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AXPONA 2014: Auralic Teases

535 Xuanqian Wang and Richard Colburn of Auralic were on hand to show off their Gemini headphone amp/DAC combos. If you haven't seen them, they're rather striking -- a tall, columnar headphone stand finished in lacquered paint and burnished metal with tons of interesting options to choose from. There are two versions, the Gemini 1000 ($999) and the Gemini 2000 ($1,999), but the differences are all on the inside of the Klutz Design headphone stand -- specifically, in the base. The primary difference in the two is the output -- the more expensive one has double the output, at 2w. Both support all the current high-resolution audio formats, up to and including Double-DSD, over the USB implementation. Tyll Herstens of Inner Fidelity has a nice video from CanJam last year that covers the basics; our coverage is here. The $3,500 Auralic Vega DAC, the team's full-size and full-function DAC has recently been recognized as awesome at Stereophile very recently, and you could tell the enthusiasm the market has had for it just by looking around the Ear Gear Expo, here at AXPONA -- at least a quarter of the tables included it as part of their demo pool. But that wasn't the interesting bit. 

No, the interesting bit was the Aries. The Aries was announced back at CES. Missed that, did you? No sweat, because it’s coming soon — the formal unveiling will be at Munich this May, and we’ll probably be seeing them shortly thereafter. The Aries is, in a nutshell, an audiophile streamer. With all your music files stashed somewhere on the network (or the Internet), the Aries will be the bit in your rack. Controlled via iTunes-like playback software from your networked computer or tablet, the Aries will pull that media, buffer it and then clock it out into your DAC via a digital connection (USB is what I plan to use, if I ever get my hands on one).

Why is this interesting, you ask? Well, computers suck. Okay, that may fall under “massive understatement”, but especially for audio, it’s true. Most computers are general purpose machines by design, and even if built for media use, most of them leverage crap parts and over-the-counter software to enable playback. ComputerAudiophile.com has made something of a cottage industry catering to the willing and the savvy, but the fact of the matter is that most audiophiles don’t have the level of expertise necessary to build a PC and configure it for anything more than half-assed. Going this route, for many, generally leads to frustration, anxiety, and annoyance — worst of all, it tends to sound pretty lousy. Just a general note — if you have a CD player that sounds better than a computer+DAC solution, statistically speaking, something has gone awry. Anyway, the Aries aims to help with that.

File format support is the usual suspects, including AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA, at all sampling rates up to and including DXD and Double-DSD (over USB, other digital connections only support up to 192kHz, the S/PDIF standard). The platform is compatible with Airplay and UPnP.

Pricing is set at $999 for the Aries LE and $1,599 for the Aries. The latter features Femto Clocks for both the USB inputs and outputs.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.

2 Comments on AXPONA 2014: Auralic Teases

  1. Eloise Speight // May 7, 2014 at 6:22 AM //

    When you say “Why is this interesting, you ask? Well, computers suck. Okay, that may fall under “massive understatement”, but especially for audio, it’s true.” did you really mean massive understatement or did you mean it was a massive OVERstatement to say computers suck?

    • Part-Time Audiophile // May 7, 2014 at 8:42 AM //

      Hi Eloise. I think the average computer is a terrifically average thing to use for audio playback, pretty much on par with using an iPhone with Apple earbuds. It’ll work, but that’s about it. That is, they suck. And yes, I’m exaggerating, but not all that much. There’s a big difference in sound quality between a Asus laptop and a purpose-built Aurender. But even while the latter needs no tweaking to get sounding good, it is still not as easy to use as a CD player.

      The average audiophile is computer challenged. They may be literate, but they’re not adept. And saying “do research on ComputerAudiophile.com” is not a helpful corrective. There’s a self-selecting minority that will learn to take advantage of the resources there. Many (and if you talk to dealers who sell “audio-ready” computer systems, that’s a majority of) users will find driver management, software configuration and file management to be absurdly and insurmountably complex.

      Hence, they suck.

      That isn’t to say that a savvy user can’t make one sound fantastic. Far from it. But the SOTA today in computer-based audio is more like aftermarket tuner car tweakers. If you can get past the the fins, running lights, and lowering kits, there’s a whole world of tuned exhausts, chip mods, and superchargers. But this part of the map is marked with dragons.

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