Minimalism – it’s an isn’t-ism. Most noticeable inside AURALiC’s Marriott hotel room was that which wasn’t: a full-size hifi rack loaded with amplifiers, power supplies, a DAC and music server.
I met with AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang the day before RMAF kicked off and his anguished face was not the product of stress but a long hike through the Rocky Mountain National Park. “It’s easy – unpack three boxes and we are good to go!” he beamed.
Those three boxes: two containing the Dynaudio Xeo 4 active loudspeakers, their stands and the Connect wifi interlink that would transmit audio from the contents of the third box: AURALiC’s soon to be released (yes, finally) Aries Mini digital audio streamer (dressed in white). The latter two similarly-sized pieces of hardware would sit on a side table, hiding source material provider and DAC in plain sight. Clever, huh?
D/A conversion came from within the Mini itself. So too did source material: one-upping its pricier forerunner still further, the Aries Mini accommodates a user-supplied internal laptop-sized HDD or SSD.
AURALiC had fitted a drive inside the white Mini to: a) stream content to a second (black) Aries that could be seen firing into a pair of Audioengine A5+ as one entered the room and b) act as back up in the event that Tidal Hifi streaming refused to play ball. AURALiC had hooked the hotel room’s Ethernet cable into a router, created their own in-room LAN and streamed lossless audio from the Internet all weekend long, reportedly without any glitches.
Six months on from the Mini’s launch at the Munich High End Show (covered here) I asked “What’s new?”:
1) The Aries Mini’s price has been lifted from US$399 to US$549 – the result of accommodating sufficient dealer margin to guarantee its retail store presence (according to a confidential source and NOT AURALiC themselves). Store demos and post-purchase coverage don’t come for free.
2) Softening the potential financial blow to interested parties who didn’t jump in at time of pre-order is a year’s subscription to Tidal Hifi, supplied completely free of charge to Stateside consumers only. Buyers should note that this streaming bonus arrives not in the in the form of a voucher but is activated from within the Lightning DS app used to setup and control the Aries/Mini. Which brings us to…
3) The Android version of the Lightning DS app will see no further development; it’ll remain as is – functional but with questionable stability. “Android is a master of pain – too many versions,” explained a frustrated Wang.
4) Androiders can either console themselves with the newly-added Bluetooth streaming feature (unlikely IMO) or…
5) Wait for the forthcoming browser-based HTML5 replacement that’ll also bring Windows and OS X into the remote control fold.
6) The iPhone remote app is still ‘coming VERY soon’.
7) The linear power supply that ships with Aries will be offered as optional extra to the Aries Mini for US$299.
8) Roon? Wang is still waiting on supply of the RoonSpeakers code. When I later met with Enno Vandermeer and Rob Darling of Roon Labs they explained how the ‘RoonSpeakers’ name was going away but the Linux OS code is almost ready to travel down Interweb wires to third party manufacturers like AURALiC.
9) On manufacturing delays, it seems that a seemingly more relaxed Wang (in Denver at least) has been tearing his hair out. The most recent of which was reportedly attributable to the Chinese government who ordered all factories closed for two weeks in observance of a national holiday.
10) The Aries Mini has already begun shipping to Europe. Australia gets theirs in October, end of, and the USA will be supplied shortly thereafter.
Without all the clutter the AURALiC room was a most enjoyable place to sit, chat and listen. Whilst chatting with Wang, his PR dude Bryan Stanton and Audiostream’s Michael Lavorgna, I suggested that hifi’s future relevance, especially to the broader market, doesn’t only depend on price – although it helps – but also on the physical intrusion of the hardware that makes music happen.
Further information: AURALiC
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