Perceived sound quality – Roon vs. Lightning DS on Aries G2

I have been told, and I have read various posts saying, that Lightning DS sounds superior to Roon when having the Auralic Aries G2 as network player. Some describe the difference as “jaw dropping” in favor of Lightning DS. I have only been running Roon on my Aries G2 since the beginning for the year, so it was about time to do some decent testing.

I decided to just try out Tidal since I’m lazy enough to depend mostly on streaming media these days. Setting up Lightning DS was very smooth and switching between the two took about one second so it was perfect for testing both shorter and longer bits of music. We were three people participating in the tests, one switching back and forth and two listening without knowing.

Playing “Anthem” by Madelene Peyroux we immediately were struck by the difference. None of us expected it to be any significant difference at all. It wasn’t “jaw dropping” but it was definitely there high and clear. In this first piece of music (three songs from the album) we all preferred Lightning DS over Roon. Clarity was the biggest difference. The music and her voice stood out. I double checked with a db meter on my phone that the levels were the same, and they were, so we continued the test.

After playing a broad variety of music from rock to jazz, classic to hiphop, soul to electronic music it became evident that Roon was the overall winner according to all of us. And Roon was the winner by more than a little. It was as if someone changed the EQ on Lightning DS pushing for “clarity” and “transparency” but at the same time missing out on the dynamic, harmony and overall characteristic of the music.

First we though that Lightning DS was maybe more revealing and that “well produced” music sounded better with Lightning DS. But after listening for quite some time we came to the conclusion that it, probably, is more about a sound signature. With Lightning DS the music became more “in your face”. Electric guitars, trumpets and similar sounds were cutting through. Piano when played more aggressively lost some dynamic character. For the vast majority of the music we all preferred Roon.

To paraphrase the classic YMMW, this might be my setup effecting the perceived performance and I know other people have different opinions and results. But I must say that I am genuinely surprised that there was a difference between the two players. And I’m slightly relieved that Roon came out as the winner – Even though this will then continue to cost me more money every year. :sweat_smile:

I’ll end this with saying: Thanks Roon for making such a great product! :+1:t3:

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I personally feel that local files sound noticeably better wih Lightning DS with my Aries G1. Imo the clarity and dynamics is the biggest difference and the depth of image the second. Now, this is is no huge difference, but quite noticeable.
With Tidal content the differences are harder to spot for me.

I am very much looking forward to the firmware 6.x.x from Auralic which Mr Wang states will improve Roon playback on the G1 “significantly”.

Oh, i am running my Aries wireless, most of the time.

As I understand it, on Aries G1/G2, when you use Roon, you bypass all the custom Auralic stuff (internal upsampling, filtering, etc) and it is just passing the Roon source material through through straight. Whereas when using Lightning DS, the extra Auralic processing is applied. On the Vega G1/G2, they adapted the RAAT component to feed into their own processing, so you get Roon+Auralic. On their forums, they’ve indicated that the Aries line will get the same Roon+Auralic processing in a future update. This is presumably what they are talking about for Firmware 6.

Now, as to which people think sound better, Roon, or Roon+Auralic, that will be subjective, of course. But it at least explains why there is a difference.

(FWIW, I own a Vega G2, and only use it with Roon, since I don’t own any fruity gear to run their Lightning app on. I like how it sounds.)

Makes sense, as you say. I didn’t know about the work behind the scene. And maybe then makes sense for me to let the Chord DAVE handle the most part that processing (without knowing what is done with Lightning DS). It sure produces a more neutral and less anxious sound.

I just realised, i think we met the other day! :slight_smile: At Lasses?

That’s correct! I will try to do some serious listening with local and high-res music this weekend and hear if I get a similar result or not.

I own the G2 as well, and last weekend tried the same comparison as you did…I also heard that Lighting DS would sound better then Roon playing Tidal…Well, Not on my system, it wasnt even close, the lighting DS playback was hard to listen to,with the same characteristics that you described, Roon playback was very musical.

I would like to change what I posted early, as I have realized that I have not setup Tidal thru the G2 correctly, which is why MY experience with lighting DS was so bad. I will get things connected correctly and try the comparison again…

How did you set it up? It might be so that I have also have set it up in a not so favourable way.