AURALiC VEGA G2 streaming DAC/preamp

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AURALiC VEGA G2
AURALiC VEGA G2 streaming DAC/preamp

While much of the VEGA G2 is new, one area where it harks back to the design of the original VEGA is in its analogue audio section, which is once again based upon a pair of AURALiC’s signature ORFEO Class-A output modules. To my mind this a good thing, since both the design and voicing of the ORFEO modules was inspired by the circuitry of the classic Neve 8078 analogue recording console, which is justly famous for a sound that combines high levels of sonic transparency with an elusive quality of natural, organic warmth.

Finally, the VEGA G2 enjoys AURALiC’s new milled-from-solid-billet-aluminium Unity chassis, which is designed to shield the circuitry within from EMI while damping out (for absorbing) unwanted vibration. The Unity chassis, which will be shared by all G2-series models, is extremely handsome and robustly made. Rear panel connections are protected by thick aluminium flanges, while the gently curved faceplate sports a centrally-positioned four-inch high-res LCD screen flanked by a large rotary encoder knob/selector switch that falls readily to hand. The entire chassis is treated to a tasteful satin black finish with the AURALiC logo cut into its top plate. Compared to the original VEGA, the VEGA G2 has a much more solid, purposeful, and upscale appearance.

For my listening tests I used the VEGA G2 in a system that included Rega’s Osiris integrated amplifier; a first-generation AURALiC ARIES wireless streaming bridge (because the next-gen ARIES G2 was not quite ready for review yet); a 2TB music library drive loaded with standard and high-res PCM, DXD, and DSD digital audio files; a PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Memory Player disc transport; Magnepan 3.7i loudspeakers; interconnect, speaker, and power cables plus power conditioning equipment from Furutech; digital cables from AudioQuest; audio racks from Solid Tech; and room acoustic treatments from Auralex, RPG, and Vicoustics.

It was instantly apparent that the VEGA G2 was in a whole different (and much higher) performance league from the original VEGA (and I say this with all due respect to the VEGA, which was and is a solid performer in its own right). The four biggest differences I noted were the G2’s significantly lower noise, it’s markedly superior rendering of low-level sonic information, it’s clean and clear but never hard or etched-sounding handling of transient sounds, and its downright astonishing three-dimensionality. Put all these factors together and the listener is treated to what Wizard of Oz fans might term a major “we’re not in Kansas anymore!” moment.

Perhaps not surprisingly the VEGA G2’s sonic strengths are particularly effective on well-made live recordings, such as Dead Can Dance’s powerful yet also ethereal song ‘Anabasis’ from Dead Can Dance – In Concert[PIAS America, 16/44.1]. The track combines a delicious mix of high and low-pitched acoustic percussion instruments, synthesizer washes, and soaring, middle-Eastern inflected vocals. The G2 makes child’s play of differentiating acoustic from electric instruments and reveals a wonderful touch of delicacy and elegance in capturing the shimmering, evanescent sounds of the high-pitched percussion figure that is repeated throughout the song. But more than anything, the G2 deftly renders subtle hall and crowd sounds, giving the presentation the sort of expansive, you-are-there feel of a live event. With help from the Magnepans, the VEGA G2 created an enormous, three-dimensional soundstage, yet with plenty of imaging specificity in terms of accurate instrument placement on stage. The Magnepans don’t always yield such coherent 3D soundstages, but with the VEGA G2 in play they certainly did.

The VEGA G2 is equally effective on tightly focused and purely acoustic material such as the track ‘Le Boulet Rieur’ from Joël Grare’s Grare: Paris – Instanbul – Shanghai[Alpha, 16/44.1]. Grare leads a remarkable percussion ensemble whose talents and multi-coloured instrumental voices are highlighted in the jaunty, syncopated ‘Le Boulet Rieur’. As the track played through the VEGA G2, three things caught my ear: the brilliant purity and richness of the tonal colours of each of the instruments in play, the dead-accurate rendering of the dynamic envelopes of the instruments (and especially of their distinctive attack and decay characteristics), and—once again—the striking three-dimensionality of the overall presentation. In short, the G2 offered up a sound that was at once invigourating, elegant, refined, and realistic.

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