One thing’s for certain, AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang puts in even more audiophile airmiles than I do. The man is a walking timezone machine. Dressed in a crisp new checked shirt and smiling from ear to ear, it doesn’t appear to be taking its toll one bit. Young Wang is a chatty as ever. Perhaps it’s because he never indulges himself. The offer of a beer from is met with a swift but polite refusal. “I only drink Chinese wine very occasionally when at home”, says Wang.
In between the New York Show two weeks prior and RMAF in Denver, Wang had popped back to China for another week’s work on the software side of the Aries streamer.
“Software development is why the Aries is priced as it is”, says Wang. His software team certainly has their work cut out. There are reportedly seven developers working on the iOS and Android apps and three working on firmware. The Android app is expected to land in the Google Play store by the time CES rolls around in January and the iPhone app will drop at an unspecified date thereafter.
Wang’s frustration with Apple’s iOS app store is palpable. With an approval window of anything between 12 and 30 days, getting new versions to market isn’t as speedy as he’d like. Currently the iPad-only control app is at v1.4 with v1.5 waiting in the wings. The latter promises “server compatibility improvements” and the (ever vague) “bug fixes”.
Forthcoming firmware updates promise exciting goodies. Arriving at the end of October, v1.9 will add drivers for the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC and HiFace v1. Wang says users can expect to hear the effect of a reduction in display panel noise.
In the main room a full suite of AURALiC products can be found driving a pair of YG Carmel (US$18000): Aries streamer (US$1599) → Vega DAC (US$3499) → Taurus Pre (US$2199) → 2 x Merak monoblocks (US$5000).
Here Wang demonstrates an Aries feature due to arrive with yet another firmware update (v2.0?) in late November. Do you see the USB thumb drive protruding from the rear of the Aries? The need for a host PC or NAS drive is now obviated. Knockout! An initial HDD drive scan of 5000 tracks will take ten minutes after which much faster incremental scans keep the Aries song database up to date.
Support for Tidal’s forthcoming lossless streaming service is currently on schedule for inclusion sometime in November.
Clearly Wang is very pleased with Aries sales; it’s interesting to note that the version tricked out with the linear power supply (which I reviewed for 6moons here) is outselling its more affordable switch mode power-supplied version (US$999) five to one. This reminds me of the Astell&Kern AK120 outselling its junior AK100 by an even greater multiplier last year. Consumers are clearly prepared to stump up more cash for the better unit if the perceived value is great enough.
Given that the Aries offers a sound superior to that of a MacBook Air + USB converter and will soon no longer require a separate computer from which to source local library content it’s easy to see why. Anyone wanting to rid his or her hifi rack of a media server or consumer-grade PC should take a long look at the AURALiC Aries.
Further information: AURALiC