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AURALiC Aries + WiMP HiFi puts CDs, downloads on the ropes

  • Nothing screams ‘dead-on-arrival’ more than Apple’s decision this week to foist a lossy version of U2’s new album onto EVERY iTunes user. And I’m not just talking about the music itself. It’s doled out free of charge because MP3 and AAC encodes now hold next to no intrinsic value. Why pay for a download from the iTunes store when you can stream the exact same thing over on Spotify for nothing? Adverts can only be of minor inconvenience to those listeners who refuse to stump up the $10/month to get rid of them.

    I bet most of your non-audiophile friends listen to music via Spotify or YouTube? I know many of mine do. Occasionally, the keener ones will yoink the odd download from the Hype Machine until said release lands elsewhere but for them it’s a streaming world. It begs the question: does anyone really torrent lossy-encoded music any more?

    For those that care about CD-quality listening Spotify serves as the ultimate tasting platter. Sample the goods before you drop your cash. Buy only what you like – the risk of wasting money on a dud is all but erased. Still, the separation remains: Spotify for casual listening, lossless downloads and CDs for the serious, gotta-own stuff.

    In reviewing the AURALiC Aries this week I’ve had my first taste of WiMP Hifi. Lossless streaming from a library of ~25m songs for $20/month. It’s impressive because it blurs the line between streaming-to-taste and downloading-to-own. When everything comes down the pipe at 16bit/44.1kHz, what’s the point in paying for a CD or download? The sound quality shortfall zero-d, you’re now paying $15 per release simply to own it.

    L to R: Richard Colburn and Xuanqian Wang of AURALiC and Australian distributor George Poutakidis at Munich High End 2014
    Richard Colburn and Xuanqian Wang of AURALiC with Australian distributor George Poutakidis at Munich High End 2014

    Streaming won’t every satisfy collectors, die-hards who won’t surrender their commitment to physical media (or the right to own a download) lest you prise it from their cold, dead hands will continue to exist – idealists till the end. Fair enough. But for the more pragmatic music fan who still demands CD-quality the download game must soon be up if WiMP can make their business model work. With Qobuz on the financial ropes seeds of doubt are bound to take root. However, WiMP’s counter-punch that it will soon launch lossless streaming in the USA and UK under the brand name TIDAL paints a sunnier picture.

    News this week that Spotify is testing lossless streaming paints in a possible rainbow. No launch date has been set. The engineers won’t risk turning listeners off with lossless streaming’s considerably slower start-up time. Punching in albums on WiMP via AURALiC’s Lightning DS app sees music playback typically take 3-4 seconds to come to life.

    Several seconds and $20/month are a small price to pay to get WiMP’s entire library in CD-quality. Why pay for a download when you can stream it as part of a music rental package? For the compulsive listener who simply must have access to everything by an artist (that’s me) lossless subscriptions leave more cash on the table for titles not covered by such libraries. It also leaves more cash for vinyl (if that’s your thing).


    CDs won’t die away completely. Neither will 16/44.1 downloads. They’ll simply slip off into a niche interest. With Qobuz, WiMP, TIDAL and (possibly) Spotify in the lossless streaming game, it’s primed to be the dominant force in music supply for the foreseeable future.

    The point? You could buy an AURALiC Aries and never have it connect to your existing digital audio library. WiMP (or Qobuz) could be its only source of music and that music would sound better than if played from a MacBook Air or MacMini, even with Audiophilleo or Resonessence Labs Concero intervening as USB re-clocker.

    Read my full review over at 6moons right here.

    Further information: AURALiC | Addicted To Audio | WiMP HiFi

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Great review. The device looks fantastic. Even the wife likes it. But the remote…. oh my. That thing’s ugly.
      Spotify has to, at some point provide an optional high-res solution. I might be wrong but Spotify’s own curated playlists sound much better to me than their non-playlist (or I am dreaming). Dont know what’s going on there but my theory is that they are using these playlists as a (clever?) marketing ploy.

      • No idea what’s going on with those Spotify playlists. I don’t really delve into them too often.

      • Ugly remote. I used to get annoyed with these cheap remotes but, frankly, since more and more manufacturers cater for folk who want to use their smartphones instead, perhaps their days are already numbered?

    2. John,
      Great review with a lot to chew on.
      How was the Aries straight into the Vega via USB or coaxial? It would appear that once AURALiC enables the USB HDD option on the Aries, one could pretty much get rid of the computer-based server and add an external HDD and you are done.


      • That’s exactly right Ian. As per the 6moons piece, the Aries into the Vega USB bettered the Macbook + USB converter. Bye bye Apple!

    3. John,

      Minor correction to my original question.

      How did the Aries/Vega combination differ when using USB direct or coaxial?

      • I didn’t test coaxial as I figured most users will take the USB route for its DSD compatibility.

    4. Worst thing about the free U2 track (aside from it being a crap song) is that the Apple bastids altered my library without consent. Sure, it’s just one track (did I mention it being a crap song, btw?), but that’s still invasive. I mean, what if my mates saw that U2 track on my phone? Worse yet, now the NSA knows I listen to U2. The shame!!

      Only just started reading your Aries review on 6 moons. Definitely neat in terms of aesthetics, but that PSU looks huge!! Unless I’m mistakes, iPhone and Android clients for the Aries aren’t out yet. Any time frame?

      I found Eno & Hyde’s new album to be quite decent, btw.

      • Sorry, typos.

        *tracks, *songs, *album, *mistaken

        I swear my iPhone’s autocorrect is getting worse. Must be some sort of software regression – possibly an attempt to draw parallels with U2.

      • Wasn’t the u2 thing the entire album? A stunt with a loud backfire!

        IPhone and android apps are due by end of year AFAIK.

    5. I have added albums to my playlists in Spotify only to have them become unavailable months later. That is one compelling argument for purchasing downloads or physical digital media. The truth is that I am dying for lossless streaming to debut in the US.

      • A salient point and one that I addressed in last week’s piece on Robyn Hitchcock: you can’t trust the cloud. Something that Morrissey fans know too well. His recent album was pulled from streaming services after a spat between artist and record company.

    6. Okay. So now I’m interested. Having avoided the whole PC audio theme all this time, this is the first time I’d consider a system and its probably a matter of timing – the digital stars aligning. The AURALiC items are appealing, the Aries in particular as it is cutting edge, addresses my audiophile sensibilities, is not too expensive, and bridges the gap between my present CD systems and C21 digital.

      But the promise of an affordable CD quality streaming service would seal the deal and cement my interest in this area. I wouldn’t have to abandon my large-ish CD collection either. Question is, how long for WiMP or TIDAL to launch down under?

      • That’s exactly it Justin. You’re probably not the only one for whom the Aries is their digital ‘leap’.

        No word on Tidal or Wimp down under I’m afraid. That’s the bum note for Aussies.

        • And Kiwis too… I guess the only way the Aries could reel me in further is if it could address the I2S input on my DAC-83. Not a deal breaker, necessarily, but would be a slam-dunk. The AES-EBU interface might work well enough, though.

    7. John, great review. You’ve got one of the best audio sites around. I’m debating between getting the Aries or the Antipodes DXe. You mentioned the DXe sounds better but its also quite a few more $. There are a few ex-dem DS References around that is similarly priced to the Aries. As between the Aries and the DS Reference is there much of a difference. Or put it another way, was there much of a jump when you upgraded your DS Reference for the DXe?

      • Dave. Given the choice I’d still give the nod to the Antipodes DS. It’s just that little bit less nervy.

    8. John-

      I’m considering the Aries, so interesting to hear how it sounds compared to something like the Antipodes.

      Read the 6 Moons review, too. I think you need to clarify a couple of things there:
      The Aries WILL play DSD 64 (not 128) if fed in DoP over SPDIF and AES, not just over USB.

      Also, as the Aries is Linux based, the hires USB output of the Aries only works with DACs that are driverless for MAC and Linux. So if your DAC needs drivers installed, it won’t work over USB with the Aries. You need to use the other outputs on the Aries, so for those DACs you lose DSD 128 playback ability with the Aries.
      Supposedly Auralic are working to add USB support for a few such popular DACs like the Mytek 192 DSD, but that remains to be seen.

      The above has been confirmed by Auralic on

      • I didn’t know about DSD over S/PDIF – thanks for the heads up. And yes, Hiface MK1-related products and the Mytek will need special attention from AURALiC software engineers. Both of these will be addressed in my follow-up piece.

    9. Hi John,
      Great write up on the Aries.
      I’m really interested in putting Aries in my system for streaming music but is it possible to use Aries for outputting sound of the movies played over computer which will be screened to the projector?
      I’m asking this because I want use together Aries as sound streamer(for best SQ) and computer as video streamer(for the projector).


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