The AURALiC Aries Mini was my top pick for “What’s Hot” out of the Munich High-End show back in May, and almost six months later, I’m finding it hard to evict it from the Iron Throne. It’s … neat. It’s also $549 — which includes a full year’s subscription to online über-streaming service, Tidal HiFi. For something like this, it’s really difficult to put my thinking cap on, much less my critic’s glasses. No, $550 isn’t throw-away money, but it is a relative bargain in the space that it occupies.
Obviously, there are some competitors in this space. Google Chromecast Audio just came out, and that is a throwaway at $35. The AudioQuest Beetle is $200. Where the Aries Mini gets its power is from upgraded components, the free hookup with Tidal, and full support for all of today’s audiophile goodies, including support for PCM-based files up to 384kHz in resolution and support for DSD256. It’s also about the size of an Apple TV (that is, tiny), and is completely controlled by an app you can get from the Apple Store. And, coming soon, you’ll be able to run that right off your iPhone — no iPad required. Additionally, there’s support for local uPnP/DLNA library content, AirPlay and Songcast support, and support for an optional internal drive, and even external USB drives. USB and Toslink capabilities are included, in addition to WiFi/GigE connectivity and Bluetooth.
The Aries Mini was featured two ways in the AURALiC room, one with the Dynaudio Xeo 4 wireless, fully-active speakers ($2100/pair; rave review over at AudioStream). As shown, that system also included a wireless controller, the Xeo Hub ($299.00), which supports (and converts) digital files of up to 24/96 resolution.
The other system was set up as a desk station, featuring some Audioengine A5+ active speakers ($399) clad in a mix/matching white.
Full digital systems, wired or wireless, at price points low enough to seem a bit … surreal? This RMAF was certainly turning out … different.