All for one, one for all. Not the Three Musketeers but AURALiC’s latest product line extension. In the seventies, integrated amplifiers added a bonus phono stage, in the noughties a DAC. Nowadays, as we’ve seen with Devialet, Vinnie Rossi, Micromega and Moon by Simaudio, we get the kitchen sink.
And so it goes with AURALiC’s all new super integrated – POLARIS (US$3799). Inside a Vega-sized chassis and available in silver and black, we spy streamer, server, DAC, MM phono stage, pre-amplifier and loudspeaker amplifier.
I exchanged emails with AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang in order to dig a little deeper than the press release.
The DAC supports playback of Quad-Rate DSD and PCM up to 32Bit/384K and comes loaded with (the ARIES Mini’s) user selectable filters and Femto data clocking. Digital inputs include AES/EBU, Coaxial, Toslink, USB and Wifi/Ethernet-fuelled digital audio streamer.
Predictably, POLARIS’ streamer mainlines AURALiC’s Lightning DS platform, one that offers gapless, bit-perfect, memory-cached playback from: cloud streaming services (Tidal, Qobuz); network shares (Open Home, UPnP, Roon Ready), connected USB drives (front and rear ports) and an (optional) internal drive. Like the ARIES Mini, POLARIS can accommodate a 2.5” SSD in its undercarriage for full standalone server functionality.
Then come a couple of surprises.
Firstly, each of POLARIS’ two analogue inputs can be configured in-software (with echoes of Devialet) as pre-amplifier output, line-level input or MM phono input. On this Wang says, “The MM phono stage is pure analogue with the RIAA curve applied in the analogue domain. However, every analogue input is digitised to DSD256 so we can utilise POLARIS’ Hybrid Volume Control.”
Hybrid volume control? Yessir. Attenuation that operates in the analogue domain for the larger steps and in the digital domain for the in-between, smaller steps.
Quoth the press release: “The analogue attenuators reduce the signal level in 12dB steps whilst the DAC’s internal digital volume control handles small amounts of volume change within each step. By using this technology, the DAC chip always operates in the best performance range, bringing much lower distortion, better dynamic range and high sound quality at low volume levels.”
For loudspeaker drive, AURALiC have gone with Hypex UCD180 modules that net 120wpc into 8 Ohms and 180wpc into 4 Ohms. That’s plenty powerful for a pair of ELAC UB5 or KEF LS50.
This isn’t the end of POLARIS’ introduction. We’ll be interviewing Xuanqian Wang about his new baby as it debuts at RMAF 2016 this coming weekend. Hang tight for that video coverage and show-based photos.
Further information: AURALiC