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AURALiC Aries G2.2 Streaming Transporter

10-25-2023 | By Dave Clark | Issue 130

If you missed it, the other day I posted a review of the PS Audio DirectStream DAC MK2 (HERE) that was prefaced by the idea that is it ever "As good as it can get?" Or something like that.

Simply, one does whatever and sits back thinking that it is as good as it gets… till you do something else. Of course, it could also be a step back, making it "as bad as it was." But you get the idea.

Anyhow, with the system prior to the PS Audio DirectStream DAC MK2 replacing the original PS Audio DirectStream DAC, we sat here thinking, yeah… as good as it gets. We were happy.

Then early last summer we get an Industry News release for AURALiC that they are going to be releasing the new Aries G2.2 Streaming Transporter. A clear redesign of the G2, of which we have owned and used since the review way back when (HERE). All new. All better. Way different. And, we are asking ourselves… "will this make things… better than we have now?" With all that has been changed in the G2.2 from the G2, one would certainly hope so.

From the release…

The ARIES G2.2 has undergone a complete interior redesign, with 90% of the electronic components being brand new. This cutting-edge product features several new technologies that have been introduced to take its performance to the next level, all enclosed in AURALiC's elegant UnityChassis II enclosure.

New Galvanic USB Isolation

The introduction of the galvanic isolation technology on the USB port in the ARIES G2 was a significant breakthrough for digital audio systems. It successfully addressed the issue of separating the noisy computing circuit from the sensitive audio circuit, resulting in a massive improvement in USB audio system sound quality.

Building on this success, AURALiC is proud to introduce the second-generation Galvanic USB in the ARIES G2.2. This new isolator has improved DAC compatibility, functioning in the same way as a regular USB port with hot plug/unplug support. The signal quality and jitter performance of the 2nd generation Galvanic USB has been further optimized, resulting in noticeable sound quality improvement.

In addition, users can now choose to enable or disable the USB port power supply to the DAC through software, which ensures an even cleaner signal path.

New Purer-Power Design

The ARIES G2.2 features a Purer-Power low noise power supply with a capacity that is twice that of the previous version, and an even lower noise design. This increased capacity ensures a clean and stable power supply for the high-performance processing platform and music storage options.

All digital audio-related circuits, including the Galvanic USB, have their individual power supplies, maintaining an extremely low noise level of just 0.8 microvolts - an 80% reduction from G2.1 model. Furthermore, the computing circuits, which are less sensitive to noise, benefit from a low noise power supply of just 27 microvolts, a 50-fold improvement from G2.1. This advanced power supply design ensures that the digital audio circuits receive a clean and stable power supply, free from noise and interference, resulting in a superior audio experience for the listener.

NVMe Internal Storage

With the new Tesla G3 processing platform in place, ARIES G2.2 has upgraded internal storage from traditional SATA based SSD or HDD to the most advanced NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) SSD storage option. This upgrade offers numerous benefits, including outstanding data transfer speeds and dependability, ensuring a seamless experience for storing and playing digital music.

Thanks to the Direct Memory Access (DMA) technology, NVMe storage offers significantly faster transfer speeds and lower latency than traditional storage options, resulting in improved performance and faster access to stored music. Compared to the G2.1 model, the ARIES G2.2 now offers a copying speed that is ten times faster when transferring music from Ethernet to the internal storage.

The ARIES G2.2 can be fitted with factory pre-installed 4TB NVMe storage as an option. However, customers can also request larger storage options as a special-order request.

USB 3.0 External Storage

The addition of a USB 3.0 external storage port on the ARIES G2.2 significantly increases copying speeds and facilitates effortless transfer of high-resolution audio files. The USB 3.0 port provides 1.5 amps of power, triple the power capacity of G2.1. The added power capacity also allows for a wider range of external storage options, including larger capacity drives that may require more power.

The insides of the older G2.

The insides of the new G2.2 (the unit is shown from the bottom in both images).

So, a number of major changes to the Aries, all of which appear to lower the noise floor as far as it can go. Of course we thought that was the case in the G2, but it appears that in the G2.2 it can go even lower. Wonder if there will be a G2.3 that goes further. After all, how low can one go?

Meaning, the Aries G2 was as good as it could get then, is the G2.2 is as good as it can get now?

Anyhow, the Aries G2.2 runs the same Lightening DS as does the Aries G2. Nothing changed there. Lightening DS is the software that AURALiC has written, and continues to update, that gets files from your NAS or streaming service (QOBUZ, Tidal, etc.) out to your DAC of choice. We like it for its functionality and appearance. Also, for its sound, though if you ask those behind the scenes that write such software, they should not have a "sound" per se, they just do what they do. Differences (say between DS and Roon) should only be in how they appear and function—appearance, organization, options, etc. And not a "sound" where one is better than the other—or just different. And yet you will find many users who do in fact prefer one over the other just for that reason. Sound.

Like us for example. We do prefer DS over Roon sound wise, and we do prefer the look and functionally of DS over Roon as well (Roon is too busy and complicated whereas DS is simpler and cleaner). But to each their own. I will admit that there are many variables in play that possibly are an issue with respect to there being a "sound" difference—Roon resides on a computer where it controls a Roon endpoint (say the Aries G2.2) to do the work, whereas DS is already there on the Aries. Simpler? Less things in the way? No idea. Having had Roon here running through a system that was rather complicated by necessity, we found DS to be a better option for us. None of this is a dig at Roon, we both appreciate what it offers and does, we just prefer something simpler.

So, what does all this mean? Well, going from the G2 to the G2.2 was rather interesting. Not as big a difference as going from, say, the DirectStream DAC to the MK2, nor from what we experienced from the Ansuz D2 switch (HERE), but still an audible improvement. A better difference for sure. A fairly significant difference too.

All the improvements to the power supply, USB, and processing means…

Lower noise, less noise, that simply means more music. Things sound different—make that a better different—in that there is more to hear with less noise obstructing whatever. Files of whatever format are handled in a way where less noise gets through as they are being processed and sent on their merry way. I am not saying there is more information or bytes of information. You can't change that. What you can change is the noise that is there and ends up on the analog side of things.

And I will add that we are more about listening to the music. That is music as a whole and not the bits and pieces. No pun intended. For sure we used to take things apart and focus on this or that—all the audiophile stuff that we were all into? No? Yeah, not so much. Today is all about putting on or selecting, or cueing up whatever strikes our fancy and taking it all in, as it was intended. So now it is about reacting tot he whole. Even so...

Details stand out with greater presence. Little things are now bigger things. Heck, the music in totality, stands out—there is simply greater presence, decay, cues, edges, ambience, silence, blackness, presence, individuality, space… just MORE. Did I say presence? Oh yeah… just wanting to stress that the music is just more there in terms of definition and details  I know that I repeat this in my reviews, but once noise is dealt with, you think that things are as good as they can get, but sorry, you have no idea what you are missing.

Cleaner treble, more engaging midrange, way more tactile in every sense of the overused audiophile verbiage—the G2.2 is a wonderful step up over the older G2.

Heavier in both musical expression and realization and heavier in actual weight, it is a worthwhile move for anyone who own an older G2 or even the G2.1.

Now it is not going to make bad recordings better, though by reducing noise to such a level you will experience less graininess, brightness, edginess…. The music is smoother and richer. Bass goes just that much deeper—well not really deeper, but its presence has greater definition and weight. Solidity. A tangible firmness. I mean, if it ain't there, a component like the PS Audio DAC MK2 or AURALiC Aries G2.2 are not going add more of anything. But they will reveal more of your music.

Kind of wishing I have gone for the NVMe Internal Storage, which by all accounts is the way to go. As to it being something that impacts the musical performance of the G2.2, no idea. Am thinking it should be, faster and quieter is usually better.

I will add that the older G2 had zero issues with my Integrita C4 NAS—both a good 5-6 years old—but the G2.2 could not connect to it due to security issues with the SMB. Unable to update the Integrita C4's OS to fix this resulted in me purchasing a new NAS that is current in this respect. (Certon, the manufacturer of the Integrita C4, is long gone, so no chance of addressing the SMB issue.)

We went with the Integrita C4  because it was fanless and dead silent, even with spinning drives, and was built for the audiophile in mind. Loved it, but not going to work so what to do? Found a fanless NAS from QNAP that takes two 4TB SSD drives and checks many of the boxes as a replacement to the Integrita C4—quiet and a Raid option (in this case Raid 1).

It works and is way faster spec-wise than that of the older Integrita C4 in every way. It works wonderfully but can't say that it makes the music any better. Just no way to compare. But we keep thinking it did. I mean SSD should be better than spinning and technology changes, so yeah… let's say it did make an improvement in getting our files out to the G2.2 better than ever before.

Oh and if you have to ask, to use what we wrote for the PS Audio DirectStream DAC MK2 review, well kinda...

We played files from a NAS (from the new NAS as described above) out to the AURALiC Aries G2.2. The files are various 16/44.1 .flac, aiff, .wav, etc. Mainly punk, post rock, post-punk, alternative, electronic, ambient, and noise stuff that we like. We have a PF playlist on Qobuz that pretty much covers the various genres and artists, go check that out. But not going to list them as it is just too many different artists—most you might not have ever heard of or care to listen to for that matter. No "traditional" jazz or classical, no female vocals, etc. We come from a different place musically than the vast majority of audiophiles, meaning literally zero "audiophile" titles or artists and no Hi-Res either, as none of the music we listen to is released other than 16/44.1. So, no idea how it will sound with DSD or 24/192. Don't have any to try, and even if we did, no idea what it sounds like.

Hey wait a minute… actually we have no idea how any of our music should sound like,  just how it sounds to us here. And with the AURALiC Aries G2.2 it is sounding as good as it gets. And at our age and all, probably as good as it ever will get. Meaning that the AURALiC Aries G2.2 is probably the end of the road for us. We had the older one for some eight years and being upgradeable via the firmware/software, am thinking that it will be another eight years with this version. At that point in our lives… yeah, we good.

And we used the G2.2 hardwired (Ethernet) as opposed to WiFi. Word from AURALiC is that they prefer WiFi as it being quieter, but having tried both... here we like what we hear with the unit hardwired. Nothing drastic, but for whatever reason we just like the sound that much more than WiFi. 

We also tend to run the unit in "minimal" mode, meaning that we choose not to select the options in the DS web interface under Processor setup: Resampler, Parametric Equalizer, and Speaker options. We prefer the sound with nothing being checked. Simpler. But if you are interested, using the web interface and all the settings allows one to tailor the sound and have an easy access when setting the unit up. 

No issues, no complaints… mates well with the DirectStream DAC. Worked fine with Qobuz too. If you liked the G2 or the G2.1, you will love the G2.2. We are purchasing the G2.2 with the G2 going into storage for someone else. Ditto the Integrita.

Okay, so is our system the best it has ever been? Is this as good as it gets? Yep. Well, so far.

Highly recommended.

Aries G2.2

Retail: $6099