in , ,

AURALiC marry VEGA and ARIES for new ALTAIR streaming DAC

  • For the digital streamer and head-fier looking to go all in on an AURALiC rig, pricing adds up as fast as feature set and performance. From top to bottom: the ARIES streamer with linear PSU (covered here and here) kicks us off at US$1595; the VEGA decoder (covered here, here and here) adds another US$3495; lastly, the TAURUS MKII headphone amplifier (covered here) piles on another US$1895. That’s a hefty US$6985. “Crikey!”, I hear you say. It’s a lot of power cords too.

    Dropping the ARIES down to an ARIES MINI (covered here, here and here) adds HDD hosting but removes Roon Readiness and sees SQ drop a few notches. The Mini’s onboard decoder can try its best to stand-in for the Vega’s technicolour arrest… but “Yeah, nah”, as we say in Australia.

    What if AURALiC were to offer a DAC that retained much of the Vega’s performance but added an Aries with its proprietary Tesla hardware platform, ‘flexible filters’, linear power supply and Femto clocking plus a headphone socket for more casual listening? What if that product were to sell for US$1899?

    Say hello to ALTAIR – the Chinese hifi company’s new “high-quality” streaming DAC. A single box solution for skinnier wallets. Also, one power cord.

    The press release boasts of the ALTAIR’s 15 (count ‘em) input sources so let’s start there.

    Should you insist, direct connections from third party streamers and disc spinners hook into the ALTAIR via its three S/PDIF inputs – AES/EBU, coaxial and Toslink. A PC or Mac goes direct over USB.


    Bluetooth and AirPlay show up here to accommodate Spotify and Apple Music listeners but ALTAIR’s 802.11b/g/n/ac Tri-Band WiFi and Gigabit Ethernet connections are also for feeding the silver machine over the network from myriad other sources.

    On ALTAIR’s network capability list sit Roon Readiness plus Songcast, uPnP/DLNA, TIDAL / Qobuz, Internet Radio, Songcast – the latter seven via AURALiC’s own Lightning DS (LDS) platform whose iPhone app is really something nowadays.

    LDS for the iPad will be updated “soon” whilst control apps for Windows and OS X remain “in development”. Until then, non-Apple users are directed toward OpenHome or UPnP control software.

    The main advantage held by Lightning DS over Roon is self-sufficiency. A NAS or server can be used for music library storage but it isn’t a prerequisite. With an external hard drive connected to its second USB port or with an internal 2.5” hard drive fitted by end user or dealer, ALTAIR serves itself.

    ALTAIR looks a good deal like the VEGA, doesn’t it? No surprise then that the newbie shares a number of features with its bigger bro: same sized enclosure (33cm x 23cm x 6.5cm); 512 x 64px OLED display; ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip; digital volume control; single-ended and balanced outputs.

    So far, so press release. DAR digs deeper…

    Before you get ready to throw your VEGA up on the ‘gon, know that it one-ups ALTAIR in two key areas: 1) ORFEO Class A output modules and 2) a better quality power supply feeds its analogue stage.

    AURALiC’s Xuanqian Wang relaxes at CanJan SoCal 2016.

    “You are not expecting the same sound quality from the VEGA for this price, right?” says AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang via email.

    Wang pegs the ALTAIR’s sound quality as somewhere between the VEGA and the ARIES Mini’s (analogue output) once the Linear PSU has been applied. We should therefore view the ALTAIR as a hardware extension of AURALiC’s Aries Mini but with an added headphone output.

    And so it comes from the horse’s PR mouth: “ALTAIR is definitely a line extension, and not a replacement of the ARIES MINI or our award-winning VEGA DAC or ARIES Streamers,” emphasises the press release.

    Details remain vague however on ALTAIR’s headphone socket and its supporting circuitry. That’s for attendees of this weekend’s AXPONA audio show in Chicago to uncover. AURALiC will be giving ALTAIR its first public outing in Room 304.

    Back to software. In 2015, AURALiC’s software development team gave us quad-DSD streaming compatibility via USB (should you have any in your library) plus the more useful in-app playlist composition and multi-zone playback sync.

    Coming in the Lightning DS’ next update is a brand new feature called Memory Playback. For all content streamed via LDS, including Tidal and Qobuz, ALTAIR will fetch and cache the entire track to its memory or system storage. That’s useful for those still living with 20th century Internet speeds (*cough* Australia *cough*) or where Tidal proves to be glitchy.

    Memory Playback will also be joining the ARIES – but NOT the ARIES Mini – once the new LDS and its associated firmware update rolls out on ALTAIR.

    Also on AURALiC software dev roadmap are DSD up-sampling (a la HQPlayer), room ‘correction’ capabilities and – wait for it – MQA support.

    At this year’s CES I asked Xuanqian Wang about the possibility of a black VEGA. The man was very firm with his reply in the negative. So consider this a plot twist: the ALTAIR will be made available in silver and black finishes. That price again – US$1895.

    Further information: AURALiC

    You can also read Srajan Ebaen’s carefully crafted 6moons take on the ALTAIR here.


    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. At first glance this looks to be extremely good value from Auralic. I am a fan of their stuff.
      I am going to to have to read this again to make sure I didn’t miss the catch. DAC may not be as good as Vega but I bet it will be very excellent. I really hope you tell me later the headphone output is as good as a Taurus. Then I’m in.

    2. Here is the catch – by the time they release it, they’ll raise the prise ~40%, as they’ve done with last two products and now it is ~2700
      They might be making a fine sounding products, but Auralic treats us as suckers.

    3. Congratulations John Darko for the get on the world exclusive AURALic new product release.
      Hmm. So no AURALic Vega 2 hardware release quite yet!?
      AURALic Vega 2 DSD 256/512 with MQA

      I assume we all just need to be more patient?

    4. Right now I listen through an ARIES mini with the upgraded power supply, a NOS DAC, and a headphone amp/preamp. The ALTAIR one box approach is very appealing and not much more expensive than my current kit when you add it all up.

    5. Sorry but will not buy Chinese. Yes i pay more for products sourced in Aus, US, Europe.

      Doesn’t have to be your way or anyone else’s way, but its my way.

      I could say a lot more but i wont – this is not the platform for it. Bottom line is there is a lot of fine gear out there – so for me no need to go “Chinese”

      How these prices are justified from a made in China product i don’t know.

      • You’re 100% correct, Mark. This is no place to expand on your anti-Made-in-China stance.

    6. If this appliance has a DAC that is close to the VEGA, plus the streaming chops of the AIRES, I am in – even if they raise the price. I want an all-in-one box with killer sound and function for my living room and this box looks nice.

      I look forward to the pending DAR review…

    7. It seems to me to be a very promising product. Despite the introduction of the uRendu there aren’t many boxes that combine an ethernet endpoint AND a decent DAC combined, and it seems there would be some advantage to this in terms of doing away with the USB connection between endpoint and DAC. BUT…. isnt the Altair just begging to have HQPlayer NAA endpoint functionality also?

      • HQPlayer is possibly too niche for an AURALiC product. Besides, their streaming platform is Lightning DS.

    Spatial Audio factory tour, Hologram M4 review

    UPDATED! Tidal integration ‘coming very soon’ to Audirvana Plus