AURALiC titles its new POLARIS convergence device a ‘Wireless Streaming Amplifier’, which is shorthand for a wireless Roon-ready PCM/DSD streaming DAC with moving magnet phono preamplifier integrated amplifier. It can also be purchased with a 1Tb SSD driver to act as a music server as well! Essentially the POLARIS crams several class leading AURALiC technologies into this one device. There are elements of the VEGA DAC, the ARIES streamer and the MERAK Class D amplifiers. The fact that so much is available in a spouse-friendly and compactly-sized device of attractive industrial design makes the POLARIS so much more exciting.
When I arrived home to find the box waiting for me in the garage I was taken aback by its modest size. Having just reviewed the wonderful PS Audio BHK 250 amplifier (all 38Kg of it!) the POLARIS was positively svelte. Weighing out of the box at a compact 4.5kg, no assistance is required to place it where desired.
Once placed, however, there will be some effort making sure you have everything configured correctly. This is not at all a dig at the POLARIS, but rather it is a reality of the rapidly changing state of wireless tech. AURALiC’s Lightning DS app for Apple’s iPad/iPhone, available in the Apple app store, helps tie things together very nicely though. After I had placed the POLARIS on the shelf and connected an external hard drive along with my KEF LS50’s, I fired up the Lightning DS app on my iPad and got to configuring the system. The clear in-app directions guided me through giving the POLARIS its own unique wireless device name. Next I established the Lightning DLNA server and it discovered the external USB drive and song file library. If you already have your own DLNA server, that may be used too. It took a while to import the 40,000 songs, but once imported I had access to everything via my iPad. You can sort by Artist, Album, Song, etc. as you would expect from any well-developed music app. Users of any wireless audio device should be mindful that whatever brand of wireless router you use make sure you have installed the latest firmware to improve your communication with the POLARIS or any other device you would be using. AURALiC sent along a Netgear Nighthawk 1900AC just in case. Fortunately, the Apple AirPort Extreme I am using was up to date and worked without incident. For homes that have in-room hardwired abilities, there is an RJ-45 input to make the connection. I had no issue with this either as I have the room wired for CAT-6 Ethernet. Either way, pretty soon the POLARIS functioned as advertised and served up beautiful music regardless of how I chose to access it.
And boy, can you access it! Starting with the streaming function POLARIS can access music from the attached USB, network stored files, the internal drive if installed, shared network folders and the DLNA/UPnP function. If you are a TIDAL subscriber, you can integrate TIDAL within the Lightning DS app. Qobuz is also supported. How about internet radio? Yes. It can access Apple’s AirPlay. Spotify can run via your smartphone. It is also a Roon End-Point allowing Roon to be your music app of choice. All told you have a choice of 17 inputs! Assuming you install the SSD drive, you could conceivably have the one small POLARIS device and a pair of bookshelf speakers, and access tens of millions of songs all being serviced by the world-class DAC and Class D amplification AURALiC is famous for.