On one occasion, a reply arrived at 3am. This wasn’t the Berlin-Beijing time difference at work but Mr. Wang working into the wee hours.

Wang’s show preparations are thorough. The company’s most recent press release, one that arrived a few days ahead of the Munich show’s kick off, included five (count ‘em) multi-page documents. I would have tackled them there and then but Wang had tipped me off that more was still to come. “Wait for Munich,” he said. OK.

Unsurprisingly, AURALiC’s Friday morning show and tell felt more like an intensive training course than a press conference. For a full 45 mins, Wang’s Powerpoint presentation took us deeper into the company’s four new ‘G2 series’ products.

Chief among them was a second generation Vega, dressed in black. Sitting on the shelf above was a second generation Aries. It too wore black. Had our man from China run my quest for black hardware into the end zone? Touchdown!

Time to disseminate: Readers who like to know about the chip are advised that the Vega G2 utilises an ESS DAC chip, custom made for AURALiC and not an off-the-shelf model. Readers are cautioned that a DAC’s performance also falls to its power supply, output stage (here, AURALiC’s ORFEO) and noise shielding.

To wit, running at the heart of the Vega G2 is AURALiC’s Tesla platform: a Quad-Core A9 chip, 1GB DDR3 RAM and 4GB of storage, all running at 25,000 MIPS. According to AURALiC, that makes it 25 times more powerful than first generation Vega.

This extra grunt allows the Vega G2 to deliver Roon Ready / Lightning DS network streaming. Gapless playback, memory caching, bit-perfect multi-room sync and upsampling all show up to the Lightning DS party. Ditto Roon.

One of the biggest criticisms levelled at the original, superb sounding Vega was its lossy digital control. Well, no more. The G2’s attenuation comes from a passive resistor-ladder control that draws zero current when set. This has in turn allowed for the inclusion of an analogue input (hello turntable/phono stage) on top of the usual array of digital inputs: USB, TOSLINK, coaxial and AES/EBU.

A pair of 72fs Femto clocks, one each for 48kHz and 44.1khz sample rate familise, keep jitter to a minimum. From the press release: “The 72fs Femto Master Clock is just as quiet as it is accurate, with an extremely low -169dBc/Hz of phase noise and a 100Hz offset noise level of only -118dBc/Hz, thanks in part to its low-noise 3uV dedicated power supply.”

Also keeping the jitter-inducing EMI to a minimum is the galvanic isolation of CPU, Femto clocks, DAC chip and analogue board as well as the subdivision of 1) processing circuit, LCD display, network interface and 2) DAC, Femto clocks, analogue board between two ‘Purer-Power’ linear power supplies.

Those hoping to ditch their NAS by hooking a USB storage device directly into the back of the Vega G2, or by installing a 2.5” SSD/HDD into its undercarriage, will need to look to the Aries G2 network streamer instead.

Not only. The Aries G2 also promises to take the Vega G2’s sound quality to the next level by way of a still more powerful Tesla platform: “The AURALiC Tesla G2 Platform is the revamped heart of the ARIES G2, and it packs a processor that’s 50% faster than the Tesla G1 platform, with twice the system memory (2GB) and data storage (8GB) of the previous generation,” reads the press release.

The Aries G2 also sees AURALiC once again make use of sub-divided ‘Purer-Power’ supply, galvanic isolation of key circuit areas and dual Femto clocks, one for S/PDIF outputs and one for USB.

However, the big story here is the Lightning Link that joins Aries G2 to Vega G2.

AURALiC’s press release explains: “Lightning Link is a low-jitter, bi-directional 18Gbps coupling that takes advantage of high-speed HDMI-type hardware connectors.”

Crucially, and unlike I2S, Lightning Link is bidirectional, allowing for clocking information to move from Vega G2 to Aries G2 and control data (e.g. volume control) to move from Aries G2 to Vega G2. Linked devices will appear as one in AURALiC’s Lightning DS control app.

Don’t pull out that credit card quite yet. The Aries G2 and Vega G2 will only be available from September onwards.

In the wake of their AXPONA debut in April, some have likened the appearance of the ‘Unity’ chassis, cut from a single billet of aluminium to minimise airborne vibrations and EMI, to that of Naim’s new (ahem) Uniti series of components. Fair enough.

However, once we factor in the similarly form-factored Sirius G2 upsampling processor and the Leo G2 Femto reference clock, not due to drop until the end of 2017, things start to look decidedly dCS-like. That’s no bad thing: start with a DAC, then add the external streamer, upsampler and word clock as budget allows. Both Leo G2 and Sirius G2 can be Lightning-linked to Vega G2.

Sharp eyes will have caught the twin 6.4mm headphone sockets on the Vega G2’s front panel. A post-Munich follow-up with AURALiC’s German office didn’t bring forth any further details. Their lips remain tightly sealed on the what and the how.

Even if AURALiC don’t specify the world’s most sophisticated headphone amplifier, its inclusion gives the Vega G2 the functional edge over its closest rival: no, not the original Vega but PS Audio’s DirectStream DAC fitted with Roon Ready Network Bridge II. Expect to see that comparison form the core of DAR’s Vega G2 review when it drops later this year.
........ John H. Darko

Videos

Auralic Aries and Vega G2

AURALiC Aries/Vega G1 vs. Aries/Vega G2