The thinking behind the ALTAIR presumably went something like this:
Step 1: take AURALiC’s ARIES streamer and its Tesla hardware platform and smoosh it together with the high end VEGA DAC for an all-in-one unit that’s both a Roon Ready endpoint and/or a self-contained Lightning DS server. Include a headphone output for good measure. Ensure digital inputs number 15 and that it handles Quad-rate DSD and DXD.
Step 2: BYO SATA hard drive for installation within the Altair’s undercarriage and immediately nix the need for a server elsewhere on your home network; Lightning DS takes care of library indexing, local playback and lossless streaming from Tidal or Qobuz. The built-in D/A converter – based around the ESS Sabre 9018, ‘Flexible’ digital filters and Femto clocks – promises a large chunk of the VEGA’s performance.
Step 3: Make chassis options available in silver AND black (pictured).
At US$1899 all in, the Altair is not a bad meal deal at all. It’s for someone who wants one box, not two. Get more info here.
Less obvious was the AURALiC room’s international flavour.
The opening day’s press conference (which I missed) was chaired by company CEO Xuanqian (“Shunshen”) Wang, arguably the hardest working guy in audio right now, and was held in English. The second day’s conference (which I did attend) was held for the benefit of the Chinese press, again hosted Wang.
With such a jam-packed business and travel schedule, not even Wang has time to learn German. But I’m sure that if he could, he would. The man spells determination with a Capital D.
On the third day, meet-the-press duties were hosted by local off-sider (aka EU Account Manager) Christian Rechenbach who apparently once ran his own audio magazine in Germany – he knows local journalists very well.
Alas, I don’t speak Mandarin and my German is of the high-school variety so I was obliged to play catch up by plugging Wang for information over a beer.
Top of the agenda: AURALiC’s future.
Coming to Lightning DS v3.0 (soon) are memory (buffered) playback and multi-zone handling. MQA compatibility has yet to find a fixed place on the development time line but we are told it is coming.
Further into the future we can expect to see an ALTAIR amplifier to which one simply adds loudspeakers, a flagship ARIES streamer (rumoured to be fashioned from a single aluminium billet) and a new high end range of products about which Wang remains suitably vague.
At the opposite end of the certainty spectrum Wang states, “Roon Ready will never, ever, EVER come to the Aries Mini.”
For Android smartphone users, the first sign of light that isn’t an oncoming train. Wang’s software team recently began development work on an HTML5-based version of Lightning DS which theoretically means easy porting to ANY operating system, including OS X and Windows desktops.
Further information: AURALiC