"Warm" vs. "cold" sound in Bluesound node 2 and Aries Mini with warm/soft amp and DAC

Fellow Listeners,

I was hoping some could shed some light on what is clearly an inadequate title.  I own the Arcam A39 and LS50s.  Arcam has been characterized as a "warmer" sounding line of Audio equipment.  The LS50s just sound good to me, so I can't find a label.   I want to get a streamer and an external DAC for Tidal.  I don't like using the computer.  Also I have NO audio files/don't want a server.  I have about 225 CDs and an old Rotel RCD 961 that has served me well.

A previous poster, lousyreeds1,  wrote this 18 months ago :

"I owned both and compared them directly over an extended period.  They sound surprisingly different.  The  BlueSound is considerably warmer, and the Aries Mini is faster and more incisive.  That basic difference was present whether using the internal DACs or not but of course using the digital out closes the gap slightly and highlights whatever you have downstream

I would like to get a Schiit Gungnir Multi as the DAC.  I am wondering how this combination would work with lots of "warmer" sounding equipment if that is in fact what I have, and I go with a Bluesound or a Mini.  I am not terribly concerned about money, but the important fact is I don't have access to lots of demo opportunities.  I did find a place that set up my Arcam and a Bluesound and compared it to CD and a Linn Sekrit ds. I felt the test was flawed by set up.  The Linn sounded terrible and that doesn't seem possible at that price point.

I've read and read, but need some clarification on these points from people with experience with some of these products and even the idea of sonic nomenclature when it comes to applying words to subjective impressions.

I use an Aries Mini into a Gungnir Multibit DAC.  Am pleased with this combination.  I think it is well balanced and clearly portrays sonic differences in recordings.  I don't think I can tell you how it will sound with the rest of your gear.  I've never used or heard a Bluesound Node 2.

I may have the "heat spectrum" covered, however, since I use the  Aries/Gungnir with a Freya pre-amp and the pre-amp (JFET or tube output) into either a Class A (First Watt F7), Class AB (Hegel H200) or Class D (Taranis) amp.  Speakers are Totem Forests or Silverline Prelude Plus, depending.  The F7 and Hegel seem warm to me.  The Taranis less so.  The Preludes definitely convey more treble energy than the Forests, though the Forests have metal dome tweeters.

Very happy with the results from all the various combinations.  None or muddy and slow due to an overly warm presentation.  None are ear-bleed bright.  FWIW - I do freely admit to tweaking the various combinations with different tubes, cables, and positioning.   

Hope this is at least somewhat relevant to your inquiry.

The difference in most digital sources is simply jitter.  If you reduce the jitter using a reclocker like the Synchro-Mesh of any of these devices, this will make them all sound similar.  It will also reduce jitter making the presentation more clear, focused and with better imaging.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio


Yes, that's the sort of thing in which I am interested. I received a post on CA that said the Mini with onboard DAC and Gungnir, when comparing their DACs, sound drastically different.  Would you be able to comment on this? 
chemman -
It had been a while since I first set up the Aries Mini. Couldn’t recall what its internal DAC sounded like. I’ve been running the Mini almost exclusively via USB out into a Schiit Eitr USB/SPIDF converter and then into the Gungnir.

So just now, I used a pair of Morrow Audio MA-4 RCA ICs to connect the single-ended analog outs of the Mini directly to the Freya pre-amp. Normalized volume as best I could using a Radio Shack SPL meter. Even so, it is hardly apples to apples as the analog vs digital connections are very different. The Mini’s digital out is running via an Oyaide USB into the Eitr and then from the Eitr via Black Cat digital coax into the Gungnir; a Cabledyne XLR carries signal to the Freya.

Going back and forth, I compared a few tracks. The sound using the Mini’s own DAC (compared to that from the Gungnir) is not bad but the presentation is a little more polite, a little "smaller". It doesn’t present the same sound stage as the Gungnir. Bass is not as deep either. Overall, and most tellingly to me, there just doesn’t seem to be as much complexity around the sound using the Mini’s own DAC. "Ambience" and dimensionality are a lot more evident with the Gungnir. I don’t know if these differences qualify as "drastic". Initially, it was obvious there was a difference in the sound from the Mini but it took some listening to begin defining what that difference stemmed from. Hope this helps.

Belatedly, I wonder if this is all moot as I see the Aries Mini listed as "sold out" on the Auralic website. I’d also heard in the past that Auralic planned to discontinue sales of the Mini in North America.  But perhaps you are not located in NA.  Whatever the case, good luck in your search. 

Yes, that’s the sort of thing in which I am interested. I received a post on CA that said the Mini with onboard DAC and Gungnir, when comparing their DACs, sound drastically different. Would you be able to comment on this?

Internal jitter will be different depending on what interface you are using and the DAC implementation.

Not all DACs are designed the same. Some are simply cold sounding because they use too many op-amps and the power subsystem is sub-par. Others because the designer does not understand how to minimize jitter. Others because of the digital filtering.

Next to jitter, digital filtering is the next most common culprit for impacting sound quality. I avoid it with my Overdrive DAC by manually selecting the 192 filter for all sample-rates. You cannot do this with most DACs, they self-select the filter.  This is particularly damaging to 44.1 files. That is why many like the older NOS DACs that have little to no filtering.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio