Founded in 2009 by founders Xuanqian Wang and Yuan Wang, Auralic has built a solid reputation by producing some of the best sounding, best built analog and digital components that allow the user to discover, explore and share their music listening experiences. Their components are controlled by your mobile devices, so the listening experience is enhanced by both ease and convenience. My review today is of the Vega G1 streaming DAC, which can also function as a pre-amp for other digital devices. The G1 is an improved version of the Vega DAC which some claim was their best DAC ever and it incorporates some of the advances found in the next model up, the Vega G2.
Auralic Vega G1 Streaming DAC
- Master clock operates independently of source signal frequency
- Tesla G1 hardware platform for processing high-resolution streaming
- Quad-core Cortex-A9 processor running at 9GHz, modified Sabre DAC with resolution up to DSD512
- 1Gb DDR3 RAM and 4Gb storage
- Lightning OS connects to high-resolution sources and is Roon capable
- Digital inputs including AES/EBU, coaxial, TOSlink, and Ethernet
- XLR and RCA outputs with ORFEO Class A analog circuitry
- Dual headphone jacks
20-20kHz, +/- 0.1dB
< 0.00015% (XLR); < 0.00016% (RCA), 20Hz-20KHz at 0dBFS
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 32-bit
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)
AES/EBU, Coaxial, Toslink, USB Audio
UPnP/DLNA Media Server, native TIDAL and Qobuz Sublime+ streaming, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Internet Radio, RoonReady
Balanced – XLR (4.8Vrms at 0dBFS, output impedance 5 ohms), Unbalanced – RCA (4.8Vrms at 0dBFS, output impedance 50 ohms), Headphone – 6.35mm Headphone Jack (output impedance 5 ohms)
13.4 x 12.6 x 3.2 inches (34cm x 32cm x 8cm)
odized aluminum case in matte black
auralic, vega g1, dac, streaming dac
Lately, I have been interested in upping my listening game by trying out new DACs and comparing different designs with the hopes of achieving audio nirvana (impossible perhaps, but a worthy pursuit nonetheless). The Vega G1 has many of the features of the Vega G2 but does not have that DAC’s solid milled aluminum chassis or fully passive volume control with zero EMI noise. The G2 also has an analog input and the ability to connect to an outboard clock like the Leo GX. I like companies that have a history behind them, and Auralic’s founders are two guys that really love music and are trying to make devices that deliver the very best performance for the buck. They have not been bought out by a mega-corporation and have the liberty to choose and make their products with their own goals and passions.
My review sample arrived well-packed but minus any power cords, cables or instruction manual. Fortunately, I was able to glean a wealth of operational information from the Auralic web page. The unit does not come with a remote but uses a novel approach of letting the user program an existing remote to operate the basic functions of the Vega G1. I have a ton of remotes in a drawer in my end table, so finding one to operate the input selector and volume was a simple task. Once I downloaded the Lightning DS software, I was able to set up Qobuz and connect to my local network-attached storage (NAS) for streaming within minutes. When first powered up, the Vega G1 will look for software updates automatically.
The Vega G1 has a very solid feel and hefty weight (15lbs) to it. The black matte finish on the aluminum exterior made the unit feel like the surface was made of a dense rubber, which was easy to grip but showed fingerprints and smudges easily. The clean lines in the front accented a fluorescent screen in the center with a single volume/selector knob. Dual headphone jacks allow you to share your private listening experience with someone else, which is an extremely rare feature on an audio component these days. The inputs on the back are solidly constructed and well-spaced apart. I find too many audio products have cramped rear panels, so it was nice to find that Vega G1 gave ample room for hooking up multiple devices. I connected the Vega G1 directly to my Emotiva UPA-1 monoblock amps via the balanced connector option. This gave me the simplest and purest signal path to my music. Unfortunately, there are no trigger outputs on the Vega G1, so I had to manually turn on the amps, but there are other options you can configure, such as running the Vega G1 into an analog preamplifier and having that trigger your amplifiers on and off.
Internally, the Vega G1 runs its own master clock for all incoming signals. With a dedicated power supply, it has two 72fs Femto clocks that run at 72 quadrillionths of a second for signal timing. If you are looking for a better performing clock, check out Auralic’s Leo GX outboard clock for the Vega G2 as reviewed by our Editor-in-Chief, Dr. John Johnson HERE. For streaming, Auralic has developed the Tesla G1 streaming hardware platform with a quad-core Cortex-A9 processor running at 1GHz. Automatic updates are run when you power up, so the user doesn’t have to hunt for them online. The analog outputs are handled by two Orfeo class-A modules which are designed to load match with most amplifiers (up to 600 ohms) with open-loop distortion coming in at less than 0.001%. The power supply provides low noise below 1uV across the audible spectrum. Rounding out the features of the Vega G1 is Smart IR which allows you to use an existing remote to run the Vega G1. I liked this feature a lot. Who needs yet another remote? It was easy to follow the on-screen instruction to program your remote to become the Vega G1 command controller.
The setup menu was very intuitive and almost every featured option came with an on-screen detailed description of what that option provided. You have to get right up to the screen to read the descriptions, but the text was quite legible and clear. There are four different filters to choose from and each one has a clear explanation as to what the filter is doing. You can adjust the output voltage to closely match your associated equipment. The screen can be dimmed to the level of your choice as well. During operation, the screen will display the volume, input sample rate, selected input and display the album art when streaming. A playing timeline gives you a visual sense of how long a particular track has until it ends. The screen is clearly visible from several feet away and more than easily seen if you are running it on the desktop with a computer.
This all seems like a lot of information, but remember, I was able to set up the Vega G1 in less than 15 minutes without a user’s guide. I love a product that is so intuitive that a Luddite like me can be up and running quickly. Bravo! Now let us delve into the use and sound quality of the Auralic Vega G1 Streaming DAC.
Even without the owner’s manual, I was able to connect the USB, add a power cord and connect the Vega G1 via balanced connectors to my two Emotiva UPA-1 monoblock amps. When first powered on, the Vega G1 loads up its software and checks for updates. If you are looking for wireless connectivity, check out the Auralic Aries series. I downloaded the Lightning App onto my iPhone and went through a quick and intuitive setup process. I was able to sign into my Qobuz account and the Vega G1 recognized the Western Digital My Cloud NAS storage on my network. I also had an extra remote in a drawer that was easily set up to control the volume and inputs. I noticed that when adjusting the volume from my phone (or computer) that the volume changed on the front panel of the Vega G1. That was a slick feature! The only way to power the Vega G1 on and off is with the master power toggle on the back panel. I wished it could be controlled by the app, but if you are using this as a desktop streamer, it’s easy to reach.
To get the highest possible file resolution to the Vega, I had to go into my Qobuz account and make certain I selected the highest quality streaming output. From the USB input, I was able to play all my DSD files from a Mac mini. Within no time at all, I was jumping from track to track, listening for sonic differences that I could use to compare with my Emotiva UMC-200 pre/pro. I also had on hand the PS Audio DirectStream DSD DAC and I’ll make some general observations about the sonic differences between all of them.
My NAS contains about 90% of what’s left of my physical CD collection. I burned as much as I could before my recent relocation to the middle of Texas and donated three-quarters of my collection to the local library. I have found streaming to be so much more convenient than getting up and loading a CD into my OPPO UDP-203. Of course, after some thought, I realized I had lost the liner notes and perhaps, more importantly, learned the importance of backing up my work before the inevitable hard drive crash. In any case, a couple of months ago my wife and I decided to sign up for Qobuz Sublime with a year’s subscription. This action has revolutionized how I listen to music and with high-resolution files (up to 24-bit/192kHz), the Vega G1 really demonstrated its sonic chops.
I like the sound quality of the UMC-200’s DAC, but subtle details are often lost in the music. I did not notice this so much over the years until I heard the DAC (DA1) in the McIntosh C49 that I reviewed earlier this summer. The PS Audio DirectStream DAC has a warmer, more analog sound. Any digital harshness seemed to melt away from the music. The sound stage was open and very 3D, both in width and depth. Its sound is no doubt flavored a bit by its conversion of all digital inputs to DSD. The Vega G1 has a very detailed sound, more in line with what a high-end digital DAC can provide. Perhaps a good analogy is the Emotiva is a 35mm black and white photograph: sharp, but lacking life. The DirectStream is a 35mm color picture of a nice sunset. The Vega G1 is like an Ultra HD picture, with amazing color and razor-sharp detail. Yes, it sounds a bit cliché, but you really can hear every small detail in your music. Different DAC implementations can subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) change the sound. I wouldn’t say that one sounds better so much as they sound different. Finding the one that suits your needs can require a bit of trial and error. Perhaps that is why this hobby of ours is a never-ending journey. The Auralic Vega G1 is a DAC that presents the music the way it was recorded without audible coloration. Only critical listening can tell you if that is what you like to hear from a DAC.
Listening to the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Beatles Abbey Road album was revelatory. The sound was both amazingly fresh and new, but it also sounded different than what I was used to, that I thought I was listening to an album that was made yesterday.
Qobuz gave me a lot of choices for classical music (perhaps its biggest advantage over Tidal), and an excellent recording by the Deutsche Grammophon label called Across the Stars which has music of composer John Williams with the virtuosic Anne-Sophie Mutter playing solo violin. The music is wonderfully lyrical and has a huge dynamic range.
Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young is a great showcase of voices that blend in intricate harmony. Their voices were both distinct and yet in perfect unison. Like a single rope that is made up of many distinct threads. With the Vega G1, you can listen into their harmonies and follow each voice. The sound was balanced too.
The AURALIC VEGA G1 is a state-of-the-art streamer, preamp, and DAC that will lay bare every nuance that is hiding in your current digital music collection. It’s not cheap but once you hear it, you won’t care.
- High definition sound quality
- Easy to set up and use
- Solid construction
- Lightning DS App is well designed
- Extracts all the high-resolution sound from streamed content
- Easy to read display
- A more fingerprint-resistant finish
Its pristine sound quality is addicting and the details it reveals are likely far more than my aging ears can even hear. But what I can hear, sounds laser-sharp!
Judging sound quality from one DAC to another is a subjective thing. For me, it’s about the music and how the listening experience moves me on an emotional level. The Auralic Vega G1 will present your music with pristine detail and a broad soundstage. And it connects all your digital music in an easy-to-use, well-built streamer. Not everyone may find these qualities to be to their liking. One man’s detail is another man’s sterile. I really think the Vega G1 is special and if you are interested in getting the most from your high-resolution files, the Vega G1 is a great place to start. I didn’t give streaming a second thought a year ago but now have embraced it fully. Auralic has made a streaming DAC that will make a lot of physical-disc-only holdouts change their minds. With so many streaming services like Amazon, Tidal and Quobuz, streaming DACs are going to be the future. And with the Vega G1, the future looks bright.