There are a few ways of getting your music onto the Sirius’ hard drives, the most straightforward being slotting a disc into the front of the box and letting it copy the music files (as WAV or FLAC rips) whilst looking up the appropriate metadata. If you already have lots of files these can be imported from a PC, NAS, or USB drive using either the quick import option, which just accepts the files as they are, or via a slower method that checks all the metadata and puts problem files into a quarantine folder for you to sort out. Controlling what the Sirius plays can be done with either iPeng on Apple devices or Orange Squeeze for Android; a more appealing but pricey option is to run the Roon Core on the server and use that excellent interface. If you find that control apps have a tendency to make you want to lob the tablet at the system Roon can be a great solace. That said, those after Internet radio are better off with the cheaper apps as Roon is not the most straightforward when it comes to adding stations. Both systems are good for online music services such as Tidal.
Leema chose a new ES9038PRO ESS Sabre DAC for Sirius and have gone on to integrate it in their latest products, and designer Lee Taylor is obviously impressed. The ESS Sabre DAC supports PCM up to 32-bits/384kHz and DSD256. If you want to use an existing DAC adding them to the XMOS USB output will give it a good chance of delivering the goods, but this does rather undermine the point of Sirius. If you just want a server with USB output, get a standard Innuos Zen, a Mk3 Zen at that. Obviously, the changes that Leema incorporates into this unit will give it an advantage as a server, but it’s really the integrated DAC and output stage alongside the fancy casework that you are paying for. And as usual with Leema, the case is very nice with silver anodised aluminium for the front and top with black fins down either flank, not that this server needs much cooling.
In the system I initially used the Sirius as a server connected by Ethernet to an AURALiC VEGA G1 streamer/DAC where it produced a shining, open, and fluent sound with lots of tonal and dynamic contrast when playing Brendel’s The Complete Beethoven Sonatas[Philips]. The clarity and involvement level are both at a high level, which makes this streamer an obviously superior source to most disc spinners. Moving over to the onboard DAC, which involves a quick change on the my.innuos dashboard, the results were a lighter, less fulsome sound with good timing and an appealingly open balance. But the more I listened to it the better it sounded because the Sirius has a lightness of touch that suggests it adds very little to the sound. That doesn’t mean that the bass is light, no sir, drums for instance are very solid and have a vitality of presence that puts them right in the room with you. Brass has colour and texture alongside a rhythmic coherence that holds the music together in very engaging fashion.
Beethoven’s 5th lacked a little of its awesomeness, it has to be said, but was found not wanting in depth and height of scale. The Michael Wollny Trio’s live Wartburg[ACT] album is likewise expansive and very clean; it could perhaps have a bit more dynamic oomph but is very involving nevertheless. And when the drums come in on ‘Big Louise’ it’s positively diverting, such is the power and weight. It’s also evident that the Sirius is a very quiet device and easily reveals the pristine nature of the recording. It clearly doesn’t exaggerate dynamics for effect, yet when the real thing comes along you know all about it. A good illustration of this is that you can play louder than usual without any discomfort, as this recording encouraged me to do; distortion levels are clearly very low. It also reveals the quality of recordings with considerable ease and John Martyn’s ‘Head and Heart’ [BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert, Windsong] is absolutely sublime, simple but very effective, while ‘Company’ by Patricia Barber [Modern Cool, Premonition] has superb bass textures if not quite the excessive weight that is usually the case. The cymbals shimmer beautifully and there’s no glare from the trumpet; then, the drum solo comes along and you can’t help but be inspired by the energy it puts into the room.