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Info on the "aune" USB DAC/Amp

post #1 of 71
Thread Starter 
So, I was recently in the market for a small DAC and hopefully amp as well and I stumbled across this "aune" device here on head-fi. For ~$150 USD, it seemed a pretty reasonable price. It looked well built and as far as I know, the parts (like the caps, pot, etc.) are all pretty decent quality. It fit all my needs (features I'll get into in a little) so I ordered it. Took 4 business days to arrive from China to my PO Box. Not bad at all.

Unboxing, Accessories, Build Impressions, Features Overview
Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the package, but I felt it was packed pretty well. The device and accessories were packed in a styrofoam-type thing that covered them on all sides, then placed in a solid cardboard box and subsequently wrapped with lots of tape.

The aune came with a few accessories. There was a 3.5mm-6.3mm adapter (exactly the same as the one that came with my Klipsch X10 IEMs except gold instead of silver color), a 6.3mm-RCA adapter, and a USB(A)-USB(B) cable. And of course, it came with a power supply. The power supply is for 220V input, but it came with an adapter for 120V input. This makes for a very bulky plug and it won't stay in my wall vertically, but I planned to plug it into a surge protector (horizontally) anyway and that works fine.

As for build quality, it feels very solid and well made. I'll be honest here, the first thing I did when I got this out of the package was open it up . Not too difficult a process, but I ran into some issues with a screw on the underside. Simply, I wasn't able to unscrew it because the nut that it screws into wasn't secured to anything and it spun when I spun the screwdriver. With a little thought, I managed to get it out but it was a bit troublesome.

Putting it back together, I simply superglued the nut to the hole where it's supposed to be and I've had no more problems. Other than that, it seems good on build to me. The PCB and everything on it looks well organized but I can't say I know too much about circuitry and that stuff.
The faceplate is a solid chunk of metal slightly more than a 1/4" thick. The "aune" logo is engraved into it (and it's printed in a way that it looks the same when upside down ) but everything else is just printed on. I like the volume knob too.

This DAC/Amp has a few features, some of which I couldn't find on devices in the same price range. Here's a short list:
-Inputs: RCA, S/PDIF, USB
-Outputs: RCA, 6.3mm headphone jack
-Op Amps are in sockets, making it easy to swap them out.
-Can be used as an amp only by using the RCA inputs.
I was mostly looking at the Musiland SVDAC06, Tianyun Zero, and HifiMan EF2 but they were all missing a critical feature (other than the EF2) that I really wanted - RCA input and the ability to use the amp without the DAC. I'm not sure about the other amps, but being able to quick swap the op amps is a great benefit too (the EF2 can swap tubes ). It really came down to the EF2 and aune for me, but I went with the aune because it has RCA outputs and was cheaper (I also prefer the style vs the EF2). I would've liked to see what the hype on tubes is all about though.

Jeffrey Tam, the guy I bought the aune from on eBay, has sent me instructions (complete with pictures) on how to open the aune, just in case others want to attempt it so they don't damage/break theirs.
PLEASE make sure to take a look at this before taking your aune apart!!
Click here to download
Thanks Jeffrey!

Well, this is probably the weakest part of this little review, simply because I don't have much experience with other amplifiers and I don't have a large assortment of headphones. Anything I say here will be what I hear with my HD580s, probably compared to the Technics receiver that I'd been using before this one (though I'll avoid comparisons since I'm sure most people reading haven't used that receiver). Also, my source is my iPod Touch 2G, since that's also the source I used to use (but to be honest, I don't hear the difference in sound using the DAC vs lineout from my iPod. the DAC definitely sounds better than my laptop's audio out though [Sony FZ340N]). The aune is completely stock for this part. If I upgrade any components, I may come back and update this post.

The first thing I notice is the soundstage. It's sufficient, but it's not impressive at all.
Treble isn't bright, it's pretty smooth IMO.
Mids are a little less prominent that I'm used to. It doesn't bother me much personally though.
Low frequencies could be a little better defined, perhaps a little bit more quantity as well.

I told you this is the weakest part
Of course, this is all my opinion and most of these traits could be altered by different op amps. If it wasn't possible to swap op amps, I would probably be fine with the sound. It's completely fine and for something it's size and price, I could make the small compromises.
I'd say especially if this is your first amp, it would be just fine because it offers decent sound and you still have the ability to make changes to sound later on.

Well, I hope this helps anyone who's been looking at a little DAC/Amp in this price range. Perhaps you've been considering this one as well and this will help you make a decision. Information on the aune is sparse and I've tried to provide some.

post #2 of 71
I received mine 2 weeks ago. After 100+ hours of burn-in I really started to like what I hear.
A huge bonus for me that the 2 opamps are in DIP8 adapters so easily replaceable. I'm in a middle of trying various opamps and I really enjoy fine tuning the sound to my preferences and cans. I'm using it with Denon D2000.
Rolling the buffer one (originally OPA2134) has the most effect on sound signature. Opamp in HA section (OPA2604) also has a room for improvment,

With the rolling I can get sound that puts this little AUNE to completely new league for me! It means a wast improvement in soundstage too.

Opams I tried so far: LME49720, LME49860, LT1469, LT1355, LT1358, OPA2111A ...others on the way.
My current favourite is the LT1358 + LME49860 combo. I simly love the warm yet detailed sound I'm getting with these. Very good soundtage and less digital.

Running from SPDIF signal of my soundcard gives a better options than from USB. I found it more relaxed and less punchy. It also gives the option to drive 24/96Khz from there.
post #3 of 71
I recently bought one, I didnt really like it because using it with my macbook pro made very little difference. Using it with an mp3 player was ok though. I talked to shasty who also has an aune and is very staisfied with his. He told me that what made the a huge diference was using an 18volt adapter instead 12 volt one supplied. He also changed opamps. Unfortunately I returned mine before trying this.
post #4 of 71
Thread Starter 
Good info. Thanks for adding guys.

I just swapped in a AD8620 to replace the OPA2134 but haven't had much chance to listen to it yet. I'm curious to try that LT1358 + LME49860 combo, especially since they're pretty cheap.

Mine came with a 15Volt 1Amp adapter. Perhaps it used to be a 12V and they recently changed it to 15V adapter?
post #5 of 71
Any more comments? No good reviews? I guess I should get a valab style dac instead of this
post #6 of 71
hehe, it's pretty awesome that you took it apart.
post #7 of 71
BTW I got mine for 135 I belive their 150 or 155 but I asked the seller if he was willing to do it off ebay and only throuh paypal for less and the seller was nice enough to oblige.
post #8 of 71
so how was its sound compared to that dac-ah on your sig
post #9 of 71
Originally Posted by donunus View Post
so how was its sound compared to that dac-ah on your sig
that DAC is still in the mail so havnt heard it yet
post #10 of 71
I'll be looking around for your impressions in the future
post #11 of 71
Just recieved my Aune from coolfungadget on ebay. Shipped from Shanghai to Chicago in 4 days! So far I'm pretty impressed, but this is my first real DAC/AMP. The build quality is great. The only item I'm not too sure about is the included power supply. As mention on p.1 of this thread they provide a 220v wall wart and a bulky add on converter. The combination is unwieldy and the converter gets pretty hot.

Anyone know of a good place to get a 15v or 18v 1000ma replacement?

With my ATH-AD700 plugged in they are silent with the volume pot turned all the way up. I find most of the noise coming through is from the USB cable, you must use one with the ferrite core attached.

Overall I very happy with my purchase so far!
post #12 of 71
post #13 of 71
This may be asking a bit much, but can it drive the HD600? How well?

post #14 of 71
Thread Starter 
I have the HD580s, which are essentially the same as the HD600. I think they sound pretty good out of this little amp. It certainly doesn't sound like it's underpowered and sounds significantly better out of the aune than with my previous Practical Devices XM4 portable.

I haven't tried any higher end amps, but I think this is a good deal for the price, especially if you need a DAC.
post #15 of 71
There are more impressions in the dedicated sources subforum as well. Seems like a top choice for a combo dac/amp around $150. FWIR probably a better headphone amp than the one that comes on the Zero, plus you can roll opamps.
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