What to think of an Auralic streamer that costs less than a third of the Aries en only half of the Aries LE. Will it be Auralic enough?
Auralic became known rapidly for their Aries streaming bridge. That’s not a streamer in the classic sense since it didn’t contain a d/a-convert. It needed to be connected to an external d/a-converter using SPDIF, TOSlink, AES/EBU or USB. There are two versions of the Aries, the full version and the LE version. The Aries Mini, on review here, uses the same Tesla computer platform and control software but is aimed at a lower market. In stead of € 1749 for the Aries and € 1099 for the LE, the Mini will set you back € 499. For that money it also contains an internal d/a-converter, but lacks a display, remote control, AES/EBU output, half the RAM and the unique housing. So the question is whether the Mini misuses the good reputation of it’s siblings or is a good offering by itself?
The mat white or black plastic housing measures 135 by 135 by 30 mm. The top of the front holds three buttons, which functions can be changed between volume and pause or next/previous track and pause. Everything else is controlled by iOS app.
The rear holds a 15 volt DC input, a network connector, two USB 2 connections, optical and coaxial SPDIF and stereo analogue out on RCA. All very simple and clear, but it is worth mentioning that the USB’s both accept storage devices like hard disks and thumb drives and USB Audio Profile 2 d/a-converters. The Mini comes with a 15 volts switching power supply. A panel on the bottom is held in place by only two Torx screws and when you open it and you can add a 2.5 inch harddisk or SSD. A mounting bracket, a Torx screwdriver and the necessary screws come with the unit. After installation the harddisk needs to be formatted, so there is no point in copying music to it prior to mounting. After installation and formatting, the hard disk wil be accessible over the network as a share so you can copy music to it.
The standard way to control the Mini is by iPad and while an iPhone version is near completion, there is no mention of other os’ses. According to the manufacturer there are several other ways to control it: OpenHome compatible control software and uPnP AV compatible control software. For that you need to use a uPnP AV server like Minimserver, Twonky and for instance JRiver DLNA server. That will most likely slow down operation, for the Auralic Lightning DS control software is quite quick as where uPnP AV slash DLNA often isn’t. Apart from that the Mini also supports Songcast and Apple’s Airplay via Bluetooth or Wifi.