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Auralic Aries & Sonore microRendu listening impressions


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I had an opportunity to listen to my Sonore microRendu connected to my friend's system, and to do a mini shootout with the Auralic Aries.

 

 

HW setup:

* Music server: Intel NUC5i3MYBE board in Akasa fanless chassis, 500GB M.2 SSD, Windows 10 & MinimServer/MinimStreamer (FLAC-to-WAV decoding enabled)

* Wireless router: TP-Link Archer C3200 (one 5GHz radio band dedicated exclusively to Aries wireless streaming)

* DAC: Auralic Vega (clock mode: exact, filter mode: 1)

* Digital Crossover: Behringer DC2496 (crossover, EQ & time alignment settings in effect)

* XLR isolation transformers: Jensen PI-2XX x 3

* USB isolator: Intona USB Isolator (industrial edition)

* Power amplifiers: Benchmark AHB2 x 2

* Power conditioner: Furman Elite-20 PFi

* Balanced transformer: Furman IT1210

* Power supply for microRendu: Teradak 9V 30VA linear power supply, adjusted to 6.1V, modified with Panasonic & Nichicon caps and Cree SiC Schottky rectifiers

* Ethernet cable: CAT5e 10m

* USB cables: Wireworld Ultraviolet & Platinum Starlight

* XLR cables: Benchmark Studio&Stage

* Speaker cables: Benchmark Studio&Stage

* Controller: Apple iPad2

* Controller SW: Auralic Lightning DS (for Aries), Linn Kazoo (for microRendu)

 

 

* Streamer/Renderers:

* Auralic Aries (w/ Auralic LPS, wireless mode)

* Sonore microRendu

 

 

Aries/mR > [intona] > Vega DAC > Jensen #1 > DCX2496

> Jensen #2 (L) > Benchmark #1 (L) > KEF LS50 (L) & Lyngdorf Sub (L)

> Jensen #3 ® > Benchmark #2 ® > KEF LS50 ® & Lyngdorf Sub ®

 

 

* Balanced (XLR) connections from DAC output to amplifier inputs

* Amplifiers powered through Furman power conditioner & Furman balanced transformer

* Aries, Vega & DCX2496 powered through Furman power conditioner & individual DIY 100VA toroidal balanced transformers

* Only redbook CD (16/44.1) content was played

 

 

Observations:

* With Aries: Outstanding dynamics, micro details and realistic soundstage with expansive width, height and depth and accurate instrument & vocal sizes. Very smooth yet detailed and lively sound. Airy treble, solid & full midrange, engaging bass. Emotions of instrumental and vocal performers come through nicely.

 

 

* With mR: Very good presentation, no digital harshness, soundstage relatively flat & 1-dimensional, larger instrument & vocal sizes, treble slightly veiled, thinner vocals. Emotions of instrumental & vocal performers more difficult to perceive.

 

 

The mR did quite well in this setup, but was bested by the Aries. My friend commented that the mR sound reminded him of his Sony ES CD player of late 80's vintage.

 

 

With the Intona USB isolator inserted between the mR and Vega DAC, the sound characteristics improved and pulled closer to the Aries. The same Intona made no perceivable sonic difference for the Aries. I believe this is a testament of the excellence of the Aries USB output.

 

 

What's notable is how much sonic difference the streamer/renderer made driving the same DAC over the same interface and cable. This is possibly an example of the significance of synergy among components.

 

 

I will likely continue to evaluate the microRendu using different power supplies.

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1) There are 3 models of Aries. Can you confirm that your review was with full Aries (femto clocks) not Aries LE or Aries mini.

2) the recommendation I'm familiar with for microRendu is 7.5 v DC (same as REGEN). Why run it at 6.1 v?

 

Don't think it would change your end comparison but believe that if you trial Fidelizer Pro on your server you will find it improves transient

clarity results for both devices

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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Yes, full Aries with femto clocks. Both AES and USB links to Vega DAC were tried. With the XLR isolation transformers on the analog side of the DAC, the USB sounded better than the AES.

 

I set 6.1V for mR to help lower its power consumption. I suppose I can try 7.5V to compare. Thanks for the Fidelizer recommendation; been thinking about it and will tell my friend.

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Yes, full Aries with femto clocks. Both AES and USB links to Vega DAC were tried. With the XLR isolation transformers on the analog side of the DAC, the USB sounded better than the AES.

 

I set 6.1V for mR to help lower its power consumption. I suppose I can try 7.5V to compare. Thanks for the Fidelizer recommendation; been thinking about it and will tell my friend.

 

Thanks, appreciate the posted review. Reassuring I'm sure for all that bought the full Aries that the sledgehammer approach of femto clocks kept them "future proof".

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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Benchmark cables? I thought they didn't believe that better cables can improve sound quality.

 

microRendu's lower noise opened me up to details and timbre masked by the noisier Aries. Poor cabling could easily obscure that advantage.

 

It'll be interesting to take note of the cabling used when the Aries is compared to the microRendu and see if it correlates at all to which ends up being favored.

 

Something very off about the results above as I can't see how the microRendu could sound like that.

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Gustard X26pro DAC 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps, Stillpoints Aperture panels

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"Flat and one-dimensional" is definitely not the sound I'm getting with the microRendu. I find it to be much better than the Aries.

EtherRegen > SonicTransporter i9 > opticalRendu > Ayre QX-5 DAC > Ayre KX-R Twenty Preamp > Ayre MX-R Twenty mono amps > YG Kipod Signature Passive speakers.

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I also read more discussions report that mR sound better than Aries.

 

The Aries seems to come out on top when a better linear supply is used with the Aries. And as I suggest above, cabling may factor into which device is preferred.

 

It sounds like the Aries is going to get a firmware upgrade that should improve sound quality - though I think Wang said this won't help when using the Aries as a Roon endpoint.

 

Switching to Roon/HQP/microRendu stands as one of the best audio decisions I've made.

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Gustard X26pro DAC 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps, Stillpoints Aperture panels

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There are setup differences between Aries and microRendu, that may account for the sonic differences:

 

* Aries streamed wirelessly; microRendu streamed over an Ethernet cable

* Aries has been in the system for months; mR is new without extensive break-in

* Aries configuration has been optimized: no USB HDD attached, wireless streaming over a dedicated 5GHz radio band (no other wireless device connected)

* The Teradak LPSU for mR was not plugged through a toroidal balanced transformer (no spare available)

* The Teradak LPSU may not be the best power supply for mR, despite my HW mods; the 6.1V output I used may not yield optimal sound

 

I wonder if it would help to uninstall all unused apps from the microRendu. I generally believe better sound is achievable when the processor has less workload.

 

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon of listening and playing with all this stuff.

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There are setup differences between Aries and microRendu, that may account for the sonic differences:

 

* Aries streamed wirelessly; microRendu streamed over an Ethernet cable

* Aries has been in the system for months; mR is new without extensive break-in

* Aries configuration has been optimized: no USB HDD attached, wireless streaming over a dedicated 5GHz radio band (no other wireless device connected)

* The Teradak LPSU for mR was not plugged through a toroidal balanced transformer (no spare available)

* The Teradak LPSU may not be the best power supply for mR, despite my HW mods; the 6.1V output I used may not yield optimal sound

 

I wonder if it would help to uninstall all unused apps from the microRendu. I generally believe better sound is achievable when the processor has less workload.

 

 

The microRendu is beating music servers costing thousands more without uninstalling unused apps. It's not a device in need of software optimization IMHO. Though it most certainly benefits from a better power supply and burn-in may be a factor too.

 

The only optimization that delivered really noticeable improvements to the Aries was switching to optical fiber. I could never say confidently that wireless was better or worse than copper Ethernet.

 

The Aries is the only audiophile music streamer in a plastic case. I don't see how it can ever be as free of noise as its competitors products. The entire aim of the microRendu is to eliminate noise. This can easily be heard in a system where care was taken in selecting components and cabling that properly address noise.

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Gustard X26pro DAC 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps, Stillpoints Aperture panels

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Using a cat 5e Ethernet cable withe mR will have impact. I have found a huge difference between 5e and BJC 6e, supra cat 8 better than BJC, and an even bigger difference using Audioquest vodka. The PSU is also a major factor. I forget, is Teradak a recommended PSU? Considering the cost of the Aries, I think the JS2 or Sonore PSU would be necessary for a good comparison. I haven't heard the Aries, but compared to the Aurender N100, the mR had better detail using the iFi, nut less gravitas. and with the better PSU as much depth and gravitas are there. I'm also slightly surprised at the impact of the Intona, as the mR has USB Regen tech built in.

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  • 1 month later...

Just did round 2 of Aries Femto vs. uRendu. The changes relative to last time:

 

1. Aries firmware updated to 4.0.0, which defaults to RAM playback of files streaming from NAS.

 

2. uRendu configured in NAA mode. Control PC running HQPlayer & Windows Server 2012 R2 OS is based on a Gigabyte GA-H170TN thin mini-ITX motherboard with i7-6700T 35W CPU & 16GB of DDR3L memory and a Samsung 850 EVO 1TB M.2 SSD acting as both OS & music disk. A Netgear GS108v2 gigabit Ethernet switch connected this PC to the uRendu and the home network. LAN cable between uRendu and Control PC was a 1m CAT7 STP. uRendu USB output was run through an Intona USB isolator (industrial model) using a short USB A-to-B adapter. uRendu was powered with another modified Teradak 8.5V 1A LPSU adjusted to 6.25V output.

 

Played content was exclusively ripped-to-FLAC RedBook 44.1/16 just like last time. There was limited time to experiment with PCM oversampling filters, so only "none", "poly sinc", "IIR" and "FIR" were tried.

 

Similar to last time, the uRendu delivered very respectable sound with no discernible digital harshness.

 

With the Aries Femto, we (being my retired colleague and myself) perceived a more dynamic sound, wider soundstage and smaller individual instruments. The distinction between direct sounds and hall reverb sounds was easier to hear. What's striking is that compared to last time (Aries w/ 3.3 firmware), Aries delivered more micro details AND more smoothness at the same time. The sound did not come across as being smeared, in fact quite the opposite. Realism was stepped up another notch and we did not get the impression of the sound being overly dynamic, just more engaging and pleasurable to listen to. We believe the improvements are largely attributed to the memory-based playback. Having owned the Aries Femto for well over a year, it was quite shocking to hear extent of SQ improvement with just a firmware update. We have to give the folks at Auralic a big nod, for their amazing combination of great engineering and excellent ears.

 

Relatively speaking, the uRendu may be disadvantaged since it does not implement memory-based playback in any supported mode, as far as I can tell. During playback the activity lights on uRendu and the Ethernet switch blinked continuously. I'm not sure which of the uRendu player modes would be amenable to implement memory-based playback, but this should help get it to a more level playing field with the Aries Femto.

 

One tweak that I did not apply to the uRendu for this session was Ethernet optical isolation, as I encountered some audio playback cutoffs during its setup just before the session. I had wanted to achieve galvanic isolation on both Ethernet and USB side of uRendu, but held off on the Ethernet side due to concerns of the sessions getting wrecked. Today, the same optical isolation setup based on a pair of TP-Link MC210CS is performing flawlessly with no cutoffs, though I did update the Realtek LAN driver on the Control PC and adjusted its advanced settings. Thus, Ethernet optical isolation and a better linear power supply are at least two things that I can apply to the uRendu setup, though these will need to be queued up for the next audition at the same venue.

 

One possibility of the sonic differences between these two setups that haven't been discussed extensively is equipment synergy. The Aries Femto appears to have excellent synergy with the Vega DAC used for these auditioning sessions. The Vega DAC is supposed to have a high degree of incoming jitter immunity but in practice, the quality of the incoming USB signal still impacts the SQ significantly, and the Vega has sensitivity to the quality of AC power coming into it. The Aries femto clocks appear to support Vega operating optimally, with great sonic payout as a result. I think this is an example of the renderer and DAC both being capable of influencing the sound.

 

I have very high regard for uRendu, as it is very good out-of-the-box, and was hoping I could get it to match or exceed the Aries Femto in SQ. I don't contest others hearing better sound from their uRendu vs. the Aries, as this is distinctly possible given different HW setups. Being a newer product the uRendu has perhaps a greater prospect of achieving tangible improvements in synergy and thus SQ with a variety of setups.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I look forward to your findings when you use the mR with network isolation, I have just done this with excellent results: Detail; Removal of digital edge; and, spacial cues leading to some wonderful imaging.

 

I found a real boost in frequency extremes moving from CAT5e > AQ Cinnamon.

 

I am using an Sbooster LPSU - 6v.

 

M

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I now have an UpTone LPS-1, EMO Systems EN-70HD Ethernet isolator and a SBooster VBus2, so these will be used with the microRendu for the next listening session.

 

At my friend's place, the wireless router and music server are some 30 feet away from the audio gear. I'm contemplating how to get a good Ethernet connection of that length to bring the microRendu close to the DAC. Options:

 

* 30 feet BJC CAT6a cable + EN-70HD isolator + 1 foot CAT7 cable

* Dual TrendNet TFC-1000MGA FMCs + 30 feet of fiber optic cable + UpTone LPS-1 (for downstream FMC) + 1 foot CAT7 cable

 

The only part I currently don't have is the 30 feet BJC CAT6a cable, so I should place an order with BJC...

 

I also have a Baaske MI 1005 Ethernet isolator on order to compare with the EN-70HD.

 

Another experiment would be to hear how Aries Femto handles streaming over Ethernet instead of over dedicated 5GHz wireless, using one of the above Ethernet setups intended for the microRendu. I also picked up an Sbooster 15V LPSU that can be compared with Auralic's LPS.

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Your findings should be interesting - probably the most in depth shootout of the Aries and microRendu posted here.

 

I now have an UpTone LPS-1, EMO Systems EN-70HD Ethernet isolator and a SBooster VBus2, so these will be used with the microRendu for the next listening session.

 

At my friend's place, the wireless router and music server are some 30 feet away from the audio gear. I'm contemplating how to get a good Ethernet connection of that length to bring the microRendu close to the DAC. Options:

 

* 30 feet BJC CAT6a cable + EN-70HD isolator + 1 foot CAT7 cable

* Dual TrendNet TFC-1000MGA FMCs + 30 feet of fiber optic cable + UpTone LPS-1 (for downstream FMC) + 1 foot CAT7 cable

 

The only part I currently don't have is the 30 feet BJC CAT6a cable, so I should place an order with BJC...

 

I also have a Baaske MI 1005 Ethernet isolator on order to compare with the EN-70HD.

 

Another experiment would be to hear how Aries Femto handles streaming over Ethernet instead of over dedicated 5GHz wireless, using one of the above Ethernet setups intended for the microRendu. I also picked up an Sbooster 15V LPSU that can be compared with Auralic's LPS.

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Hi Scan,

 

WRT using a optical bridge: It is recommended that you DON'T use gigabyte optical, this can overload the mR and according to Mr Swenson is noisier. I am using TP-Link 10/100 boxes.

 

M

 

I think my TrendNet FMCs can talk at 100Mbps, but since just about everything talking Ethernet in the house is gigabit, I'll need to insert a 10/100Mbps switch between the microRendu and the gigabit switch it is hooked up to, to force the link speed down.

 

Thanks for the note. This will be yet another experiment to sonically compare microRendu being fed at 100Mbos vs. gigabit.

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My next listening session with the microRendu will be set up with the following:

 

* Power: UpTone SuperCap LPS-1 power supply (set to 7V), with iPower iFi 9V or Teradak 30W LPS (set to 7.5V) as energizing supply

 

* USB: Intona USB isolator (industrial edition), Sbooster VBus2, Wyred4Sound Recovery powered by second LPS-1

 

* Ethernet: EMO Systems EN-70HD or Baaske MI-1005 Ethernet isolator, Netgear FS105 switch (to force microRendu to 100Mb/s), BJC CAT6a cables

 

This is about as much isolation and signal conditioning I can think of to apply to the microRendu. Suggestions on alternatives are welcome, but the above should make it an interesting session.

 

If time allows I plan to try a Sbooster BOTW 15V LPS with the Aries Femto. I hope to schedule this session with my friend within a week or two.

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My next listening session with the microRendu will be set up with the following:

 

* Power: UpTone SuperCap LPS-1 power supply (set to 7V), with iPower iFi 9V or Teradak 30W LPS (set to 7.5V) as energizing supply

 

* USB: Intona USB isolator (industrial edition), Sbooster VBus2, Wyred4Sound Recovery powered by second LPS-1

 

* Ethernet: EMO Systems EN-70HD or Baaske MI-1005 Ethernet isolator, Netgear FS105 switch (to force microRendu to 100Mb/s), BJC CAT6a cables

 

This is about as much isolation and signal conditioning I can think of to apply to the microRendu. Suggestions on alternatives are welcome, but the above should make it an interesting session.

 

If time allows I plan to try a Sbooster BOTW 15V LPS with the Aries Femto. I hope to schedule this session with my friend within a week or two.

 

I am really looking forward to your findings. This should be very interesting!

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My next listening session with the microRendu will be set up with the following:

 

* Power: UpTone SuperCap LPS-1 power supply (set to 7V), with iPower iFi 9V or Teradak 30W LPS (set to 7.5V) as energizing supply

 

* USB: Intona USB isolator (industrial edition), Sbooster VBus2, Wyred4Sound Recovery powered by second LPS-1

 

* Ethernet: EMO Systems EN-70HD or Baaske MI-1005 Ethernet isolator, Netgear FS105 switch (to force microRendu to 100Mb/s), BJC CAT6a cables

 

This is about as much isolation and signal conditioning I can think of to apply to the microRendu. Suggestions on alternatives are welcome, but the above should make it an interesting session.

 

If time allows I plan to try a Sbooster BOTW 15V LPS with the Aries Femto. I hope to schedule this session with my friend within a week or two.

Any plans of powering the LPS-1 from a battery as a test alternative?

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My next listening session with the microRendu will be set up with the following:

 

* Power: UpTone SuperCap LPS-1 power supply (set to 7V), with iPower iFi 9V or Teradak 30W LPS (set to 7.5V) as energizing supply

 

* USB: Intona USB isolator (industrial edition), Sbooster VBus2, Wyred4Sound Recovery powered by second LPS-1

 

* Ethernet: EMO Systems EN-70HD or Baaske MI-1005 Ethernet isolator, Netgear FS105 switch (to force microRendu to 100Mb/s), BJC CAT6a cables

 

This is about as much isolation and signal conditioning I can think of to apply to the microRendu. Suggestions on alternatives are welcome, but the above should make it an interesting session.

 

If time allows I plan to try a Sbooster BOTW 15V LPS with the Aries Femto. I hope to schedule this session with my friend within a week or two.

 

I think you are missing the most obvious setup. UpTone SuperCap LPS-1 power supply (set to 7V) -> microRendu -> DAC. Nothing before and nothing after.

 

Are you comparing USB outputs on both devices.

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I think you are missing the most obvious setup. UpTone SuperCap LPS-1 power supply (set to 7V) -> microRendu -> DAC. Nothing before and nothing after.

 

Are you comparing USB outputs on both devices.

 

Yes, this is the cleanest setup and I should start this way. I do want a good 30-feet Ethernet cable to link the microRendu to the wireless router at my friend's house, so I have ordered a CAT6a cable from BJC. Using the LPS-1 will be the main difference vs. the previous session.

 

And yes, the comparison will be using USB output on both microRendu and Aries Femto, just like last time, feeding the same DAC: Auralic Vega.

 

Per the microRendu design, USB isolation/signal conditioning and Ethernet isolation are built-in so external isolation should not be needed, but since I have these isolators on hand, it would be educational to try them and confirm no incremental SQ benefit with the microRendu.

 

By the way, I need to apologize for calling the UpTone LPS-1 "SuperCap". The correct name is "UltraCap". I keep thinking about the super capacitors sitting inside...

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Any plans of powering the LPS-1 from a battery as a test alternative?

 

I don't have a battery suitable for powering the LPS-1 and won't get one in time for the next session which may be this Friday.

 

The energizing supply for the LPS-1 will be plugged into a balanced transformer at my friend's place, so the effects of this supply contaminating the wall AC should be minimized.

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