Auralic Altair and Auralic News

It looks like a Vega with an antenna (you can easily see the one on the right but there's two). You can think of the new Auralic Altair ($1,899) as a Vega and Aries stuffed into one chassis if you'd like, but that's not the case. A competitor might say some such thing, you get the performance of much more expensive separates form our one-box solution, but I'm not so sure any manufacturer would set out to make such a thing to compete within their own product line. While the Altair inherits many of the things learned from designing the Vega and Aries, Auralic has taught the Altair everything it knows but not everything they know.

What we're looking at is a one-box DAC/Streamer that can handle PCM resolutions up to 32/384 and DSD256, over WiFi (or Ethernet). The Altair is RoonReady so you can choose to use Roon's interface to your music and streaming stuff if you so desire or stick with Auralic's own Lightning DS app. There are 3 S/PDIF inputs (Toslink, Coax, AES/EBU), USB (storage and DAC), Bluetooth, AirPlay, and only analog outputs (RCA, XLR) meaning there's no digital out. This also means that the Altair is a likely candidate to become MQA-enabled, something Auralic is ready to turn-on at the given moment.

There's also a 2.5 drive bay to house a dealer- or user-installed hard drive or SSD turning the ALTAIR into a server as well. There's also a headphone amp built-in. With ALTAIR, you can stream all of your network-attached music (AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA) and stream from Tidal, Qobuz, and Internet Radio. Via WiFi, if you so choose.

Auralic has rolled up a number of their technology solutions inside ALTAIR including their Tesla Platform "that includes a Quad-Core Coretex-A9 processor running at 1GHz, 1GB DDR3 onboard memory and 4GB system storage", a Femto Master Clock, Linear Power Supply, and Flexible Filter Mode giving owners the ability to shape their sound. There's also a new feature, Memory Playback, which caches an entire track prior to playback "to improve the sound quality, and also play locally without the need of network data transfer." Caching takes place in system memory, not the internal SSD and Altair's software was built from the ground up, in house.

The Altair will hit the shelves in June and come bundled with 3 months of free Tidal HiFi.

Auralic News
My guess is Auralic's president & CEO Xuanqian Wang knows what he's gong to be doing 3, 4, and 5 years from now down do what he's going to have for breakfast. Coming at the end of this year or early next, the company will introduce us to a new flagship line of products, a new Aries member that will sit at the top of line, and an Altar amp. A desktop version of the Lightning DS app is on its way which is built using HTML5. As such, you can expect an Android version sometime thereafter.

The Lightning DS app is also going to get loaded up with some interesting goodies including a new feature called "Auralic Account" which takes of a number of pieces of business; creating an Account takes all of a minute or so and automatically registers your product giving you two years of extended warranty service. Your Account will also hold things like coupons (for free Tidal HiFi), and the company will push relevant product news into your Account.

I have to say Auralic has proven to be very (very) dedicated to making their product easy to use and they've also stepped up to the support plate with three support centers located around the world. The thing is, no matter how bullet-proof you make your products and app, all of this connects to the customers network which means anything goes (or doesn't). Aurlaic is there for you.

We listened to some music including Hugh Masekela's "Stimela (Coal Train)" which we got to hear bleeding through the walls from the guys next door moments later. Xuanqian Wang feels the Altair fits, in terms of its sonics, below the Vega DAC, but I'm very curious to get more listening time with Altair which strikes me as a nice package.

COMMENTS
2_channel_ears's picture

"This also means that the Altair is a likely candidate to become MQA-enabled...."

Michael, what specifically about the goes innas and goes outas makes this likely to be MQA-enabled? It all sounds like pretty standard fair.

Can't wait to learn more what they might (finally) do for Android.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...like the Aries Mini output to both the digital and analog outputs simultaneously. This means it cannot implement MQA since MQA does not support sending a decoded file to a digital output.
streamerbill's picture

On 2/28, you sent me this in an e-mail, "It is my understanding that MQA can be implemented in the original Aries mini via firmware update." Like!

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...and yes, at that time that was my understanding. If you recall, Auralic announced this at CES. Since then, they have revised their position, for the reasons detailed above.

Sometimes things change. My apologies.

Melvin's picture

Yet Bluesound announced an MQA firmware update will be available June 1st and as you know, all outputs are simultaneously active on their hardware (at least the Node 2).

streamerbill's picture

My first generation Blusound Node does indeed output analog and digital simultaneously. I occasionally switch back and forth to compare Bluesound's DAC to my Schiit Bifrost Multibit. Here is a quote from Bluesound's web page:
“Existing Bluesound products, including first generation, will be upgraded to be MQA-ready via a firmware update, at no charge.”

What is the definition of "MQA-ready"? Do you hear this from anybody besides AURALiC?

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