IntroSo, 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 OverviewUnfortunately, 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
SoundWell, 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.
OutroWell, 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.