Streaming System Upgrade Options?

Would be interested in views regarding eventually moving forward with the Streaming element of my system, which is currently Aries Mini>Naim Pre>Naim Power>Spendor A6 Speakers.

Some would say it’s currently a little unbalanced but I wanted to limit my initial “toe dipping” into streaming until I was certain it was for me, so settled on the Mini to give me that experience.

I’m in two minds how to move forward, I very much like how everything works at the Mini level (having content on internal ssd) so thought about retaining the little beast and adding a DAC like the MYTEK Brooklyn or similar.

The other option consider @Xuanqian has made it clear a Mini 2 will not be coming in the foreseeable future is to look towards the new Altair G1. I like the idea of the Altair because it appears by using an aftermarket kit the Mini ssd can be swapped straight over thereby giving instant access to my content.

So what would give the best bang for bucks, how does the Brooklyn house sound differ from Auralic and are there any major advantages going one way to the other (excluding one box compared to two).

Appreciate any views or experiences.

The Mini is a capable source for an external DAC of your choice, however the Aries G1 is a nice uplift again. I now use the Mini with SSD as the server with a wired connection to a switch and the G1 wirelessly. DAC for me is a Chord Qutest connected by USB.

If I went the Auralic route was thinking more of sticking to a one box upgrade solution, the forthcoming Altair G1 nicely fulfils that requirement, an Aries G1 on the other hand has me speeding more on two boxes.

I believe the new Altair G1 has most of the G1 range improvements together with latest dac, the attraction (for me) is it will take an internal drive and therefore be a one box solution similar to existing Mini.

It’s just I was unsure if the £1900 that an Altair G1 will cost could not be better invested in a third party dac, to supplement my existing Mini. After all, concentrating the cash on just a dac like Mytek or Chord should logically get better results than spreading it around between streamer/dac etc as in the Altair.

But is that how logic works, or does improving the streaming side (and other areas) also have a large part to play in improving sound quality.

@SiHancox

My choice taking an ARIES G1 on one hand and a DAC on the other hand was due that from the start I wanted separated devices for each process in the way to keep the NAIM Touch given through my NAC252 Preamp. I see your are a NAIM AUDIO FAN as well.
Before I had two other streamers : an rPlay ARCAM and a NAIM AUDIO NDX. They were pretty nice playing music but limited in HiRes format so I decided to change and today I have no regrets. The burning in took quite some time, one month and so and the sound was how can I say , « crispy? » in the high frequencies at the beginning. But now every thing is fine and I am very happy with the combination of all the device and the NAIM Touch came back.
It’s not easy to tell somebody you should take this device or another.
Putting on paper a shortlist with the technical needs you want is a good way to do for making your final choice. And even better if you could go for a listen session.
Good luck, take your time. If you go for a separate DAC I saw on the NATIVEDSD website a list with plenty of DACs and their technical characteristics, go and have a look http://www.nativedsd.com/database

To answer your last question, I’m afraid that yes the streaming transport is important and the Aries G1 is a step up from the Mini.

I also understand what you are saying and I think that if you are looking to spend around £2k then the new Altair is worth a listen. The VEGA G1 is a better DAC but it costs more etc. etc.

The only comment I would make about the VEGA G1 is that if you play mixed sample rate playlists there is an audible relay click before the next track is played. This is by design so would be interesting to find out if the Altair does this if it would be a concern to you.

@Woodycatz

Thank you, appreciate your thoughts and fully understand it’s hard to suggest to others specific directions on which way to go, but reviewing what decisions others have made, and why, when selecting their system can still help.

Thank you for explaining why you went the way you did and how you got there.

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@KJH

I suppose until the Altair G1 gets released into the wild it’s all guesswork anyway, unless @Xuanqian can add an informed view to how it compares to the existing Aries G1 and Vega G1 with respect to sound quality.

But I suspect both of those (as you say) will be a further step up the ladder, but at a cost I don’t feel I can stretch to at the moment.

I would also like to retain a Wireless function with respect to streaming so that appears to rule out the Vega anyway (without changes to my network), and the Aries as I realised previously will require a Dac which I don’t have yet.

I’m probably backing myself into the Altair G1 corner, but it was just how much of an improvement it will bring to the streaming side when compared to just using the Mini as a transport, and how it’s inbuilt Dac compares to third party ones in the £2k range that had me scratching my head.

Anyhow, thanks for sharing your thoughts, much appreciated, I’ll keeping reading up on what info is available and (hopefully) in the not too distant future that may include first hand experiences of the Altair G1.

Don’t rule out Vega G1 due to no wireless function. Just place a WiFi bridge/extender next to it and run Ethernet cable to the streaming input.

That’s certainly an option technically but I really feel it’s the cost side of things that stopping me here, after all, the Vega G1 is another £1400 over and above the Altair G1 or the Dac that I am currently considering.

Undoubtably it will be the better performer (but by how much), saying that I’ve found from experience you just have to have a limit, because if you don’t things can easily get out of hand and where does it all end.

Also, I’m trying not to add to the existing box count be it system or network related if I can help it, not just to keep “clutter” to a minimum but also for technical reasons (see below), which can be a little strange for others to understand especially since I jumped into the Naim Pre/Power option in the first place.

That’s why my logic at the moment is still the Altair G1 which would be a direct replacement for the Mini and therefore box count stays the same, and that would be true for any “accessories” like power supplies or network as well.

If I went the Dac way I might still be able to keep the above box count goal if using the Mytek because it appears to have a very good phono stage built in that would allow me to get rid of my Naim Stageline (but would have to compare the two first for that step to happen).

As I said the box count goal might sound silly to some, but if you consider they also take up more power points and due to the house being rather old those are in short demand, plus I have found adding certain power supplies (computer related) can negatively influence the sound of the system, so would ideally like to keep clear of that can of worms.

Saying all the above, I’m reluctant to “unbalance” the rest of my system, especially on the vinyl side which I’ve spent so long getting right, by swapping over components, hence my comment previously it appears I’m backing myself into the Altair G1 corner.

Still, I’m in no rush, which is a good thing really as nothing is every as simple…

@arturo

Sorry, forgot to ask and putting you on the spot, if you were constrained between two options (for various reasons) in either exchanging the Mini for the Altair G1 which I assume then would improve the Streaming side, Dac and Power supply or to tag on a similar priced Dac to the existing Mini, which I assume would then elevate the Dac side even further, but at the possible expense and uncertainty of the Streaming side, would the “extra” Dac improvement be enough to compensate for keeping the Streaming side the same I wonder - so which way would you go?

I assume it would largely depend on how really good the Mini is in holding it’s own when just being asked to do Streaming duty, but that’s just my assumption, what do you think and are there other factors that might come into play.

Thanks for your time.

The ALTAIR G1 was not designed to have the same sound quality level of VEGA G1, they are based on very different technology and the price reflect what you get. VEGA G1’s priority is sound quality so it has limited streaming feature but the DAC is very good. The ALTAIR G1 is a all around solution that fit everything into a box.

If I were you, I would buy VEGA G1 and keep ARIES MINI for now. You use ARIES MINI plug to Ethernet as Lightning Server and VEGA G1 also plug to Ethernet as streamer, this will give you best sound quality result. This also give you option to upgrade, to add ARIES G1 in front of VEGA G1 and connect the two via USB to bring better sound quality and more features.

If you buy ALTAIR G1, you are a kind of locked to this device and you wont have the flexibility to upgrade. However if your budget is only for ALTAIR G1 then it is currently the best option to go as it is really inexpensive.

This sums it up perfectly. Sound quality? Go Vega G1.

Hi @Xuanqian

Your comment regarding not boxing oneself in with respect to the Altair G1 is a valid point which I hadn’t considered, but unfortunately if I go for the Vega that will then delay the upgrade because I simply don’t have the funds, plus it assumes I’m prepared to spend more later on to swap out the Mini, which again I also hadn’t considered.

I’ve always been a firm believer of setting a budget and sticking to it, yes for best sound quality the Vega is the correct way to go, but then where does it all end if you jump on that bandwagon! I suppose it’s why I’ve resisted adding numerous power supplies to my existing Naim system, the sound quality is good enough for me considering the budget allowed.

I do find it interesting that you consider the Mini is good enough to pair with the Vega G1 though, is that just for the short term or is the Mini, as a streamer, really good enough to hold its own on a more permanent basis.

Other questions I still have unanswered and would really appreciate your view, is where does the Altair G1 Dac section sit when compared to a similar priced third party Dac’s (eg Mytek) and how much better than the Mini is the Altair G1 package?

Appreciate the former is putting you on the spot with regards to commenting on competing products, but would assume as a company you have compared various Dac’s to your products during development, so would you be able to summarise any findings/thoughts.

I realise it may seem that I’m not listening to “some” of the comments being made, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s just that I like having as much information as possible before making the final decision (and possibly committing more funds in the long term) and currently I feel some areas are still left unanswered.

Hi @arturo

Unfortunately as much as I would like to commit to the Vega option I have difficulty committing the funds, in the immediate future anyhow, for a more detailed reason see reply to @Xuanqian

@SiHancox Which is precisely why I choose to buy second hand. I choose the original first generation Auralic lineup of all separates including mono blocks for $5600 which would have been $12,500 new about 6 years ago. I could not be happier with my investment. Thank you @Xuanqian for your help setting up my first all separates system!

@Mlmowery

You raise a very good point and it’s certainly something worth considering, I’ve normally steered away from that sort of thing in the past due to the risks involved, but I suppose they can be reduced if you purchase from a reputable dealer that then offers a short warranty.

But I still keep coming back to the single unit solution, ie Altair G, from my Mini posts it’s not hard to see that I really like the concept of this little unit, everything neatly in one case and how it works so well without having to add additional network equipment or having cables and drives hanging off it.

Must admit I’ve changed a little since my Naim purchase some 9 years ago, then it was a dream fulfilled owning a Pre/Power combo (remember seeing/hearing them as a kid when going with Dad to the local dealer) but now I’m more into keeping the hifi box count to manageable levels.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Naim’s and wouldn’t want to change them, but I feel the Mini has shown me a different way and was hoping the Altair G1 could continue that forward.

That’s why I’m pushing a little to understand how competitive the Dac section is to standalone third party Dac’s of similar price, and how far of an improvement the Altair G1 is when compared to the Mini, hopefully @Xuanqian can provide those answers.

I can understand how some will not understand this line of thinking when traditionally all that counts is sound quality, but I’m trying to look at a more balanced approach with how the kit integrates with the rest of my system, one that doesn’t create another black box tower but still achieves a sound quality good enough for me.

Anyhow, have you managed to resolve the volume issue within your system without resorting to using the unbalanced outputs or turning the device output level down?

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SiHancox,

my entrance to the streaming world were an Aries LE at first and consecutively an Aries Femto, which I hurried to get rid of because of annoying WiFi-problems. I then purchased two used Aries Minis (because at that time their production was already discontinued so they were no longer available unused), one for my listening room an one for my headphone amp. I upgraded both of them with BOTW Sbooster power supplies and MKII add-ons which erased any interference from the Minis’ switching power supplies and also any audible noise from the mains. BTW, my music is stored in a synology nas and accessible by WiFi.

Of course I gave the on-board-DACs of my Minis a try and found them clearly superior to the DAC in the Marantz HD-DAC1 (a CS4398) that I then used - and equal to the DAC in my Audeze Deckard headphone amp (a TI PCM5102a). So in my listening room I decided to make use of the Mini‘s DAC and replaced the Marantz by a stand-alone pre amp (a Pro-Ject Pre-Box RS, powered by a Power Box RS). These steps improved sound quality significantly.

To cut a long story short, I’m absolutely happy with my Minis. Of course, if you do have an itch to spend money for a new streamer and/or DAC, please feel free to do so; I know the delights of purchasing new gear ;-). Anyway, I will stick to my ingenious Minis as long as they will be in working order.

@SiHancox purchasing used hifi equipment is a safe bet. Think about it, Audiophiles baby their equipment and like to upgrade to something better within a few years.

My output level on my Vega is 100% and I control volume with my Pre Amp. I barely turn the volume knob on my Pre Amp and the sound is already filling the room. At night I have to lower the volume and the SQ does not change as I can still hear every detail. Like you pointed out the size of my room and the sensitivity of my speakers contribute to just how far I can turn up the volume.

At this point I am just enjoying the music. I particularly like near field listening. I will try to abstain from looking for things in my system to improve SQ and just be content with what I have now which is such a huge improvement from what I had.

Good luck with your search. Their is nothing wrong with a single box solution. Whatever @Xuanqian makes will sound great and you can just enjoy the music.

Hi @komadori

That’s a very interesting post and thank you for taking the time, I’m also impressed by what the Mini can do and how it punches well above it’s weight, it’s that fact that’s mainly keeping me from flying off in a no limit upgrade spree because if I feel the Mini is good, what must the Altair G1 be like!

The Mini though was partly purchased to served a learning purpose because previous to that my only experience with streaming was via Apple’s AirPlay (and a little Sonos), so Auralic has dragged me into the future a little with regards to my main system.

It’s just now I’m over the initial learning curve and appear to like the whole process of how content is managed via LDS I feeling my main system could benefit from going a little more upmarket, plus the additional functionality offered by the Altair G1 and screen appeal to me.

The fact it also has a better power supply as standard for which I haven’t yet invested in for the Mini (so I have that money towards it’s purchase) is another benefit.

A lot of what I’ve be asking will obviously get answered when the new unit finally appears, but getting to hear one could still be an issue because I don’t appear to have dealers close to my location, hence trying to get as many informed views as possible via the forum.

As I said in my previous post, it may appear I’m dismissing some of what’s said, but I’m not, I’ll weigh it all up at the end before taking the final decision, but at least I’ll have reduced things down to a more manageable choice.

It will just be the challenge of then getting to listen to what’s short listed!

Looking forward to your sharing your experiences with us. And wishing you good luck and, most of all, having tons of fun purchasing your new gear :slight_smile: