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Of broader appeal is digital audio streaming from any UPnP/DLNA server. But DSD compatibility currently demands the use of Minimserver. Here Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, QNAP, Synology and ReadyNAS versions are available. Installation of Minimserver on my MacBook Air necessitated the installation of a Java Runtime Environment. Once up and running (in the system tray), Minimserver announces the contents of a user-nominated folder to the network. It is from this folder that the Aries streams digital audio.

The supplied plastic RC-1 infrared remote is the same which ships with the Vega DAC. Only useful for play/pause, previous/next and numerical track selection, it’s nothing to write home about. And the Aries is quite particular about the RC-1 being pointed directly at its screen. Firing horizontally or vertically off-axis was a hit and miss. My advice: ditch it in favour of the iOS app….

…which itself gives rise to another niggle. The only way to configure the Aries’ digital outputs, set up network streaming, activate Airplay/Songcast or browse cloud-based libraries is via AURALiC’s home-baked Lightning DS iOS app. Finding it in Apple’s app store isn’t as easy as you might think. Forget about searching for 'AURALiC' and/or 'Aries'. 'Lightning DS' is the search term required to net the right result. Then comes the kicker. The iOS app is iPad only. At time of writing, no iPhone-compatible or Android app exists. On the latter, AURALiC CEO Xuanqiang Wang says, "the Android version is due October this year for a basic version and full version (with streaming) is coming by the end of the year." And then, "yes, we will have an iPhone version maybe by the end of this year". Control clients for OS X and Windows are also on the software development roadmap.

In the meantime, the Linn Kinsky app acts as a perfectly capable substitute when controlling song selection and playback from a local library. Think of the three devices deployed here as a networked triangle: server (Macbook Air running minimserver), renderer (the Aries) and control point (iPad app). Three clicks into the iPad app’s menu system are all it takes to point the Aries at the Minimserver folder share. Those with larger libraries must allow time for the app to cache library data and artwork after which browsing for an album and adding it to the active playlist is an appropriately fluid process.

Readers wanting to dig deeper into network setup and basic playback functionality are directed to the quick start guide here. Toslink, coaxial and AES/EBU sockets handle transmission of up to 32bit/384kHz PCM to the downstream DAC— that’s fairly standard—but if you intend to stream single- and double-rate DSD, the USB output buffered by AURALiC’s patented ActiveUSB™ technology is the only way to go.

Any USB DAC can theoretically accept a digital audio stream from the Aries. The emphasis here sits on ‘theoretically’. Both Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 and HRT microStreamer were each recognized by the Aries but pushing play brought forth distortion artifacts. This was most obvious with the Audioquest device. The Resonessence Labs Herus displayed no such distortion but even with its software volume at max, it played too quietly to achieve satisfactory SPLs. Odd.