The Superb AURALiC ARIES G1 Wireless Streaming Transporter
Digital Marches On
in Issue 96 of Positive Feedback (here),
Managing Editor Dave Clark put the AURALiC ARIES G2 Streaming Transporter
($3999) through its paces, praising that unit for its relative ease-of-use and
naturally unforced, but also superbly detailed, sound. More recently, Alex
Brinkman, AURALiC North America's Marketing Director, reached out to see if I
wanted to review the new AURALiC ARIES G1 wireless streaming transporter, a
device that borrows heavily from the G2 platform, but at a much lower cost
($2499). Given my overall enthusiasm for this segment of the marketplace, I
For those readers who live under bridges, the Beijing-based AURALiC has been around since 2008. The firm first captured the attention of the high-end community with its wonderful ARIES and VEGA series of streaming transports and DACs. The ambitious MERAK class D mono-block amplifiers soon followed, arguing with utter conviction that AURALiC was a major new force in high end, and here to stay. Positive Feedback has favorably reviewed several AURALiC products over the past several years, and I'm happy to report that with this review, the trend continues.
AURALiC recently re-imagined its top-flight ARIES class
streaming transports, as well as its VEGA series streaming and stand-alone DACs,
from the ground up. The reference line now also includes the newly introduced
LEO GX Reference Master Digital Clock, a unit that appears to straddle both the
ARIES and VEGA product lines. The first obvious departure from the Gen 1 AURALiC
product lineup is the liberal use of black CNC-machined, billet grade aluminum
enclosures for the new ARIES and VEGA models. While the old models with their
beautifully sculpted aluminum faceplates (colored silver) were certainly
striking, in my humble opinion, the new black solid aluminum models look
stunning. The G1 feels like it should cost considerably more than the modest
tariff that AURALiC charges.
Inside, major changes abound as well. Here is a quick
The point to take away from these advances is that digital
storage and playback platforms continue to advance at a seemingly exponential
rate, with new developments and performance gains appearing faster than
reviewers (and perhaps consumers) can meaningfully track. On the other hand,
with companies like AURALiC, Lumin, and a host of others offering these
improvements at real-world prices, I don't see how anyone has reason to
Plug-n-Play Setup And Playback
Please note that the G1 only works with self-powered hard
drives, a fact I quickly discovered when I tried to attach a non-self-powered
external drive to the G1 via the USB input port. The onboard USB port is not
itself powered (for noise-reduction reasons I assume), meaning that the hard
drive you choose must have its own internal power supply, or use an external
wall-wart PSU (meaning a typical NAS will suffice - Ed.). Initially I used my
reference Audio Sensibility Statement Silver AES/EBU digital cable to connect
the G1 to the outboard DAC, this followed by a run of Kubala-Sosna's superb
Sensation USB digital cable for the remainder of the review.
It took a few minutes for the G1 to cache the digital files
stored on my hard drive (including album art and associated metadata), but once
completed, I could initiate playback immediately. To sweeten the deal, Alex put
me in touch with the folks at Qobuz, the French music streaming service. I
secured from them a temporary license which allowed me to stream hi-def digital
files via Qobuz's Beta-test streaming platform for the remainder of the review.
I will report on my experience with the Qobuz platform after I have gotten that
system's full measure.
Open Doors And Clean Windows
I'm happy to report that new ARIES G1 wireless streaming transporter is even easier to set up and use than the D1, features world-class connectivity, and sounds great. The G1's sonic prowess owes to its adamant refusal to editorialize, its stellar transparency to sources, DACs, and cables, its superb dynamic scaling, and its remarkable imaging and sound-staging capabilities.
When challenged with the wispy lyricism of Tom Jobim's imminently approachable "Photograph" from Grammy award-winning saxophonist Joe Henderson's 1995 release Double Rainbow (Verve), the G1 captures the sweet and sour bite of Henderson's tenor and his signature mastery of harmonic overtones as realistically as I have ever heard. Without ambiguity, one can both sense and hear the fluttering of moist air through Henderson's mouthpiece, his delicate fingerings along with the associated "plop" of leather key pads against the instrument's brass tone holes, and the billowing waves of moist air that bloomed almost like liquid out of the saxophone's bell.
Voices also benefit from the G1's superbly balanced approach. Melody Gardot's dark and sultry voice serves as the perfect vehicle for the soulful jazz-pop musings she prefers, her recorded output a veritable catalogue of introspective laments over broken relationships and shattered romantic expectations. The G1 captures the purity and sweetness of her voice, its liquid purity, and earthy timbre sublimely. Just check out Gardot's standout 2009 release My One and Only Thrill (Verve), particularly the mournful "The Rain," to see and hear what I mean! The sense of 3D palpability on display is positively eerie.
What the G1 does (and does not do) that so impresses me is to
present the music as an almost raw, naked, and unfiltered event. The G1 simply
steps aside, in a way that most components don't, and lets the recording and the
performers do the talking. When I first heard the G1, my initial reaction was to
conclude (wrongly) that the transport was guilty of slightly bleaching out tonal
colors and vocal and instrumental textures and highlighting recorded detail and
upper-frequency content. Closer listening revealed, especially after a little
transport burn-in (including burning in the KB Sensation USB cable), that the G1
was simply stripping away the low-level sweeteners that made the Lumin D1 sound
so damn addictive, but also not entirely realistic.
So, on a personal favorite and long-term reference like Domino (from
Polish trumpeter Tomaz Stanko's 1999 release From the Green Hill on
ECM), the G1 possesses the uncanny ability to place Stanko, saxophonist John
Surman, and the rest of the band directly in my listening room as living,
breathing, wholly interactive 3D musicians, not two-dimensional simulacrums.
What the G1 doesn't do is bathe the entire affair in a subtle halo of moist air
like the D1, an artifact that sounds oh so enticing, but also a bit unnatural.
Mind you, with the G1 in tow, music's upper octaves sound every bit as resolute
and airy, the mids every bit as life-like and holographic, and the bass every
bit as impressively taut, deep, and palpably detailed (perhaps more so) as they
do with the D1, but with an even greater degree of transparency, clarity, and
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the stellar contribution of the superb Mola Mola Kaluga preamp and the Bruno Putzey-designed on-board DAC here. The preamp/DAC combo is a model of transparency, producing, in concert with the ARIES G1, the most preternaturally revealing, über-dynamic, explosive digital playback I have ever encountered.
It is my new digital reference and a "shoe-in" for a Positive
Feedback 2019 Writers' Choice award.
Dimensions: 13.4" x 12.6" x 3.2" (WxDxH)
AURALIC North America Inc.
Voice: (302) 314-5555