At its announcement in May 2012, the Aperion Aris was billed as the world's first wireless speaker for Windows. While there are dozens of Apple AirPlay speakers, and even an Android speaker or two, why has no one thought to make a Windows one? Apart from sounding unfashionable, play with the Aperion Aris for 5 minutes and you'll find out why.
The problems with the Aperion aren't exactly the fault of the speaker, as Windows' Play To feature is fairly unreliable, but it does make us pine for the Apple AirPlay option that's due for the Aris this spring. Sound quality is fairly good for a device of this type, and it can go plenty loud. If only it weren't so expensive.
Design and features
The chassis of the Aris is pretty distinctive, constructed from a single piece of brushed aluminum and sitting atop a red steel stand. The thin stand is removable if you don't like the look and the bottom of the unit has a rubberized surface you can use instead. On top you'll find volume controls and power; there is no remote.
The Aris features a total of six drivers -- two tweeters, two woofers, and two passive, rear-facing radiators -- and boasts an amplifier with a total power output of 100W (likely 50W per channel). While it lacks an EQ circuit it does come with three different sound modes: Natural, Bass Boost, and Enhanced Stereo.
The manufacturer anticipates that the main use of this speaker will involve Windows Media Player's Play To feature, as used in Windows 7 and 8. Right-click on a file in Windows Media Player and choose Play To -> Aperion Aris and the sound will (theoretically) appear out of the Aris. The box is also DLNA-compatible, so you aren't limited to Windows, and there are numerous apps, including the official Aris app, available for iOS, Android, and Mac.
The Aris Control app is available for iOS and Android and is designed to be used specifically with the Aris. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well as even Windows' Play To function (about which more shortly) and either refused to recognize the Aris player or failed to offer up a usable library from within my Android phone.
In the three years since Windows 7's Play To debuted with promises of effortless streaming, I can say there is not a day that I've found it could fulfill them. I've used a dozen different configurations of networks, PCs, and playback devices, and Play To has consistently proved buggy.
Compared with Sonos' system, Apple AirPlay, or even other implementations of DLNA, Windows Media Player didn't satisfy. It either couldn't find the player or the stream would stop and start more frequently than an NFL match. I was hopeful Microsoft had fixed the problems with Windows 8, but no, playing to the Aperion would stop after 30 seconds or simply say Device Disconnected and require a reboot.