Delivered in a natty black cardboard box
with carrying handle that was heavily lined in cardboard spacers, object of desire ensconced in a draw-string bag, a silver Veritas emerged from it all in compact monolithic glory. Apple's pre-paired wand in matching clear anodized played the remote navigator companion. For more details, refer to the online manual. Removing the five rubber belly bumpers for a look-see, I got as far as below. Even after I'd removed the five bolts affixing board to chassis and
removed the six retainers of the back panel, the PCB did not want to remove as easily as I thought it ought to. Following self-preservation instincts, I decided against pushing my luck. I put the lid back on. Returning the unit to the frosty White North just because I broke it didn't seem terribly attractive all around.

For a few minutes then, Google became my rich American uncle. I duly chanced upon this German review page whose author was clearly made of sterner stuff. Apparently of a pre-production unit, his photos still show a Canadian aimtec SMPS and a Sabre chip marked 9018Pro which doesn't exist.

Just so, his images demonstrate how really, there isn't all that much to the inner Veritas; or put differently, how not much is necessary to convert D to A whilst generating a proper 4V balanced output. It's probably no stretch to think of the Veritas as a single rather than dual chip Invicta Mirus without the latter's SD card reader and $6'000 price tag. But as an 8-channel affair, the single 9028Pro chip still gives the Veritas mature quad-paralleled DACs per channel. In today's massively paralleled computer age of merry multi tasking, that seems very au courant.

With 0.5dB-step attenuation bottoming out at -63.dB on the white-on-black display, one click above full tilt aka zero attenuation shows as 'fixed'. That means proper volume-control bypass. Different filter selections were said to change the backlit logo indicator's colouring for visual confirmation.

As you'd expect from its carved-from-solid construction, the petite Veritas feels surprisingly chunky in its full metal jacket. Absence of visible fasteners and seams on top, sides and front bestow upon it a sleek luxo look like—dare one say it—an Apple product. Though $2'850 is no chump change, if a modern high-performance DAC need be no bigger than this essence of reason, most would rather have a smaller posher box than a full-size thing made of bent sheet metal with a bolted-on face plate and exposed screws. Before one ever gets to sonics, the Veritas already crosses off modern good looks plus a stylish form factor.

For preconditioning and competitive context, I needed the right ancillaries. For a first round, the Veritas hopped into my bedside headfi system to drive, fully balanced via Crystal Cable links, mono Questyle CMA800R amps into Audeze LCD-XC headphones. Source was the Questyle QP1R loaded with 5'000 AIFF tracks; or the competing Esther Pro by Soundaware. Digital data for the former traveled by light aka Toslink. Canadian for that turned out to be Torx just like the bolt format. Really, that's how the display referred to optical. As comparator, I picked the AURALiC Vega which in April 2013 sold for €3'300 when I reviewed it. Based on the now superceded Sabre 9018 chip, it runs custom-written AURALiC filters, adds exact clock mode, has a linear power supply, discrete output stage and uses a yellow Amoled display for menu access. Its equally digital volume displays across 100 steps. On features and sticker, this was the very closest competitor I had on hand.

Aside from the Torx not Toslink convention and unlike the Vega, the Veritas would not display sample rates when fed optical or coax regardless of display mode. There are three display modes. The one shown above is 'volume dominant' where dominant simply refers to what displays in the biggest font. There's also 'source dominant' (below) and 'sample rate dominant'. Unlike with earlier Resonessence DAC encounters, I also didn't get the logo backlight to change colour with filter changes. Off went an email to Mark Mallinson to inquire. Were these still future firmware updates? "Sample rate over coax, XLR and Toslink is not supported by the current firmware but John will add that in the next release. TORX is Toslink Receive. TOTX is Toslink Transmit. The Invicta had both so we kept the same naming convention."

With those oddities solved, it was time for heavy plugging, swapping XLR from Veritas to Vega and back again endlessly plus reseating the Toslink or coax cable from my players. I meant to see how thick of a business card I could slip into the performance gap of these DACs; or whether the differences were far larger to actually become relevant. As it turned out, over the LCD-XC I had insufficient resolution for much more than a business card. Still, I could tell that the Vega was thicker and oilier. This gap increased when, just in time, ALO Audio's fully balanced cable for the Final Sonorous VI arrived. Combining a big dynamic driver with a custom balanced armature, this model from the Japanese headfi specialists is a Sennheiser HD800 type magnifying glass without the German's issues. Now I could drive it with the mono Quests. Voilà, high-end's chip on the shoulder, about chip-based output stages, was pulverized. The Veritas was more resolved, open and quick. This reversal of opamp fortunes instigated my Chips Ahoy! 38th column for John Darko's site. Give it a quick read before you click 'next'. In this context it's relevant.