Using a standard Mac or PC as a network streamer – WiFi/Ethernet in, USB out – will only get you so far on sound quality. So too will patching the Mac or PC’s electrically noisy USB output with filters and/or USB re-clockers. Adding a linear power supply to a desktop PC might bring an audible improvement but it doesn’t bypass (or disable) the noisy switching power supplies and regulators running on the motherboard.
For extracting better performance from our downstream DAC, we need a network streamer that has been built to satisfy audiophile sensibilities: a motherboard and digital outputs with lower electrical noise and lower jitter. (I’m starting to think that noise is a bigger problem that jitter).
Into the Aries G1 network streamer (US$2199), AURALiC have dropped a pair of ‘Pure Power’ low noise linear power supplies, one to fuel each one of its Femto-clocked digital outputs – USB, coaxial, TOSLINK and AES/EBU – and one to juice the streaming (mother)board that plays catch on incoming streams from the home network and the cloud.
Inside the Aries G1 (and G2) we find the latest iteration of AURALiC’s Tesla platform – the motherboard of this digital audio computer – where we note a 1.2GHz Quad-core CPU that’s 50% faster than inside the outgoing model. There’s also twice the system RAM (2GB) and 8GB of SSD storage for the AURALiC’s in-house developed Lightning DS software platform to store its library index data. Here we can stream from a LAN server, from a USB hard drive connected to the G1’s rear, from Tidal, from Qobuz or from vTuner Internet radio.
Lightning DS also makes use of an additional 1GB of temporary storage for buffering its streaming output to ensure bit-perfect, gapless playback and proper multi-room synchronisation, even when operating at its 32bit/384kHz PCM or DSD512 sample rate ceiling.
For those of us not in possession of an iOS device (iPhone or iPad) required for Lightning DS’ library navigation and playback control, the G1 gives us access to its streaming guts (minus the playback buffer) via Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay and Roon.
However, most obvious of all when putting this new Aries next to the outgoing version (that I reviewed for 6moons back in 2014) is its larger form factor, its black-finished aluminium chassis and, icing the cake, a 10cm Retina display for showing “now playing” cover art and the device’s (deep) configuration menu system.
Over the past few weeks, I have put the Aries G1 through its paces, first with an active loudspeaker system from Kii Audio, then a passive loudspeaker system from Harbeth: the Compact 7-ES3 on Tontrager stands, driven by a Hegel H190 integrated and fronted by Schiit Yggdrasil Analog 2 over a balanced XLR connection.
Time to sit back, push play and hit the full-screen button:
Further information: AURALiC