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John Darko
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Macbook Air 2011 w/ Audirvana+ and Resonessence Labs Concero HD, Antipodes DXe music server, VPi Scout 1.1 w/ PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter
DACs: Schiit Bifrost Uber, Resonessence Labs Concero HD/HP, AURALiC Vega, Aqua La Scala MKII, PS Audio DirectStream
Amps: Redgum RGi60 [on loan], Redgum RGi35 Black Series [on loan]
Speakers: Zu Soul MkII, Magnepan MMG
Headphones: MrSpeakers Alpha Dog [on loan], Sennheiser HD800 [on loan], Audeze LCD-X [on loan], KEF M500, MrSpeakers MadDog
Headphone DAC/amplifiers: Resonessence Labs Herus and Concero HP, Schiit Vali, AURALiC Taurus MKII
Cabling: Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB cable, Blue Jean speaker cable and interconnect, Zu Mission interconnect, Schiit Audio Pyst interconnect, Grave Science balanced interconnect
component retail: $1'599/€1'499 for standard version(reviewed, $999/€999  for LE version.

Burst bubble. In considering the Aries digital audio streamer from Beijing’s AURALiC, don’t expect the attractive brushed aluminium finish of their Vega DAC or Taurus MKII headphone amplifier. A metal chassis isn’t conducive to reliable WiFi reception without antenna. Thus, the Aries is an all-plastic affair. It’s also smaller than AURALiC’s own press shots might suggest. At 25 x 20 x 7cm and 0.8kg, the Aries is about the size/weight of a chunky hardcover book. Adding weight to the scene is AURALiC’s Pure-Power™-based 10uV low-noise external linear power brick. Stateside retail pricing is set at $1’599. If you find such pricing too robust for your wallet, an SMPS-powered LE version is available for $999.

The extra 600 clams don’t just get you a better power supply. They also net you "two individual 240fs Femto clocks for both USB audio host and digital outputs; and a low noise internal design to eliminate jitter". The Aries doesn’t offer any user-accessible internal storage or internal D/A conversion. Once connected to your home network (wired or wirelessly), it streams music from externally hosted sources to your existing DAC.

This is not an off-the-shelf solution. AURALiC’s engineers have developed their Tesla hardware platform from the ground up as "a quad-core ARM Coretex-A9 processor running at 1GHz with 1GB DDR3 onboard memory and 4GB of internal storage". A 4MB custom Linux operating system handles the digital audio stream from input to output.

On the front panel, the orange-on-black glow of a 3-inch OLED display—a scaled down version of that found on AURALiC’s flagship Vega DAC—shows playback status, playlist song count and progress bar. Around back there are inputs including Gigabit Ethernet for direct connection to a home router and USB for hooking in an external storage drive chock full of tunes. The Aries can decode AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV and WV and even WMA! It also plays nice with .dsf and .dff files – DSD to you and me.