AURALiC appears to be on another roll with its newest G Series of components. Four new pieces, including the ARIES G2 Streaming Transporter, VEGA G2 Streaming DAC, SIRIUS G2 Upsampling Processor, and LEO G2 Femto Reference Clock have been announced. The G Series is a considerable step up into a very premium category, compared to some previous Auralic products such as the ARIES MINI. In addition to hardware, Auralic also announced its Lightning Link communications protocol. As one can expect, the G Series components are designed to work optimally together, but nothing precludes consumers from mixing and matching hardware and software from other manufacturers.
ARIES G2 Streaming Transporter ($3899 in the US, and €4199/£3899 in Europe (local VAT included) available September 2017)
The ARIES G2 is similar to its predecessor in that it's a digital to digital converter taking Ethernet input and outputting digital audio. The G2 has both wired and wireless network connectivity. In addition to network input, the G2 can access a directly connected USB hard drive and an internal 2.5" hard drive (capacity selected by the user or installed at home). The usual lossless streaming services and internet radio are of course featured as well. The 2.5" internal storage capacity is enough to house most people's' entire music collection, given that most people don't have over 2 terabytes worth of local music. With an entire collection stored on the ARIES G2, there is no need for a NAS or general purpose computer in the audio system. Have no doubt though, the ARIES G2 is full of computing power. The Linux operating system runs on Auralic's Tesla G2 hardware platform. This platform is 50% faster than the previous version and houses twice the memory and internal storage for caching and the OS. This G2 platform has plenty of power for advanced DSP functionality such as upsampling. The ARIES G2 will handle music up through DSD512 and PCM 32bit / 384 kHz. The streaming transporter also features dual femto clocks and an EMI shielding chassis machined from a block of aluminum. This is vastly different from the plastic chassis of the incredibly popular original ARIES and ARIES MINI. The dual femto clocks are used in a way that I didn't expect. I assumed one clock was used for each sample rate family (44.1 and 48). However, according to Auralic, one clock is used to reduce jitter on the AES/EBU, coaxial, and Toslink outputs, while the other clock is dedicated to the USB controller.
In announcing the ARIES G2, Auralic is also focusing on its improved Purer-Power technology and galvanic isolation. The G2 features improved galvanic isolation compared to the original ARIES because of its dual high speed galvanic isolators configured between three primary circuits (femto clocks, digital transmitter systems, and CPU circuit). The Dual Linear Purer-Power in the ARIES G2 is a step beyond previous Auralic components because of its dual architecture. The G2 has two linear power supplies to separate the processing circuit, LCD display, and internal and USB storage from the femot clocks and USB audio output. Of course these power supplies are galvanically isolated from each other to reduce EMI between them. In addition to the new Lightning Link digital output, the ARIES G2 features USB, AES, coaxial S/PDIF, and Toslink. More about Lightning Link a bit later. Like all Auralic network capable products, the ARIES G2 Streaming Transporter works very well with Auralic's custom built Lightning infrastructure with LIghtning DS (iOS), Lightning Server, and a new options web interface for system setup. Auralic's Lightning infrastructure shouldn't be underestimated. The company built it from the ground up and controls 100% of its design and owns 100% of the support responsibility. Using one manufacturer's products for both software and hardware can really streamline the resolution of customer issues in the home. Auralic is not foolish though, it has designed the new ARIES G2 as a RoonReady endpoint, should customers want to use Roon full time or simply test out its features. As usual, AirPlay, on-device playlists, memory caching, gapless playback, multi-room high resolution, and many other features are available on the Lightning platform for all Auralic products. When purchasing an Auralic product, one is buying into an ecosystem that works great in a homogeneous environment, but unlike Apple products, Auralic doesn't lock one into its ecosystem only. The aesthetic design of the new ARIES G2 is call Auralic's Unity Chassis. This housing is completely redesigned and much more elegant than the previous ARIES components. This chassis was not only designed for looks, but also for shielding, damping, and absorption with mass balancing and special foot spikes.
VEGA G2 Streaming DAC ($5699 in the US, and €6299/£5499 in Europe (local VAT included) available September 2017)
The Auralic VEGA G2 Streaming DAC is the next generation of the company's successful Vega DAC. Accepting music up through DSD512 and PCM 32/384 kHz, the G2 is a much different product than previous versions. This streaming DAC is literally a newly designed VEGA DAC and newly designed ARIES in a single chassis. The VEGA G2, like the ARIES G2, is built on Auralic's Tesla hardware platform and LIghtning streaming infrastructure. Now, here's where things get even more interesting. Right now, I have no way of checking Auralic's statements, but based on the company's honesty in our previous conversations, I have no difficulty publishing the following statements. According to Auralic, "For the first time in the audio industry, it’s a DAC that operates independently of the source signal’s frequency: VEGA G2 buffers data in such a way that it 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." The VEGA G2 features dual 72 femto master clocks in this industry-first design approach. Unlike the ARIES G2, the VEGA G2's clocks each handle a sample rate family. One handles sample rates in multiples of 44.1 while the other multiples of 48 kHz. These are 72 femtosecond clocks, that's 72 quadrillionths of a second. They have -169dBc/Hz of phase noise and a 100 Hz offset noise level of only -118dBc/Hz. The Tesla platform for the VEGA G2 includes an ARM Quad-Core A9 chip, 1GB DDR3 RAM and 4GB of storage. The new processor is capable of calculation speeds 25 times faster than the original VEGA series. Why does this matter? A faster processor enables Auralic to use much more sophisticated DSP, filtering algorithms and oversampling / upsamping techniques than in all previous VEGA DACs. Many people today are using external PCs to do upsampling and filtering because their DACs don't have the power or ability to run specialized DSP algorithms. The VEGA G2 should be a product that will enable consumers to seek a middle ground between super powerful external PCs capable of extremely complicated filtering and resampling and more traditional DACs with much less capabilities because of hardware limitations. The VEGA G2's powerful hardware enables what Auralic calls flexible filter mode. This is the next generation filter mode with four user selectable filters. The names of the modes are recognizable to existing Auralic customers, "Precise Mode maximizes in-band ripple and out-band attenuation performance for example, while Smooth Mode eliminates pre-ringing. Dynamic and Balance Modes round out the available options that provide an extra level of control for your listening." Similar to the ARIES G2, the VEGA G2 also has similar galvanic isolation and dual low noise linear purer-power supplies.
One new feature of the VEGA G2 that I didn't see coming, is the fully passive volume control. According to Auralic, "It’s based on a unique resistor ladder attenuator network built by AURALiC, and draws exactly zero current once it’s set. Zero current equals zero interference..." The company has been working on this volume control design for several years. The passive VC in the VEGA G2 has eight coil-latch relays that drive the resistor ladder attenuator network. These relays are unlike most relays in that they draw no power once set. I don't doubt Auralic when it says "It’s an expensive solution to construct, but when the goal is precise control and uncompromised sound quality, it’s worth every penny." Just like the ARIES G2, the VEGA G2 has all the network capabilities and Lightning DS / Lightning Server interoperability. For those of you who skipped the ARIES G2 paragraphs above, here is the information that applies to the VEGA G2 as well. "Like all Auralic network capable products, the VEGA G2 Streaming DAC works very well with Auralic's custom built Lightning infrastructure with Lightning DS (iOS), Lightning Server, and a new options web interface for system setup. Auralic's Lightning infrastructure shouldn't be underestimated. The company built it from the ground up and controls 100% of its design and owns 100% of the support responsibility. Using one manufacturer's products for both software and hardware can really streamline the resolution of customer issues in the home. Auralic is not foolish though, it has designed the new VEGA G2 Streaming DAC as a RoonReady endpoint, should customers want to use Roon full time or simply test out its features. As usual, AirPlay, on-device playlists, memory caching, gapless playback, multi-room high resolution, and many other features are available on the Lightning platform for all Auralic products. When purchasing an Auralic product, one is buying into an ecosystem that works great in a homogeneous environment, but unlike Apple products, Auralic doesn't lock one into its ecosystem only. The aesthetic design of the new VEGA G2 Streaming DAC is call Auralic's Unity Chassis. This housing is completely redesigned and much more elegant than the previous ARIES components. This chassis was not only designed for looks, but also for shielding, damping, and absorption with mass balancing and special foot spikes. "
SIRIUS G2 Upsampling Processor ($TBD) and LEO G2 Femto Reference Clock ($TBD)
Rounding out the new G Series announcements are the SIRIUS G2 Upsampling Processor and the LEO G2 Femto Reference Clock. Neither product is expected to ship until the end of 2017 and as of now, little information is known about the components. The SIRIUS G2 will the a powerful audio processor compatible with most DACs and of course the other G Series components. Look for the SIRIUS to accomplish very powerful DSP upsampling and room correction when it's released. The LEO G2 clock will address jitter and phase noise in a complete G Series system, using the Lightning Link.
In addition to all the new G Series components, Auralic also announced its new Lightning Link interface and communications protocol. Lightning Link features an 18 Gbps bi-directional interface, using an HDMI type connector. Lightning Link isn't to be confused with the HDMI i2s standard LL can carry clocking information from one component to another, such as from VEGA G2 to ARIES G2, in order to master clock the upstream component to the DAC. Lightning Link will also carry system control information such as volume control and DSP engine setup, enabling a complete Auralic system connected with LL to appear as a single unit. People uninterested in a proprietary interface and protocol and those who want to mix Auralic components with other manufacturer's goods, can always stick to the standard USB, AES, coax, and Toslink interfaces.
With the announcement of the ARIES G2 Streaming Transporter, VEGA G2 Streaming DAC, SIRIUS G2 Upsampling Processor, LEO G2 Femto reference Clock, and its Lightning Link communications protocol, I have no doubt Auralic will be busy at Munich High End 2017.