Auralic Altair (White) & Polaris (Black) impressions

Figure 1 - AURALiC POLARIS front view

Auralic is relatively new in the Audio world, being founded in 2009, based in Beijing, China. I’ve had the privilege to try two of them because my dad reviewed them. I’m really liking how I can try stuff with him (haha). Like his other reviews, you can find it here and here. However, these are my own thoughts, which may be similar in some ways to his. Since he’s already reviewed, it, I’ll try to keep it to what I think differently.

Auralic has not been around long, but they have gained a reputation for their products. Clearly, they are not cheap, ranging from about $550 to $3,800 US. They aim to combine, “the classic analog technology and cutting edge digital evolution with a design aesthetic.” Of which, you could say they achieved all three, with a subjective sense in terms of aesthetic. In this case, they took the analog technology of Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs) and combined it with digital streaming, upping it with the ability to stream via Wifi. And they are more than capable to stream almost EVERYTHING that you put it against. I do mean EVERYTHING. Just like that, and you have the prime example of the best of both worlds. Best of Analog Technology in terms of DAC, and the best of Modern Technology involving streaming via Wifi. And, not to mention, they do it in such a small enclosure. You would never think, a component this size thing would cost $1,899 USD. Never mind a thousand. But this small enclosure does pack a punch.

When I tried it, heck, I felt like it was a different world presented to me. There were different several instances of songs where I thought, was that instrument/sound there before? And no, to be one hundred percent sure, I tried it again, and it wasn’t there before that. Good for me. I’m hearing things because of this now. Well, in a good way, for sure. Trying both the Altair and Polaris in succession has made me realize that, compared to the cheap crap (not really) I’ve been using, this is on a different level, and add all the other features they have, and you get this gold. No, I might even say this is diamond. Like, for example, the Polaris, the most expensive product they have because it’s basically a combination of the Altair and an amplifier of the same worth, can be a stand-alone centerpiece to a stereo sound system, and maybe most of you would be satisfied. You probably wouldn’t need anything else. Maybe except good speakers. That’s how good it is.

Despite all that, what I’ve said there wasn’t just what Auralic was trying to do. They wanted this kind of hi-fi standard meet the modern world. And that was streaming. I don’t represent them, but they probably went, imagine the convenience of streaming, which wasn’t up to hi-fi standards, and make it so. Considering they are also Chinese, and I’m part Chinese as well so I can relate, they probably thought, if they can’t do it (yet), we should do it first. And they did it with a flare as well. I even wonder how they can pack an amplifier as well in the same size enclosure for the Polaris, but heck they did. Only drawback is that it gets quite hot to the right side and I wouldn’t touch it for more than 5 seconds.

Although there were some details that could be reconsidered, I thought, other than that, I loved some of the little things that they did. Things being like the filters they had for the DAC, the remote control, and the menu. Naturally, every DAC has a filter, but there is technically only one for each. Auralic has, four filters for you to choose from, and they do work. Rather than for a specific type of music listening though, I would like to think that the filters are to help match speakers to produce the best sound rather than their stated purpose. It would be troublesome to constantly switch filters for different types of music you listen to. And especially if you are trying to do a diverse amount to see their capabilities. The remote control, to touch on that, is relatively simple and has everything you need on it. The menu, is really simple to navigate, through the screen which is nicely big enough to see from relatively afar. Last thing I want to mention is also the physical volume button, which is round but still ergonomic enough to turn and has a premium feel to it, even when you press it (yes you can press it to navigate through the menu).

Personally the biggest thing about both the Altair and Polaris is being able to stream DSD and FLAC format with no problem because, as my dad quotes, “The ALTAIR is powered by AURALiC’s proprietary Tesla G1 hardware platform, which includes; the Quad-Core Coretex A9 processor running at 1 GHz, 1 GB DDR3 of onboard memory, and 4 GB system storage to give the processing speed of 25,000 Mips.” That’s the stuff of smartphones man. Except you don’t need to process anything else other than sound. How fast and capable would that be. I’m even thinking this was almost overkill. But that’s to be expected, if you want to stream even DSD, which no streaming service can provide. Yet. If you have your own DSD track, you can stream it via Wifi though, and that’s probably the best convenience yet.

Honestly, these two products are personally ones that I would like to have, personally, in my own system. In fact, I crave for them. Ever since I’ve listened to them, I can’t help thinking that I wouldn’t be able to get over how good, expressive and clear they sound. Obviously they can’t compare to my Topping. Writing some parts of this two months after I’ve been away, and without listening to them, the crave has died down. It’s like I just broke up with my girlfriend despite never having one. And as I know it, sometimes. I guess sometimes, time is the only solution.

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