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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click
Source: 27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, PureMusic 1.82 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192; Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold/Voltikus, April Music Eximus DP1, Esoteric/APL Hifi UX1/NWO-M, Metrum Acoustics NOS Mini DAC Octave [on loan], Resonessence Invicta [on loan]
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright LS-100 with Synergy Hifi tubes, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X
Amplifier: FirstWatt S2 [on loan], ModWright KWA 100-SE, Trafomatic Audio Kaivalya
Speakers: Aries Cerat Gladius [on extended loan]]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event, Entreq USB cables
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF2, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail: $1.999

As with most things I haven't met before
, it all began with an email. "AURALiC Ltd is a Hong Kong company dedicated to designing, engineering and manufacturing high-end audio gear. Our digital source has won a good reputation for sound quality in our local market. It will enter the Japanese market in October. We are planning to promote the brand to North America next. The first product is the ARK MX+ 32-bit/192kHz USB converter. It sells for $1.999 and focuses mainly at consumer audio and especially Windows-based systems with several patented solution for truly best-of-class performance. This machine recently enjoyed very good feedback from the Japanese StereoSound magazine. We would appreciate if a 6moons writer reviewed it. We will release a series of products by the end of this year and into 2012. The first of these will be a headphone amplifier to be launched November 2011 for volume production by January 2012. This unit will share the look of the ARK MX+ to make the perfect companion for it." - 王轩骞, Wang Xuanqian

AURALiC is the endeavor of Xuanqian and Yuan Wang. One is a piano-playing electronics and recording engineer, the other a US-trained precision instruments manufacturer. The two young men met in 2008 during the Waldbühne Berlin event. They subsequently decided to pool their resources into a shared pursuit of fine hifi. Early on they agreed that sole reliance on test bench data and/or subjective listening was insufficient. Instead they developed mathematical models to correlate subjective audition impressions with objective measurement data to better focus their R&D. Xuanqian's years in the recording industry then added active feedback from mastering engineers and musicians to fine-tune the developmental process.

Berlin Waldbühne (stage in the forest)

AURALiC talks of numerous proprietary solutions. One deals with EMI to go beyond traditional aluminum and steel-based enclosures. AFN402™ is an iron/nickel/silicon alloy with other rare metals. Its electromagnetic interference rejection and mechanical resonance attenuation are said to be superior to conventional chassis by a factor of 3 to 10. Next appears the Alire™ constrained-layer damping liner which offers even more anti-vibrational and electromagnetic benefits. PurePower™ then becomes AURALiC speak for an AC line filter which works in both common and differential modes. Effective to the claimed tune of 90dB noise attenuation, it includes DC current blocking. A custom Plitron power transformer provides discrete DC supply voltages for a scheme that's viewed as superior to actual batteries whose internal resistance would fluctuate.

AURALiC's Sanctuary processor is a joint development with Archwave AG of Switzerland and based on a dual-core ARM9 structure with 500MIPS per core. It detects the input sampling rate and instructs the Texas Instruments SRC4392 to use one of two crystal clocks (22.5792 for 176.4kHz, 24.576 for 192KHz) for automatic and highest power-of-two upsampling. The DAC chip is a selected 32-bit/192kHz AKM AK4399. Its precision voltage output requires no external I/V conversion. The low-pass filter and output buffer are fully balanced, the RCAs and XLRs individually buffered. Here the parts "are manually selected for highest precision". The signal path from the chip outputs to the final LM4562 outputs proceeds without any coupling caps yet exhibits zero DC offset. This avoids electrolytic capacitor distortions and "maintains the natural musical detail". The i/o ports are from Neutrik and Cardas Audio, the latter GRFA PRT2 parts with Rhodium plating.

ActiveUSB™ claims to go beyond asynchronous transfer protocols "which can only adjust ± one clock cycle error of any data package". Meanwhile the Sanctuary chip acts as USB transceiver whose buffer size is user-adjustable in Windows via AURALiC's control panel. This differs from FIFO for I²S protocols. "Where TI and XMOS transceivers work with 4KB of buffer depth, the Sanctuary processors works with several megabytes for higher tolerance to system driver latency."

"Thesycon developed DPC latency measurement software. We have seen many complaints of playback interruption from owners of the QB9 and Stello U2. Those were based on clicks and pops from 2.000us latency, a situation which worsens with higher sample rates. With our ARK MX+ the current maximum driver setting allows for 16.000us of latency without playback interruption. Users can thus adjust the buffer size to the best value for their particular OS." AURALiC's multi-stage PLL circuit buffers data in 2-second patches to prevent time-based jitter. The AURALiC DAC further promises 118dB S/N, 0.0005% THD+N and 124dB of A-weighted dynamic range. Max output is 2Vrms on RCA, twice that on XLR. There's an AES/EBU digital output and for digital inputs we get 32-bit USB 2.0 or 24-bit coax not to be used simultaneously. Power dissipation is ca. 20 watts, dimensions are 33 x 23 x 6.5cm and weight is 5.5kg.