Xuanqian Wang, the President and CEO of Auralic speaks to Hifi Pig about the company’s innovative products and what goes into them.

HP: What was Auralic’s first product and what in your opinion set it apart from the competition?

XW: Our original VEGA DAC very quickly established the Auralic brand as a market leader for digital source products. We released VEGA at the right time, at a very competitive price, and sonically, it did not disappoint. For the high-end audio marketplace, you couldn’t ask for better positioning. VEGA offered several unique features that had never been included with a DAC before, technologies like the 82fs Femto Clock.
ARIES G2 streamer is a significant jump in price from your original streamer, how does it differ in its architecture and how does this affect the final sound?

Back in 2013 when we began developing the 1st generation of the ARIES wireless streaming node, its offerings were so unique that nothing else like it existed at the time. During development, our team had to focus its efforts on perfecting functionality rather than optimising sound quality. Over the last five years we have developed many software updates, and as a result, the product features, functionality, and sound quality are now far more sophisticated and reliable. Since the first generation was out for a while, we have received a considerable amount of customer feedback and experiences, all of which have helped in refining the design of this type of product. All of these valuable experiences help us to focus on improving the sound quality of the ARIES G2 during the development stage, especially in the area of hardware design.

HP: The Vega G2 streaming DAC offers on paper significant performance specs, how do you feel it performs against similarly priced competition and why? 

XW: VEGA G2 is a revolutionary product; it has been designed based on our proprietary Lightning DS streaming platform rather than DAC structure. It is a virtual digital recorder, or digital audio station: all digital input signals are stored in our Tesla platform for processing and then sent to the DAC. When the data is recorded into the processor’s memory, the clock jitter from the input signal is completely eliminated. The DAC works in what we call master mode, as it generates a reference clock signal, which is then sent to the Tesla platform. For the first time, this is a DAC that does not need to lock to the input signal, making it completely independent, unaffected by source jitter. Utilising our proprietary noise reduction and precise clock technologies, the VEGA G2 simply sets a new benchmark for DAC performance. Almost all users report that the background is so quiet, so black, on VEGA G2, that they can hear far more detail from their recordings than they have ever heard before.

HP: Tesla G2 is the hardware platform behind the new series of components, tell readers about the thinking and engineering behind this platform. 

XW: Tesla G2 is an upgrade version of Tesla G1, which was used on the original ARIES. This platform uses a generic computing processor which is powerful and flexible. Comparing to DSP or FPGA based platform, our software engineers can develop new software features easily and provide these a customer’s product via OTA update. For example, it is hard to add new features to DSP or FPGA based platforms, but very easy for our platform. DSP or FPGA based platform software upgrades are mostly for product optimisation only.

Leo GX is a mastering clock, of which there are many on the market, how does Leo GX differ in its approach to master clocking?

LEO GX is a very unique product designed to work exclusively with the partnering VEGA G2. All existing master clocks on the market either generate a 10M reference clock or word clock. DAC’s using master clock signals still need to lock onto the input signal which means the sound quality is affected by the input signal’s jitter. Since VEGA G2 doesn’t need to lock onto the input signal, LEO GX uses two atomic clock’s to generate two working frequency feeds directly into the VEGA G2 and replaces the existing clock on the VEGA G2 – the result is a very obvious sound quality improvement when compared to existing master clock product technology. We have more detailed information on our website of course.

HP: Auralic don’t offer a standalone DAC into which users can add a computer or their own streamer, instead favouring to offer the Vega G2 streaming DAC discussed above, are there plans to offer a standalone DAC and if not why not? 

XW: We believe the “computer as source” (CAS) for high-end audio enthusiasts is only a temporary solution for the playback of high-resolution music. Dedicated music streamers will replace CAS sooner rather than later. That’s why we designed ARIES back in 2013: to remove the computer from the HiFi system completely. Although there are no plans at present, we may still introduce a stand-alone DAC at some point in the future.
In my opinion, many products fall down with the quality of the apps they make. Lightning DS is your iOS app, what makes it better than the competition and why no Android version?

The Android OS has many different versions, including those manufactured and customised exclusively for their hardware. It’s hard for software to maintain a uniform user experience on an Android system. To reach the same quality standard as we experience with the iOS ecosystem, more engineering resources would be needed to develop and maintain an Android platform. We have made our choice to focus on doing what we can do the best, and that’s iOS.

HP: You haven’t made an amplifier since the Merak, which is now sold out, do you have any plans to introduce a new power amplifier to enable users to have Auralic electronics end to end? 

XW: We have several monoblock and stereo prototype designs already in-house, but have not yet decided if we should make those products available.

We are seeing many companies introduce all in one systems that offer, Streaming, DAC and amplification in one convenient unit, are there any plans for Auralic to follow suit and create such a product?

We actually produce the acclaimed POLARIS, which is an all in one solution that we released to the market in 2016. This powerful product incorporates analogue and digital inputs, a moving magnet phono stage, optional internal storage, and a powerful 120w + 120w amplifier in a compact chassis. So our answer is that we already have!

HP: None of your products support MQA, why is this? 

XW: Whilst we respect MQA, we feel the technology is not relevant to our current needs. The concept is to compress high-resolution audio into a lower sampling rate and save bandwidth for the streaming service provider, and it is not lossless. The next generation streaming service providers like Qobuz now offer a real high-resolution streaming service in FLAC format. I don’t see any reason to incorporate such technology due to the fact that MQA applies so many restrictions to hardware manufacturers.

Initially published in Hifi Pig Quarterly January 2019. Download the whole E-Magazine here.

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