Hands On: Aperion Allaire Aris Wireless Speaker System
This tabletop system allows for a few music options and packs quite the wallop.
Apparently, the boombox is making a comeback. Of course, it’s not the boxy machine that it used to be. Also, today’s boombox doesn’t measure power by its size. Some are bigger than others, but most are known as a “wireless speaker system.” Some are portable and some are perfectly content to sit in your living room. Basically, there are plenty of them to be had.
Aperion Audio launched its own version of the wireless speaker system last October, known as the Allaire Aris. Since then, it’s had a few interesting updates, which I’ll cover throughout this review.
First, I want to touch upon two things that make Aperion pretty great. The first is that they deal directly to the consumer. If you have a problem, a question or even a complaint, you’re dealing with the actual company. There’s no middleman. Also, they don’t really like complaints, so to avoid them, the company just makes really good products. The Aris is no different, but it definitely has a few quirks—for some.
Out of the box, the Aris is a real beast. It’s good looking with its many curves and thin red base. However, it isn’t really the type of speaker that you’ll want to hoist up to your shoulder—unless you enjoy a good hernia now and then. At 11.3 pounds, the Aris is heavy, but it’s also really well made. There are some really flimsy wireless options out there, but this isn’t one of them. It’s as sturdy as a high-end speaker should be. It has the sound to match, too.
Because this is a tabletop system, there should be very little to set up. Depending on how you want to achieve that setup, the Aris could have a few extra hoops to jump through. You see, Aris is not wireless out of the package—of which there are three. Aris can be purchased alone ($297), with a Bluetooth module ($334), or with the Aris Wireless Card for Windows ($377). The latter uses the Windows “Play To” feature to stream music wirelessly to the speaker from any networked Windows PC, tablet or smartphone. This is a big deal, since Aperion is one of the first companies to jump on the Windows 8 train, with a wireless speaker in hand. However, does anyone care?
The back of the Aperion Aris could not be any simpler.
How Do I Connect This Thing?
On its own, the Aris doesn’t offer any sort of content. Basically, there’s a 3.5mm jack for connecting your smartphone or tablet. Aperion is even nice enough to include the audio cable.There’s no internal networking and no streaming out of the box. In fact, it doesn’t even have a radio tuner.
What it does have is a little card slot on the back. As mentioned, my Aris first arrived with the aforementioned Aris Wireless Card for Windows. Since then, the company has released a Bluetooth dongle. If you buy the card separately, it will cost you $77. The company is hoping for an Airplay version at some point, but there are other ways that you can connect iOS devices to the Aris. The most obvious is by adding an Airport Express into the mix, but that will also add another $99 to the price of this setup.
On its own, there’s pretty much no way to add networking to the Aris. Plug in your favorite portable and rock out as you please. The card, however, has an Ethernet jack, which makes it easy to bypass any setup business. There’s also a power switch and a spot for the included power cord.
If you’re prefer to go wireless (and who wouldn’t?), you’re going to need to configure that card. If your router has a WPS button, it should be easy-peasy. Push the WPS button on the card and the one on your router and there should be an instant love connection. If you don’t have that button (and sigh, I do not), there are a few extra steps involved.
To network the Aris without WPS, plug in the speaker and go to your mobile device of choice. For this review, that was my laptop. The Aris actually becomes its own Wi-Fi hotspot, which you’ll need to connect to. Once connected, go to the IP address provided and enter your network’s password. From there, you’ll be connected and all is right in the wireless world.
On top of the device, there are separate buttons for the volume, muting and power. There’s also an EQ button that allows you to toggle through three preset sound modes. It should also be noted that the Aris doesn’t come with a remote control, which is fine if you use the Aperion app. Unfortunately, that’s only currently available to Android users via the Google Play Store (sorry Kindle people!).
Behind the Aris’ gille are two 4-inch drivers and two 1-inch silk-dome tweeters. Around the back, you’ll see two 4-inch passive radiators. That small enclosure sure packs in a lot of goodness! The end result is 100 watts of awesome sound. Seriously, I have yet to hear anything bad from Aperion. Thankfully, they aren’t starting a trend with the Aris. Everything I cranked out of that thing sounded absolutely wonderful.
One thing that I wasn’t thrilled about was how to crank that music. It would be nice if the Aris was a catchall kind of speaker, but it’s not. If you are happy with no networking features, you’ll be happy with the Aris. As far as I’m concerned, it takes a special kind of person to want the Aris Wireless Card for Windows—and that person loves Windows Media Player.
If you’re that type of person, streaming music is simple enough. Open up Windows Media Player on your PC, right-click the song you want and have it “Play To” the connected device. See how Windows does that?
As mentioned, Aperion’s Aris app is currently only available for Android devices. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test out this option, which was just released this summer. If you’ve got another portable, the streaming is kind of clunky. According to Aperion, Microsoft has yet to announce plans for media support from the Windows Phone and iOS devices can download media:connect from the iTunes App Store. The iOS app is free, but doesn’t provide the smooth experience that you’d expect from an Aperion-made app—something that should be coming to iOS devices at some point.
Using the iPhone 4, the media:connect app would have the occasional error where it couldn’t find the Aris. For the most part, it streamed just fine. However, you’ll need to “render” any content that you want to play. If you just try to play through the Player option, it will just come out of your phone. It’s sort of confusing—and why shouldn’t it be? This app is not made for the Aperion Aris.
Instead, you may want to opt for Bluetooth, which is an option that’s new to the Aris. If you already own the device, you can add on the Bluetooth dongle for $37. If not, I’d advise going for this option right out of the gate. It will allow you to stream any type of Bluetooth-capable goodies.
The top of the Aperion Aris has just five buttons.
Aperion also doesn’t make the Bluetooth dongle. It’s Avantree’s Bluetooth Music Receiver, also known as the Roxa. The downer about this thing is that it requires another cable. Can we technically still call this setup wireless? It doesn’t really matter, because the important thing is that it makes this setup easier.
The dongle plugs into an available outlet and connects to the Aris via a 3.5mm cable. Once connected, it took my iPhone all of 3 seconds to find the Roxa and connect. From there, it was a streaming dream. Everything stored on my iPhone, Spotify and Pandora all streamed perfectly. Even my kid’s apps and Breaking Bad on Netflix came though. Even better, it allowed me to use the iPhone for volume control, which I had problems with using the Windows card. There were no extra buttons, rendering or other extra steps. It just worked.
Oh—and all those things sounded great. Really, I can’t gush about this thing enough. Even if you opt for the Wi-Fi card (don’t do that), you’re still going to be treated to stellar sound. I tested out country, pop, rap, techno, punk, and plenty of other audio options. The Aris delivers a lot of detailed sounds, especially when you think about how compact it is. It can also pump out killer bass! What a nice little surprise. It’s also a nice touch to have the EQ button, which offers three preset sound modes. Frankly, I think it would sound great without that, but who doesn’t love options?
It should also be noted that the Aris can go very loud, without any type of distortion. It was almost painfully loud. In other words, this thing could easily service a party or other large gathering, without missing a beat.
If you’re contemplating a tabletop speaker, you can’t go wrong with the Aperion Aris. It’s got a few extra quirks and add-ons, but it delivers in the sound department—and isn’t that why we’re here in the first place? Really, it’s doesn’t just deliver, but delivers well. This thing actually rivals a few home theater systems I’ve checked out in the past.
Also, even though you won’t need all of them, it’s nice to have options. Whether you go with Windows, Bluetooth or just use the speaker on its own, it’s not going to disappoint. And because it had all of those options, the Aris seems ready and willing for future upgrades.
Aperion Audio Allaire Aris Wireless Speaker System
Starts at $297
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