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Audio

Systematic: The Aura Note V2 all-in-one digital player/amplifier

A high-end all-in-one digital player-amplifier system from April Music wows the Audiophiliac.

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April Music Aura Note V2 April Music Aura Note

I've never reviewed anything quite like the April Music Aura Note V2. It's an all-in-one CD player/USB digital converter/FM radio/125-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier. Decked out in gleaming metal and matte black, this elegant design will be a good fit in contemporary living spaces. All of that wouldn't mean much if the Aura Note V2 didn't sound like a no-holds-barred high-end audio component, but it absolutely does.

The digital converter plays up to 192-kHz/24-bit files, and works with computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads and USB flash drives. I haven't seen too many amps that can directly play drives! There's also an optical digital input; analog connections include two RCA inputs and a set of stereo preamp outputs that can also be used to hook up a subwoofer. Heavy-duty speaker binding posts accept the thickest speaker cables, and there's also a 6.3mm headphone jack on the amp's right side panel.

I listened to the Aura Note V2 at different times with my Zu Druid V and Dynaudio C1 speakers. The Druid Vs' awesome dynamic slam supplied thrills when I played the "It Might Get Loud" Blu-ray (over my Oppo BDP-105 player). The music doc brings together three generations of guitar slingers -- Jack White, the Edge and Jimmy Page -- and when they started to jam I cranked the Aura Note V2 way up. It may be small, just 11x11.5x4 inches, but this little amp is a gutsy powerhouse!

CDs sounded transparent and pure; grooving to Miles Davis' "Panthalassa" ambient jazz remixes, I found the speakers projected huge soundstages. The throbbing bass lines had plenty of weight and power.

I also spent some time listening with my Audeze LCD 3, Grado RS-1, and Westone ES60 headphones. The sound was clear, very dynamic and powerful; the headphone amp was dead quiet with full-size headphones, but in-ears are more sensitive, so with them I detected a little background hiss when I wasn't playing music or changing discs. With music playing, the hiss was inaudible.

I see the Aura Note V2 as an ultimate "lifestyle" component: its graceful good looks, compact size, sensible connectivity suite, and impeccable build and sound quality will appeal to folks seeking high-end audio refinement, without complication or imposing size. Just add a set of first-class small monitors, like the Dynaudio Focus 160s, and you're good to go.

The April Music Aura Note V2 sells for $3,000 in the US.