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Review and Measurements of Auralic Vega DAC

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Auralic Vega DAC. From my quick search seems like this DAC was released sometime in 2013 but it is still current (about to be replaced?). It was brought to our local audiophile society meeting for me to measure so my time with it was very limited. As such, this review gets right to the point with measurements. Retail price as of this writing seems to be around $2,000 with the original cost of $3,500.

If you are not familiar with Auralic, they are a chinese company whose streamers are a fixture at audio shows. They have cornered the market for "high-end" audio streamers.

I have to say going into this review I just assumed this is an over-priced unit, surely with some faults. Read on to see if that came through.

Measurements
As soon as I fired up the dashboard measurements, I knew my bias was incorrect:

Auralic Vega DAC dashboard measurement.png


113 dB SINAD (signal above power of noise+distortion)? This is near the top of any DAC I have ever measured! THD is inverse of SINAD and likewise shows astonishingly low numbers.

The FFT spectrum of 1 kHz shows only a tiny blip of power supply noise at 180 Hz (more than 140 dB down). The distortions are all harmonic and likewise very low in level.

Likewise our jitter and noise shows little to worry about:

Auralic Vega DAC jitter and noise measurement.png


A couple of tiny bumps are visible but at levels below -130 dB, absolutely not an audible concern of any sort. Note lack of power supply mains harmonics all the way to the left.

IMD distortion was a bit less perfect:
Auralic Vega DAC IMD distortion measurement.png


We see the same mid-level distortion spike we have with Topping line of DACs. The Oppo UDP-205 heavily outperforms it here but otherwise, the rest of the response is very clean. No clipping is visible as we see with Schiit Yggdrasil where the distortion rises as levels increase to the right.

Harmonic distortion+noise (THD+N) was kind of interesting and quite concerning at first:
Auralic Vega DAC THD distortion versus frequency measurement.png


I did not know that the filter mode was set to "4." With that setting, there was a sudden and massive jump in distortion above 18 kHz. Response below that also had variable amount of distortion. Scope display (not shown) showed the amplitude of any signal above 18 kHz to be heavily modulated up and down!

Switching to Mode 1 filter made a massive improvement as you see in red. Now we are talking state-of-the-art performance.

Owner said that Mode 4 was recommended by a review he had read. Quick look shows this excellent white paper from Auralic on different filters: https://www.auralic.com/download/flexible_filter_mode.pdf

1531074339774.png


I think the cautions about using it with 44.1 kHz need to be stronger given what I measured. I don't consider that performance "high-fi," their subjective results notwithstanding.

I did test the unit at 96 kHz and the problem did vanish as they state.

Finally, the Auralic Vega passed our linearity test with flying colors:

Auralic Vega DAC linearity measurement.png


This is how it is done folk!

Conclusions
For some reason I went into this review thinking the Auralic Vega would not perform well. Boy, was I proven wrong. This is near perfect execution. While you can get the same performance for less, if you have a preference for this brand, I recommend it without hesitation. Good job Auralic.

As always, questions, comments, corrections, jokes, etc. are all welcome!
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soundArgument

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#3
I almost bought a Vega way back in 2014, but I went with the cheaper and less impressive looking Mytek 192-DSD. These measurements suggest that I chose poorly.
 
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#4
IMD distortion was a bit less perfect:
View attachment 13741

We see the same mid-level distortion spike we have with Topping line of DACs. The Oppo UDP-205 heavily outperforms it here but otherwise, the rest of the response is very clean. No clipping is visible as we see with Schiit Yggdrasil where the distortion rises as levels increase to the right.
I've been curious about this for a little while but what is going on with these curves at about -40dBFS for the Auralic and the Topping? Why do they have that bump?
 

andreasmaaan

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#5
I've been curious about this for a little while but what is going on with these curves at about -40dBFS for the Auralic and the Topping? Why do they have that bump?
It seems to come up in all Sabre 9038 DACs if I'm not mistaken?
 

Blumlein 88

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#7
I expected the Aurilic to perform well. Maybe because I'd seen JA's measurements. Not sure why you thought it was over-priced. The good thing about the measurement thing is you quickly see when you were mistaken.

I was sadly mistaken about the Emotiva UMC200 only in the other direction. Expected rather good though not SOTA results. Boy that isn't what happened.
 
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#8
Woa... busy few weeks here at ASR. Quite a number of new reviews / contents being put up recently. Keep it up ASR!
 

Sal1950

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#9
Not sure why you though it was over-priced.
Yes it measures very well but $3k is an aweful lot of money for a Chinese built DAC any way you cut it. And there are others out there performing well for much less.
 

derp1n

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#11
The DAC3 is 9028 based. The UDP-205 is 9038 but it's the Pro rather than the Q2M variant in the other DACs measured... if it makes a difference. I'm curious about what causes that hump too.

edit: the Melokin DA9.1 is 9038Pro and also lacking the hump, so curious if this is a Q2M "feature"?
 
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bennetng

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#12
Hard to tell if it is overpriced or not. It may involve measuring at least three or four 2013 released DACs from different countries to draw a conclusion. Not an interesting debate topic and I would like to see more reviews of current products.

I guess the "overpriced" bias can be judged from some expensive network players have more measurable artifacts, at least according to Stereophile's standard measurement procedures.
https://www.stereophile.com/content/aurender-a10-network-music-playerserver-measurements

The "dedicated machine" vs "generic computer" thing suggests that the former must be better for a lot of unverifiable reasons.
 

Ron Texas

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#13
I recall the internal up sampling of PCM in this unit is to 1.4 Mhz, IIRC. That's twice the usual. Too expensive, whatever the market will bear, better than a $2400 Yaggi which measures badly, I guess.
 

dc655321

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#14
the Melokin DA9.1 is 9038Pro and also lacking the hump, so curious if this is a Q2M "feature"?
Also curious about that feature of the data.
The Topping NX4 is 9038q2m and did not display "the hump".
 

mindbomb

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#15
I think all these dacs with the hump use the opa1612 for i/v. Maybe that has something to do with it?
 

stunta

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#16
Hard to tell if it is overpriced or not..
Pretty easy IMO. This is overpriced. Given how good the Topping DACs measure, I am fairly certain there will not be any audible difference to my ears.

Relatively speaking, this is better than overpriced DACs that don't even measure well so I don't mind this as much - get their engineering right first, then package and sell it for how much ever they want.

Already excellent but can’t wait to see how good it is after it’s warmed up for a few days/weeks..
For people new to this forum, the sarcasm in this may be completely lost. This, however, would serve as a warm welcome to the snake-oil crowd.
 

Sal1950

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#17
Pretty easy IMO. This is overpriced. Given how good the Topping DACs measure, I am fairly certain there will not be any audible difference to my ears.

Relatively speaking, this is better than overpriced DACs that don't even measure well so I don't mind this as much - get their engineering right first, then package and sell it for how much ever they want.
+1, You took the words out of my mouth as I was reading the latest posts.
If you want to pay more for a fancy milled box or Stereoplile approved high end name, that's fine.
But ya, it's overpriced when performance is used as the measure.
 

bennetng

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#18

mindbomb

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#19
The oppo 205 was a weird outlier in terms of value, giving $3k performance for $1300. But otherwise I would say the auralic vega is pretty much what I would expect at around $2k-3k.
 
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