UPDATED! CES 2016: AURALiC add MQA, RoonReady to Aries


UPDATE 10th January 2016: An e-mail from AURALiC: “Because MQA is a ‘end to end’ processing to maximum the performance with best sound quality, the ARIES and ARIES LE will integrate MQA file decoder but the final rendering has to be done by a MQA certificated DAC (ARIES MINI analog output is a MQA certificated DAC stage).”

UPDATE 11th January 2016: From AURALiC’s Facebook page: “During CES, MQA discovered that wireless high-resolution Music Streamers without built-in DACs (i.e., AURALiC’s ARIES, ARIES LE & ARIES MINI) require a slightly different implementation of its technology. MQA has not yet completed finalizing the definitive version of the technology; no MQA partner has yet to receive the actual final version of this emerging technology, which will be downloadable to any product in the very near future.) Because of this, AURALiC’s original plan to include TIDAL/MQA capability in the v3.0 firmware being issued today will not occur. Xuanqian Wang, President & CEO.”


ces2016First came a blog post from AURALiC’s German distributor: “Neu AURALiC Lightning mit RoonReady und mit MQA”. Little more than basic high school German (or Google Chrome) were required to translate news that AURALiC were about to set the tone for digital audiophiles attending CES 2016: that there will be much talk of Roon and/or MQA integration within third party DACs and digital audio streamers.

Then came the press release to confirm it: “AURALIC LIMITED, are pleased to be the first developer of a complete line of high-resolution audio streamers to offer fully implemented capability for two of the industry’s significant new technologies: MQA® decoding and RoonReady® integration.”  At the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, next week AURALiC will be streaming nothing but MQA and Tidal. The wording is sufficiently vague an almost confirms hi-res streaming is coming to Tidal via MQA (as predicted last month).

A soon to be released firmware update to all three Aries streamer models will bring AURALiC’s Lightning platform to v3.0, from which the Aries, the Aries LE and Aries Mini will all get MQA compatibility but that RoonReadiness (initially) only applies to the two big fellas. Roon support for the Aries Mini in still “in progress”.

Finally – and there’ll be much dancing in the halls for this one – an iPhone version of AURALiC’s Lightning DS app is set to land in the App Store “soon after CES”.


There’s no doubting AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang’s commitment to steering his company hard into software development territory which, as Android users can attest, hasn’t always been plain sailing.

Quoth this week’s press release: “After more than two years developing and refining the Lightning DS streaming platform, we are building our own eco system, achieving our goal of repositioning Lightning DS from being a hardware control software to a complete music management system, helping people explore their music.

Considering that we first demonstrated a prototype of the Lightning DS at the 2014 CES, we have grown tremendously as THE streaming solution for high-resolution music, making the impossible possible.”

However…questions remain: does RoonReady mean Roon Endpoint capabilities only or does it also roll in Roon’s server code? And even with Endpoint functionality on AURALiC streamers, is Lightning DS all but redundant for Roon users?

Here’s another thought: with The Beatles’ catalogue recently added to Tidal and with that same catalogue existing elsewhere as 24-bit stereo masters, will the two (ahem) come together in hi-res streaming glory? (That’s only exciting until we remember that the Fab Four’s digital transfers were all done at 44.1kHz).

These questions and more will be answered once I’ve spent time with Captain Wang of AURALiC, Bob Stuart of MQA and Rob Darling and Enno Vandermeer of Roon Labs.

Stay tuned.

Further information: AURALiC


Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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  1. ” does RoonReady mean Roon Endpoint capabilities only or does it also roll in Roon’s server code? And even with Endpoint functionality on AURALiC streamers, is Lightning DS all but redundant for Roon users?”

    This from the Auralic Facebook page may shed some light on your questions
    “AURALiC Roon is a competing technology vs Lightning DS App. We have decided to add Roon support to ARIES & ARIES LE as we want customer to have another choice. On the other hand, using Roon means you will lost most future benefit compare to if you keep using Lightning DS. The team is working on LDS to catch up in a really fast speed.”

  2. I have an Auralic Aries that I purchased in April 2015. My personal experience has been an enormous disappointment simply because Auralic has completely failed (then reneged completely) on their support for non Apple platforms for Lightning DS. They managed to get it out of Beta (about six months after they said they would) then declared V1.0 a ‘production’ version. If you have an Android device please take a look at it as it is entirely cringe worthy. V1.0 is a joke and lame beyond belief. It therefore makes my blood boil whenever I see this company releasing new products (and getting high fives for innovation) when they so egregiously (and flagrantly) diss existing users.
    So, when you get some time with Mr Wang may I ask that you channel your best investigative reporter impression and ‘shirt front’ him on Android support for existing customers. If he does indeed plan to take his company is a ‘software direction’ I suggest he needs to learn exactly what that is going to take in terms of supporting existing customers and getting things to work before flitting onto the Next Big Thing. That is the difference between a science experiment and a credible manufacturer with a brand worth something. You have (quite rightly) previously been sceptical/critical of crowd funding projects for their failure to deliver or support their products or customers. I would like you to approach Auralic with the same caution.
    Of course (much) will be forgiven if this new announcement makes DS redundant and to be replaced by a cross platform solution that actually works. Still, I have been burnt by the experience and could not recommend an Auralic product. Just sayin’

    • I agree with your points, it’s really poor show for a manufacturer of high end goods to promise something then take it away. A big slap on the hand Mr Wang. Luckily for me I purchased a reconditioned Ipad for my partner so she could buy handbags, shoes and cushions off the internet, (wink) the Apple software works much better than the Android beta version.
      I’d be really annoyed if the device was poor but it’s a wonderful box of digital magic to listen to music through and has transformed my listening experience. Part of me knew this product was at the cutting edge and not fully developed so I expected a little pain and it’s nice to get a product which is constantly evolving. I am however surprised at MQA compatibility so soon, especially as they hinted of room shaping software in some of their early promos, another slap on the hand Mr Wang, but then again how much is it worth to the developers of MQA to work with Auralic on this one, looks like a well planned marketing partnership to me. I remain open minded on MQA so bring it on, if it sounds good then it is, isn’t it?

  3. Never liked the Auralic Software UI – didn’t buy an Aries b/c of it. If I could run the Roon app on a tablet, Roon on my server, and output to an Aries, it would come back into consideration for me.

  4. John,

    Are you hearing anything about Aurender’s plans to decode (render) MQA files? A big part of this question is that I assume TIDAL is going to offer Hi-Rez as an option using MQA encoded files in the near future.

    When I purchased my Aurender in early 2015 I had no idea of what TIDAL was. Now I find I listen to TIDAL Lossless tracks more than I do my own ripped CDs or Hi-Rez tracks purchased via HDTracks. No doubt the brilliant integration of TIDAL on the Aurender plays a big part of this, but TIDAL also affords me access to the same 35 million track potential at home or in my car or anywhere I have access to the Internet.

    Once TIDAL offers HiRez as an option, HDTracks might as well turn off the lights as it’ll be game over for the subscription vs. download debate.

    Brian …

  5. MQA has been promised for so long that the better course would be to wait a few months after these new announcements and product releases to determine if this is the real deal and if so, hop on the bandwagon after all the reviews are out. No sense in being a pioneer in this product line, fraught with so many delays that it has left a bad taste and negative impression for so many of us who in the words of Phil Lesh on Terrapin Station (Unbroken Chain) are searching for the sound. These gaffes are reminiscent of the Pono, which had so much marketing hype and when it finally was released after literally years of plugging the product it was essentially obsolete.

  6. The ongoing price of Roon is putting me off. I listen with my eyes closed so any reliable metadata software capable of net streaming is good for me. That said I would welcome a one off payment with some limited functionality to dip my toe in.

  7. What does Aries MQA compatibility mean here? Does it mean that Aries will decode MQA and produce a higher resolution stream for the DAC or does it simply mean pass-through of the data to a DAC that can decode MQA?

    • AFAIK, it means the Aries will unpack the MQA file and pass it to the DAC as a ‘normal’ PCM file. The need for an MQA capable DAC is therefore obviated.

      • Hi John, reading the latest update on the 11th has your understanding changed on this one or are Auralic attempting to agree a software solution that doesn’t need an MQA compatible DAC?

        • I believe both companies are engaged in working out a mutually agreeable software solution but my understanding is that won’t come for a while yet. And that is all I have to say about that.

  8. So, I gather the Aries converts the MQA to something DAC agnostic/ universally friendly assuming the resolution is there to support it. Certain articles seem to indicate that the DAC itself must be capable of conversion. For instance, the recent Mytek article here uses the phrase “MQA-equipped DAC. ” An more thorough MQA primer maybe helpful down the road.

      • I did, thank you! It’s the hardware versus software thing that’s hard to get arms around. I gather decoding can happen at software level, but it’s an open question on the sq delta in doing it in hardware direct. Looking forward to your post.

      • The MQA website does not explain much! I downloaded one MQA encoded sample from 2L.no. It showed up as a 24/44.1 file in Audirvana+ but sounded much worse than the 24/96 download. Here is shown why: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/blogs/miska/some-analysis-and-comparison-mqa-encoded-flac-vs-normal-optimized-hires-flac-674/
        I expect it would not matter if a MQA file is a download or a stream it requires some unfolding software(maybe Tidal/Roon will have something like that eventually built in).

        • Assuming the MQA file doesn’t do strange things to Audirvana, the playback software won’t process the hi-res portion of the MQA file and will pass only the Redbook portion to your DAC. So in effect you’re comparing a 16/44.1 to a 24/96. One would expect the latter to sound better, no?

          • it does not sound like a 16/44.1 file more like mp3 with extra noise. (see my link). I not questioning the sound quality of MQA properly decoded (had no chance to listen to it) but MQA stated that it just can be played without properly decoding it in (better then) CD sound quality seem not to be correct.

  9. Hi John, long time reader, first time poster.

    Not sure if you have any insight on this, but, while the Aries and Aries LE are now Roonready, the Aries Mini is not. Do you know if there is a road map for the Aries Mini to become Roonready or is this not going to happen? I just purchased my Mini for my office (i have a big boy Aries in the living room) and there is still a window to return and grab something like the Sonicorbiter for the office.

    I am not in a panic but wondering if this might be in the works.