If you’re new to music servers, as I am, then I commend to you the DigiBit Aria Mini. Partly, that’s performance-based, of course, but a goodly chunk of my approval stems from the fact that setting it up is barely any more taxing than it is for a conventional CD player. The Aria Mini, junior sibling to the Aria, offers a significant percentage of the bigger product’s performance. DigiBit has eschewed the Aria’s fancy, and weighty, casework in favour of an unconventional, upright case of interesting, asymmetric profile (it looks a bit like one of those awards big companies will give out to the Southern Regional Salesperson of the Year). It also doubles as a place to rest your iPad, which you’ll be needing to control the unit. DigiBit has made some other savings in shrinking down the Aria – most notably the use of a wall‑wart switch-mode power supply and fewer outputs – but the electronics hardware, and software remains pretty much the same for both units.
On opening the box, the first thing a new owner sees is a roughly A3‑sized sheet of printed card with basic setup instructions. The legend “Enjoy music in a few minutes!” is the encouraging opening line, followed by a clear step-by-step guide. As a long term Windows PC user, you will imagine my scepticism that this could possibly go to plan, and my consequent surprise when it did exactly that. I estimate that from unpacking the unit to hearing music took me perhaps 10 minutes, and every stage of the quick setup guide worked exactly as described.
Technically speaking, the unit comprises a low power consumption, industrial-grade motherboard, and features a Windows operating system that has been stripped back to essentials to minimise disruption to sound quality from extraneous processes. There is an onboard DAC capable of handling PCM to 384kHz at resolutions up to 32 bits, or DSD 64 to 128, outputting analogue via conventional phono connectors, or a USB digital output to an offboard DAC of your choice. The review unit contained a 2TB hard disk drive, but a 1TB solid-state disk is an option. The chaps from DigiBit pre‑populate the disk with a small selection of music, mainly to help get you started straight out of the box, but ripping your own music is obviously the order of the day. Streaming from an external NAS drive or from online sources is available via the LAN connection, which you’ll also need to connect to the Internet for control of the Aria Mini, and to download metadata for your ripped disks. The unit also supports Apple Airplay, and streams quite happily via the ubiquitous iPad.
The Aria Mini doesn’t have an inbuilt optical drive, so ripping discs requires the use of an external USB drive. This is optional, but a small Asus DVD unit is recommended and was shipped with the review sample. The power supply is also external, and in this case a wall-wart; a linear power supply, as fitted internally to the Aria, is said be expected soon, as an optional upgrade.