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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.

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.