Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC – HiFi Review

Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC – HiFi Review


This is my HiFi Review of the Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC.  It is the more expensive big brother of the recently departed (from hifiandmusicsource.com) Vega G1, that left my stable only last week after a joyful few months.  At over £2,300 more than the G1, the G2 seems a little over the top, especially given how good the G1 is.

Design

Auralic Vega G2The most important thing about the G2 big brother of the G1 is it has retained the twin European style headphone output; this is an odd feature but I love the idea of it, I’ve never used it but I love the idea of it!

But seriously, for the first time in the audio industry, the Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC is a DAC that operates independently of the source signal’s frequency.  VEGA G2 buffers data (in the menu system this can be tailored by source) in such a way that the DAC has no need to lock on to the frequency of its source signal. Never before has a DAC been able to entirely govern timing with its own clocking.

DAC Chip

Auralic uses a modified Sabre DAC chip scheme, optimized for audio signal processing of resolutions up to DSD512.

Lightning Streaming

The Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC benefits from Auralic’s native integration of their custom-built Lightning Streaming technology. Lightning Streaming uses your existing network to create a dedicated music streaming environment capable of processing and streaming the highest resolution musical formats available, including DSD512 and PCM 32bit/384k (it says here). Lightning Streaming brings Gapless Playback, Memory Caching, Bit-Perfect Multi-Room, and Upsampling.

In addition to compatibility with AirPlay, the Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC is a certified Roon Ready endpoint for seamless integration with Roon software.

Lightning Link

(some, not all, paragraphs directly from the Auralic site)

Lightning Link Auralics low-jitter, bi-directional 18Gbps coupling that takes advantage of high-speed HDMI-type hardware connectors to provide a superior level of transmission control, making today’s ultra-high resolution digital music shine like never before. Different from the I2S standard, the bi-directional Lightning Link opens the door to jitter-free operation of all the devices in your system.

The Lightning Link allows a seamless connection between the G2 and other Auralic products such as the fabulously expensive (but gorgeous) Leo GX clock.

Tesla Platform

The Auralic Tesla Platform is at the heart of the VEGA G2’s processing power. Built around a Quad-Core A9 chip, with 1GB DDR3 memory and 4GB of storage, the VEGA G2 runs at a whopping 25,000 MIPS – 25 times faster than the processor found in the original VEGA. That allows for the introduction of more sophisticated filter algorithms and oversampling techniques than ever before. As always, automatic updates keep the VEGA G2 up to date with the latest feature set and support, continually expanding its functionality and ensuring peak performance. (extracted from the site)

Dual 72fs Femto Master Clocks

Auralic has built the Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC with two incredibly precise clocks for amazing accuracy. One clock handles sampling of formats in multiples of 44.1kHz, and the second takes care of 48kHz (and multiples) files. They’re the most sophisticated clocks we’ve ever built, and function on 72 femtosecond cycles – 72 quadrillionths of a second. The result is less jitter and immaculate sound. The 72fs Femto Master Clock is just as quiet as it is accurate, with an extremely low -169dBc/ Hz of phase noise and a 100Hz offset noise level of only -118dBc/Hz, thanks in part to its low noise 3uV dedicated power supply.  (extracted from the site)

Jitter-Free Operation

The union of Auralics Lightning OS, the Tesla Platform and our 72fs Femto Master Clock leads to a new trick hiding up the VEGA G2’s sleeve: it’s a DAC that’s always in charge. While DACs until now have relied on DPLL circuitry to lock on to the input signal’s frequency, the VEGA G2 has no such limitation – a first in the audio industry. Lightning OS takes full advantage of the Tesla Platform’s considerable resources by buffering enough data to make the input signal’s frequency irrelevant, allowing the VEGA G2 to govern all processing with that super-accurate 72fs Femto Master Clock. It’s a configurable setting too, from 0.1s to 1s, so a smaller buffer size may be set for higher quality sources.  (extracted from the site)

Digital Audio Galvanic Isolation

The Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC has physically separated electrical circuits but these are tailored to allow the free flow of data between them.  This Digital Audio Galvanic Isolation in the Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC offers a new level of protection against electromagnetic interference.

Auralic has designed a high-speed galvanic isolator that is configured between the noise-sensitive DAC chip, the Femto Clock and the analog circuit.  These are in turn isolated from the central processing circuit.  The intention is to eliminate electromagnetic noise interference and deliver unparalleled sound quality.

Full Passive Volume Control

The Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC features a new high-performance, low power, fully passive volume control.  This has taken Auralic many years to perfect.  The relays in the volume control take no energy when they are both open or closed and so only draw power when on the move.  Another component in this drive to an excellent low noise box.   The result is a wonderfully responsive and sharp volume control that suffers at the hands of the Lightning DS App, which makes volume control so easy.

Unity Chassis

The G2 is housed in a completely redesigned enclosure – the Unity Chassis.   The chassis is machined from a single billet of aluminum and specifically designed for the premium lineup of Auralic G Series products, right down to mass balancing and the shape of its foot spikes.

The Unity Chassis excels at shielding the inner workings of the VEGA G2 from EMI and providing superior dampening and absorption, reflecting the obsessive attention to noise reduction throughout the G Series.

Quality

The quality of this Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC is in your hands.  It is heavy and beautifully machined.  If you press the individual corners of the G2, the feet sink in with resistance.  This is a noise reduction touch which is lovely.

The single machined chassis stands out on the first inspection and when you do realise it is just one piece of Aluminium, you just marvel at the thought process gone into this particular design idea.

Specification

From the Auralic site.

Performance: 
Frequency Response: 20 – 20KHz, +/- 0.1dB*
THD: < 0.00012% (XLR); < 0.00015% (RCA)
DNR: > 130dB

Sampling Rates: 
PCM: 44.1KHz to 384KHz in 32Bit**
DSD: DSD64 to DSD512**

Inputs:
AURALiC Lightning Link: 44.1KHz to 384KHz in 32Bit**
Digital Inputs: AES/EBU, Coaxial, TOSLINK
USB Input: USB Device to computer or streamer
Network Input: Gigabit Ethernet
Analog Input: 2Vrms maximum with home theater bypass

Outputs: 
Balanced: one pair of XLR, maximum output at 4.8Vrms
Single-Ended: one pair of RCA, maximum output at 4.8Vrms
Headphone: two 6.35mm stereo headphone jacks

Streaming Protocol: 
OpenHome
RoonReady

Streaming File Formats: 
Lossless: AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, OGG, WAV and WV
Lossy: AAC, MP3, MQA and WMA

Control Software: 
AURALiC Lightning DS for iOS
AURALiC Lightning DS for web interface (device settings only)
OpenHome compatible control software (BubbleUPnP, Kazoo)
Roon (Roon Core required separately)

Power Consumption: 
Playback: 50W at max.

Dimensions – W x D x H: 
13.4 x 12.6 x 3.2 in. (34cm x 32cm x 8cm)

Weight: 
17.2 lbs. (7.8kg)

Performance

I’ve been listening to this Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC with the Naim Supernait 3.  It is a fine amplifier and I really hope Naim will forget that I have it (they won’t, don’t worry).  I’m using RCA Atlas Mavros interconnects to the amplifier from the Auralic Vega G2 Streaming DAC.

First Impressions

First of all, there’s definately something here, not quite sure what it is, but I have a brighter, more immediate, crispy, feeling as the G2 kicks off.

I am basically using unity-gain output although the G2 allows me to adjust the output from the iPad (note there is no Android support).  If you want to, though, you can adjust the volume through the App, change is instantaneous with a satisfying and heavy click; this is presumably the passive volume control influence.

A few tracks I go to as a force of habit to start with.  ‘2049’ from the Blade Runner soundtrack is epic so all is good there, the amplifier coping with the dynamic and tonal range in the piece with ease.  Next a quick dash to Oscar Peterson’s ‘If You Could See Me Now’, the most beautiful piano-led track in the world, surely (I prefer it to the Bill Evans version).  About 3’10” in there is a brush of the snare drum and the resolution from the G2 is impeccable, wow, what a treat.

Headphone Output

the headphone output is as good as you need, the Meze Empyrean headphones sing like a bright star in either headphone socket

As we know, there are two headphone outputs, I have to say, I prefer the left hand one by a mile, it is crisper and has a better tone but there we are.   I’m kidding, of course.   Seriously, the headphone output is as good as you need really, the Meze Empyrean headphones I’m using sing like a bright star in either headphone socket.  I get the same results by the way with a pair of Oppo PM-2s, still a lovely pair of headphones.

In detail

I think what I get most of all from this streaming DAC is a particularly clean and crisp resolution that I like a tremendous amount.  I’m hearing a few more things, in tracks like Oscar Peterson’s and also in Calexico’s ‘What Heaven’s Left’ opener on ‘Years to Burn’.  I noted that the G1 was particularly crisp and you have same here.

There are four filter modes in the G2, as I think there were in the G1.  I’ve ended up with Smooth, which I note I did on the G1, and it has the crispness I’m talking about with a touch of warmth.

USB B

I’ve hooked up my Dell to the USB B to play some 24-bit tracks I have, notably ‘OK Computer’.  The hook up is seamless and the DAC takes it all on without effort.  A quick rummage through the menu with the front dial and I was in.  Using the functional Foobar playing ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ I hear a joyful sound and certainly a warmer delivery than a Naim CD player through the same amplifier.  After a decent amount of time swapping between the G2 and the Naim ND5 streamer I still have and a Naim CD player, the G2 comes out on top for warmth, detail and delivery of my favourite ever track, and probably the one I’ll go through the curtains through when my time comes.

Qobuz v Tidal

I’m not going to dwell on this.  Suffice to say with Auralic generally, you have access to built-in Qobuz and Tidal.  If you have a Naim based system, as I do, you don’t, it annoys the crap out of me and it frequently makes me pine for Moon by SimAudio, or Auralic, of course.  But with the G2 you have it all, it is seamless and lovely to flick between, build multi-platform playlists, etc.

I note that the Carnegie Hall recordings by Ryan Adams seem to be missing on Qobuz which for me is a big problem and the Tom Petty catalogue not so good on Qobuz.

Qobuz does seem to better at searching when you make errors with poor spellings/fat fingers and the Qobuz playlist ideas are less ‘Jay-Z’/Hip Hop/RnB influenced.

Overall

So this streaming DAC is perfect, two proper headphone jacks, a near-perfect App with Qobuz integrated and crisp accurate delivery

The G1 was so good at that price, that it is hard for me to think spending the same again, nearly, can be justified in any world.  I must say, the idea of swapping in a dedicated Auralic LEO GX clock to advance this product sounds insane but seriously tempting in a parallel universe where I am Elton John.

So this streaming DAC is perfect, two proper headphone jacks for sharing wonderful music with a partner in a European loft, a near-perfect App with Qobuz integrated and crisp accurate delivery.  I’ve still got the Naim ND5 XS2 going into the Supernait 3 as well, with the Vertere 4 Din-Din system. They are not in the same price point of course but you can feel where the money is, even at this level.

I guess at this price point and with a Supernait 3 in the house, you might be thinking of the Naim NDX streamer as your source.  I’ve heard it in a Demo room and it is sparkling as well.  But with a superior control App in Lightning DS with Qobuz and a really sleek look, the Vega G2 is a must listen and may even have the edge.  As always, listen and decide.  It’s an ‘Outstanding’ for me, it has to be, just as the G1 was.

Love 

Twin headphones output

Crispy

A degree of warmth

Like 

Screen

Lightning DS App

Qobuz

Sprung feet

Wish 

It took a USB stick

 

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