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.”