Current System description
DIY computer running Win 7/64 with an Asus Xonar Essence soundcard SPDIF output. JRiver 17 Media Player.
Moon 300D DAC connected via XLR to a ModWright LS100 pre amp connected via XLR to a ModWright KWA100SE amplifier. Speakers are Thiel CS2.4 The Vega’s Interconnects were RCAs. I’ll explain later why I did not use XLR interconnects with the Vega.
Power up the Vega and you get a nice little “welcome” message. The digital display screen is beautiful with its amber colored fonts. I won’t go through the interface as it’s really easy to learn. When I think of user friendly, this is what I usually imagine. You can navigate with either the big round dial on the Vega, or with the remote control that is provided. The later was what I used mostly. The display will show you the input selection (in my case USB) and sampling rate of the file currently playing. The display screen can be dimed or turned off if you prefer.
There are 4 clocks to choose from. Auto will let the Vega lock on the signal and choose the best possible clock. Coarse would be the best choice for jitter prone signals. Fine is the best option if your signal is not jitter prone. This was my standard, everyday choice. Exact was very drop off prone at any sampling rate greater than redbook CD (16/44). At this sampling rate though, it worked very well. The reason is found in the user manual: "For USB input, you will experience drop off on any computer without special optimization for music playback". My computer is used for many other applications than listening to music. I often surf the web or work during listening sessions. Could I hear a difference in sound quality between Fine and Exact? Not much, if at all.
Filters are a different game altogether and there are 4 for PCM files, apptly numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 2 for DSD file formats, you guessed it, named 5 & 6. For PCM, the difference between the filters is audible, although not that striking. After trying all the different modes with all kinds of music, I realized I prefered mode 1 over all the other ones for all types of music. A quick check of the user manual proved my ears weren't lying. As stated in the manual: "MODE 1 offers best measurement performance". For DSD, I prefered mode 5 over mode 6.
In Vasily Petrenko & the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic performing Shostakovich Symphony #7 (FLAC 16/44), during the Allegretto, around the 7:15 mark, there is a very silent portion that lasts for about a minute: with the Moon, I was wondering if there was actually any music going on in the first 15 seconds. The Vega allowed me to hear all the detail, albeit in very low volume. I gave it good marks for dynamics. Symphonie n°7 Léningrad | Dmitry Shostakovich par Vasily Petrenko - Télécharger et écouter l'album
Robin Ticciati & the Scottish Chamber Orchestra performing Berloz's “Les nuits d'ete” (FLAC 24/192). On “Villanelle”, Karen Cargill's vois was rich and rounded, lacking the "shiny" edge the Moon gave it. The Vega really shined in presenting the Mezzo Soprano's voice. Linn Records - Berlioz: Les nuits d'ete
“Bye Bye Black Bird” from Patricia Barber's album “Night Club” (FLAC 16/44) is often heard at audio shows or whenever I go to local dealers to listen to demos. I had to try it with the Vega. Sure enough, the bass line that often gets muddled was very clearly defined and well sustained. Patricia's piano was very clear and a little more forward that what I remembered. Her voice was silky smooth and had an added liveliness and presence that I had never heard. https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=099923573821
The percussions on “Ard El Salam” from Aziza Brahim's “Mabruk” (FLAC 24/44) album were just...oh wow! I felt like they were part of my listening room's natural accoustics. I could just reach out and touch them! Everything alse was very well placed in the soundstage, back front, left, right. Very impressive.Mabruk | Aziza Brahim - Télécharger et écouter l'album
“Country Boy” from John Lee Hooker's “It serve you right to suffer” (FLAC 24/96) album is often difficult for some systems that have trouble rendering some of the small details like the rythm guitar playing with the bass on the left hand side and some of the detail of Hooker's guitar. Here, I could grasp every subtle ittle detail. Hooker's guitar was also better defined than I've ever heard. I could sense his voice slightly moving further back as he sometimes moved away from the mic. https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=HD00008811202521
Bat for Lashes “The Haunted Man” (FLAC 16/44) album was a surprise. What is a very digital sounding album, with edges of brightness in the high pitched notes became became excitingly organic. On the song “Lilies”, at approx the 45 second mark, there is a heavy synthetiser line that breaks in. With the Moon, it was just like another synthetiser adding in its part. With the Vega, the synthetiser just stormed in and added such texture and vibration to the song you wouldn't believe this is the same track. Wow! This is probably the best example of how alive the Vega makes the music feel. The Haunted Man | Bat For Lashes - Télécharger et écouter l'album
On Kate Bush's 50 “Words for Snow” (FLAC 24/96) from the album of the same name, the percussions had lots of presence and the bass was lower and deeper than I have ever heard, all this, without loosing its detail & definition. On "Among Angels", the piano had wonderful impact and the decay was very lengthy. Kate's voice had a wondeful smoothness and a texture that was more "grainy" and less brilliant than her high pitched voice usually sounds like. https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=HD045778718603
Stravinsky's “Histoire du soldat” (DSD 128) by Robert Mandell & Ars Nova is one of the most interesting sounding albums in my one terabyte collection. It's also my favorite music by the famous composer. It's a small scale classic piece that sounded wondeful and very airy and alive with a very well defined soundstage. Each intrument, was clearly located and the wind instruments so important in the piece, were perfectly recorded. Stravinsky-L'histoire Du Soldat / Respighi Rossiana 24/192 Resolution
Large orchestral works can often be difficult to reproduce. Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra's new album "Wagner Excerpts" (DSD 64) is very dense and loaded with large scale orchestrations. Quite a challenge for a DAC. Here, again, there was a smoothness and an easiness that made the Vega right at home reproducing all the details and giving some air around the usually dense wall of sound. This is only my second DSD album but from what I gather from forums around the web, the "air" around the instruments is a caracteristic of the DSD format. Wagner - Channel Classics Records
One thing never ceased to amaze me with the Vega. How it makes the redbook format (FLAC 16/44) sound so great. To the point it was often difficult to discern between HD files and redboook. I was in the purists camp of no oversampling. Keep the original signal as untouched as possible. The Vega changed my mind.
All in all, my experience with the Vega was great. The local dealer made me a good price on the demo unit he lended me. I'm impressed to the point I'll be keeping it. I was looking for a DAC in the $3-4K maximum range. I've listened to many DACs which I won't name as my objective is not to start a discussion on which is best. Many of them showed my Moon 300D had nothing to be ashamed of. Even after being on the market for almost 3 years, It still is a very good DAC amongst its peers. In fact, I could not find many DACs that sounded so much better as to justify the spending to replace it. However, there was one that outshined it, and the others in every aspect: the Auralic Vega.
CAUTION: The Vega's Balanced XLR outputs are very sensitive. My ModWright pre-amp's XLR inputs are NOT BALANCED. They are in fact single ended. When trying to use the Vega's XLR outputs with the ModWright, I might have damaged the balanced output stage. I have discussed with the dealer here and they will be checking it next week. If it's damaged, they have offered to send it back to Auralic for repairs. The only charge will be shipping to and from. They also offered my to exchange it for a brand new unit for the price difference with the demo. That's good customer care.