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The Computer Audiophile

Article: AURALiC ARIES MINI and Lightning DS Review

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Had an LE for a while, got fed up of living in an never ending eco system where the sound changed on every upgrade.

Ditched it after a year and moved to a SONOS driven system with full integration with Apple Music and my Mac Mini and have never looked back.


Setup:

Amazon Music HD >Bluesound Node2i> Antelope Zodiac Gold with Voltikus PSU > Austin Trew AT5000 > Focal 806

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Love that review Chris! :) I absolutely love my Aries Mini and think it is a a device that can grow with you for a very long time. Adding a better wireless router, better DAC, better cables and better PSU and you are in heaven! :) I personally use BubbleDS Next as a control point for Aries Mini and think it actually sounds slightly better (with Tidal as source in my setup) than LightningDS.


       Auralic Aries Mini, Ariston RD40 & Mytek Brooklyn DAC system

          with Fostex TH900 & Gibson Les Paul 8 reference monitors

                    For detailed info see Audio System and About Me

                                  

  Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others. Graucho Marx

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I was really fired up about the Aries Mini and couldn't wait for it to be released. Once it was released, the price was higher than they had predicted and, the real deal breaker, it's geared only to crApple users. My search for a renderer, that can handle 100,000+ tracks, and an android-based controller app, with a good GUI, continues. The ELAC Discovery Server would have been a great solution had they not crippled it with a 15,000 track limitation.

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Can't believe how people can live with the restrictions of the LightningDS app.

Did they never use a full featured app like JRiver Mediacenter?

 

Because most people do not know enough about computers etc to do that. I had lots of trouble getting the standard software up and running.


[br]

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Can't believe how people can live with the restrictions of the LightningDS app.

Did they never use a full featured app like JRiver Mediacenter?

 

For me personally JRiver was one of the worst experiances ever..both in usabillity and SQ. Do yourself a favour and atleast try JplayStreamer with BubbleDS Next which is a major step-up in SQ IMO. Even the latest version of LigthingDS is better than JRiver to me.

Edited by Cornan

       Auralic Aries Mini, Ariston RD40 & Mytek Brooklyn DAC system

          with Fostex TH900 & Gibson Les Paul 8 reference monitors

                    For detailed info see Audio System and About Me

                                  

  Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others. Graucho Marx

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I was really fired up about the Aries Mini and couldn't wait for it to be released. Once it was released, the price was higher than they had predicted and, the real deal breaker, it's geared only to crApple users. My search for a renderer, that can handle 100,000+ tracks, and an android-based controller app, with a good GUI, continues. The ELAC Discovery Server would have been a great solution had they not crippled it with a 15,000 track limitation.

 

 

MinimServer (MinimServer) + BubbleUPnP ([APP][4.0+][v2.7.1] BubbleUPnP - UPnP/DLNA/C… | Android Development and Hacking) with the renderer of your choice or build one with MPD (https://www.musicpd.org/) + UPMPDCLI (An UPnP Audio Media Renderer based on MPD)

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With all due respect, you're recommending a solution for the learned and computer savvy audiophile, not necessarily the target audience for the ARIES MINI.


Founder of Audiophile Style

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I was really fired up about the Aries Mini and couldn't wait for it to be released. Once it was released, the price was higher than they had predicted and, the real deal breaker, it's geared only to crApple users. My search for a renderer, that can handle 100,000+ tracks, and an android-based controller app, with a good GUI, continues. The ELAC Discovery Server would have been a great solution had they not crippled it with a 15,000 track limitation.

 

I agree with you on a couple of points: The Aries Mini looked liked just what I was looking for but I don't travel in the Apple sphrere of influence. And yes, it is a shame that the ELAC is coming out crippled for capacity.

 

Oh Well!


Jim

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Bought an Aries Mini with much trepidation. We have an Exasound E22 in our main media space and it's stunning. I needed something for my studio space, which was still basically streaming to a Logitech Transporter, which while it didn't sound bad with everything, sounded way worse than the Exasound for anything that was not compressed, but still sounded as good as or better with compressed files. However... my studio sound system's weakest link was the Transporter. I tried a Bluesound Node2 but weirdly, it was half the volume of the other components connected to the integrated amp, and tech support at Bluesound had now answers (and I was not alone... four other people posting.) Got my refund on that and then bought the Aries Mini.

 

Based on reviews, I also bought the Aries power supply, initially ran it with the wall wart supply. I don't find the Lightning DS app to be so intuitive, but I know that may be because I've got years of using JRiver's JRemote, and habit is a powerful thing. The unit I bought was tagged as an "open box" which caused issues... when you initially set up the Mini, it asks for your email and a password, and since my unit had been set up once, it took me a week before someone at Auralic reset the system.

 

No surprise, it's not as awesome as the Exasound e22. But, it's really, really good. Better than any of the Logitech systems I still have, better than the Bluesound Node2 (although with the low level output I had to turn the integrated amp WAY WAY up). Better sounding than the DAC in my multichannel preamp, better than a few low cost DACs I've heard in other situations.

 

I find the Lightning app to be ok. Not intuitive, but really, a huge part of that is probably my familiarity with JRemote. Every interface behaves differently, and I struggled to not play one song ad infinitum, then to not have the same album show up no matter what else I wanted to play. But once I figured out the basics (the documentation is, um, well, great if you developed the UI... but for someone who's on his third or fourth streaming UI, kind of weak) I was happy to enjoy the sound.

 

It sounds really good with the wall wart power supply. Then I added in the Auralic linear supply - having unpacked it very carefully, so I could return it without objection if it wasn't a big jump in sound. Took me less than 5 minutes to decide to ditch the packing material. The Aries Mini sounds totally different with the linear supply, different meaning deeper, wider, clearer. Made me wonder if I should have acquired the Auralic Altair, which includes a linear power supply plus networking plus DAC, and Auralic says isn't an Aries DAC plus networking. Dunno. I'd love to see an analysis of the Altair vs the Mini with power supply. I have one more location where I need to replace older streaming gear, and that's my dilemma now - Altair or Mini + power supply.

 

I think Auralic did a great job with the Mini. I'm very happy with it. Other than when I am going to turn the lights down to barely on and listen deep into music (for which I use the Exasound DAC, about 6x the price), I need something that sounds good enough to make me happy and productive when working, but not necessarily low lights deep listening quality. I think it's going to be everything I want to listen to when I'm not only listening.

 

BTW, the price in the US includes a year of Tidal. I was rolling my eyes on that until I started using Tidal. The Aries Mini is exceptionally good with Redbook quality, and therefore with Tidal. I realized that it's given me a "free" Tidal subscription because I'd placed zero value on that aspect of the purchase. At least in the US... it's impossible to imagine a $300-$400 streaming DAC (in other words net of the Tidal subscription) what would sound this good.

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My understanding is the mini still does not act as a Roon endpoint, is that correct?


Roon ->allo Sparky-USBridge w/ SBooster 5V LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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I had Aries mini + sbooster for 8 moths and in the end I must say that Raspberry 3/Digi+ board/IFI iPower/Max2play OS/LMS(Logitech media server) sounds better and still you can use it via Wifi(actually it sounds better over Wifi). If you need also DAC, still I think that there are much better choices like Raspberry 3/Digi+ board/IFI iPower/Max2play/LMS + Shiit Modi Multibit DAC 250$. And if you need to spend this kind of money for streamer just go with Sonore microRendu!

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I had Aries mini + sbooster for 8 moths and in the end I must say that Raspberry 3/Digi+ board/IFI iPower/Max2play OS/LMS(Logitech media server) sounds better and still you can use it via Wifi(actually it sounds better over Wifi). If you need also DAC, still I think that there are much better choices like Raspberry 3/Digi+ board/IFI iPower/Max2play/LMS + Shiit Modi Multibit DAC 250$. And if you need to spend this kind of money for streamer just go with Sonore microRendu!

All nice suggestions except for the fact they are either not for the target market of the ARIES MINI or they aren't 1:1 comparable products.


Founder of Audiophile Style

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With all due respect, you're recommending a solution for the learned and computer savvy audiophile, not necessarily the target audience for the ARIES MINI.

@The Computer Audiophile:

 

While I would blush a little to be called one (computer savvy audiophile), I probably am one. Given that you published this review here on this site, your readers are probably more like me than the so-called "target audience for the Aries Mini." And yet, the Aries Mini appealed to me tremendously, and I bought one.

 

My point is that given your positive review of the Aries Mini, it would have behooved you to also point out how well it scales for, and therefore may be applicable to, those with more high-end aspirations, and yes, more savvy. I use the Aries Mini in a system that looks more familiar to a CA reader, like shown below.

 

Playback chain:

Synology DS213 NAS running MinimServer <- wired home network -> FMC (TP-Link MC200CM) <- MM fiber -> FMC <- Blue Jeans Cat 6a -> Auralic Aries Mini <- Cardas Clear USB -> Ayre Codex <- Pangea analog balanced XLR -> Cavalli Liquid Gold <- Moon Black Dragon balanced cable -> HD800 headphones

 

And this does not even cover my current experiments with an Intona, W4S Recovery, Curious cables, etc. The Aries Mini holds its own very well in this setup. Moreover, and to the point of scalability, it conveys the impact of improvements in the chain (like the additon of an LPS, network and USB isolation, better external DACs) without itself becoming a bottleneck.

 

I realize you're using the term target audience to mirror Auralic's own marketing. But Auralic have to walk a fine line so as not to cannibalize sales for their other products like the Aries and the Altair.

 

On this forum, we should feel no constraint. The Aries Mini is a wonderful product, for non-audiophiles and computer audiophiles alike!

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@The Computer Audiophile:

 

While I would blush a little to be called one (computer savvy audiophile), I probably am one. Given that you published this review here on this site, your readers are probably more like me than the so-called "target audience for the Aries Mini." And yet, the Aries Mini appealed to me tremendously, and I bought one.

 

My point is that given your positive review of the Aries Mini, it would have behooved you to also point out how well it scales for, and therefore may be applicable to, those with more high-end aspirations, and yes, more savvy. I use the Aries Mini in a system that looks more familiar to a CA reader, like shown below.

 

Playback chain:

Synology DS213 NAS running MinimServer FMC (TP-Link MC200CM) FMC Auralic Aries Mini Ayre Codex Cavalli Liquid Gold HD800 headphones

 

And this does not even cover my current experiments with an Intona, W4S Recovery, Curious cables, etc. The Aries Mini holds its own very well in this setup. Moreover, and to the point of scalability, it conveys the impact of improvements in the chain (like the additon of an LPS, network and USB isolation, better external DACs) without itself becoming a bottleneck.

 

I realize you're using the term target audience to mirror Auralic's own marketing. But Auralic have to walk a fine line so as not to cannibalize sales for their other products like the Aries and the Altair.

 

On this forum, we should feel no constraint. The Aries Mini is a wonderful product, for non-audiophiles and computer audiophiles alike!

 

Hi @austinpop - With over 1.5 million unique readers from nearly every country on earth, and knowing that less than 1% of these readers post in the forum, I'm not sure your assessment of the CA readership is correct. Yes, the active CA user community tends to be computer savvy and understand the differences between a UPnP server, renderer, and control point. But, the read-only users tend to get intimidated by the technical aspects that these readers enjoy. In addition, many readers come to CA from Google search results. These readers have never heard of anything other than Bose and Sonos (on a good day). Writing an article that can be digested by those readers, about a product designed for those readers, was my main goal here. At several thousand words, I had to draw the line somewhere and cut out some of my writing that addressed a more technical audience. I also knew that people would comment and ask more technical questions, this way a deeper discussion could take place below the review. One example of this is your comment describing the MINI's use as a higher end component. I touched on the fact that the MINI shouldn't be a bottleneck, and you bolstered this opinion. This is great information for people, that I didn't include in the review.

 

 

The term "target audience / market" has been around a lot longer than AURALiC or even I have existed. If they happen to be using it in their marketing it is coincidental to my use in this review. Using the term just makes sense. With respect to the company walking a fine line and cannibalizing products - Steve Jobs was right when he said, cannibalize your own products before someone else does. I don't speak for AURALiC and don't really know the company's thoughts on the matter.

 

I agree with you that there is no constraint on the use of the product. Different horses for different courses.

 

Thanks for the honest feedback. I'm very happy to read you enjoy the MINI so much and have taken advantage of methods to raise your system sound quality with ancillary products. Very cool.


Founder of Audiophile Style

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Understood, and your points are well taken.

 

I came at the Aries Mini as a former Logitech Touch user, so I just wanted to point out to those looking for a modern renderer to consider the Aries Mini too.

 

To those who would argue that the Sonore microRendu is more suitable, that may well be. It wasn't out at the time I bought the Aries Mini. At some point I would love to compare the two.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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All nice suggestions except for the fact they are either not for the target market of the ARIES MINI or they aren't 1:1 comparable products.

 

So Aries mini is basically for people who doesn't care about sound quality, but easy of use. In that case Aries mini should sell in Best Buy :-D

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I don't follow your logic.

 

For what it is price is too high. You can have Raspberry Pi 3 for 35$, HiFiBerry Digi+ for 40$ and IFi iPower for 50$ .That is 125$ in total and still it sounds better than Aries mini 500$ .That is just not good value. Even if you add Shitt Modi Multibit 250$ it is still 375$. Even if you add 300$ linear power supply for the aries mini it can't match Raspberry rig. With linear power supply we arfe getting to 800$ and for less you can have microRendu 690$(with IFi iPower)[h=1][/h]

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For what it is price is too high. You can have Raspberry Pi 3 for 35$, HiFiBerry Digi+ for 40$ and IFi iPower for 50$ .That is 125$ in total and still it sounds better than Aries mini 500$ .That is just not good value. Even if you add Shitt Modi Multibit 250$ it is still 375$. Even if you add 300$ linear power supply for the aries mini it can't match Raspberry rig. With linear power supply we arfe getting to 800$ and for less you can have microRendu 690$(with IFi iPower)[h=1][/h]

 

Have you personally done these comparisons head to head? And personally heard the sonic differences you claim?

 

If so - very interesting.

 

If not - then it's just speculation.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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For what it is price is too high. You can have Raspberry Pi 3 for 35$, HiFiBerry Digi+ for 40$ and IFi iPower for 50$ .That is 125$ in total and still it sounds better than Aries mini 500$ .That is just not good value. Even if you add Shitt Modi Multibit 250$ it is still 375$. Even if you add 300$ linear power supply for the aries mini it can't match Raspberry rig. With linear power supply we arfe getting to 800$ and for less you can have microRendu 690$(with IFi iPower)

OK now I see what you're saying. You are saying apples are better than oranges. Not Apple B is better than Apple C. No worries.


Founder of Audiophile Style

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