I was lucky enough to review Auralic’s original Vega G2 streaming DAC back in November 2019. At the time, I found it to be an outstanding piece of equipment so I was intrigued to learn what had been achieved with the latest G2.1 version. Auralic says the main upgrade areas are a new chassis, a high mass base, further mechanical isolation with sprung feet and an improved electric circuit isolation system, but I suspect there’s more to it than that.
As an advocate of one box doing a job really well such as a dedicated source, preamplifier and power amplifier each doing its own thing, etc, Auralic’s approach is similarly focussed. The range is made up of the LEO GX.1 master reference clock (£7,999), the SIRIUS G2.1 upsampling processor (£5,999), the ARIES G2.1 wireless streaming transporter (£4,199) and the VEGA G2.1 streaming DAC (£5,999) as reviewed here.
Through tweaks and upgrades, the G2.1 is said to deliver a further noise reduction of 10 per cent over its predecessor, which is quite something when I recall how good the G2 sounded. This noise reduction is both mechanical and electrical (RF), achieved with a new chassis system that includes a high mass base, and with new sprung feet to isolate the unit from any external mechanical noise. Electrically there is a new internal copper layer to minimise radio frequency interference. Internal circuits remain untouched and testament to the original G2 design by Auralic engineer Mr Xuanqian Wang.
The front panel retains the same 4-inch ‘true colour’ high-resolution display and although it’s not a touch screen, it provides useful album artwork as well as input channel, volume, sampling rate, playback status and menu options to configure the DAC to your liking.
Twin headphone love
As a DAC, the G2.1 can be set for unity output to a pre-amplifier or it can be set for volume control. In the case of the latter, the G2.1 then becomes a rather excellent headphone amplifier – a facility you may not have considered when weighing up the DAC’s specification. This is an excellent feature and I love the idea of listening to a piece of music with a loved one, each wearing their own headphones. This way of listening is particularly popular in Europe or Asia and aimed at those needing to listen without disturbing other household members or nearby neighbours.
The Vega G2.1 retains the superb construction as displayed in its older sibling. The anodised case feels perfect to the touch and although fingermarks can easily remain, wearing a pair of cloth gloves helps to prevent such first world problems when siting the DAC in position on my hi-fi rack.
With headphones, the digital passive volume control management is perfectly accurate and easy to the touch. As on the G2, the volume knob doubles as a settings navigator with a push to select the desired function from the configuration menu. The configuration menu is clear and intuitive and can also be accessed and adjusted via the company’s excellent Lightning DS app.
I’ve been living with Vega G2.1 for a month or so now, partnered to a T+A PA 2000 R amplifier via Auralic’s balanced output. For a short period, I was also able to run Melco’s N-100 media server linked directly (via USB) to the Vega DAC. Partnering these impressive electronics to PMC’s twenty5 22i standmount speakers, I was able to hear the DAC perform at its very best, and the combination delivered one of the most incredible sounds I have ever heard.
Towards the end of the review and to focus my mind, I’ve moved the Vega G2.1 into my office on the desktop and I have been using my Dell XPS laptop with an Atlas Mavros USB (with GRUN) cable to the USB-B in the back of the Vega. Using Audirvana’s desktop playback software, I have a very clean input into the DAC using both Qobuz and Tidal Masters streams and my selection of 24-bit downloads. I am using a pair of Oppo PM-2 planar magnetic headphones, which I am familiar with, and a new pair of run-in Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones (review coming soon).
As a DAC with Melco’s N-100 ‘source’ library
If you’ve read my PMC review you will know that I had a ‘moment’ while listening to the Radiohead track, The Numbers. It was one of those instances where you just realise, I really am listening to the real deal. I think the experience was as much to do with the PMC speakers as Auralic’s Vega G2.1 DAC, not to mention the attached Melco server, but the emotion conveyed from the 24-bit/96kHz copy was so undoubtedly special; clear, crisp and rhythmical, that I felt another DAC might not be able to translate the emotion of the track quite so well.
Headphone output with Oppo PM-2
Using the Qobuz desktop app from my XPS, the Auralic’s headphone outputs are very good indeed. Oppo’s planar magnetic headphones sound as good as I have ever heard them and I have a clean and precise, nicely organised sound. Listening to Chromatics’ atmospheric version of The Sound of Silence on Tidal, the track fizzes beautifully with a wonderfully controlled double bass holding the song together. In my Aurliac G2 review, I recall marvelling at the detail in Oscar Peterson’s performance of If You Could See Me Now. It’s all still there on the G2.1 as I remember it, and the resolution is remarkable through the wonderfully open Oppo headphones.
With Focal’s Radiance headphones I get plenty of punch and detail, and the G2.1 delivers with similar detail and crispness. I am using this Qobuz playlist. If you have fifteen minutes spare, then I recommend getting lost in Grant Green’s Idle Moments. What a great sound this is.
This Auralic Vega G2.1 is an extremely flexible DAC with excellent streaming capabilities and it has the added bonus of being a terrific headphone amplifier, too
I said of the ‘old’ G2, ‘… 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 can’t think anything much different to say after spending some time with the G2.1. If I was in the market for an upmarket DAC solution, I would go for the Vega G2.1 without a moment’s hesitation.
Auralic’s Vega G2.1 is an extremely flexible DAC with excellent streaming capabilities. What’s more, it’s a terrific headphone amplifier too, particularly from my desktop computer using the integrated Qobuz and Tidal apps. It delivers a clean and crisp sound no matter what input you’re using, and if for nothing else than delivering four minutes of pure sonic heaven with one of my favourite tracks The Numbers by Radiohead, it receives an undisputable Editor’s Pick.
Twin headphone out!
Clean, precise sound
Updates come automatically
High end upgrade path with Aries, Leo and Sirius
We could see the copper internals
Benchmark Frequency Response: 20 – 20KHz, +/- 0.1dB*
THD+N: < 0.00012% (XLR); < 0.00015% (RCA), 20Hz-20KHz at 0dBFS
Dynamic Range: 130dB, 20Hz-20KHz, A-weighted
Streaming File Format
Lossless: AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, OGG, WAV and WV
Lossy: AAC, MP3, MQA and WMA
PCM: 44.1KHz to 384KHz in 32Bit
DSD: DSD64(2.8224MHz), DSD128(5.6448MHz), DSD256(11.2896MHz), DSD512(22.57892MHz)
AURALiC Lightning DS for iOS
AURALiC Lightning DS for web browser (device setting only)
OpenHome compatible control software (BubbleUPnP, Kazoo)
Roon (Roon Core required separately)
Digital Inputs: Lightning-Link, AES/EBU, Coaxial, Toslink, USB Audio
Analog Inputs: RCA Line-stage (2Vrms maximum)
Streaming Inputs: uPnP/DLNA Media Server, native TIDAL and Qobuz Sublime+ streaming, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Internet Radio, RoonReady
Balanced: XLR (4.8Vrms at 0dBFS, output impedance 5ohm)
Unbalanced: RCA (4.8Vrms at 0dBFS, output impedance 50ohm)
Headphone: 6.35mm Headphone Jack (output impedance 5ohm)
Wired: Gigabit Ethernet
Playback: 50W at max.
Dimensions – W x D x H
13.4 x 12.6 x 3.7 in. (34cm x 32cm x 9.6cm)
21.0 lbs (9.5kg)
Anodized aluminium case in matte black with copper EMI shielding enclosure.
AURALiC VEGA G2.1 Streaming DAC