As promised @MrUnderhill … the Aries G1 arrived yesterday and I’ve had a bit of time playing with the different connections and comparing between them. I’m not one for fancy descriptive words so it’ll be basic descriptions but hopefully it may help someone looking at these options.
This may go on a bit but I’ll try to keep it short as possible… sorry!
I enjoy listening to Acoustic Vocals, Folk, Blues, Classical right, Deep House and a whole lot more (varied). I love being able to look into tracks, picking out elements and focusing on detail in the soundstage, imaging. First up…
Naim ND5 XS2 - HiLine - Supernait 2 - HiCap DR - PMC Twenty5 22 with TQ Silver II
Lets face it, it’s a great package. It sounds great… detailed with a good energy to it. When I added the TQ Silver II, I was really impressed with the extra detail in the mid range. But, that also made me think about what a Chord DAC might do as I’d heard they’re great for anyone looking for detail.
Naim ND5 XS2 - Chord Qutest - HiLine - Supernait 2 - HiCap DR - PMC Twenty5 22 with TQ Silver II
Using a Mark Grant HDX1 BNC cable to the Qutest, there was an improvement in terms detail, Soundstage and imaging. It was a very pleasant uplift in quality… non of this night and day stuff. Just a nice improvement to what I listen to.
I found myself using the Qutest at 1v as it seemed to get a bit bright by the time it reached 3v. I was using a mix of filters, white and green mainly with orange for some classical. The white was good but felt a bit fatiguing after a little time and the green sounded more natural.
Reading posts from Rob Watts who designed it, he suggested optical was best for the Qutest and that people who found white filter too bright were maybe getting some RF interference from BNC and USB connections. There were also suggestions to use a power bank. The power bank (which I already had) sounded a bit flat so skipped that. There were also suggestions to use a ifi 5v iPower supply. This made a small but nice enough improvement. If only I had an Optical output to try out….
Auralic Aries G1 - Chord Qutest - HiLine - Supernait 2 - HiCap DR - PMC Twenty5 22 with TQ Silver II
After reading up on the G1 & G2… it seemed SQ was very similar to the G2 and a lot of the extra £’s were going into the nicely machined case, lightening connector and isolation feet. So, as I only wanted a transport with good connectivity, screen and controls I opted for the G1 as it seemed to provide best bang for buck! To be honest, provide the sound quality was at least the same as the ND% with Qutest, I’d would’ve been happy given the extra controls, outputs etc.
When I first set it up… using RCA - BNC - Qutest 3v White filter. All sound very good and as expected, very similar to the ND5 XS2. Maybe a bit more clarity, transparency…. Or, could it be RF noise providing false detail?!?
So, I pulled out an optical cable that had been in the draw for the last 20 years… very nice, not as bright but had great detail. The two words that come to mind first was fluid, natural but… a bit sadly a bit flat. This is when I remembered what @MrUnderhill had said… 3v makes it come alive… and it did. With the ND5 + BNC it was way too bright at 3v but with optical it sounded really good. I’d ordered a QED Performance optical cable but it hadn’t arrived at this point.
What was very noticeable was a big improvement in noise floor when using Optical. The quiet spells were so dark it really made everything else stand out so well. So, if Rob Watts was right with the Optical… how about trying the power bank again! At this point it was game set and match.
The combination of Optical, Chord Qutest and Power Bank seemed to improve the noise floor even further… all the pieces seemed to fit perfectly. The new QED Performance cable also arrived which improved it a bit further… more musical?!? There was a rhythm, pace that wasn’t quite there with the old cable.
When listening to “This Women’s Work” by Kate Bush, the silences seemed really powerful and dark with added emotion… the timbre of the hand drums in “Sous le sable” by Camille were incredible… it was like they were in the room, so vivid.
At this point, I’m extremely happy… I have what I was after, more detail but also with a sound that sounds so real, smooth and natural. It’s only now I realise that before, my system had an element of digital harshness to the highs… possible from added noise?!? I’ve sorted of realised the system is a sum of all its parts… even the small parts can make a big difference. I can now leave the Qutest on the white filter all the time, no fatigue what so ever.
Both ND5 XS2 and the Aries G1 have excellent build quality… really feel premium. The apps are very similar although I would have the Auralic implement Qobuz better. I prefer the way they have organised the headers. That said, I use Roon which I prefer over both.
Of course… if you’re not interested in using external DACs and are after simplicity…it’s even easier… son real need to look further than the ND5 XS2, it’s a terrific all in one player!