ARIES G2 is the latest iteration of the company’s ARIES wireless streaming device. Instead of just applying evolutionary upgrade, AURALiC seems to significantly revamp the product with cutting-edge transfer protocols, faster processing, enhanced isolation engineering, and a new chassis.

The ARIES G2 uses Tesla G2 platform, which packs 50% faster processor and twice the system memory and storage capacity than the company’s previous Tesla platform. It is capable of wirelessly streaming, through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, high-resolution music formats up to DSD512 or PCM 32 bit/384 kHz. It is also compatible with AirPlay and Roon Ready. AURALiC clearly emphasizes the maintenance of the purity of the signals in the ARIES G2 by employing methods for reducing interference and noise such as digital audio galvanic isolation and dual linear power supplies. Additionally, dual femto clocks are used to further reduce jitter across the different types of ARIES G2 outputs. The chassis of the ARIES G2 is machined from a single aluminum billet and equipped with specially designed foot spikes for superior vibration dampening. The ARIES G2 is also equipped with Lightning Link, which is a low jitter, bi-directional 18 Gbps coupling connector, for connection with certain AURALiC devices for improved data synchronization. ARIES G2 carries a price tag of $3899.

AURALiC ARIES G2 wireless streamer

Highlights

AURALiC ARIES G2 Wireless Streaming Transporter

  • Unity chassis with excellent construction quality and finish.
  • 4-inch high-resolution true-color front-panel display.
  • High-resolution wireless Bluetooth and network streaming capability up to DSD512 and PCM 32 bit/384 kHz.
  • Versatile connectivity with AES/coaxial/optical digital outputs and high-speed USB output.
  • Smart IR remote control feature.
  • Wireless playback control using mobile devices or tablets.
  • Lightning DS control app for iOS and Lightning web interface for other platforms.
  • Fast streaming file access.
  • Excellent sonic performance.
Introduction

The name AURALiC is no stranger to me. The brand has become more popular in the US market and garnered wider customer base in recent years. I have reviewed two of their products in the past year and if you are a regular reader of this magazine, you should know that AURALiC products seem to have the knack to impress this reviewer. It seems to reach the point where once its product enters my ecosystem, it never leaves. I find it hard to show the door to a product that adds significantly to my listening enjoyment.

AURALIC ARIES WIRELESS STREAMING TRANSPORTER SPECIFICATIONS
Streaming File Formats:

Lossless: AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, OGG, WAV and WV
Lossy: AAC, MP3, MQA and WMA

Sampling Rates:

PCM: 44.1KHz to 384KHz in 32Bit
DSD: DSD64(2.8224MHz), DSD128(5.6448MHz)
DSD256(11.2896MHz), DSD512(22.57892MHz)

Control Software:

AURALiC Lightning DS for iOS
AURALiC Lightning DS for web browser (device settings only)
OpenHome compatible control software (BubbleUPnP, Kazoo)
Roon (Roon Core required separately)

Streaming Inputs:

Network shared folder, USB Drive, UPnP/DLNA Media Server, native TIDAL and Qobuz Sublime+ streaming, Internet Radio, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Songcast, RoonReady

Audio Outputs:

AURALiC Lightning Link
Digital Outputs: AES/EBU, Coaxial, Toslink
USB Output: USB Host to compatible DAC

Network:

Wired: Gigabit Ethernet
Wireless: 802.11b/g/n/ac Tri-Band WiFi

Power Consumption:

Sleep: <10W Playback: 50W max

Dimensions (W x D x H):

13.4 x 12.6 x 3.2 in. (34cm x 32cm x 8cm)

Weight:

15.9 lbs (7.2kg)

MSRP:

$3899

TITLESPEC:

DESCRIPTION

Company:

Auralic

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AURALiC ARIES G2, AURALiC ARIES, Wireless Streaming Transporter, Wireless Streaming Transporter Review 2018

It should be of no surprise that I jumped to the opportunity of reviewing another relatively new offering from AURALiC. This time it is the ARIES G2, which is a completely re-designed wireless-streaming transporter family of products on a faster Tesla G2 platform. Function-wise, the ARIES G2 is similar to the original ARIES, but with added capabilities and enhanced features. The fact that the ARIES G2 carries about two-and-a-half times the price tag of the ARIES is a telltale that AURALiC does not just implement evolutionary enhancements to the ARIES G2. In fact, the company seems to go a long way in ensuring the product worth its price-tag as the list of enhancements implemented in the ARIES G2 is rather long. To the end users, what matters most is whether these enhancements translate into improvement in the overall performance of the product. Since I do not have the original ARIES, I will use AURALiC’s other wireless-streaming capable product, the ALTAIR, which is also based on the previous Tesla platform, for some streaming performance comparisons in this review.

Design

AURALiC ARIES G2 looks simple but handsome in its matte dark-gray finish. Closer inspection suggests that the product is very well constructed. With all its buttons flushed on the front panel, the ARIES G2 has an overall minimalist subdued appearance. But this appearance can be misleading, as it is an exciting and advanced product created with the goal to be the best in its category. The front panel sports a 4-inch high-resolution (over 300 ppi) color-LCD display that provides the operational status of the unit: playback status, configuration setting, and music library browsing. If the source provides, it also displays the album-cover picture in full color during playback. I found this display to be appealing and informative. From my seating position of about 9 ft from the unit, I could still read the playback information clearly, including the title of the track being played. This display has seven dim levels, and the second lowest dim level is typically sufficient for me. Your mileage may vary and if you do not want to be bothered by the display during your music listening session, there is an option to turn it off as well. This display is not of a touch-screen variety, so the menu access and the selection from the displayed menu must be done from a remote control (that has been programmed to work with ARIES G2) or the four buttons on the front panel (as a mouse for navigating or making selection). The space to the left of the display on the front panel is occupied by the lone stand-by/on button.

ARIES G2 in operation

All the connectors of the ARIES G2 are located on the rear panel. These include receptacles for two Wi-Fi antennas, an Ethernet port, and input for an external USB storage. Inside the ARIES G2, there is an internal drive bay to house an additional 2.5 inch HDD/SSD, should you prefer to store your music locally. The review unit does not come with an internal hard-drive storage. Besides the usual digital output connectors in the form of AES/EBU, optical, coaxial, and high-speed USB, the ARIES G2 also sports a Lightning Link connector, which is a high-speed bi-directional 18 Gbps coupling that takes advantage of high-speed HDMI type hardware connector. When connected to another Lightning Link equipped device such as the VEGA G2, the two products will operate as one, requiring only single-point control.

ARIES G2 rear panel

At the heart of the ARIES G2 is the Tesla G2 platform, which is equipped with a processor that is 50% faster (up to 37,500 MIPS processing speed) than the Tesla G1 platform used in many previous AURALiC products such as the ALTAIR, POLARIS, and the first generation ARIES. Moreover, the Tesla G2 platform packs twice the system memory (2 GB) and data storage (8 GB) than the Tesla G1 platform. With this much processing power, the platform is capable of handling a vast variety of audio formats at sampling rates up to 32 bit/384 kHz for PCM signals or DSD512 for DSD signals, and serves as the unit’s software processing engine and advanced DSP functionality. Based on my experience, AURALiC is usually quite diligent in issuing firmware updates to keep their products up to date with the latest feature set to ensure optimum performance.

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AURALiC has been using its own Purer-PowerTM linear power supply in its products for achieving low noise floor. ARIES G2 employs two internal Purer-PowerTM linear power supplies to further prevent interference that may affect its performance. One power supply feeds the ARIES G2’s processing circuit, LCD display, and storage, while the other is dedicated to power sensitive audio components such as the Femto clocks and the USB audio output. Both power supplies are galvanically isolated from each other to ensure no electromagnetic interference between them. ARIES G2 also employs dual Femto clocks to reduce jitter on the output signals: the first one is for the AES/EBU, coaxial, and toslink outputs, while the other one is dedicated to the USB controller.

ARIES G2 inner view

The list of ARIES G2 impressive features does not stop there. It also utilizes a chassis that is machined from a single aluminum billet, called the Unity Chassis, for superior shielding of the inner components against electromagnetic interference. Further, the internal circuits of the ARIES G2 are distributed in such a way to maintain the overall weight balance of the unit for improved steadiness. As if that is not enough, the foot spikes are specially designed to dampen and absorb micro vibrations that may appear during the operation of the unit. All these suggest that AURALiC does not want to cut any corner to get the best performance out of the product. The built quality of the ARIES G2 is overall excellent.

The ARIES G2 is not supplied with a remote control, but it is equipped with Smart-IR Remote Control feature to let the device to map its functionality onto any remote that you want to use with it. The argument stated is that most users either use their own remote control or just use a mobile device/tablet to control the unit. My opinion is a bit divided on AURALiC’s approach towards this matter. On the one hand, I like the fact that I could assign the buttons of my favorite remote control to handle the ARIES G2 operations, but on the other hand I like the convenience of having a ready-to-use remote control to operate the unit. Most of the time, I operated the ARIES G2 using my mobile device or tablet. But once in a while, I’d like to be able to turn on/off and operate the playback control using a remote controller. I found that assigning a remote’s buttons to work with the ARIES G2 was easy. I tried programming several IR remote controls using this SMART IR feature and found the process to be quite easy. The result, however, is remote specific, as it depends on the strength of the IR signals sent by the remote. With my Acoustic Research ARRX18G universal remote control, after configuring the SMART IR setting, it was only usable from relatively close distance to the unit. I had a better result with the AURALiC’s remote control that came with the ALTAIR, which was usable from the normal operation range of the remote. So, when you plan to use this SMART IR feature, my advice is not to settle the choice of the remote until you know for sure that it will give you a good operational distance with the ARIES G2. Alternatively, AURALiC suggests to use an IR extender for a remote control that does not work well with the ARIES G2.

Setup and In Use

The main setup that you need to do with the ARIES G2 is to connect it to your network either using Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Ethernet connection is of course the simplest, merely plugging the Ethernet cable to the Ethernet port on the rear panel of the unit. In my case, I do not have a convenient LAN outlet near my system, hence I chose the Wi-Fi connection. This can be accomplished by using one of the three possible methods: using the ARIES G2 front-panel display system (in combination with the buttons on the front panel), using the Lightning DS app on an iOS platform, or using Lightning web control interface, which is accessible on any platform. I used the first method for the setup of the ARIES G2 in my system. Navigating through the menu system of the devise and inputting the selections using the buttons on the front panel might not be the most convenient, but I found it to be relatively easy once I got the hang of it. The ARIES G2 menu system, as with the other AURALiC products, is quite intuitive. The manual explains the menu system quite well, but I only consulted it occasionally. My familiarity with the AURALiC’s menu system might help in this matter.

ARIES G2 front-display menu

Once the ARIES G2 has been established as a streaming device in the network, it is ready to use. In the previous reviews of the AURALiC products (ALTAIR and POLARIS), I used a third-party Android app, BubbleUPnP, for the streaming playback control. Since I acquired an iPad not too long ago, for this review I also had the Lightning DS app at my disposal. Here is my take on the app. As good as the Bubble UPnP is for controlling the ARIES G2, I have more control capabilities with the Lightning DS. Not only can I perform streaming control with the Lightning DS app, but I can also change the settings or configuration of the ARIES G2 on the fly. Also, in my opinion, the Lightning DS app has a better interface and is more intuitive to use than the BubbleUPnP. The Lightning DS app did crash or lose communication with the ARIES G2 a few times during the review, but restarting the app usually fixed the problem, and thus it was not a big deal. I like the fact that AURALiC actively monitors its user forum and often times quickly act on a reported user’s problems. Therefore, the problem solutions are typically included in the next round of firmware update.

For the most part of the review, the AURALiC ALTAIR served as the DAC to the ARIES G2. The downstream components used in the review are the Classe CP-500 preamplifier, Bel Canto DAC3.7, Bel Canto Ref500S amplifier, Bel Canto EVO200.4 amplifier, and the NHT Evolution T6 speakers. Although the ARIES G2 has a high-quality volume control, most of the time I just set it to its maximum gain of 100 and used the volume control on my preamp. Source music from TIDAL as well as various-format music files stored in my network storage and external hard drive were used for this review. Both coaxial and USB connections between the ARIES G2 and the ALTAIR were used. These two outputs use different digital-clock synchronization methods, and thus they cannot be used simultaneously. This is a technical limitation that is not unique to AURALiC products. The AES/EBU, coaxial, and toslink outputs are driven from ARIES G2’s internal clock as the master clock to deliver the data. However, most of USB DACs are of the so-called asynchronous-mode type, which means the master clock is handled by the USB DAC and thus, the ARIES G2 needs to sync with it. When a compatible USB DAC is connected to the ARIES G2, the option to use the ARIES G2 digital outputs or the external DAC outputs (through USB connection) will appear in the hardware setting, which can be accessed via the Lightning DS app or the Lightning web browser interface. The USB connection, in my opinion, yields the best results with the ALTAIR as it can handle high-resolution signals from the ARIES G2 at their native sampling rates.

During the review process, I streamed music through the ARIES G2 using various methods: Bluetooth, AirPlay, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi. I encountered no issue with any of these connection methods, although to truly appreciate the capability of the ARIES G2 in streaming high-resolution audio formats, Wi-Fi network or Ethernet connection is the way to go. That the ARIES G2 produces respectable sonic results that are better than most in playing back lossy music file formats such as mp3 or AAC, is almost a given and represents only the tip of the iceberg in the context of ARIES G2 capability. Its true performance only emerges when it is used for streaming lossless audio formats, such as lossless FLAC or DSD, and that is the basis for my comments below.

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As the ARIES G2 is a streaming transporter, matching it with a good DAC is the key to unleash its performance. As far as USB DAC functionality, I found the ALTAIR was up to the task in channeling high-resolution streaming capability of the ARIES G2 (higher than 44.1 or 48 kHz sampling rates). The ALTAIR, however, has a limitation in processing such signals through its coax/optical/AES inputs. The ARIES G2 is capable of outputting up to 24 bit/192 kHz signal through its non-USB digital outputs, but the ALTAIR will not process these high-sampling-rate signals at their native rates. Hence, the results will not be optimum. Pairing the digital outputs of the ARIES G2 with the Bel Canto DAC3.7, which is capable of processing up to 24 bit /192 kHz signals, yielded a better sonic results. Therefore, if you are planning on using the non-USB digital outputs of the ARIES G2, make sure you pair it with a DAC that can properly process the high-sampling-rate signals to get optimum sonic performance.

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio’s Speak Low (1999) album cover

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio “Speak Low”
The capability of the ARIES G2 in fleshing out every details in the streamed music with a high-degree of transparency and realistic textures is downright outstanding. The detail sounds of the cymbals and plucked double-bass string in the track Cool Struttin’ from Tsuyoshi Yamamoto’s Speak Low album (1999) were excellently conveyed. The bass sounded full and articulative. The resonance of the piano notes sounded natural with realistic attack. The presentation was overall live-like, full of musical textures presented in a vividly-portrayed deep three-dimensional stage.

The separation among the sounds of the instruments was nicely conveyed with each instrument solidly occupying its own space in the soundstage. Overall, the music sounded highly palpable through the ARIES G2. To me, the capability of delivering a high-degree of sonic palpability is the signature of the ARIES G2, which elevates the music enjoyment a great deal.

Julia Peng’s When I Look Back (2017) album cover

Julia Peng “When I Look Back”
Lately, the latest mandarin pop album from a Taiwanese singer, Julia Peng, titled When I Look Back (2017) has become my favorite not only because I like her music, but also because it is very well recorded. Her sultry voice in the song You Mean The World To Me If You See Me sounded natural and full-bodied through the ARIES G2. The small musical ensemble accompanying Julia Peng’s vocal in the song was nicely portrayed in a believable intimate stage around the singer.
Readers might remember that I reviewed the AURALiC ALTAIR very favorably last year. The ALTAIR has more functionalities (wireless streamer, DAC, headphone amplifier) than the ARIES G2. As far as wireless streaming goes, the ALTAIR can do what the ARIES G2 does. But I’d like to point out some discernible differences between the streaming performances of the two devices. First, the ARIES G2 was noticeably quicker in accessing the streamed music files from an external hard drive or from a cloud music server than the ALTAIR. Mind you, the ALTAIR is not slow by any means, but the waiting time from the selection of the music file until the playback starts on the ARIES G2 is perceivably shorter than the ALTAIR. I did not notice an extra playback waiting time even when streaming a rather large DSD256 file from my network drive, a testament to the powerful processing speed of the ARIES G2. Second, and perhaps this is the difference that matters most to the listeners, the ARIES G2 produces perceivably better sonic results than the ALTAIR. This was noticeable when I switched the streaming device from the ARIES G2 to the ALTAIR during some of my listening sessions. Sonic details with the ALTAIR were not as vivid as with the ARIES G2. The sonic details were there with the ALTAIR, but with slightly smoothed out characteristics. A slight flattening of the soundstage presentation through the ALTAIR was also observed in comparison with the ARIES G2. Overall, I get the impression that the ARIES G2 preserves the musical textures in the program materials better than the ALTAIR, which leads to a more palpable musical presentation. I still think highly of the ALTAIR as a multi-function (DAC, wireless streamer, headphone amplifier, and digital preamplifier) product, however as far as wireless streaming goes, the ARIES G2 is just a more superior product.

Conclusions

THE ARIES G2 is a statement wireless streaming transporter from AURALiC that is among the best in its class in terms of features and sonic performance.

Likes
  • Excellent built quality and handsome looking
  • High-resolution front-panel display
  • Fast streaming playback access
  • Versatile Lightning DS control app
  • Provision of Lightning web interface for changing device configuration
  • Smart IR remote control feature
  • Awesome sonic performance
Would Like To See
  • The inclusion of a simple remote control

It is clear that AURALiC has invested a significant engineering know-how in the ARIES G2 to create a state-of-the-art wireless streaming transporter. This effort obviously pays off. While the ARIES G2 cannot be considered cheap at $3899, everything about it screams high end and brings commensurate performance values. The ARIES G2 is a compelling product that can proudly serve as the center of a modern high-fidelity streaming music system. Its streaming operation is smooth and fast, and more importantly its sonic performance is hard to beat. The ARIES G2 truly packs features and performance that set a new standard for products in this category. Definitely, this is a product that I highly recommend for people who want to build a top-notch wireless music system.