Auralic was one of the exhibitors I wanted to see most at Bristol. Though my interest was primarily in their Aries wireless streaming ‘bridge’ it was their integrated DAC amplifier – the Polaris wireless streaming amplifier that was being demonstrated in the Spendor room through Spendor D7s.
I was a little doubtful about the ‘wireless streaming’ heavily promoted by Auralic until I had a brief chat. The idea is not about convenience and wire free systems but about guaranteed electrical isolation between source (NAS drive for instance) and the music server/processor. I might need to rethink my hardwire approach.
The Polaris is a 12owatt integrated with a host of input possibilities (even an MM phono stage). It uses the Lightning streaming platform which I’ve dowloaded and tried with my own music library just to check out the usability – the interface is very clean and responsive as far as you can tell without a streamer attached. The Polaris proved more than capable of driving the 90db/1w/1m Spendor D7 to tremendous levels cleanly and dynamically. I enjoyed two extended listening sessions and was delighted when one visiting trade professional went behind the room screen to look for the power amp or subwoofer he though hidden there! Of course there was neither – just a very satisfying, transparent and lively system with a truly wide range of source material.
Of course I had to spoil it all by listening to the Spendor D9s in the next room. This new speaker from Spendor builds on the strengths of the D7 but is in every way a whole step forward in performance. Even though my knowledge of current high-end speakers is limited I would say the D9 gets so much fundamentally right it has moved the performance goal-posts. The systems was being driven by a Devialet 440 Expert which I think was prejudicing some listeners who talked to me about a ‘dry sound’. That’s not what I heard. In fact I’ve not heard a loudspeaker quite so free from cabinet contributions (that rather comforting ‘warmth’). Explosive dynamics; the cleanest treble, incisive yet not harsh; fast bass with extraordinary depth and slam with the right material from twin 180mm bass drivers. There’s so much intriguing and thought-provoking design going on behind the understated elegant front panel: passive wiring only, undamped cabinet, the pressure zone tweeter, the linear-flow reflex porting. I rather think I’ve found what I was looking for – though I had hoped to have solved the digital front-end riddle before falling in love with a pair of transducers of this quality.