AURALiC Taurus MKII Headphone Amplifier/Preamplifier

An Impressive Sonic Achievement

Equipment report
Categories:
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
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Products:
AURALiC Taurus MKII
AURALiC Taurus MKII Headphone Amplifier/Preamplifier

Oddly enough, the AURALiC’s superior dynamic capabilities make themselves felt in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect—in quiet passages, for example, and not just in large-scale, dynamically bombastic pieces. For instance, it was revelatory to listen to violinist Hilary Hahn’s performance of the first movement of the lovely Meyer Violin Concerto [Sony] —a piece that thrives on delicacy and subtlety more than on explosive, Paganini-style violin pyrotechnics. As Hahn plays, the AURALiC deftly renders the sound of her bowing changes (letting you hear just how masterfully they are executed), while also showing how Hahn uses the gentlest of variations in bowing pressure to modulate the intensity of individual notes. In a sense, the dynamics of the Taurus MKII give you a “zoomed in” perspective on the music, allowing you hear exactly where and how great artists are practicing the finer points of their craft.

Finally, I was favorably impressed with the richness and density of musical information the Taurus MKII was able to convey. In areas where other headphone amplifiers offer a rough sketch of certain low-level harmonic or reverberant details, the AURALiC renders them with exquisite precision and clarity. If you are a listener who enjoys savoring every last usable drop of musical information in your favorite records, then I suspect you will find the Taurus MKII both rewarding and enlightening.

To appreciate what I mean, it can be helpful to put on a record known to be rich in musical information, just to see what sonic treasures the TAURUA MKII might bring to light. For me, one such piece was the third movement of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, as captured in the classic Reiner/Chicago Symphony recording [RCA Living Stereo, SACD]. Here, the AURALiC let me hear the complex and angular ways in which Bartók combined the various tone colors and shadings from his chosen orchestral palette. The Taurus MKII vividly reproduced the intersections of incisive plunging or ascending string themes, the round and almost otherworldly tonality of the celesta, and the intense, piquant sound of multiple percussion instruments adding commentary and spice. The Taurus MKII was utterly unflustered by complex, overlapping musical lines, meaning that it captured the fundamentals and harmonics of the individual instruments with the greatest of ease, making each of them sound rich, whole, and complete unto itself. What is more the AURALiC showed how each of the instrumental voices interacted with the acoustics of the recording venue, thus conveying an even greater sense of realism.

If I sound impressed by AURALiC’s Taurus MKII, that’s because I am. Even so, critical and astute audiophiles will inevitably ask, “Yes, but is it the best you’ve heard?” Let me answer that question by saying that it is certainly among the best I’ve heard, with others in that elite group including Cavalli Audio’s Liquid Glass and Liquid Gold headphone amplifiers. Significantly, though, the AURALiC is the only one of these three to carry a price tag comfortably below $2000 (whereas the Liquid Glass and Liquid Gold are priced, respectively, between two and three times higher than the AURALiC amp).

Considering the sound and build-quality on offer, I think AURALiC’s Taurus MKII not only represents an impressive sonic and technical achievement, but also qualifies (dare I say it?) as a bit of a bargain. Enthusiastically recommended.

Specs & Pricing

Type: Fully balanced, solid state headphone amplifier/preamplifier
Analog Inputs: One stereo single-ended (via RCA jacks), one stereo balanced (via dual 3-pin XLR jacks)
Outputs: Two stereo headphone output jacks (one via 6.35mm TRS-type headphone jack, one via 4-pin XLR headphone jack with AKG K1000-compatible pin-outs), one stereo single-ended preamp output (via RCA jacks), one stereo balanced preamp output (via dual 3-pin XLR jacks, PIN2:HOT)
Frequency response: 20Hz–20kHz +/-0.1dB; 3Hz–300kHz, +/-3dB
THD+N: <0.002%, 20Hz–20kHz at rated output
Dynamic Range: >130dB, 20Hz–20kHz, A-weighted
Dimensions: 2.6" x 11" x 9"
Weight: 8 lbs.
Price: $1899


AURALiC AMERICAS, Inc.
12208 NE 104th St.,
Vancouver, WA 98682
(360) 326-8879
auralic.com