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