It can’t be many years since AURALiC’s first cute and curvy ARIES streamer appeared on the market, but since that time the company has created some very interesting digital audio products and last year unveiled its most ambitious range to date, G2. Thus far the range consists of the ARIES G2 network streamer and VEGA G2 streamer/DAC/preamplifier, at launch it looked as though the LEO GX clock would join the G2 range but it has taken the GX suffix. This suggests the LEO moves beyond the G2 series to future G ranges, although there is no backwards compatibility between LEO and the original G1 models.
In an interview with AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang published in Issue 162, the Editor asked “Which G series product surprised you by its performance and why?”, Wang sidestepped this in a way by saying that his company has developed mathematical modelling that has been incorporated into their R&D processes in order to avoid any ‘surprises’, but rather to be able to design them in such a way that the outcome is predictable. AURALiC use measurement and “attentive listening” but feel that this is not a solid enough basis for efficient R&D. I suspect that the speed of progress that the company has achieved may well come down to this factor.
The existence of two streamers in the G2 range is unusual but does mean that those who already have a decent DAC need not spend money on another one, although adding an ARIES G2 streaming transport with Lightning Link improves performance further and has an optional internal hard drive for music storage. Nevertheless, if you don’t have a reasonably up to date digital to analogue converter, the one-box streamer/DAC is the best way to go. By eliminating a digital connection you reduce the potential for bringing high frequency noise into the sensitive circuitry of the converter and that has to be a good thing. The VEGA G2 (originally tested in issue 156) inhabits AURALiC’s rather tasty Unity chassis, which is machined from aluminium billet so as to provide a low resonance case that shields the circuits from external interference; it forms all but the base of the box and looks and feels very solid indeed. AURALiC shows that it understands the enemies of high resolution by using springs in the feet of G2 components; this isolates the case from all but the lowest frequencies and if it got the maths right – and ‘getting the maths right’ seems to be an AURALiC speciality – that means down to 2Hz or thereabouts.
AURALiC keeps electrical interference out with galvanic isolation between the processing platform that deals with incoming signals and the DAC. Clocking is provided by dual 72fs femto clocks with their own low noise power supply and a temperature regulated case. The converter itself is a customised version of a Sabre DAC that is good for PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD512 which, while not the highest numbers claimed, are at the limit of the majority of converters. The higher sample rates can only be accepted via USB and AURALiC’s Lightning Link a proprietary HDMI based connection that joins multiple AURALiC G series components and allows them to work in synchrony. Inputs extend to more familiar digital connections including AES/EBU and both the electrical and optical forms of S/PDIF, so it pretty much caters for all sources except actual HDMI ones like the TV. It can also accept a single analogue input so long as it’s single-ended because, unlike many DACs with a volume control on the chip, there is an actual preamp section on the Vega G2. Here AURALiC has gone to considerable lengths to provide an uncompromising volume control by using coil latched relays which are said to remain passive once volume level has been set. You can change the level with the knob on the box or with the Lightning DS control app. Analogue output connections come in the usual balanced and single-ended flavours.