This is a interesting scenario would definitely like to hear you impressions when you’ve had the chance to compare the two.
I had an hour or two to compare yesterday. All testing with done with Bifrost 2 as DAC, and Verite Closed headphones.
I tried a few configurations: 1. DAC directly connected to each amp; vs. 2. DAC to Aries, and Aries pre-out to Pednant. I did not detect a difference in sq between these two modes, but more critical listening is required before making this my final conclusion. 3. Lastly, I put a Schiit Loki in the chain to experiment with bass capabilities.
Notes about each amp:
+ background is dead silent. With Pendant, the barely audible noise floor varies with each tube combination. Its easy to not notice the noise floor, until you connect to a dead silent solid state amp like the Aries.
+ no EMF chatter. My cell phone is my source, and I have colleagues nearby. My Pendant SE and Schiit Vali 2 suffer bursts of EMF noises, but Aries does not.
+ no warm up time is great! Perfect for quick listening sessions
+ the volume wheel has way more usable range
+ gain selection of +10, +20, or +30 db is nice. +10 is fine when my headphones are jacked into the Aries.
- apparent sound stage seems almost as tall and wide as Pendant
- less 3D depth in sound stage, but its not flat
+ similar level of detail retrievable
- the timbre of musical instruments isnt quite as good as Pendant
l tested with my favorite tube complement from my small tube collection: NOS RFT 12AT7 input, JJ EL84 power pair, NOS RFT EZ81 rectifier.
+ wow, there is no loss of detail, speed, or any other sound quality element usually said to be conceded to solid states
+ I thought for EDM, the Aries would be better than the Pendant, but thats not true. They both sound fast and thumpy.
+ the sound stage may be a touch taller
+ there is a touch more depth in the sound stage. A subtle, yet noticeable bit of holography
+ the air between instruments seems similar
+ with careful listening, it becomes apparent the Pendant has an edge in timbre. A/B'ing songs, I notice instruments like a harmonica sound more lifelike, and more musical on Pendant, where the Aries the sounds ever so slightly flatter like a reproduction
+ once you notice the timbre improvement, you become aware the Pendant overall seems a little more musical and engaging than the Aries.
- the usable volume dial range is too limited on the Pendant with most songs and tube choices. I usually get between 3 to 6 of the 24 steps on the dial before its too loud.
- the vertical headphone jack is ok, but the front facing jack on Aries is preferrable to me
Perhaps for the biggest surprise in this comparison: bass. I've always wondered if the Pendant rolls off on the low bass, or if I am otherwise tube limited. Using the Schiit Loki, I was surprised to find when I cranked the bass +12 db for EDM and bassy tracks, they sounded almost identical! Maybe the teeniest edge for the Aries, but I'm not even sure since bass notes are harder to compare. I've learned I am not sacrificing anything in the bass department with the Pendant SE, at least not when using the Verite Closed.