the Aurora by iFi Audio is one of the most interesting products I have tested. This is a premium all-in-one wireless audio system with auto-sound tailored to the room and a multi-driver setup capable of truly awe-inspiring volume levels – with the most muscular bass I’ve ever had. have never heard of a unit of this size. It offers the latest digital technology mixed with old-fashioned tube amplification. As if that wasn’t enough, the Aurora is visually striking. The company enlisted a French designer with Japanese inspiration to create an audio system that looks like a modern art installation. The Aurora is from all angles with bamboo, aluminum, an OLED display, and the warm glow of 6N3P Russian tubes visible inside.
Whatever you think of the Aurora’s appearance, this sound system makes an impression. It’s tall – at least compared to typical wireless speakers – measuring two feet in diameter and almost a foot deep and tall. He weighs 33 pounds.
Once out of the box, the Aurora’s unique design is in full view. Here’s how the company describes the visual appearance of its speaker:
“French designer Julien Haziza was inspired by Japanese industrial and architectural designers, namely Shigeru Ban, Tadao Ando and the Omotesandō and Harajuku districts of Tokyo.
This translates to something a little hard to describe. It is an elongated wooden box with rounded corners, wrapped in vertical bamboo “fins” through which six pilots can be seen. A pyramid-shaped aluminum structure suspends the unit in the air and tilts it slightly upward. The front face (created by the position of the aluminum spacers) is a triangle. Inside, horizontal wood panels alternate with OLED touchscreen controls. Connect the device to power and the white OLED indicators will light up. The main screen displays a “warming up” message and, shortly thereafter, the warm, orange glow of the preamplifier tubes is visible inside.
Not everyone is going to like the look – and it certainly took some extra work to keep it dust-free – but I think the Aurora looks quite special. It really does have the look of a modern work of art, and I love the contrast of the light wood against the high-tech screen and aluminum brackets. One thing is does not the look is cheap or mainstream, and with a price tag of $ 1,399, it shouldn’t.
As an all-in-one system, setup is straightforward. Plug it in, turn it on, then pair it with a device via Bluetooth or connect the Aurora to your home Wi-Fi network. I did this using the MUZO Player app – as recommended in the instructions. There are plenty of inputs on the back if you have another component to connect, like a TV or turntable (assuming it has a built-in preamp).
One of the great victories of this system is the ART (automatic room adaptation). On the back of the Aurora are three sets of dual ultrasonic audio sensors. Press and hold the ART button on the front of the system or on its remote, and the system uses these sensors to automatically optimize the sound based on the measurements of the room. This ability alone is a big win, allowing you to position this audio system virtually anywhere while enjoying high quality music, instead of looking for the perfect spot. Additionally, iFi takes great pride in its use of analog signal processing (ASP) for room-appropriate sound, rather than relying solely on digital deception that can alter the music itself. Instead, the Aurora’s ASP “combines the network of drive units with a proprietary configuration that adjusts the channel outputs of specific drivers at certain frequencies,” in a feature the company calls SoundSpace.
The long and short of the ART feature is music that sounds great and fills the room almost instantly, without having to worry about positioning as part of the system setup.
If you don’t want to use ART, the system is in Audiophile mode, which allows you to manually control the bass and the SoundSpace.
The iFi Aurora makes a visual statement, but audio performance is where this sound system makes a big impression.
I started with bluetooth and it was good. But switching to Wi-Fi and streaming music from my iPhone using Apple AirPlay was a revelation. Everything I played sounded just fantastic. The audio was extensive and detailed. The bass was something else – you won’t run out of a subwoofer with this system. And it could get incredibly loud … There are a lot of factors at play here – the six speakers plus those massive bass radiators, the suspended and tilted position of the speaker box that allows all of those speakers to project itself efficiently, the hybrid amplifier with tube preamplifier, the 320 watts of power at the tap and all the advanced technology – and the results are quite incredible.
Adapting the ART room ensured that the sound was always excellent, whether the system was sitting on the test bench in my office or on a kitchen counter.
Frankly, I have never heard such good music come out of an all-in-one system. I also didn’t hear such a bossy bass come out of one.
A weak point in the iFi Aurora immediately manifested itself during testing. My review unit was very sensitive to Wi-Fi signal strength, more than any of the wireless speakers in my collection. In an upstairs room, one floor above the nearest Wi-Fi satellite (I am using a Netgear Orbi mesh router), the Aurora would often fall over, while the other Wi-Fi speakers placed at proximity were solid. Move closer to the router or satellite and the problem will resolve itself.
As long as the Wi-Fi signal is strong, you get this amazing streaming audio performance. If not, the sound is interrupted, sometimes frequently.
If this is a problem with your setup, there is an Ethernet port, allowing the Aurora to be directly connected to a Wi-Fi router.
IFi Aurora Key Specifications
- 4 x 4.5 inch coated paper cone full range speakers
- 2 x 1.1 inch silk dome tweeters
- Dual 4.5-inch x 8-inch steel passive bass radiators
- Pure Emotion hybrid amplifier with tube preamplifier, Class D 320W total power
- 32-bit ESS Saber DAC chip
- Frequency response: 27 Hz – 40 kHz
- ART with 6 sensors (automatic adaptation of the room)
- Bluetooth 5.0 with support for aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, HWA and AAC
- Supports 32-bit / 192kHz high-resolution Wi-Fi audio including Apple AirPlay
- Optical, coaxial, USB, 3.5mm, RCA and Ethernet inputs, micro SDHC card slot
- OLED display
- Infrared remote control included
- Supports two-unit Wi-Fi link for two-channel or multi-room stereo sound
- 24 x 11 x 11 inches, weighs 33 pounds
What’s in a name?
This is the third product that I have reviewed for Forbes called “Aurora”. One was a Wi-Fi photo frame, the second, like the iFi Aurora, was a premium Wi-Fi audio system. Each of these auroras has been a fantastic piece of equipment in its own right. It’s not really relevant to the iFi Aurora review, but it’s an interesting anecdote …
If you’re in the market for an all-in-one audio system and a spend of $ 1,399 is within your budget, the iFi Aurora will wow you with its audio performance while impressing your guests with its unique design. Just make sure the system will be placed in an area with a strong Wi-Fi signal and be ready for a little dusting challenge.