I directly compared the ALTAIR’s headphone amp section to the sound of Schiit Audio’s Jotunheim headphone amp and to iFi Audio’s Pro iCAN amp, using all four of the top-tier reference headphones I mentioned earlier. In each instance, the third-party amplifier delivered a noticeably more robust, full-bodied, and more three-dimensional presentation. By comparison, the ALTAIR headphone amp section tended to sound drier, more two-dimensional, and more lightly balanced (and thus lacking, to a degree, in weight and warmth). However, in all fairness, I should point out that the ALTAIR headphone amp sounded superb when used with custom-fit in-ear monitors such as my Noble Audio Katana’s, which are probably the sort easy-to-drive load AURALiC had in mind when creating the ALTAIR’s headphone amp section.
As I reflect back on this review, I find myself continually marvelling at just how much sophisticated technology AURALiC has managed to pack into the ALTAIR, and at a sensible price. While the ALTAIR does not quite match the sound quality of AURALiC’s flagship ARIES-plus-VEGA combination, the ALTAIR is arguably the next best thing—and it is a single-chassis component that sells for only 39% of the price of the two components upon which it is based! Whether you look at it from the standpoint of convenience, flexibility, performance, or sheer value, the ALTAIR is that rare multi-purpose component that can play many different roles, all of them successfully.
Type: Wireless streaming DAC
Digital Inputs: Gigabit Ethernet (via RJ45 jack), 802.11b/g/n/ac Tri-Band Wi-Fi connection, USB 2.0 High-Speed for use with optional external or internal USB music library drives, AES/EBU, coaxial S/PDIF, Toslink optical S/PDIF
Digital Outputs: USB 2.0 High-Speed for connections with compatible DACs
Analogue Outputs: One stereo single-ended output (via RCA jacks), one stereo balanced output (via XLR jacks), one headphone output (via 6.35mm phone jack)
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz, ± 0.1dB
THD+N: <0.0003%, 20 Hz – 20 kHz at 0 dBFS
Dynamic range: 124 dB, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, A-weighted
Streaming services supported: Local uPnP/DLNA library content, online streaming from TIDAL and Qobuz, Internet Radio, AirPlay, Songcast, Roon, and music files stored on external or internal USB drives.
Supported file types: AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV, and WMA.
Supported sampling rates: 44.1kKz – 384 kHz at 16 – 32 bits (PCM), DSD 64, DSD 128, DSD256
Dimensions (H×W×D): 6.5× 33×23cm
Price: £1,799 or $1,899
Manufacturer: AURALiC LIMITED
UK Distributor: AURALiC Europe
Tel: +44(0) 7590 106105
US Distributor: AURALiC North America