Until recently I was happily using the Auralic Aries G2 as my music streamer of choice. I've written extensively on my experiences with it in this thread. The sound quality has only improved with further system changes such as the installation of A/V Room Service EVPs
, power line enhancements
from P.I. Audio and Triode Wire Labs, and the move from coaxial digital to USB connection to my downstream DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4
equalizer courtesy of the Discrete USB cable
, a joint project of P.I. Audio and Triode Wire Labs. The Aries G2 sounds truly excellent in my system with left little to be desired, sonically. The sound quality I achieved from it streaming from internet sources could only be dreamed of a few years back.
In addition, the Lightning DS app used to control the Aries G2's streaming has many nice features which are important to me. It has an excellent GUI and is maximally informative about the quality of the stream playing at any given time, displaying bit rate, sample depth, streaming data rate, and track and disk title, even with most internet radio stations. The V-Tuner internet radio service built into the G2 has by far the most comprehensive internet radio station selection of any such app I've encountered and always seems to allow tuning and favorite-ing of the best quality streams for any given station.
I would have stayed with the Auralic Aries G2 for quite a bit longer were it not for a few very annoying recent developments:
First, the Lightning DS app, at least as it operates on my iPhone X, is not the most stable thing. It operates much better on the iPhone X than it did on my prior iPhone 6, however. The stability has only decreased over time, especially as to internet radio station playback. The app frequently closes for no apparent reason, usually when switching programs or stations. The music continues to stream, but the app closes. Rebooting takes only a few seconds, but toward the end this was sometimes happening about once every four or five times I changed channels or programs, an annoyance for a "channel surfer" like me. I lived with this problem for most of my time with the G2. If this were the only problem, and if it had not become progressively worse, I would not have sought an alternative streamer.
Second, with the addition of the P.I. Audio UberBUSSes and TWL power cables, a USB connection between the G2 and the downstream DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4 became sonically superior to the coaxial digital connection I'd been using. The addition of the PI/TWL Discrete USB cable further enhanced that sonic superiority. The upsampling functions of the G2 also now sounded clearly superior in most cases to native playback.
HOWEVER, with any sort of USB connection downstream, the G2 began to exhibit connectivity problems upon changing programs. The Lightning DS app would give me a message about not being able to connect to my DAC. This problem with USB connections from the G2 has been encountered by other G2 users but, to my knowledge, neither the cause nor the cure has been determined. See this thread
at the Auralic Community forum. A hard reboot of both the DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4 and the G2, by pulling the plugs on both and then powering up first the X4 and then the G2 (a solution suggested by Auralic) would fix the problem for about five or ten program changes, but then it would reappear and get gradually worse until sometimes it would take retrying the program change five or ten times before connection was achieved.
While I eventually was able to at least temporarily cure this USB connectivity problem, I'm not sure what I did to fix it! I think it involved the hard boot procedure plus using the Lightning DS app to change the G2's active output from the USB output to coaxial digital output and then back again after another hard reboot, but I'm not sure, and I did not want to experiment further, lest the connectivity problem reappear.
Third, while I had not yet ripped my CDs to files when I purchased the G2, I did subsequently rip my CDs to files and now play those files instead of the CDs from a USB stick as discussed in another thread
. The G2 has a USB port labeled HDD which theoretically should support playback of files from such a stick. However, at least with the other USB port (labeled DAC) in use to stream internet program material from the G2, adding the USB stick to the HDD port wreaked havoc with the Lightning DS app, making it either extremely slow to respond, crashing it altogether, or producing program selection errors.
Now, I could just continue to play the files on the USB stick from my Oppo UDP-205's USB slots—that always worked fine. However, a recent firmware upgrade of the G2 added parametric equalization. I wanted to be able to experiment with that equalization and apply it to all program material playing through the G2, including my CD files on the USB stick. Who knows—that equalization might even be better sounding than that applied by my DSPeaker X4. Playing the files from the USB stick attached to the Auralic would also allow me to upsample the 44/16 CD files to 176/24, something playback via the Oppo does not allow.
A possible solution is to follow the Auralic G2 manual's's suggestion for best sonics and to plug the USB stick into a powered USB hub (such as this one
) and plug that hub into the G2's HDD slot. The idea is that putting power demands on the G2's internal power supply because it has to run the external stick may degrade sonics. Using an active hub to supply power to the USB stick relieves the Auralic Aries of the need to supply power to the stick. Really? A $4,000 unit's power supply can't power a USB stick without sonic degradation? Of course, Auralic also recommends turning off functions you aren't using—such as AirPlay, Roon, Spotify Connect, etc.—for best sonics and I CAN hear that having those functions enabled does in fact slightly degrade the sonics of the core Tidal, Quobuz, and V-Tuner streaming functions. Okay, I could try using an active USB hub, but that would inject another noisy wall-wart switch mode power supply plus no-name USB cabling into the equation. It also would not fix the USB connectivity problems via the DAC USB port which feeds my DSPeaker X4 equalizer and/or Benchmark DAC3 HGC.
These three issues may seem like inconsequential problems given the sonic excellence of the Aries G2. And for awhile that's the way they seemed to me. But, for me at least, niggling problems like these tend to grow in significance rather than recede into the background. Thus, I began to look at test reports and online commentary in hope of finding a sonically equivalent unit, with similar functionality, and with firmware and software which has proved rock solid.
If you are a current user of the Aries G2, have encountered problems similar to those I've described, and want to try to work around them rather than moving on to another unit, here are suggestions you can try:
- Try using a dedicated iPad to run Lightning DS rather than an iPhone. This may help the stability of the Lightning DS interface. It definitely will aid the visual aesthetics of the app.
- Try feeding the Auralic from a "wired" TP Link connection to see if that further stabilizes Lightning DS.
- Abandon the USB output of the G2 and revert to an SPDIF connection between the Aries G2 and your DAC or other downstream digital component.