Aries G1 or Altair G1 linked to KEF LS50W

Good morning. I have recently bought a Cambridge Audio 851n streamer that I was quite happy with until the screen went crazy and it’s going back tomorrow for good. The rest of my system is just a KEF LS50 wireless unit that I’m very happy with.
My question really is, as the KEF has a DAC, preamp and power amp already built in, would the Aries G1 be a better option than the Altair G1 as I will put optimum value and sound quality on top of my priority list.
I’m going to the Bristol HiFi show on Sunday to have a listen before I part with any money but I’d appreciate some input from your learned members to point me in the right direction first.
Many thanks, John.

IMO yes, in your case Aries G1 would be the better choice, compared to Altair G1. Besides, with Aries you would gain more flexibility as to future upgrades.

Robin (happy owner of an Aries G1)

1 Like

Hi John,

I would say it probably depends on the DAC quality in the KEF’s, is it better than the one in the Altair?

If the Altair G1 has the better DAC then you might be better off going that way and using the analog input on the KEF’s.

I don’t think there is any argument that if you take the DAC out of the equation the Aries G1 is the better of the two, but in reality by how much when you listen to them side by side because the Altair is a great “all in one” unit.

I’m not sure how the KEF’s feed their speakers, for example can an analog signal go straight to the amps or does it internally convert everything to digital first, if it’s the latter that may make the Aries a better choice because you don’t want to be doing two sets of conversion.

Not sure if any of this helps because in the end you really need to do a listening comparison, but if you go the Aries route that means you can add a better DAC later to upgrade the sound further, the Altair doesn’t have a digital output so it’s very much a dead end from the upgradability point of view.

2 Likes

Thanks for your reply, Robin.
So the Aries is upgradeable then?
I like the sound of that already.
Does it decode MQA files too?

This may help.

https://support.auralic.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000190254-The-Streamer-Menu

Note comment in point 7.

1 Like

With „upgradability“ I meant your complete setting. Each function in a single box makes it easier to replace them one by one. But of course software upgrades are being pushed through the internet.

As to MQA, you can configure this inside the streamer setup:

MQA Pass-through : When enabled this setting will pass the original music signal through your streaming device without making any changes, allowing an external DAC to use its own decoding functions. Use this option when connected to an MQA-enabled DAC for example. (You may also need to disable the volume control function of your streaming device or set the volume to 100 to ensure full-level pass-through of the signal.)

Otherwise you may have your Aries decode MQA files:

Decoding Method : AURALiC streaming devices are capable of decoding MQA files using AURALiC’s proprietary resampling and de-blurring method. You can select from the sampling rate settings for the process described here. Please note that this process is not an MQA-created or MQA-licensed process.

Robin

P.S. Of course, like always, Simon is right too :smile_cat:

2 Likes

Thanks for the info, SiHancox.
I really don’t know too much about the KEF’s workings, other than it is a complete package, including a built in streamer and that it has a phone stage for a turntable.
I was just watching a John Darko clip of the Aries G1 and it certainly looks good but I have concern about the Lightning DS application as I only have an Android phone using Tidal HIFI for connection.
Looking at the rear connectors, I couldn’t see RCA outputs on the Aries and I’m not really a Toslink fan either so I’m a bit unsure of how it’d link in with my KEF’s.
Would I be able to stream TIDAL directly from my Samsung phone the way I previously used to with the Cambridge 851n?
Sorry for the long winded questions.

It seemed to me

Hi John,

All the outputs on the Aries are digital (apart from Ethernet and HDD), whatever the type, so you will need to match the type on the Aries with the same on the KEF’s.

https://us.auralic.com/products/aries-g1?variant=30892280676485

With regards streaming TIDAL the best from a quality point of view is to use what’s built in to all Auralic devices/software and sign in to your TIDAL account then use the LDS app to control your music selection. But that does require the use of an iDevice, either iPhone or an iPad.

https://support.auralic.com/hc/en-us/articles/206808357-How-to-access-my-TIDAL-Qobuz-WiMP-streaming-account-

The other way that might be possible is to use the TIDAL app on your Android and then stream via Bluetooth, but I’ve never actually done that and the quality will be limited to that capable of standard Bluetooth. There is an AirPlay option which can be used in a similar way to Bluetooth and quality is higher at CD rate, but it again requires an iDevice.

The long shot is if you go with Auralic you need to factor in an iDevice, even the entry level iPad will be sufficient, but that adds an extra £300 or so to your costs.

I must admit to being a little confused with regards to your enquiry because the KEF’s you listed are capable of Wireless connection and KEF provide an App for both Apple and Android devices to allow the use of streaming services, have you not considered just using TIDAL on Android and wirelessly connecting Android to KEF’s with the KEF App!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cGTlCEsNMU&vl=en

https://www.whathifi.com/kef/ls50-wireless/review

1 Like

The whole purpose of your KEF speakers is to eliminate the clutter of components and wires.

Are you not happy with the KEF app to steam your music? The Kef is also able to connect directly with Roon.

The Aries does not have a DAC so there are no RCA outputs. It only provides a digital signal to your KEFs DAC via USB. You don’t want to use the optical input on the Kef as it is limited to 96k.

The Altair is a streamer and a DAC so there is the added RCA out if you wanted to use the Altair’s DAC. The other benefit of using an external DAC is higher sample rates higher than KEFs 192k limitations. The DAC will have to be connected into the KEFs analog inputs which From what I understand WILL be resampled by KEFs DAC. I am not sure what that means when playing higher sample rates than 192k. Will it down sample it? I am not sure but what I have heard from others who have these speakers it will sound much better because of a higher quality signal coming in from the external DAC. You can also use a Aries G1 with another Brand DAC.

Thanks for the reply.
The wireless KEF app on my phone is abysmal. Most of the time, the two don’t recognise each other and I have to fully reset like I had to when I first bought the system.
I thought maybe it was my WiFi signal being on the weak side but on the Cambridge Audio 851n streamer, the WiFi worked like a charm.
I’ve even got that frustrated with it that I’ve reverted to using the Bluetooth feature instead which defeats the whole point of buying the system in the first place.
Also, and this might sound shallow I know, but I love to be able to view the current album art of the music I’m listening to - a factor I overlooked when I first bought the KEF’s.
For these reasons, the AURALIC range is standing out for me at the moment and have the best PCM and visuals.
I just hope I love the sound enough to buy one now!

1 Like

Hi John,

I doubt you will have an issue with the sound quality of either Auralic device and if you have narrowed down the wireless issue to the KEF’s (or the App) then the idea to take them out of the equation does seem logical.

You are back to deciding between Altair with its analog signal going to your speakers or the Aries feeding a digital one.

Both will need the purchase of an iDevice as said before but if you are happy with Android for phone duty that means looking at an entry level iPad (10.2” or Mini) might be more beneficial with the larger screen for content searches which I personally believe is a nicer overall experience than any phone size screen, but that’s just me.

As said before the Aries allows future upgrade potential and the Altair offers a “one box” solution without giving much away with regards to sound quality. Obviously that changes if you add a more expensive DAC to the Aries at a later date but that assumes you will be prepared to spend more money on the system and that might not be worth it without upgrading the speakers (welcome to the dreaded upgrade circle)!

Either Auralic device with an iPad then allows you to stream music service that are built into the LDS App, stream those that aren’t from the services specific App on the iPad using AirPlay, which is still far better than the Bluetooth you have been forced to use with the KEF’s.

Other than an audition at the nearest dealer, not sure what else can be added, it’s really down to you now.

The easiest and quickest step to solve most of your issues and wants is to get a trial to Roon as it connects directly to your KEFs and you are able to use a pc and android device to control.

If your Android only & have no plans to buy an iPhone or iPad & want to Stream from an Auralic device I think that the Android Bubble DS App should be able to see your Auralic streamer be it an Aries or Altair…
I’m pretty sure that the Auralic’s use a similar kind of software comparable with Linn streamers. I used to own a Linn DSM & if only had android the Bubble DS App could stream your Tidal account stuff no problems.
When I got my Auralics I could use them with Linn’s own streaming software called Linn Kazoo… So going by the logic of the Auralic streamers seem to use a very similar software/ firmware Base I would think that if your Android only = Try “Bubble DS” streaming App :wink:

1 Like

BTW, I have been in the computer world since my first Unix machine in 1973. But it was only 2012 when I purchased my very first Apple Computer, a MacBook. That moment I felt the sun rise and a new age was breaking. Subsequently I replaced my ugly old smartphone by an iPhone - and I have employed solely Macs, iPhones and iPads ever since. Don‘t be shy and give an iDevice a try, maybe, like Simon suggested, a small and/or used one. Such a device won‘t set you back too painfully, but I‘m sure, once you hold it in hands you won‘t want to miss it. :green_apple:

Robin

2 Likes

Thank you everyone for all your good advice.
Yesterday I attended the Bristol HiFi show and heard the Altair in action.
I now know what all the fuss is about!
I spoke to the Auralic representative (Richard) about my situation with the KEF’s and he advised me to get the Aries G1 and go straight into the KEF’s inner DAC’s.
This is what I will do and download the Android bubble app (as suggested, thank you) and see how the system sounds when I get it :+1:

1 Like

Hi John,

Glad you got sorted and I’m sure the new setup will not disappoint, please keep the forum updated when you get the Aries installed, that’s if you can spare the time from the new listening experience!

1 Like

Definitely have a trial period to listen to it in your setup before purchase. The Aries will not make your Dac sound better. I would also trial the Altair G1 before making a final decision.

I own a pair of KEF LS50s and drive it with my Aries mini (Firmware 6.2). It all sounds wonderful. I run the mini with the Lightning DS app and serve it music from my NAS and from Tidal. Couldn’t be be better.

Just to confirm your LS50s are the passive speakers with no internal DAC.

My KEFs have integrated 24/192 DACs.

jm

1 Like