As promised, for the last 5 days I tested the Aries G2 in my system to see if it can increase SQ (sound quality) compared to simply streaming via ethernet directly into the Vega G2. I tested using Roon as well as Lightning Server. Here are the exact signal paths I tested:
1 a) Music-Folder on NAS >> Minim-Server on NAS >> Ethernet >> Vega G2
1 b) Music-Folder on NAS >> Minim-Server on NAS >> Ethernet >> Aries G2 >> Lightning Link >> Vega G2
1 c) Music-Folder on NAS >> Ethernet >> Lightning-Sever on Aries G2 >> Lightning Link >> Vega G2
2 a) Music-Folder on NAS >> Roon-Core on NAS >> Ethernet >> Vega G2 as Roon-Endpoint
2 b) Music-Folder on NAS >> Roon-Core on NAS >> Ethernet >> Aries G2 as Roon-Endpoint >> Lightning Link >> Vega G2
Before I reveal my findings let me first state something obvious, even trivial (but I made the experience in my life that pondering over trivialities can yield great insight): The bigger the differences, the easier they are to hear. That also means: The smaller the differences the more difficult it gets. And in continuation: It is MOST difficult to establish that there are no differences at all!
That’s why I had to try really hard … it felt like my ears have grown a few centimeters out of my skull over last few days… but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hear any difference between four of the five signal paths mentioned above. Specifically:
• Path 1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b all sounded EXACTLY the same to my ears and in my system.
• It also didn’t make any difference if I connected the Aries via Ethernet cable or WiFi.
• Only path 1c sounded different and - amazingly - it sounded a bit worse. The sound stage was a bit more compacted and there was less air and openness compared to the other signal paths.
That last point really baffled me since I expected running everything (including the server) with Auralic’s Lightning Software might be superior since that software is custom made by Auralic for their own hardware. But no. Looks like the additional strain put on the renderer (the Aries G2 in this case) by also running the server part on the renderer has a negative impact on SQ. So, it is always best to run the server software on the server hardware (i.e. the NAS) and not on the renderer. Which kind of makes sense.
So, I brought the Aries G2 back to the dealer since I could not hear any SQ improvements in my system with my ears. That might be different for you. Or maybe you need some of the additional inputs (WiFi, Blutooth, Internal or external hard disk) or outputs (USB, Coax, Toslink) the Aries G2 provides. But I don’t need any of that. So, I wait for the LEO GX external clock. I have high hopes that this might indeed improve SQ significantly…