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Altair II

Consider Altair II a collaborative effort. It began with the original Altair, created by Constellation Audio’s “dream team” of the world's best audio engineers and industrial designers.

Brand: Constellation
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Consider Altair II a collaborative effort. It began with the original Altair, created by Constellation Audio’s “dream team” of the world's best audio engineers and industrial designers.

  • Inputs 4 XLR stereo, 4 RCA stereo
  • Outputs 2 XLR stereo, 2 RCA stereo
  • Recording outputs 1 XLR stereo, 1 RCA stereo
  • THD+N (RI >10 KΩ) <0.001%, 20 Hz - 20 kHz @ 2V out

<0.1%, 20 Hz - 20 kHz @ 10V out

  • Frequency response 10 Hz to 200 kHz, ±0.5 dB
  • Output noise ≤ 20 µV dB, 20 Hz - 20 kHz
  • Input impedance (balanced) 200 KΩ
  • Input impedance (unbalanced) 100 KΩ
  • Output impedance < 50Ω
  • Volume control resolution 0.1, 0.5, or 1 dB; user-selectable
  • Weight, line stage 84 lbs / 38.2 kg
  • Weight, power supply 26.2 lbs / 11.4 kg
  • Dimensions, line stage 17.5 x 5.53 x 14.8 in (whd)

44.5 x 14 x 37.6 cm (whd)

  • Dimensions, power supply 17.5 x 2.82 x 14.5 in (whd)

44.5 x 7.2 x 36.8 cm (whd)

Consider Altair II a collaborative effort. It began with the original Altair, created by Constellation Audio’s “dream team” of the world's best audio engineers and industrial designers. Our engineers then refined these original concepts using feedback from our dealers and customers. The result is a product with a more user-friendly interface, yet that retains the same sound quality as the original Altair, acclaimed by a leading audio magazine as setting a new standard “in virtually every sonic and musical criterion.”
The front panel of Altair II features a new touchscreen control, which allows all functions to be adjusted directly from the front panel. The enhanced contrast and large font sizes used on the touchscreen allow it to be seen from across a room.

Machined remote control An elegant new remote control, machined from aluminum billet and wrapped in leather, provides immediate access to the most commonly used functions, such as volume, balance, mute and phase.
While Altair II presents a friendlier, faster interface, its sound quality is in no way changed from the original Altair.

The core of Altair II is our proprietary, fully balanced Line Stage Gain Module, one of the quietest and purest preamp circuits ever designed. Key to the module’s performance is the use of servo circuits to maintain a practically perfect balance between the positive and negative halves of the audio signal. To build the module, we rely on our “private stock” of field-effect transistors. These FETs—which, incidentally, are no longer available and are thus practically exclusive to Constellation Audio products—are the quietest we have found, and we assure superior performance by hand-testing and hand-selecting only the best samples from our inventory.

Machined aluminum enclosures protect each Line Stage Gain Module circuit from the influence of external vibration and interference. We secure each of these enclosures to a platform incorporating an isolating polymer sheet between sheets of stainless steel. This platform mounts on an elastomeric suspension. The entire assembly works much like a raft floating on a quiet lake, thoroughly protected from onshore disturbances. A machined, solid aluminum enclosure with 8.2mm-thick walls houses the entire assembly and blocks electromagnetic interference.

Altair II also benefits from what may be the most precise, sonically benign volume control ever created. Instead of the usual mechanical potentiometer, we use optically controlled resistors that can be adjusted to an accuracy of 0.1 dB. Because the connection between the control circuit is optical, not electronic, there is no possibility for interference between the control circuit’s microprocessor and the audio signal path.

Separate Power Supply We power Altair II using a separate, triple-transformer power supply, itself shielded by a machined aluminum chassis. This supply delivers isolated power feeds to left and right channels and the control circuitry, thus preserving Altair II’s fully dual mono operation and outstanding channel separation.
With its innovative circuitry and incomparable build quality, Altair II achieves something no other preamp can: the musicality of classic tube preamps with precision and dynamics matched by no other solid-state preamp. Only upon hearing the Altair II can one appreciate the musical experience it delivers.

Line Stage Gain Module
We build the Line Stage Gain Module’s balanced circuit from two mirror-imaged amplifiers, one for the positive half of the signal and the other for the negative half. Through the use of hand-matched, ultra-low-noise FETs and servo circuits, our engineers have achieved an essentially perfect balance between the positive and negative halves of the audio signal.
Fully balanced circuitry
Because the Line Stage Gain Module's circuit is fully complementary, comprising two identical circuits, it automatically cancels incoming noise and interference while increasing slew rate and frequency response. As a result, Altair II achieves an extraordinary 200-kilohertz bandwidth.

Simple, elegant remote control
The new machined aluminum infrared remote control provides a gratifying, friendly interface with Altair II. The remote’s soft leather cladding feels comfortable in the hand, and also provides a slip-resistant grip. All of Altair II’s most commonly used functions can be controlled from the remote.

User-friendly front touchscreen
Altair II’s front touchscreen accesses all of the preamp’s advanced functions, including input configuration and all other setup parameters. Large, high-contrast fonts allow the display to be read from across a room.

Incomparable mechanical isolation
Altair II’s audio circuits are double-isolated from vibration. Each Line Stage Gain Module is mounted on a sandwich of an isolating polymer layer between two stainless steel sheets. An elastomeric suspension in turn supports this platform. Highly flexible, custom-made wiring prevents any vibration on the chassis from reaching the “floated” circuit boards. The sheer mass of the Altair II chassis and internal assembly also helps damp vibration.

Home theater bypass mode
Through the front touchscreen, one of Altair II’s inputs may be configured for home theater bypass. This mode allows the left and right channels from a surround-sound processor to pass through Altair II, permitting the same left/right speakers and amplifiers to be used for two-channel or multichannel reproduction without having to make volume adjustments. Switching to any other input restores two-channel sound.

Nearly impermeable shielding
Key circuit modules inside Altair II are isolated from the others to reduce interference to the lowest possible levels. A machined aluminum shield protects each individual Line Stage Gain Module, while formed aluminum enclosures shield the control circuits. The thick walls of the machined aluminum chassis provide additional shielding against outside interference.

Machined solid aluminum chassis
In order to block 50/60 Hertz electromagnetic interference from household circuits, we encase Altair II’s inner workings in an enclosure machined from solid billets of aluminum to a minimum wall thickness of 8.2mm. These thick walls cannot resonate or vibrate as a sheet metal enclosure can.

Constellation Direct balanced interface
Owners of Constellation Audio’s Hercules and Centaur amplifiers can experience an even higher level of quality from Altair II through our Constellation Direct interface, which bypasses the input module of the amplifiers to reduce the number of gain stages in the signal chain. This reduces noise and improves reproduction of musical detail.

Triple-transformer power supply
Altair II’s power supply incorporates three separate R-core transformers, one for left channel analog audio, one for right channel analog audio, and one for control circuitry. The power supply’s machined aluminum enclosure shields the audio section of Altair II from the transformers’ electromagnetic energy. Custom-extruded PCOCC cables tipped with aerospace-type Hypertronics connectors carry the separate the three separate power feeds to the Altair II main chassis.

Optically controlled resistors for volume control
An array of 48 optically controlled resistors provides far more precision and sonically transparent volume control than even the highest-quality potentiometers can. A temperature-compensated tracking circuit that maintains ideal signal balance in all conditions. Because the optically controlled resistors are electrically isolated from the control circuits, they are as sonically benign and musically transparent as a conventional high-quality resistor.

Constellation Audio

Constellation Audio was founded on the premise that one cannot create something extraordinary through slavish adherence to established methods. When tradition is the best path, we embrace it. When new technology is necessary to achieve the performance we want, we invent it. When we find a radical circuit topology that delivers a substantial advance in sound quality, we use it.