The earlier versions of Auralics Aries and Altair were long among the best music streamers. Therefore, we had certain expectations for the new Altair G1.1, which is an Aries with built-in DAC and analog outputs. We were not disappointed.
The player looks similar to its predecessor, but the aluminium grey base plate hints at something different. And it is, because it’s not just better chassis damping that makes the Aries and Altair G1.1 a better product. On the inside is a newer and better digital converter, a sharper femto-clock with an accuracy measured in femtoseconds that dampens jitter even better than its predecessor was capable of.
The Altair G1.1 we’re testing here is the version with built-in DAC and analogue outputs. Both it and the Aries G1.1 can be fitted with an installable SSD for internal storage (you can rip directly to the SSD with a USB drive), and it supports streaming from Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, Amazon Music – plus you’ll find net radio in the Lightning app that controls the device.
There’s no remote control included, but on the front there’s at least a 4-inch colour screen that shows what you’re doing and a volume control that, among other things, controls a more powerful and improved headphone amp. On the back you’ll find four digital inputs, including a USB input that supports high-resolution music from the laptop. There’s also a USB input for music from an external hard drive, and you can stream music over the network from a NAS or computer.
Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built-in, the latter via two antennas on the back, and you can connect to a wired network with an Ethernet cable.
The Lightning app replaces the remote with full control over playback from a preferred streaming service. It’s not as advanced as the Naim app, but it gives a good overview of the music and mirrors what you’re playing on the screen of the Altair G1.1.
“The app isn’t too bad, but the question is whether you can just use Tidal Connect,” muses Geir.
There’s something about the way music sounds that sets the Auralic player apart. Compared to the Naim player, there’s more air and insight here, and the bass is tighter and more potent compared to the HiFi Rose RS150B. It’s important to note that the differences aren’t huge. We had to switch between them several times to dissect the sound quality sufficiently to rank them.
But we’re talking more than subtle differences, if not night and day, and in this class for many it’s often the small nuances that make the big difference.
Jan Gunnar Hoff’s Living provides a nice piano sound with fine depth and a large, airy and open soundstage.
“I think the soundstage is grand, there’s more of everything here,” says Geir.
The track featuring Taylor Swift and Bon Iver reveals itself with a very clearly defined soundscape, with the vocals contrasting markedly with each other.
“Really good separation, and when Bon Iver’s vocals alternate between both channels, it’s striking how well-defined it all sounds. I like that there’s a bit of warmth in the soundscape,” says Geir.
The sound positively stands out here with more air and openness than we would have dared hope for.
Loyal with Sudan Archives is a complex piece with a lot going on, and again the Auralic Altair G1.1 shows itself at its best with tremendous focus and high-contrast dynamics.
“You don’t feel the music being forced down your throat, but there is an authority to the way the music is delivered,” Geir comments.
The Auralic player manages to bring out the depth of the soundscape to a slightly greater extent than the others. There’s more air between the notes, and the subtle nuances of the music are rendered more clearly here.
The Auralic Altair G1.1 is a reference point for streamers in this class. The HiFi Rose streamer offers much better usability and more features, but costs a lot more. The Naim streamer costs the same and is breathing heavily down Auralic’s neck when it comes to sound quality, but overall we rate the Auralic Altair G1.1 the best buy in this class. The combination of ease of use, connectivity and sound quality scores highest in our book, and the last is especially important. So there’s no doubt. The Auralic Altair G1.1 is the reference in its class.