Rip Me Perfectly
So this version I have comes with a 2TB HDD installed and of course you can just plug in an external hard drive and transfer your music or even just send it over the network from your computer. But you also have the option of ripping your CDs yourself with an included ASUS drive and their BitPerfect software. Oh how simple this is as well, plug in the disk drive and insert your CD, leave it while it whirls and when done its there, on your phone ready to play with artwork and for perfect Meta it checks a number of data bases. Only one very small fry unheard of CD managed to fool their extensive Meta checks. My only concern as of now could be that the included disc drive may not be as good as it gets with a retail of around £25. I am not saying they should include something more expensive and you get the job done out of the box but perhaps a better reader could reap better results. That is an upgrade that can be made down the lime for sure.
Being attached to the network we can also use this as a streamer. Both in and out. Using Apples Airplay you can stream music onto this and then on the flip you can stream music from this say to your phone or tablet. It’s a two way stream and just adds to the versatility of this product. Obviously a NAS driver can be accessed by this as well. Here are some important features!
•Crossfade in playback
•Play files from memory
•Multizone streaming using UPnP/DLNA compatible renderers
•Play from external NAS
•Play to tablet and any other compatible device
•Automatic output sampling frequency switching
•Support for uncompressed (WAV, AIFF) and lossless formats (FLAC, ALAC)
•DXD (32bit/352.8KHz) files Support
•DSD and DSD x 2 files support
•Bit Perfect support (ASIO, WASAPI and Kernel streaming)
It was only into the middle of last year I finally started playing with some servers, mainly this and the PureMedia. Before then I had just settled to using my iMac for music but wanted to leave for a couple of main reasons. When handling lots of large music files my computer could not really handle other tasks (the Aria has never had a moment of lag or small hiccup) and because I wanted to know if using a dedicated audiophile computer solution, would sound different or better. As one would hope there is of course a difference, thats between both my servers and computer (and when I have used one of my portable players with a digital out as a transport). Now it is not a stark difference, not on the level of a DAC or amp swap but one that will impact you’re listening. Non surprisingly this was definitely better than my Mac. While there are different signatures all round with the different transports, the iMac was the one that struggled the most in terms of control, refinement and detail, with the Aria we were certainly taking a step up there and these are indeed positive signs of having a dedicated product for this chore if you could call it such a thing.
If I was to give this a sound signature, if that even is a thing for servers (I certainly think so) then I would say it is more that traditional HiFi sound. A little bloomy and warm in the bass, a little easier up top but very relaxed and refined all the way through. There is nothing hard about the sound and it flows perfectly. I will add that going through all my tests I used the same USB cable from totaldac that has a built in filter.
Running through the iMac and my servers I found every time that the least fatiguing listen on my ears was this, ok being very critical it didn’t quite have the extension in the top end as the PureMedia but had a thicker smoother treble which still had the right sparkle to it, just in no way over done. While it may be on the easier going side of things, it was in no way recessed or left out. In fact for this product as a whole it won’t ever effect the frequency response in a massive way but it will give you a treble with no grain (the opposite of the iMac) and hours of listening.
The bass just seemed to have a touch of extra decay to it, keeping it away from being sterile and giving it a touch more musicality. In fact all through the midrange we have some richness and warmth that made the sound very smooth and pleasant to listen to, it liked music and music becomes engaging. It never showed off to be as critical as the BMC but always had the upper hand on flow. This is something that is good at the base level of the sound tree but then you can also argue the same for a detailed, fast and neutral sound such as the BMC. Because of the nature of this products neither are at any level of extreme, the Aria is not sappy or slow, the BMC is not boring and neither are going to make an obvious sound signature difference to you beloved speakers or headphones. To me the most important thing that was evident was the ability this had. It was clearly with less digital artefacts than my run of the mill iMac and it pushed forward the overall level of my sound, feeding a top level DAC.
Going to the Mac after this was a bit of a mess. It seemed to be erratic, trying too hard to be fun and have treble that was hard work very quickly with lots of grain. It did not isolate individual instruments as well nor present space. It showed what I had been missing all along.
Shame to see it Go
It really is a shame that this will be being discontinued because it is a top notch product at a price point that is spot on. The thing it has got me wondering though is how much better is the new Aria Piccolo, I mean if it’s replacing this its got to be doing some different right. That being said the Piccolo takes form as a more standard (but stunning in its own right) server, this was something special, something different, something that stood out on its own. For me everything about this has been a joy in use, the app is amazing in design and flawless under use, the sound was great an improvement upon something less to purpose such a computer and on par with the more expensive BMC and more importantly it is well out there on its own as something more than a server, as the artistic iPad stand that will sit right in a listening room or a modern lounge, doing its purpose spot on.