Heading into and out of the Great Lockdowns of 2020, we all need music in the home, and thus need a music source that is at once good sounding, reliable, easy to navigate and operate, and in particular ‘installer friendly’. At a time when we are still reluctant to let anyone into our homes and listening rooms, a product that requires some ‘heavy lifting’ – be it physical, mental or even financial – is hard to justify. Which is why it’s perhaps no surprise that the ALTAIR G1 by AURALiC is very much in demand.
Lets unpick the above because I suspect it may come to define audio long after the current ‘unpleasantness.’ The ALTAIR G1 is an elegant, ‘just add amplifier’ all-in-one digital solution. Weighing in at a shade under 7kg, it’s not going to task most people when it comes to hauling it onto a shelf. Having a set of understandable connections (for a product in 2020) and using AURALiC’s now rock-solid Lightning app for both set-up and use, getting it to make sound is comparatively unthreatening (as in ‘not as plug-and-play as a CD player, but doesn’t require an engineering degree to make it go’) and the price isn’t in the heart-stopping camp. For the appreciable future, I believe it’s products like the ALTAIR G1 – as distinct from a product that weighs as much as a planet, is more complex to understand than a course in celestial mechanics, and costs the earth – that will set the standards for tomorrow’s hi-fi components.
In terms of what’s inside that G1 chassis, the ALTAIR is almost like a ‘greatest hits’ of AURALiC. It’s sort of what happens when the ARIES and VEGA platforms drink a little wine and listen to some Barry White tracks, and its blood-line includes more than a little bit of G2 as well as G1. Granted it’s in a G1 series pressed-aluminium instead of the ‘forged by the dwarf lords of Moria’ clamshell of the G2, but the internal organs of the ALTAIR G1 are impressive given its the cheapest entry into the full AURALiC streaming platform and DAC solutions.
The hardware platform inside that case is AURALiC’s proprietary Tesla G2 system with 1GB of RAM acting as a cache. Given that means the ALTAIR G1 could buffer an entire CD and still have room for more, this is both impressive and useful for streaming sources. Those streaming sources include Tidal and Qobuz and the new addition; the high-res service HRA, and it supports to 32-bit, 384kHz PCM, 512DSD, and MQA (although not pure Masters Quality). It also allows the user to upsample CD-quality tracks to high-resolution sampling rates should you choose. It’s also a Roon endpoint.