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reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
financial Interests: click here
• primary system: 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, OSX 10.8.2, PureMusic 1.88a & Audirvana 1.4.2, Metrum Hex, Cambridge Audio iD100, Apple iPod Classic 160GB - preamps - ModWright LS-100 with Psvane tubes, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X - amplifiers - First Watt SIT1, ModWright KWA100SE - speakers - AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Aries Cerat Gladius - cables - complete loom of Zu Audio Event, KingRex uArt USB cable with Bakoon BPS-02 - equipment support - Artesania Esoteric double-wide 3-tier with TT glass shelf, Rajasthani solid hardwood console for amps, Track Audio speaker stands - powerline conditioning - GigaWatt PF2 on amps, GigaWatt PC-3 SE Evo on front-end components - 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.
Desktop system: source - Apple iPod Classic 160GB, Cambridge Audio iD100, Aura Vivid - integrated amplifier - Aura Vita - speakers + subwoofer - Gallo Strada 2 + TR-3D on Mapleshade stand, EBTB Terra III, Ardán Audio desktop stand for various review monitors
- headphone amps - Aura Vita, Sicphones - headphones - AKG K-702 with ALO Audio harness - cables - Zu Audio Event
bedside headfi system: source - Apple iPod 160GB Classic, Pure i20, Burson Conductor - headphone amplifier - Bakoon AMP-11R - headphones - ALO Audio-rewired Audez'e LCD-2 and Beyerdynamic T5p - cables - Western Electric & Crystal
secondary system: source - NuForce Edition Oppo BD93, Sony Bravia TV - preamp - TruLife Audio Athena - amplifier - FirstWatt SIT2 or F5 - speakers - Boenicke Audio B10 - cables - Zu Event - headphone amplifier - Eximus DP1 - headphones - HifiMan HE6 or HE-500, ALO Audio-rewired Sennheiser HD800
review component retail: $2.099

You have too. Wondered. About that restaurant at the far end of the main stretch. About every nine months ownership changes. You keep thinking out-of-towners with no talent at due diligence. The mere presence of a commercial kitchen must ink the deal, never mind that five other hopefuls have come and gone over the past four seasons. Does nobody pay any attention? Is the lure of a ready-made kitchen irresistible? Is it lack of chef talent, poor management skills or a property jinx which keeps turning off the lights?

One wonders the same about high-end hifi. Companies come and go. Yet there's no shortage of new entrants taking their place. Clearly the end game isn't wealth. The market is far too oversaturated, the case evidence far too depressing. Yet it doesn't prevent hopefuls from committing careers and life savings to a chance at playing hifi roulette. AURALiC from Hong Kong is one of these late comers but they clearly have done due diligence. They have a game plan. They have real design chops. They won't be gone tomorrow just because essentials were awol or ill considered.

click on each stack for a twice-sized image

Over a period of less than two years this clearly ambitious young company has released the ARK MX+ D/A converter with 24/192 async USB; the Taurus balanced headphone amp; the Taurus balanced preamp with remote; the Merak monos; and the Vega 32/384 DAC with remote. This nets two component stacks, one for a speaker system—eliminate the Taurus preamp above if you have no analog sources—and one for dedicated headfi below...

... even though the speaker stack with Taurus Pre still accommodates two headphones simultaneously.

click on each stack for a twice-sized image

None of these are me-too products. All are very competitively priced and extremely well made. The ARK introduced the custom-programmed Sanctuary processor from Swiss firm Archwave. The Taurus twins run so-called Orfeo class A voltage gain modules modeled after a famous Neve analog console. The class D Merak monos combine Lundahl input transformers, Orfeo modules and custom linear power supplies with modified UcD switching output stages. The Vega performs 1.5MHz/32-bit upsampling with full DSD compatibility, sports a 0.082ps 'femto' master clock and six custom digital filters to optimize various files. All models rely on discrete Purer-Power™ AC line filtering.

Taurus Pre details

For an intro on the company, reboot my first AURALiC review. For real appreciation on how very resourceful engineering managed to get within breathing distance of Bruno Putzeys' Ncore 1200 platform at 50 cents to the dollar and strategically lowered 4th to 10th-order THD artefacts, revisit my third AURALiC review on the Meraks. If you're set either way let's talk Taurus Pre, today's tester with remote control.

The wand's multi-tasking buttons indicate shareware with the latest Vega processor. The black or silver cover of the actual component can go with either the black headphone or silver speaker stack (though the face plates themselves remain silver either way).