Pros: Magnificent sound, tube rolling, superb build quality, versatility, value
Cons: Unit gets hot, Aune customer service, some QC issues with later models (see below)
This thread will contain a full review of the Aune T1 Tube DAC/Amp. I'm gonna try to be as objective as i can and make things simple (without sounding boring). First off, I'd like to start by saying that this will be my 1500th post ! So I am now a Supremus. Before i start, let me give you a little background information about me, the music genres i listen to, and what i look for in terms of sound.
I am 17 years olds and have been in the audio game for nearly 2 years now. Over time i have acquired different sets of headphones ranging from the JVC HA-S500 to my beloved Beyerdynamic DT880. When listening to music, my main priorities are clarity, transparency, and soundstage as i also use my cans for gaming. I also have some bass-heavy headphones to fulfill my bass needs occasionally.
Genres I listen to:
Chillout, Game OST's (classical?), reggae, Hip-Hop/Rap, Orchestral Rock, Ambient, Nu Jazz., Arabic Adaneyat, drum and Bass, neurofunk, Vocal trance, techno, hardstyle, electronic rock, alternative rock.
Setup: Win8 PC > FLAC/320kbs Files > Aune T1 with Amperex 7308 tube
The T1's build quality is absolutely superb. The construction is fully made of metal, and the volume knob feels very smooth. The whole unit feels very well put together. The on/off switch and the line/usb switch also feel excellent in the hand. The unit has some weight to it which makes it reassuring. I could sit around all day just switching this thing back and fourth because of how good the switch feels. However, the acrylic tube cage that protects the tube is very fragile and breaks quickly. Thankfully though, Aune provide 2 pairs of those just in case one breaks (I broke mine). But apart from that, everything about the T1's build is terrific.
The T1 is a tube DAC, not a tube amp. Let me explain, in order to use the tube of the T1, you will have to use the DAC, which can be used when the T1 is connected via USB. The built-in amp in the T1 is a solid state amp (which is surprisingly powerful). I hope that made sense. The T1 can be used as a DAC only and with a separate amp or with speakers through the RCA Outs, and can also be used as an amp with a separate DAC (Schiit Modi for example), using the RCA in at the back of the unit. (See pictures above). If you want to use both the DAC and amp, you can connect the T1 to a USB device and plug in your headphones through the line out. There is no optical input unfortunately.
T1's built in solid state amp is quite strong and has PLENTY of power to drive all my cans including my 250ohm Beyers even on the 0 gain setting. In fact, i have never saw myself needing more power even on the lowest gain setting. Partly that is due to the fact that i listen to music on very low volumes, but mostly thats because the T1's amp is powerful IMO. In terms of sound, i found the T1's amp alone to sound very neutral. Some people on the appreciation thread have found it to be a bit bright, but that is not the case with me. I found this amp to work particularly well with high-impedance headphones.
The T1 has a very wide range of tubes that will work with it. As a result you end up with the freedom of choosing your own sound signature. The stock tube given with the T1 is an Electro Harmonix 6992, which is decent (I'll talk more about it in the sound section). However, almost everyone who owns the T1 orders some tubes along with it. The tube i chose is considered an all-time's favorite for the T1: Amperex 7308. Although its expensive, imo its worth every penny.
This section will be divided into two sections, stock amp and with my upgraded tube.
Stock 6922EH tube:
When i first received my T1 and plugged in my headphones, i noticed a nice improvement over my old DAC (Hifimediy Sabre) and i liked its sound with most of my cans. The overall sound signature can be described as thick, meaty, and detailed. The bass extended down to the lowest octawaves, though it did get loose sometimes. Bass impact was quite strong (albeit less than my Sabre). The texture of the bass was also good and and tight. Moving over to the midrange i have found the tube to be slightly forward in the lower mids, which brought male vocals up a bit. However, vocals were dry and lacked texture. There was this certain "rawness" in the vocals, which i didn't particularly like. They did have a nice "thickness" that i liked though, this was especially noticed with my Beyerdynamic DT880. The vocals were kind of leaning toward the dark side, meaning that they sounded more bass-tilted.Moving over to the upper treble, there is some recession here which continues all the way up to 10k, then there is a spike. The detail was what really impressed me here. And because the soundstage was big, details popped up from everywhere. The soundstage's wide and spacious. Imaging was mediocre IMO as it was even worse than my old Sabre DAC. Overall this tube was decent but didn't do anything that widened my eyes or made me jump out of my chair and dance. Hoewever, all of that changed when i plugged in a new tube. Below are some impressions of the stock tube with my main cans:
Everybody know that Beyers love tubes, and with the T1, my DT880's synergized better than anything i've used them with previously. This tube brought some of the impact and weight the Beyers were missing. Vocals are more upfront, soundstage a bit wider, and highs slightly smoother. And the best part is, you're never missing out on the detail!
Sony MDR MA900
To be completely honest, i didn't like this tube with the MA900's. The already forward mids of the 900's coupled with the T1's boosted lower mids made it sound grainy and dark. Vocals were nice, but they weren't smooth. Instruments, although clear, didn't sound very realistic. I kept feeling that there was something like a barrier between me and the music, something thats stopping the music from sounding even better. I guess this is what people mean when they say "veiled". the highs were also masked and lacked some air.
Now this is what i call a proper paring. The stock tube's added bass with an already bass-heavy can made some very enjoyable times. The forwardness in the lower mids of the tube were actually something i enjoyed with the Q40's. This setup screams FUN! I even switch to this tube from my 7308 (which is a lot better) when using the Q40's because its extremely enjoyable and fun sounding.
7308 Amperex tube:
My face when i heard this tube for the first time:
It costs $65, but honestly, this tube is PERFECT. Everything the stock tubes did well, this tube does lot better. And everything the stock tube didn't do well in, this one still does it a lot better. Where do i start? Transparency? Check. Clarity? Double check. Soundstage, realism, and timbre? Check, check, and check. This tube has it all. It really took the T1 on a whole new level for me. The overall sound of this tube is VERY warm, which is why it pairs perfectly with the DT880's. Bass quantity is a bit lower than the stock tube, but the quality of bass really makes a big jump. Extensions is also superb. The mids are the best part of this tube. They're effortless, absolutely astonishing. Silky smooth and even more present than the stock tube, but in a good way. Detailing in the mids is easily picked up as the soundstage is huge. Moving over to the highs, and they're also excellent. Very smooth and not fatiguing in any way. And the soundstage, oh the soundstage. So wide and spacious, almost unreal. Imaging is also equally impressive. I don't think this tube does any wrong.
The Beyers and the 7308 pair so well together its unbelievable. It feels like this tube was made specifically for the DT880's. Everything i said about them with the stock tubes, but now even better. Vocals, instruments are cleared and have a lot more air. The added warmth makes this an absolute pleasure to listen to. Detail is even better than before.
Sony MDR MA900
OK. Now we're talking. First thing that jumps out here is the gigantic soundstage. The harshness of the vocals and the veil that was noticeable on the old tube is now gone. Everything basically sounds nicer. Listening to some Oud songs and the sound has left me speechless. This setup is liquid smooth. A very nice pairing for sure.
The sound here is now clearer, and just like with my other cans, vocals are more upfront and timbre has improved. But that doesn't necessarily translate to more fun. See with a bass-heavy headphone like the Q40's, what i need is bass. A lot of it. the old stock tube had plenty of it. This though, has slightly less. And because the soundstage is wider, i sense that the Q40's are trying too hard to become an open headphone. I liked the stock tube better for this headphone, but that in no way means that is better than the 7308 tube.
I didn't include this IEM on the stock tube impressions because i dont use it a lot with the T1. Hoever after getting this new tube i have found myself using these IEM's more and more. Paired with the 7308 tube, this makes for an excellent rap/Hip-Hop music. Its got plenty of midbass, and thanks to the 7308's forward mids it makes for a great rap/Hip-Hop experience.
Many users have modded their units with new capacitors, which they say improve the amp section of the T1. If you go to the T1's appreciation thread you will notice many different mods and experiments you could try. A mod i have done is the color LED mod which makes the tube glow in a particular color. You won't see this in the photos i have taken because the mod was not done at the time of taking the photos.
The Bad Stuff
Of course, you can't have it all. So here's some things i dislike about the T1. Firstly, the unit gets physically hot, and this seems to be a problem with a lot of T1 users. However, this should not be a a major drawback. Another issue is the T1's quality control issues, especially with their later batches. Luckily i bought my T1 a year ago and its bulletproof. But There have been many, and i mean many, issues with people on the T1's thread lately. And then there's the biggest problem of them all:
Bad customer service (My story with Aune)
About a year ago when i first got my T1, i had a problem with the transformer (power brick). As soon as i plugged it in, it blew up and made a bad smell. From then on i couldn't use my T1 for a month. During this month i kept emailing Aune for them to send me a replacement transformer. They never replied. I emailed them about 5 to 6 times, but i never got any message back. I even made another email because i thought that my messages weren't being sent. Until one day, i had it. Its been nearly 6 weeks and the T1's is just sitting there collecting dust, no use for it whatsoever. I emailed them, but this time i was really angry about it. I told them that i would never recommend an Aune product to anyone ever. And that they have been a big disappointment. 3 hours later, i got a reply. But even then, they said that i would have to pay $10 for the transformer, and that they cant give it to me for free. I purchased two for ($20).
Magnificent sound, tube rolling, superb build quality, versatility, value, and a powerful amp.
Unit gets hot, Aune customer service, some QC issues with later batches.
All in all, i highly recommend this tube and i can tolerate Aune's customer service for the marvelous sound this unit produces.
PS: I am open to criticism, if you have tips for future reviews please write them down below.