Aune s6

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  1. GioF71
    5.0/5,
    "Excellent balanced all-in-one DAC/Amp"
    Pros - Great output power
    Refined DAC with no harshness
    Variabile output
    Digital volume control
    Cons - No I2S input
    Introduction

    First of all, I would like to thank Aune (@AuneAudio) for giving me the opportunity to review their unit.
    This is the link to the relevant head-fi thread: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/fin...dsd-128-dac-amp-worldwide-review-tour.830399/.
    I would like to mention that I am not affilitated to the Aune company in any way.

    Associated Equipment, including Hardware and Software
    Not a lot changed after the Aune X1S review. Anyway, these are my setups.

    At Home
    Hardware
    Dedicated Mini PC with Intel Atom D510 1.66GHz (dual core, Hyper Threading)
    Hardware: Supermicro X7SPA-H mainboard
    Hardware: Linear PSU from italian brand ZetaGi (set @12V)
    Hardware: 1x1GB + 1x2GB RAM
    Software: Currently running Ubuntu Server 16.04, 64bit, Generic Kernel
    Software: MPD (Music Player Daemon - http://www.musicpd.org)
    Software: UPMPDCli (Upnp Renderer plugin for MPD - http://www.lesbonscomptes.com/upmpdcli/upmpdcli.html)

    Gear
    Schiit Wyrd

    Gustard U12 USB Interface
    Gustard X12 DAC
    Gustard H10 Headphone AMP

    Yulong D200 DAC / Headphone AMP
    Aune X1S DAC / Headphone AMP with its own XP1 linear power supply

    Additional software
    Linux Mint 18.2 'Cinnamon' desktop PC, used to run GMPC/Cantata as MPD clients and Upplay as UpNP control point

    BubbleUpNP on Android as UpNP control point

    Another Debian-based Linux box is dedicated to file sharing (via Samba and via MinimServer, a UpNP server)

    Cables
    USB Cables: Audioquest Cinnamon 0.75m
    HDMI Cable (I2S), used for the comparison with Gustard U12/X12/H10: Ricable HDMI Supreme F1
    Balanced Cables, used for the comparison with Gustard U12/X12/H10: Neo By Oyaide D+ XLR
    RCA Cables: Wireworld, Amazon Basics

    Headphones and Speakers
    Headphones:
    Sennheiser HD800 (stock cable)
    Sennheiser HD650 (with additional XLR cable)
    Sennheiser Momentum On Ear
    Denon AH1001
    Yamaha HP-3 (Orthodynamic, modded)​
    Speakers Amplifier
    PopPulse T150​
    Speakers
    Q Acoustics Concept 20​

    I have connected the Aune S6 to my dedicated PC via USB. Also, I have tried a AudioPhonics 5v LPS for USB power, with pleasant results. Not every DAC benefits from a dedicated LPS, because not every DAC draws power from the USB host. This one does. It seems to me the dedicated LPS can improve performances. I did not do any specific measurements, but what I can tell is that I have experienced in the past how a noisy usb power can harm the functionality of a DAC.

    I also would like to mention tha, as usual, no drivers are needed on Linux.

    In case someone wants to connect the S6 to a linux os, please note the name of the device is "DAC".

    I tend to use upsampling with sox on mpd, tipically to 352.8kHz and 384kHz.

    At the Office
    Same old Linux PC with Intel Core2Quad Q6600 @office, also used with MPD (Music Player Daemon - http://www.musicpd.org), sox, upmpdcli, upplay.
    Headphones: Sennheiser HD650 with a balanced cable.


    The Listening

    I listened as much music as I could in the limited time available. Here are the albums I'd like to specifically mention:
    • Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms
    • Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue (from HDTracks, stereo version)
    • Metallica - The Black Album
    • Eric Clapton - Unplugged

    Please not that I did not listen to the HD800 with the S6 in balanced mode as I do not have a cable yet.

    Impressions
    • Deeper (but not bloated) bass
    • Lots of power (this kind of explains previous bullet)
    • No harshness to my ears, at least after 2-3 hours of listening.

    Be prepared for 2-3 hours of not-so-exciting listening time, so I would advice to allow some burn-in time when possible.

    The listening has been very pleasant. I enjoyed the bass definition, which probably comes from a great reverse of power.
    Also, the mids have always been good and I never heard any harshness on the highest frequencies.

    My only complaint is I could not properly test this dac/amp with the HD800 in balanced mode. I hope I will be able to fill this gap soon.

    Comparisons
    I have compared the S6 against the following two setups:
    • The Aune X1S
    • The Gustard U12/X12/H10 stack
    Both the X12 and the X1S use ESS chips. The X12 adopts the 9018, while the X1S adopts the mobile version 9018k2m.

    The Aune S6 adopts a DAC chip from a different brand: the AKM AK4495 from Asahi Kasei.

    Detailed specs of the S6 are available on the aforementioned Aune forum post. As I have done with previous reviews, in order to avoid mistakes and misunderstanding, I prefer not to duplicate technical specifications here.

    Against the Aune X1S
    Quite easy to imagine, this is not a fair comparison. The S6 is superior in quite every aspect. This consideration is not in any way intended to be detrimental to the X1S.
    Simply, these two products belong to different price ranges, and the different in audio quality is well audible. That said, I still own and enjoy the X1S in my setups.

    Against the Gustard U12/X12/H10 stack
    It has been very difficult to compare, especially because I feel using the HD800 with the single ended cable on the S6 would not have been fair.
    I can say I have compared the HD650 single ended from the U12/X12/H10 against the HD650 balanced from the S6.
    Despite a higher price, I feel the S6 can get very close to the Gustard Stack. We also need to consider the S6 is not burned-in as the Gustard stack is. Also, the H10 has been upgraded with Burson Supreme Op-Amps (both single and dual), for a great improvement.
    Both of the setups rewarded me with very nice sound, with no harshness whatsoever, with great definition and great control. In terms of raw power, the S6 seems to have an advantage here.

    Why would I want to buy it?
    Because it's a very nice dac/amp, remarkably powerful, and because I want a balanced headphone out
    It has a variable output so I can also think of connecting a speakers power amp (meaning, with no pre-amp section)

    Final thoughts
    I really liked the Aune S6 and I want to thank Aune again for the opportunity and the patience.
    One thing that is IMO left to be desided by this unit is the lack of a I2S input. If you have a DDC like the Gustard U12 or the now very popular Singxer, you might want to use the I2S of such interface, but the S6 has no I2S input.
    You can use the coax, aes/ebu or the opt input, but those kind of connections are limited to 192kHz max (this happens on almost all DACs I know of, with the notable exception of some Chord DACs).
    Of course this is not a showstopper: the usb input is really fine, and can be improved with dedicated LPS as well as with some "jitter eliminator" devices, like, for example, the Schiit Wyrd.
    Another minor glitch IMO is that you do not have the option to output to headphone and line outputs at the same time. However, I understand why it is designed like that. In most use cases, one does not want to ear speakers when listening to headphones.
    So in conclusion, I would safely advise a friend to buy this DAC/Amp and I would be sure he would not complain.

    Great work, again. Kudos to Aune.

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  2. kydu
    5.0/5,
    "Punches above its price"
    Pros - Balanced headphone output has the power you'll need for most situations

    Simple and sweet GUI

    Very neutral sounding, color free tonality
    Cons - 1/4 headphone out lacked power I needed for Hd600, the balanced output did have enough power.
    I spent alittle over a week comparing the AUNE S6 to my Chord Mojo portable dac/amp, and to my Benchmark Dac2 HGC desktop amp.

    I was first to recieve the tour unit, so I gave the S6 and supplied VE Zen 2.0 earbuds about 200 hours before critical listening. My source was a Melco N1A streamer/ server. I used the supplied Venture Electronics Zen2.0 in balanced XLR termination, my personal VE Zen2.0 standard 3.5mm termination, and my trusty Senn HD600 for comparing all 3 units. Cables used were Curious USB between Melco streamer and AUNE S6 dac.

    First off, I will say the AUNE S6 actually reminded me of Chord Hugo's very flat and neutral tonality. Its dac had similar dynamics and bass definition as the 3x priced Benchmark Dac2 HGC, which really surprised me. The S6 has a nice build quality, screen looks great, and has a decent heft to its weight. I was not able to test its preamp capabilities, but I tested its dac and headphone outputs against the latter.

    Unfortunately the AUNE did lack the power of the Benchmark through its 1/4 output which I am accustomed from the Benchmark. The S6 balanced output is closer to what I expect from the Benchmark as far as power and weight, this was easily distinguishable while using both the supplied balanced zen2.0 earbuds, and my personal 3.5mm terminated pair while using a 1/4 adapter. The S6 could easily drive my Sennheiser hd600s using its balanced output.

    The AUNE S6 has a studio like neutrality and is tonally uncolored I found. It has a very wide soundstage which is far more defined and layered compared to Chord Mojo's soundstage. Bass was also more defined with the S6. The Benchmark Dac2 HGC, at 3 times the AUNE's price, did seem more refined and alittle more hefty in build. It is fair to say the extra money will get you slightly better build quality.
    More importantly, comparing only sound quality, the S6 has about 85 percent of the performance of the Benchmark which surprised me the most.

    Aune has made a very nice desktop unit with the S6. It's dac is as good or better than Chord Mojo, and close to the performance of the 3x priced Benchmark Dac2 HGC. With a decent power cable, USB cable, and interconnects, you have yourself a fantastic dac/ preamp/ headphone amp, that punches well above its weight. This unit keeps up with gear costly much more, and I believe will impress most with its studio like presentation. I enjoyed my time with th AUNE S6 and was sad to see it go. I recommend this unit to anyone looking for a brutally honest and tonally neutral dac/preamp/ amp.
  3. bhazard
    5.0/5,
    "Affordable Balanced Power"
    Pros - Balanced 4-pin XLR! DSD, power, LCD
    Cons - design
    Introduction


    One of the very first headphone amps I ever owned was the Aune T1. The hybrid solid state/tube sound was my introduction into Tube amps and helped give me a better understanding of how DACs and Amps worked. I was able to experience the difference between a normal computer or phone output compared to what a DAC and amp could do. Switching between tubes changed the sound even further.


    The build and sound quality of the T1 was very good and something I wasn’t expecting for such an affordable price. I became an Aune fan right after that.


    I was lucky enough to participate in the S6 review tour, and here are my impressions.


    NOTE* I spent a little less than a week with the unit due to shipping issues, so my experience and review will be a bit abbreviated.


    REVIEW



    SPECIFICATIONS:
    White TFT display
    DAC: AK4495S
    Natively recognized on Mac OS and Linux without drivers
    Bitperfect: Wasapi / Asio for Microsoft XP to Win10
    Inputs: 1x Optical Toslink, 1x Coaxial, 1x USB B and 1x AES / EBU
    Decoding up to 32bit / 384kHz (USB) via XMOS interface and 24bit / 192kHz for other digital inputs
    DSD native support (DSD64 (DOP / native), DSD128 (DOP)
    Support for DXD 32bit 384khz
    Digital isolation of USB and Coaxial inputs
    2x high precision clocks
    Shielded transformer
    Stereo analog outputs on RCA and XLR
    Balanced 4-pin XLR headphone output
    Headphone output asymmetrical 6.35mm jack

    TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
    Bandwidth: 20hz to 20khz
    Total harmonic distortion: 0.0008% to 1khz
    Dynamic capacity: 116dB
    Crosstalk: -132dB
    Output voltage (RCA): 2 Vrms
    Output Voltage (XLR): 4.2Vrms

    POWER OUTPUT:
    Symmetric output port: 246mW @ 300ohm
    Asymmetric Output Port: 72mW @ 300ohm


    PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
    Selecting sources by pushbutton
    Volume control for helmet with notched potentiometer
    Chassis Aluminum Black anti-oxidation treated
    DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHTS:
    Housing dimensions: 288 x 211 x 63mm
    Weight: 3kg


    Design

    IMG_20170319_215502.jpg

    Aune went with an interesting design choice on the S6. The top of the S6 is curved, which looks unique compared to many desktop DAC/Amps, but makes stacking of other audio equipment very difficult. I use an LH Labs LPS power supply to filter my USB connection, and it could not be safely stacked atop the S6. For those willing to spend $500+ on their desktop setup, you would expect them to have other audio devices. I can’t say I’m a fan of that design choice, as I can’t even put a headphone stand on top to save desk space.


    The casing is made of a sturdy matte black Aluminum. Based on the material, the case doesn’t quite look or feel as premium as it could be. When I think of a good use of Aluminum, I think along the lines of the older iPhones. The way it is used on the S6 feels more utilitarian in design, lacking that sexy look and feel of a more premium device.


    Another knock on the design is the volume knob. It feels a bit cheap in the way it clicks between volume notches. It does make things a bit more precise, but also more annoying. Pushing the button in for different modes seemed a bit imprecise, but it got the job done.


    The LCD screen is a nice touch, showing exactly what info is needed on screen with no frills.


    I do like the 4-pin XLR front jack and 6.35mm single ended input up front for ease of use.

    IMG_20170319_214643.jpg
    The back includes dual XLR, RCA, AES, optical, coax, and a USB input. Just about any input and output type is available.


    Sound Review


    Testing Gear (in order of quality)

    LH Labs Pulse X Infinity 2.0

    Aune S6

    LH Labs Geek Out V2+ Infinity (Balanced)

    Axon 7

    Asrock Fatality amped onboard DAC/amp


    Music used for testing

    Metal, EDM, Classic Rock, Acoustic, Top 40, Rap, anything that shuffles up.




    Sound Signature


    AKM DACs tend to be on the warmer side, and the 4495 used in the S6 is no exception. Compared to the many ESS Sabre DACs I have owned, the 4495 trades a little less sparkle and treble for a satisfying warmth. Those that find Sabre DACs a bit too bright will enjoy the S6’s sound. Soundstage, resolution, imaging is all there depending on how good your headphone/IEM is. The S6 won’t hold it back.



    Power


    There is an abundance of power on hand running Balanced on the S6. You get an easy 1 Watt of power at 32 ohm with a THD of .001 at 1khz. That is a strong amount of clean, distortion free power. The S6 can handle nearly any headphone you throw at it, including 600 ohm sets and most Planar Magnetic headphones. Only the most difficult Planars and headphones will have some trouble (like the HE-6). If you truly need that extra bit of power, Aune offers the S7 balanced amp that can be added (at nearly the same price of the S6 itself)



    Conclusion

    IMG_20170319_214325.jpg

    DSD capable, powerful Balanced desktop DAC/Amp combos used to easily cost in the $1000+ range, but we have started to see units like the S6 and Schiit Jotunheim in the $500 range. This is a stellar achievement in Headphone audio, as running Balanced really does give that extra bit of clean sound anyone can appreciate.


    So should you get the S6 or Jotunheim? I can say it is much easier to purchase the Jotunheim in the US. Aune seems to not have many distributors that I can find selling the S6 compared to its other products. You can buy the S6 from Aune directly at http://mall.auneaudio.com/ though.


    I can’t say that the Jotunheim is truly better though based on specs. Schiit doesn’t show comparable THD numbers per mW, so it is tough to judge what seems to be power in favor of the Jotunheim. The Jot is also a little cheaper and made in the US.


    The 4495 may outperform the dual 4490’s, but I cannot say for sure until I listen to the Jot. I don’t think you could go wrong with either setup


    If I didn’t already own the Pulse X Infinity, I would have purchased the S6 myself. Well done Aune.

    Score 4.5/5.0 (I can't seem to get this to show)
    George Taylor and ngoshawk like this.
  4. ngoshawk
    4.5/5,
    "An excellent DAC/AMP which can combine like a Chameleon."
    Pros - Clean sound, powerful, easy to operate, multiple running options
    Cons - Curved top, that is about it!
    The most I can ask of a device, is that it functions without problem, without fuss, without drawing attention to itself, in the background. I was lucky enough to review the excellent Kenzie amp, and I hold that amp in the highest regard, when it comes to my previous statement. It…just…worked…without fuss, without bother, without drawing attention to itself (except that it was beautiful to look at what with the tubes…), mostly. As I write this, the S6 sits quietly, about 1’ from my computer. Never drawing a fuss towards itself. This to me is an underrated aspect of our equipment. It should never draw attention towards itself, unless it enhances the overall listening experience…OK, woody headphones, and tube amps do both quite well, and should be applauded, IF that beauty enhances the overall listen.
     
    My part of the Aune tour comes on the heel of the iFi iDSD Micro BL and RHA DAC/AMP L1 auditions. I am very lucky to have experienced three excellent options in the “mid-fi” DAC/AMP market. And all within roughly $20 of each other. That said, all arrive at the end product in quite different ways…
     
    I thank Aune for the opportunity to be included on the tour, and relished my overly-to-quick-week with this wonderful piece of kit. It was an honor to listen and evaluate such a fine product.
     
    A bit about me:
    I am older. I am happy that I have rediscovered the joy of music, through personal listening devices. Through this opportunity, I have become exposed to some wonderful kit. Much I now own, much I covet. Much I would never purchase, for various reasons.
     
    My listening style has changed somewhat over the years…from old time Rock-n-Roll to the Blues to Reggae, to Bluegrass. I cut my teeth on Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, The Who, Santana, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, and Pink Floyd. But the music I hold dearest and nearest my soul, is Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was lucky enough to see him perform four times…twice in open air venues, followed by (that evening each time!!!) smoky blues bars, where intimate would be an understatement. Each holds a very special place in my psyche, and I can almost remember the whole of each concert in their entirety…
     
    I enjoy a warmer signature in my equipment, and listening, with a good bass line (but not basshead), complimented by outstanding vocals. Combine the sweetness of SRV’s guitar and Billy Holiday’s voice, and you get my musical grove.
     
    Through too much hearing loss of high end (loud car stereo as a teenager with a car…), I cannot quite fathom the differences of sound that those experts on Head-Fi do. So, I try to accommodate with subtle differences…detailed differences wrought from my days banding birds, and working bird surveys where it was imperative that I separate what kind of Warbler, or Flycatcher, or Sparrow that was, and from what direction and elevation change the song originated. I used my deficiencies of treble-loss to my benefit; searching for that sound, which was not there a moment before. I got pretty darn good at it. And, I TRY to use that same methodology to separate details enough to offer a modicum of differentiation in the product at hand. I like to think I’m doing OK. But can always improve…
     
     
    The basics:
     
    $569. Matte black, curved top…not a big fan…prone to smudges-but if it is desktop, you will not be touching it often, one hopes…
     
    This is a desktop amp, which can run multiple formats and connections. Balanced cable out and 6.5mm headphones jacks adorn the front, as well as the digital screen and the volume/acuation-pot. The tour sample came with VE Zen-balanced earphones. A set I had never heard before this… A very nice sound comes from the Zen! I had never heard anything above the Monk/Monk+, so this was a nice surprise.
     
    Run mostly co-ax out through my Shanling M5, MacBook Pro or FiiO x5iii, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week.
     
    1225280437th.jpg
     
    SPECIFICATIONS:
    White TFT display
    DAC: AK4495S
    Natively recognized on Mac OS and Linux without drivers
    Bitperfect: Wasapi / Asio for Microsoft XP to Win10
    Inputs: 1x Optical Toslink, 1x Coaxial, 1x USB B and 1x AES / EBU
    Decoding up to 32bit / 384kHz (USB) via XMOS interface and 24bit / 192kHz for other digital inputs
    DSD native support (DSD64 (DOP / native), DSD128 (DOP)
    Support for DXD 32bit 384khz
    Digital isolation of USB and Coaxial inputs
    2x high precision clocks
    Shielded transformer
    Stereo analog outputs on RCA and XLR
    Balanced 4-pole headphone output
    Headphone output asymmetrical 6.35mm jack

     
    TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
    Bandwidth: 20hz to 20khz
    Total harmonic distortion: 0.0008% to 1khz
    Dynamic capacity: 116dB
    Crosstalk: -132dB
    Output voltage (RCA): 2 Vrms
    Output Voltage (XLR): 4.2Vrms

     
    POWER OUTPUT:
    Symmetric output port: 246mW @ 300ohm
    Asymmetric Output Port: 72mW @ 300ohm

     
    THE BUNDLE CONTAINS:
    A USB cable of 1m50
    A mains cable of 1m50
    A USB key containing the Windows drivers and a manual in English in PDF

     
    PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
    Selecting sources by pushbutton
    Volume control for helmet with notched potentiometer
    Chassis Aluminum Black anti-oxidation treated
    DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHTS:
    Housing dimensions: 288 x 211 x 63mm
    Weight: 3kg

     
    Headphones used:
     
    FLC8S
    Vibro Labs Aria
    RHA CL1
    RHA CL750
    Thinksound ON2
    Audioquest Nightowl
    Included VE Zen-balanced
     
    Compared to:
     
    RHA DAC/AMP L1
    FiiO A5
    iFi iDSD Micro Black Label
     
     
    Brief summaries:
     
    Music came from SD card, YouTube & Tidal, on M5, MBP and x5iii respectively.
     
    Push volume pot once to change input (Coax, Optical, USB, AE), twice to change between Headphone/Line Out. Pretty slick operation, too.
     
    A clear, ever-so-slight warm sound is what I hear. Tending towards mostly neutral in presentation for the most part. No seeming biases towards any frequencies (hi, mid, lo), except for the mids listed below. Streaming Tidal through the x5iii was a seamless solid sound with the ON2. Slightly thin, but I attribute this to the Tidal stream, not the source, or Aune. .
     
    @Hisoundfi makes an excellent point, in which I am in complete agreement, when he states that it is hard (especially for those with less than stellar ears, such as your truly) to separate the sound of the DAC from the headphone, so multiple attempts with a multitude of headphones and IEM’s to define that sound signature is needed. I would also concur with his assessment that the mids bring the overall tonality to a slightly warmer than neutral characteristic. I do find that there is a dearth of bass.
     
    196425153th.jpg
     
     
    But that can be compensated for with the addition of an EQ. And should you need more power, and then you can pair this up with a multitude of options, such as their own S7 (http://en.auneaudio.com/index.php?s=Home/Article/detail/id/150.html)
     
    For roughly 1/3 the price of the Kenzie, you get less power, and not quite the full rich sound, and a more forward mid sound. But, this is an excellent cross-platform critter, which is multi-function and it…just…works. Automatically sensing the sampling rate of the music, the S6 is eminently adaptable. Plug-n-play in the straightforward sense. The only adjustment you need is volume. And the Aune provides PLENTY of necessary power for all of the headphones I threw its way. Albeit this does come at the expense of sound stage. My sense is that this is a taller than average, but narrower sound stage. At least that is the impression I garner from my listens. Pushed a bit forward for my tastes, too.
     
    Detailed is a characteristic, which has been thrown around, and I would concur. When you can here the finer moments of a song, and know from previous experience that it is in fact there, then the device is playing your music honestly.
     
    The fun of testing gear such as this, is that one must try with many headphones and input sources to gather “proper” results. And I did enjoy my time with the unit.
     
    Testing “kits”:
     
    Macbook Pro-YouTube
    FiiO x5iii-Tidal and SD card music
    Shanling M5-SD card music
     
    Lend Me UR Ears FLC8S
    Vibro Labs Aria
    Audioquest Nightowl
    Thinksound ON2
     
     
    MacBook Pro-YouTube
     
    Watching videos, even if they are music videos, can be quite enjoyable, and I know many who do that. I enjoy old rock videos, as well as Lindsey Stirling videos and Danny Macaskill mountain biking videos. Decent of audio quality, this is a good judge for the Aune when it comes to “plain jane” music. And the S6 does not disappoint. The “truest” representation was had with the Nightowl. Just an impeccable sound, they provide. There is no hiding deficiencies, or micro details. And I enjoyed this sound, immensely.
     
    That said, the more fun sound was had with the thinksound on2. A deeper reach of bass, which I do like, allowed me to be immersed more into the listening experience. The same could be said of the FLC8S, but with more forward mids. Again, the Aune simply performed in the background.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    FiiO x5iii-Tidal streaming & SD:
     
    I am very happy with the FiiO. The unit has performed quite well for me, under most circumstances. Pairing the device with the Aune was straightforward (once I figured out how AND found the correct cable!), simple and an automatic deduction of sampling rate was had.  SLIGHTLY warm by nature, the 3[sup]rd[/sup] gen x5 complimented quite well with the S6. I have to say, that if you were looking into the desktop set up, as a next step this pairing (or a comparable DAP) this pair would work quite well. This would also leave your work laptop or computer free for actual “work”!
     
    Working well with a multitude of connections, is a forte of the S6. And from my listens, does all well.
     
    Shanling M5:
     
    This was probably my favorite combination. I’m not sure I can explain why, but it just was…Simple straightforward line out, the pair worked. Throw in the on2’s, and I was very happy. Deep rich bass (a bit untamed), mids where they should be, no harsh treble, the trio…just…worked…
     
    To think that a set up such as this could be had for south of $1K USD, is fabulous. One would be hard pressed to better the trio, for that price. One need only be judicious, with enough time to search, then collect the goods to enjoy. A shopping trip well worth the effort.
     
    DSC_0176.jpg
     
     
    Finale:
     
    So…how would I summarize the Aune S6? Is it versatile? You bet! Is it affordable? Yes, reasonably so. And if you, dear reader are perusing these grumblings, then you may already be interested, in such a device. When one compares products, one does so under the guise of choices and needs. One would most definitely be looking at this product for a desktop combo, if this was your price range.
     
    The problem arises; when you throw in the competition…for the same (darn near) price, you would certainly consider the iFi iDSD Micro Black Label, the RHA DAC/AMP L1, and an on sale Chord Mojo. This does not even include the very affordable Schiit Magni 2/Modi 2 Uber stacks; which can be had for less. There in lies the conundrum…what exactly ARE you looking for?...
     
    Personally, I am looking for a versatile affordable product. Hence, that would certainly knock this out…BUT, dear reader, that is not what this product was meant to be used as… It is a desktop DAC/AMP. One, which provides reasonable power for not only the easy to drive in your collection, but the harder to drive…Witness what others have said about the ability to drive their collections with the S6, and we would rightly conclude that those needs are indeed met with the Aune. That still would not separate the S6 from the Mojo or Ifi Black Label; excellent choices they are, undeniably. The aforementioned even have portability (or TRANSportability in the case of the Black Label) as a notch on their belt. So, again, I ask what is it that would draw one to the S6?
     
    Well, I’m glad you asked…it…just…works…No fuss, no bother, you hook your device up, and you are done. Automatically reading the file, the S6 does all the work. If you feel the need to EQ, then do so, on your source device. The S6 wants none of that. It simply wants you to enjoy your music. And with any combination I threw at the Aune, it did.
     
    That to me is the highest regard I can give a device…it let’s me enjoy my music the way I want.
     
    I want to thank @AuneAudio for including me on the tour. While my week flew by, and I wish I had a couple of more days, I am satisfied. I am satisfied that I was able to listen to an excellent all around desktop DAC/AMP. One that would be worth a listen, a long listen. Because…it…just…works.
     
    Finale addende:
     
    There has been a fair bit of “noise” on several Head-Fi threads recently about “defining” and “subjective v objective” and “feel/emotion”…and rightly so. Often lately peeps will put their “opinion” out there without defining it…This would be the subjective part…Well, while that is all fine and dandy; it is doing a tremendous disservice to those of “us” who also think on the Scientific side of things…I will be the first to admit that I will probably never be as Scientifically-sound as @Brooko or @Tyll Hertsens or @nmatheis (much less supported on here in my minds, and he should be listened to…), but I do know a fair bit about Science, since I am a Wildlife Biologist/Science Teacher by trade.
     
    THIS to me is the root core of what can define how we look at gear…can we get across the cold analytical side, while emoting our visceral response to said gear? My hope is to reach that level…As for what this has to do with the Aune S6 will become abundantly clear…
     
    il_bundle1.jpg
    Illinois Bundleflower
     
    It is one thing to be able to describe the flow of microbial bacteria up the root hairs of that Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis) of the Mimosa family (Mimosaceae) plant, and through the Xylem to all parts of a plant…that would be the Scientific side…and the likes of those mentioned, have no peer on this site in my mind. Then there is the Emotive side (such as myself, unfortunately) who become part of the process, flowing with that bacteria into the plant to all parts, and using our energies to make the plant grow…It is that wedding, that melding of BOTH sides, which is where we all strive to end up…that Scientific backing, which allows us to understand WHY we chose the item we did…BUT it is another thing altogether to understand why we chose that item because of the way it makes us feel…And this is where I have the current problem with the noise on the Head-Fi threads…Too often peeps simply state A is better than B, just because….because of WHAT?! Help us understand what drives you to like that item. Help us understand what makes you hear that while others do not…and this is the journey I undertake with my “new” reviews, such as this…
     
    DSC_0173.jpg
     
     
    I am co-writing my review for the wonderful Shanling M1, as I finished the audition of the S6, and I can honestly state, that this would be an end point for me in the portable market…often peeps state, “oh you need to try this,” or “you need to try that, it is better.” Well, according to whom? Who has the right to define WHAT is better or right for each of us? We must decide for ourselves.
     
    To be able to be satisfied with the gear we choose, we must understand completely why we do. We must become that Illinois Bundleflower , from both the inside AND the outside. We must allow part of us to travel through those root hairs, with the bacteria as our guide and ride, then up the Xylem tubes, to all parts of the plant. We must let go parts of us, which will help us understand the inner workings of that wonderful prairie plant, while also not losing site of the sheer beauty of its outsides (the way the plant/gear works from our vantage point). To travel into the organelles, and eventually back out the Stomatal openings as Oxygen not only gives the plant growth and life, but as we breathe back in that part we let go, we become whole again…we understand the WHOLE of the item in which we write…We understand that inner “mechanical workings,” which the company infused. So that we may understand completely the whole of the item. Once we are satisfied with that result, we share that with you, dear reader…and without recourse, we do so, so that you may make that informed decision. I may never purchase some of this gear, but that journey, has led me down the path of growth so that I can be thoroughly satisfied with the gear I DO choose. And that is gear, as stated in my previous reviews, which allow me to reach that point where I am satisfied, and I have no need to proceed further, but with the reviewing process…why?
     
    Because…it…just…works…and happily, the Aune S6 follows that suit.
    B9Scrambler likes this.
  5. Hisoundfi
    4.5/5,
    "It's "Aune" like Donkey Kong! The Aune S6 desktop DAC with AK4495 chip and built in headphone amplifier"
    Pros - Engaging and nautral sound, Great all around performer (especially for the price), Drives sensitive IEMs and power hungry full-sized cans, Ease of use
    Cons - Rounded top prevents stacking, Finish is susceptible to removable scuffs, Volume pot's button is stiff, Simple display leaves room for improvement
     
    At the time this review was written, the Aune S6 DAC was listed for sale on their website. Here is a link for purchase and more information:
     
    http://mall.auneaudio.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=25_65&product_id=59
    7.jpg
     
    Introduction
    When I first started going to Head-Fi meets in my area I felt like the black sheep of the group. I would show up to the meets with a lot of in-ear monitors and portable gear while most others had summit-fi desktop stuff and full size headphones. Although the people were (and still are) awesome and friendly at these events, I initially felt a bit out of place.
     
    A couple years later I have not only become more versed in desktop gear, I’ve also had a chance to show attendees that in-ear monitors and portable DAPs, DACs, and amplifiers have come a looooooong way over the last few year and deserve exposure and discussion in audiophile circles. I’ve had a chance to experience other people’s desktop set-ups. I’ve come to appreciate desktop stuff more and more with each passing meet. I’ve enjoyed some of it enough to start purchasing pairs of full sized headphones and desktop components. Although I can’t see myself spending thousands upon thousand of dollars on summit-fi desktop audio gear, I can appreciate much of what’s out there. As always, I’m more a fan of products that maximize price to performance ratios.
     
    When my friend Lee asked if I would be interested in reviewing a desktop DAC from Aune named the S6 I wasn’t entirely comfortable doing it. I didn’t know if I had the insight to review a unit like this. Lee insisted that I at least give it a try because it was a DAC upgrade over what I currently have. With that being said I accepted his offer.
     
    20170128_120337.jpg
    My bread and butter is in in-ear monitors and DAPs. Don’t get me wrong, I can listen to a desktop rigs and tell you how something performs and whether I like it or not, but I can’t base my opinion on extensive experience owning this kind of stuff. In order to gauge the performance of the S6 I knew I would need to get it in the hands (and on the ears) of some of my friends who are pros at this this type of stuff. This is why I brought it to a local area meet to get impressions. Truth be told, the feedback I got was just about one hundred percent positive. More on this in a bit.
     
    I never understood just how important a quality DAC is until I experienced the S6. In a market where many big names that bring nice products for audiophiles, I didn’t really consider the asking price of many desktop DACs to be worth the high asking prices. As long as I had enough amplification to push my headphones I was content with a simple budget DAC like the HifimeDIY Sabre models.
     
    I have spent extended time with the S6 and can say that without a doubt the difference may seem subtle at first, but listen to it long enough and it’s blatantly apparent. The S6 is fabulous and justifies its price. After spending a good amount of time with this unit I can appreciate the importance of a dedicated DAC like this.
     
    The DAC you use is one of the most important things in your audio chain. It may be a slight improvement over the cheaper stuff but there’s a catch. Listening to a slightly better music file with a slightly better DAC, slightly better amplifier and slightly better pair of headphones, all of these “slightlys” adds up to a big difference.
     
    Think of an audio chain as a high performance car. If the amplifier is the engine, a DAC would be the fuel injectors and air intake. Without the right fuel and air mixture it doesn’t matter what engine you have, it won’t perform at its maximum potential. The cleaner and more ideal the music source is being fed into the amplifier, the better the amplifier can perform. Just to add to this, the S6 has a decent engine (amplifier) already built into it. We will cover this more in the review.
     
    Simply put, the S6 has taken my full sized headphone game to another level. Let’s find out why, and go over the unit with a comprehensive review.
     
    Review
    20170320_195303.jpg
    The Aune S6 came in a basic large black box with a foil stamped Aune logo. Inside the package lies the S6 unit, power cable, USB cable and a USB stick which has the drivers needed to use the unit with a computer.
     
    20170320_192721_HDR.jpg
    Loading the software onto my computer wasn’t too difficult. Once the software was uploaded I did need to restart my computer for it to install. If you are having any difficulty getting the software to work, ask your computer savvy friends to assist. After loading the software I haven’t had any issues using it with my Windows laptop. Although the specs indicate the S6 can run at 32/384k, I maxed out at 32-192k on my windows laptop. Say what you will, once I get to bitrates and frequency ranges this high (honestly lower) my ears can’t hear a difference and would rather concentrate my efforts on listening to higher quality recordings.
     
    SPECIFICATIONS:
    White TFT display
    DAC: AK4495S
    Natively recognized on Mac OS and Linux without drivers
    Bitperfect: Wasapi / Asio for Microsoft XP to Win10
    Inputs: 1x Optical Toslink, 1x Coaxial, 1x USB B and 1x AES / EBU
    Decoding up to 32bit / 384kHz (USB) via XMOS interface and 24bit / 192kHz for other digital inputs
    DSD native support (DSD64 (DOP / native), DSD128 (DOP)
    Support for DXD 32bit 384khz
    Digital isolation of USB and Coaxial inputs
    2x high precision clocks
    Shielded transformer
    Stereo analog outputs on RCA and XLR
    Balanced 4-pole headphone output
    Headphone output asymmetrical 6.35mm jack
     
    TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
    Bandwidth: 20hz to 20khz
    Total harmonic distortion: 0.0008% to 1khz
    Dynamic capacity: 116dB
    Crosstalk: -132dB
    Output voltage (RCA): 2 Vrms
    Output Voltage (XLR): 4.2Vrms
     
    POWER OUTPUT:
    Symmetric output port: 246mW @ 300ohm
    Asymmetric Output Port: 72mW @ 300ohm
     
    THE BUNDLE CONTAINS:
    A USB cable of 1m50
    A mains cable of 1m50
    A USB key containing the Windows drivers and a manual in English in PDF
     
    PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
    Selecting sources by pushbutton
    Volume control for helmet with notched potentiometer
    Chassis Aluminum Black anti-oxidation treated
    DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHTS:
    Housing dimensions: 288 x 211 x 63mm
    Weight: 3kg
     
    Build and Features
    5.jpg
    The overall shape of the S6 is pretty cool. It’s about the size and weight of the average video game console and has a slight curve on the top. Although the slight curve gives it a striking aesthetic, I do wish it was flat for stacking purposes. Although nothing can necessarily sit flush on top of the unit it’s relatively flat enough to set something like a DAP or pair of headphones on without it sliding off.
     
    20170205_233453.jpg
    The S6 I received has a matte black coated finish on its metal casing. There is also another option for silver. Although I really liked the black finish, it was prone to getting removable scuff marks whenever objects scratched or brushed against it. Although the marks could easily be wiped off, the S6 seemed to look scratched or dirty more often than I would like. I made sure to keep a microfiber cloth close by to keep the device looking sharp. Not a big deal, but something worth noting.
     
    4.jpg
    Taking a look at the front of the unit, it’s a very sleek and simple front layout. From left to right there’s a balanced four-pin XLR, quarter inch output, a small display screen, a small power indicator light, and a analog-like digital volume pot.
     
    8.jpg
    Looking at the back of the unit, there is a nice assortment of inputs and outputs. Going from left to right three pin XLR outputs for both left and right channels as well as RCA analog outputs. Moving on to the inputs there is an AES three pin XLR input. For those of you who don’t know what this is, here is a link:
     
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AES3
     
    Next to the AES input, there are input connections for coaxial, optical, and USB type B. Also located on the back is a power supply switch and three prong power input jack.
     
    Functionality
    20170320_192620.jpg
    The S6 functionality is somewhat awkward at first, but once learned it’s easy to operate and relatively simple to use. Everything is controlled via the analog-ish digital volume knob. The knob can be pressed in and used as a button that not only turns the unit on and off, it also changes the input and output settings.
     
    After flipping the back power supply on in the back of the unit, the S6 is in standby mode. I didn’t need to concern myself too much with flipping this switch, and only used it when disconnecting the unit, or turning the unit off because I knew I wasn’t going to be using it for a long while.
     
    Once power is supplied to the unit and was in standby mode, I could power up the S6 by long pressing the volume knob for a few seconds. Powering down the unit was done by pressing the unit the same way.
     
    Once powered on, a simple display appears. The upper left portion shows the input. The upper right corner shows the output. The middle of the screen displays the type of signal being played. The lower portion of the screen displays the volume setting.
     
    To change the input of the S6, single press the volume knob and the input will cycle through until you reach the desired setting. To change the output of the S6, double tap on the volume knob until you reach the desired output setting. Volume is controlled by turning the dial up or down just like any stereo receiver.
     
    In regards to the performance of the control knob everything works as it should. However, the button is on the stiff side. The unit will slide on my counter before the button is pushed. Because of this I had to apply downward pressure on the top of the unit to prevent this from happening. When turning the volume up and down the device does not turn smoothly. With each notch the dial is turned the volume will change by one click. The S6 volume range goes from zero to one hundred.
     
    In terms of usage, it was a bit awkward at first. Once I learned the button functionality the S6 was easy and fun to use. I used the S6 primarily as a Headphone amplifier and audio out via RCA to my reciever. I also hooked the S6 up to other headphone amplifiers.
     
    Thanks to the various inputs on the back of the unit I was able to plug EVERY device with digital output I had into the S6. One drawback was that there is no analog input to use the S6 as an amplifier only. However, as time and technology advances this is becoming less and less of an issue. In terms of outputs I have the luxury of headphone outputs and fixed line-outs. The good news is that there is a complimentary S7 head-amp that you can purchase to add that luxury.
     
    My favorite thing about the S6 is that I can use two pairs of headphones at the same time. I can plug one pair in via the balanced XLR, and the other via the quarter inch headphone jack. Although I can't separately control the volume which is dependent on the output of the jack in combination with the sensitivity of the headphone, it's a very nice luxury, especially at meets!
     
    Performance
    20170320_192516.jpg
    In all honesty, I didn’t necessarily get any decisive advantage hooking the S6 to any of the other amplifiers I had (I don’t have much for high end amplifiers). The S6 has a kick arse built in amplifier that easily pushes every pair of cans I had. Based on my time with the unit the S6 will easily drive just about any headphone you can plug into it. For those interested in the S6, the unit is more than just a DAC. It has a powerful output, balanced XLR balanced and quarter inch outputs that will rock most high impedance stuff. Just in case the S6 doesn’t have enough power for your headphones, there’s an S7 amplifier that can be purchased to go with the S6. I will be receiving and reviewing this unit some time soon. Here is a link if your are interested:
     
    http://en.auneaudio.com/index.php?s=Home/Article/detail/id/150.html
     
    I honestly have no idea who would need the extra juice because the S6 is already pretty darn powerful by itself. With the power the S6 possesses, I’m guessing the S7 is an added luxury that isn’t necessary (time will tell). Honestly, I can’t think of a single pair of headphones the S6 can’t push and have power to spare.
     
    Another big plus about the S6 is that it works great for in-ear monitors as well. Even with highly sensitive earphones like the Noble Encore and Campfire Andromeda the noise floor is almost dead silent (there is minimal background floor noise). I used to think that my trusty micro iDSD was the most versatile unit in terms of playback ability. After using the S6 I come to realize it’s just as versatile and easier to use. I don’t need to flip any switches to make the output ideal with what I’m listening to. Plug it in, play some music and turn the volume up to where you want it and you’re all set.
     
    When using the XLR and analog outputs on the back (as a preamplifier) the S6 does its job well. Music is clean and clear with no audible hiss or distortion. The option to switch between the headphone and line outputs makes the S6 a great audio hub for any audiophile or music enthusiast.
     
    Sound
    20170128_120354.jpg
    When reviewing a DAC It's hard to be completely accurate in terms of sound impressions. I say this because often times when reading DAC reviews I often times catch reviewers commenting on the headphones rather than the unit itself. Because of this I try to listen to a variety of headphones and earphones and come up with generalized feel for the unit. I’ll also share what earphones I feel paired exceptionally well with this device.
     
    The S6 is incredibly natural sounding with an added sprinkle of midrange girth and musicality that makes it an improvement over neutral. Any of you who are familiar with the new AK chips, the S6 follows suit and is probably the best implementation of this chip that I’ve heard to date.  There is no sense of boosted lower or high frequencies and everything balances out nicely. S6 has a rich and engaging signature that is thoroughly enjoyable. Micro details can be easily heard. I can’t say anything negative about the S6 performance. Putting things into perspective, in terms of a desktop unit performance(and the added fact that I’m not looking to spend thousands of dollars on this stuff) the S6 is an awesome deal for its asking price, and in gives me everything I need in terms of sound quality and combined versatility.
     
    The S6 doesn’t have the same clean and airy sound of many implementations of the ES9018 Sabre chips that have been popular for the last couple years. In my opinion it’s a refreshing approach to HiFi audio. Although the S6 may be a step back in terms of airiness and soundstage, it trumps trumps the Sabre stuff in terms of musicality while still bringing micro details in spades.
     
    Pairings
    20170320_192516.jpg
    My favorite headphone to use with the S6 was my custom tuned ZMF Omni. I was so smitten by this combo, I featured it at my booth at the most recent Head-Fi event I attended. Even Zach (the owner and manufacturer of ZMF) commented on how well the two sounded together. Everyone who heard this combo was very pleased with the performance of this pairing. A few asked how much the S6 costs. When I told them it comes in at around five hundred dollars several said it was a great unit and definitely worthy of the asking price. A couple other ZMFs that sounded excellent with the S6 was the newly released Atticus and Eikon.
     
    20170320_193023.jpg
    Another personal favorite to pair with the unit was the VE Zen 2.0. Although the midbass was a bit looser than what I would consider ideal, the S6 rendered some incredible texture and detail. I was able to enjoy a very pleasant musical experience and was able to catch all the small details of the tracks I listened to. I highly recommend this combo if you are looking to get the most out of a high impedance pair of earbuds like the Zen 2.0. One thing to note, I was using the standard jack Zen. I would suppose the balanced version of this earbud would sound even better than this already great combination.
     
    The Hifiman RE-XX (remake of the RE-00) came to life with the S6. I have previously given the sixty-four Ohm earphone some not so positive impressions because of how lean and sterile they often sound with less powerful sources. The S6 gave the RE-XX the extra oomph it needed to make them sound impressive. Separations and detail were top notch.
     
    The Noble Encore seemed to get similar results to the RE-XX. Although much more sensitive than the Hifiman in-ear monitor, the Encore had a nice sense of musicality and detail. Noise floor was close to silent and was for the most part a non issue.
     
    Conclusion
    The S6 isn’t going to destroy everything that’s out there but it’s definitely a top performer at its current asking price. Although I thoroughly enjoy and still use my micro iDSD, the S6 provides the same versatility with less switches and a meatier and more music friendly sound signature.
     
    In terms of headphone driving performance the S6 is pretty fabulous. There’s never been a time I’ve listened to the S6 and not walked away impressed (regardless of what earphones I use it with). The sound quality and powerful headphone amplifier (for a DAC) that is built in makes it a big winner in my opinion. For most people looking for a solid desktop setup there’s not much more you’d need beyond this device, and if you did we’re probably talking about spending a lot more than the five hundred dollars this thing costs. I’ve heard quite a bit of desktop gear at this price and I can’t think of much that offers the same combination of sound quality, power and versatility of the S6.
     
    There are some things about the S6 I think could be better. The rounded top doesn’t set up for stacking desktop gears with it. I don’t care for how stiff the button is and wish the device had different control options. A remote would have been a big bonus for a device like this. The display is slightly generic. A digital output display (a-la the Oppo HA-1) for each frequency would have been a nice touch. An analog input would have been nice for utilizing just the amplifier section. I would trade the matte finish for something that is more polished and didn’t scuff. Still, at the end of the day I can live without any of these suggested improvements. Aune has knocked it out of the park where it matters most (sound, power, versatility). Add to the fact it’s incredibly easy to use, I can’t help it give the S6 a high score. Other products may get the market’s spotlight, but I can guarantee that the S6 will give similarly designed and priced products a run for it’s money.
     
    20161230_205541.jpg
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
    zhibli06, ririeiman, peter123 and 7 others like this.
  6. noobandroid
    4.0/5,
    "Superb DACAmp for desk"
    Pros - Strong overall presentation, great build and weight
    Cons - weaker on the headphone out than line out

    Introduction

    Special thanks to @AuneAudio for providing the chance to try out their dac+amp S6, which I have never even touched any of their related products. This might be my first time on such a device and it is going to be a fun one exploring.
     

    Pre note:

    The following review is a summary of total of 10 local reviewers + my own mix in it. Most of them are not headfi members, so I was in charge of co-ordinating the local tour outs and gatherings, and the results are as below.

    20170311_193231.jpg CZ-1 exhibitor sets up the Aune S6 to try them out with the CZ-1
     
    20170311_212705.jpg A little gathering among friends before testing
     
    20170313_075154.jpg Luggage for scale?
     
     

    Setups and bla bla bla...

    My configuration for the S6 setup will be as the following
     
    PC - JRMC (latest updated) - iFi iUSB - Aune S6 - Alesis Elevate 5 (line out) / Noble Sage + Aires2+ cable on SE / VE Zen 2 on 4pin XLR
     
    20170319_192022.jpg
     
     
     

     

    Controls

    The controls on the S6 is quite special, and I had to search around the internet to only find out. By single click on the volume pot, you can switch multiple INPUTS, and a double click you can switch to any OUTPUTS. The volume are individually remembered so it doesn't affect the switching. This makes the review process so much for versatile. Switching between XLR to SE to Line out, and using Optical / RCA and all that inputs at my will without hassles! Now, THAT"S classy!
     

    Overall Impression

    Treble / High notes etc

    The treble output by the Aune s6 is quite impressive. Little crystal notes can be heard even if it is at a distance and on some amps I tried, it gets negated. On the line out to speakers, the clean treble notes doesnt distort or give the spiking cracks on my speakers. They are managed quite well. Even if i crank up the volume to quite a loud level on the speakers, things are still well under the radar. 
     
    Switching to the front output, things get interesting. Since the drivers are at an even closer proximity, the sound gets even better, and still doesn't get any cracks and distortions going up the sound volume.The detail level detectable on the speakers go into further refinement when you dive into the headphone out. Heck, even the VE Zen 2 performs like a sweet chime music!! 
     

    Mids/ Vocals/ drum slaps i suppose?

    From the line out, the mid range is adequate. Not the most prominent one, but still it gets the job done. Slightly dark side vocals and it does has the depth, and organic sense to it. Trumpets, they do sound a bit odd at times due to the lack of the flat vocals that can correctly show them off. Imagine the trumpets on a lightly bass rolled into it. Some may say yeah thats because of the speakers, but not really, on the mojo, the vocals are slightly flatter and cleaner. 
     
    Switching over the headphones, the vocals are much better and nearer to the flat line, where it becomes much easier to hear the singer and their speech. Trumpets and the drums are much better on the headphone than of the line out IMO. 
     

    Bass

    The bass line on the speakers are okay-ish. They couldnt do the enough bass, but the bass is short and precise. They cant do the rumble and shake the whole room, but sitting on the table, you can feel the bass hitting on your table and vibrating it. It does precision and not volume, thats the closest i can describe it.
     
    On the headphone out, the bass is much more rumbling and well rounded. You can hear the bass notes connecting one another cleanly, in comparison to line out, since listening to speakers are at a range and so there is an air transfer delay, which i think will mix the bass separations together (maybe?).
     

    Soundstage

    In soundstage wise, I can put them 2 into the same context. They both do the soundstage work really well, the width in direct comparison isnt far off. Listening to Nightwish and switching them in between, I can roughly feel the distance of the music placements. Left right pushing each other, and them background choirs. Echo of their choirs can be heard with a vocal delay out. This is one of the better albums i suppose that shows of the S6 performance overall.
     

    Conclusion

    Aune has made a good piece of equipment with the S6. The ESS AKM (thanks for notifying my mistake here) DAC can pull a lot of detail out of the song file, and the amp projects them with authority. Great mix of I/O switchable, great sound, great I/O options, what more can you ask for? Price ain't too shabby too I must say. I would urge folks to give this a chance, and let them be compared with other integrated DACAmp, and you can see this does slightly better than average.
  7. Takeanidea
    4.0/5,
    "Curved smooth balanced. This can sum up everything you need to know about Aune’s elegant new offering"
    Pros - A smooth sound signature. Powerful. Balanced and single ended inputs and outputs.
    Cons - OTG on Android slightly underpowered on less sensitive headphones.

    Aune S6

    IMG_20170314_204409963.jpg
     
     

    Introduction

    Thank you to Shelly from Aune and thank you to @glassmonkey. The Aune M1S Digital Audio Player
     
    IMG_20170228_114505041.jpg
     
     
    came my way and under the intense scrutiny of my reviewing gaze it came up trumps. It was really fast and sounded as good as many far more expensive players. No sooner had that gone than I got the S6 Dac/Amp, a desktop Dac/Amp commanding a mid tier price bracket and with a whole lot more electronics packed into it. I got 7 precious days with the S6. Before you think that is an adequate time to get to know a piece of audio equipment let me tell you ;  a lot more time is needed when you’re having this much fun and when there are so many things to try out. Honestly , I didn’t try everything but I covered the bases as well as I could in the time given, and I wanted to at least get to the stage where I could adequately explain the differences in the sound quality and signature of this against 2 other Dac/Amps I happened to have with me ; the Fostex HPA4 BL and the Chord Mojo. 
    IMG_20170314_205716052.jpg IMG_20161215_141617922_HDR-2.jpg FX_HPA4BL_front_30_136652_2016126111535.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Unboxing

    The S6 was packed in a beautiful black box and was a heavy package indeed.
     
    IMG_20170314_210518568.jpg IMG_20170314_210528587.jpg IMG_20170314_211256855.jpg
     
     
     
    The term reassuringly heavy rings true here. Aune were extremely kind to supply a set of VE Zen Balanced IEMs.
     
    HTB1.V8uKVXXXXbRXFXXq6xXFXXXf.jpg
     
    The Zens are a homage to accessories. These VE people have gone crazy! There is every sort of accessory and converter included here. 
     
    images.jpg IMG_20170314_211256855.jpg
     
     
     
    The box opened and my first touch of the S6. The all important first few seconds… The Aune has a brushed black curved appearance and is an elegant smooth slab of electronics.
     
    IMG_20170314_210528587.jpg IMG_20170314_204710720.jpg IMG_20170314_205716052.jpg
     
     
     
     
    A good first impression that I felt was sure to turn into a decent sounding piece of kit.   Included with the S6 ; a mains cable of a decent thickness but finished off in an EU 2 pin. I immediately set off to the shops and got the appropriate travel adapter. A shaver adapter would fit but would not be safe for dealing with this many amps. It set me back 1 english pound. The USB cable is a nice looking gold terminated affair. It’s well in keeping with the overall style of the main unit. 
    There are many connections to the S6 ; single ended , balanced input and output, RCA line outputs, optical and coaxial input and outputs.
     
    IMG_20170314_204544189.jpg IMG_20170314_204602537.jpg IMG_20170314_204613561.jpg
     
     
     
    It would be nice to have had cables supplied as standard for all these options but this is not standard practice within the Audio Industry so cannot really be counted as a negative for Aune. At least what is in the box looks and works well. 
     

    The S6 in use

    I tried the balanced out using the VE Zen IEMs first. Well known for the $5 VE Monk in headfi circles, the Zen represents my introduction to the brand. The Zen is an earbud and I find them difficult to wear. Luckily VE have thought of this. There are 2 ways your VEs can fit. The first was standard coloured nylon ear cushions.  Those made the Zens fall straight out of my ears. The silicon collars got the Zens in exactly the right place and locked them in there.  
     
    HTB1c1lsKVXXXXcsXFXXq6xXFXXXM.jpg
     
    I put on Enya’s Dark Sky Island
     
    [​IMG]
     
    on my phone and hooked up the OTG C cable supplied with my Mojo cable pack. The USB C fitted a treat into the S6s cable and the connection was recognized instantly. I was somewhat surprised as to how loud I had to turn the volume control on the Aune to get a decent level but when I got there…. The Zens are amazing! I was shocked at how something this bargain basement looking could sound so authoritative. They had bass and mids and plenty of space. A sure sign of a good sounding device is when you drift. When I find myself sitting back , closing my eyes and relaxing. When I can truly unwind and concentrate on just the music. That’s when I know I’m dealing with something worth talking about. The combination of the humble Zens and the rather larger S6 created a few such moments. It was a Sunday too, I’m sure such days of the week lend themselves to these occasions. Before anyone poo poos the benefits of playing music through an Android phone using OTG, I really have found this a way of freeing my music up. I have several really decent music players (USB Audio Pro, Hiby Music Player, Onkyo Music Player) and 256 Gbs of stored tracks and albums of every genre and bit rate I can stomach, from Classical to Metal.  In these days of instant my phone is always with me and logically the first thing I hook up to a new USB dac/Amp to test it out.
    I hooked the USB up to the Macbook Pro Retina running OSX. The Aune S6 was recognized instantly. That wouldn’t have struck me as particularly spectacular apart from the fact that I am having a battle with the Fostex HPA4 BL. I have the Fostex recognized on OSX but with reduced functionality at present. My playback is currently limited to a max of 32 192 non DSD through the HPA. The S6 in contrast played everything my MacBook could throw at it. I am fortunate enough to have an @dill3000 balanced cable for my lambswool and resonator modded Sennheiser HD800s.
     
    IMG_20170317_155123499.jpg
     
    I listened extensively to the HD800s on the S6 as I felt the Aune Dac/Amp was a good match for headphones of this quality. For those who don’t have a pair or who are wondering what the fuss is all about, the Sennheiser HD800 shook up the headphone world when it came out. The size of the speakers the futuristic styling and the immense sound stage created a hype train that is still going now. There limitations in the bass response and a noticeable ringing effect in the upper frequencies. These 2 weaknesses I have addressed with my mods. Knowing the character of my headphones so well , I tend to use the HD800s as a reference point. 

    Sound Quality

    I almost don’t want to reveal what I thought about the sound quality of the S6. I have taken a track(Crucify – Tori Amos)
     
    [​IMG]
     
    and recorded it 3 times in it’s entirety. I have volume matched the S6 , the Fostex HPA4 BL and the Chord Mojo. I then plugged a jack into the headphone out of each device and recorded the output. I used the semi professional ART USB analogue to digital recorder to capture the sound.
     
    IMG_20170314_205622895.jpg IMG_20170314_205645522.jpg
     
    IMG_20170314_205804881.jpg IMG_20170314_205735929.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
    This was relayed through USB back into my Macbook and recorded using Audacity – a freeware app. The raw files were saved in 44.1 WAV format. I have them available for anyone interested in hearing the differences in each of the devices. I want others to take part in my reviews and to seek their own truths from my words. When we come to the subjective nature of defining what makes good sound quality I believe music speaks louder than words. The link will enable you, dear reader, to participate in this great debate in a meaningful way. At the risk of guiding your own judgements, this is what I found when I spent a day going endlessly back and forth between these 3 Dac/Amps. I used the Sennheiser HD800s as the reference. Due to the lack of balanced output on the Chord Mojo I was forced to use single ended. I have a rather fetching 3.5 mm terminated cable bought for use with my Chord.
     
    IMG_20170314_205950824.jpg IMG_20170314_210034374.jpg IMG_20170314_210038582.jpg
     
     
     
     
    This did the trick for the day although the Fostex and S6 needed a ¼ inch adapter. 
    The differences in the 3 devices struck me fairly quickly. The Fostex has an energetic , forward, punchy feel to the sound. The Mojo has a detailed linear  signature. The S6 was mellow. The Aune has a presence of a deeper sub bass. The mid bass and mids have a longer delay. The upper frequencies are slightly more rolled off than the Mojo. The signature created is convincing. There is a refined laid back effortlessness going on here that is difficult to resist. Juxtaposed to the accuracy of the Mojo and the attack of the HPA we have the tranquility of the S6. Don’t worry; I tried this midweek too. It wasn’t just the Sunday effect. 
     
    images.jpg [​IMG]
     
     
    There are differences between the sound signatures of the Chord Mojo and the Aune S6. These characteristics should not be viewed as a better or worse sound quality. It’s like asking which is a nicer sunset – orange or red or yellow? There are no straight answers and therefore no clear winner between the Mojo and the S6. Whilst apologizing for sitting on the fence I found this conclusion came as a surprise to me. I have owned the Chord Mojo for 18 months and have struggled to find anything below 1000 pounds that comes anywhere near the sound quality it dishes out.   
    As I write this I am acutely aware that for all the words covering these virtual sheets there are very few taken up with the most important thing of all ; of course, the sound quality. This is what governs our beloved hobby with a power to topple both good and bad manufacturers. The need for the best there is overtakes many a decent design initiative before it gets a chance to evolve. So I, as many of you, show an interest in a product and come here to look for an idea of what something sounds like. And that is such a difficult thing to explain. How to explain in words what you hear. How to remember what you have just heard and compare it to what you are about to listen to? It is a tough task.  The differences in source equipment are more subtle than those found in headphones.  There are many distractions that our brains use to take us away from discerning critically what we are listening to. This makes the task even harder and results in more time being needed to spot smaller differences. This is one of the reasons why I decided to start recording the outputs of the various equipment that come to me. That way I have an easier reference. 

    Conclusion

     
    IMG_20170314_204724063.jpg
     
    The Aune S6 looks the part. From the moment the box is opened. Even the touch of the surface of the unit has a special feel to it. Sat on the table the smooth curvature is pleasing to the eye. Switch it on there’s a clean display. It’ll play all the different files out there with no problems. Through the USB there is power on tap to push most headphones balanced and unbalanced with headroom to spare. The OTG functionality works well with a slight question mark over how much volume some of my players could give a full size headphone.  Onkyo music player seemed significantly louder than both USB Audio Player and Hiby Music Player was the quietest.  This was more noticeable  on the single ended connection. Listening to the S6 , Fostex HPA4 BL and Chord Mojo Dac/Amps side by side I was able to discern subtle differences in the sound signatures of the 3. Neither the Chord Mojo nor the Aune S6 was conclusively the victor of this supermatch. Aune’s mellowness was contrasted against the Mojo’s linearity and detail. 
     
    IMG_20170314_205814732.jpg
     
    I have recorded a track to help each and every one of you to decide for yourself and I look forward to your findings.  The track was taken from a fine quality recording. The process of recording from a digital source to an analogue has lost much of the quality of the track. The loss is equal across all 3 sources and has been volume matched to the best of my abilities. Enjoy the challenge of working out the difference between them. 

    My time with the S6 was short but sweet. Another review is over, another new kid(for me) has appeared on the block. I wish Aune a prosperous future, they are clearly capable of making products that can hold their own with some out there. 

  8. FortisFlyer75
    4.5/5,
    "Aune S6 sound as good as it's features? "
    Pros - Accurate & clear baalnced engaging signature, features packed, balanced HP out and XLR pre out.solid build & design with simplicity of use.
    Cons - No remote for when using as a pre-amp, easily marked casing finish, volume adjustment ratio.
    Aune S6 32 bit DSD USB DAC/ Amp
     
    March 2017
     
     
    Intro...
     
    First of all I would like to say thanks to Aune for letting me be part of this tour and getting to listen to this in the comfort of my own home for a week.
     
    I have been heavily into my  portable gear and been meaning to look at a desktop amp to go balanced with a flagship headphone at some point and must admit I had envisaged a flagship amp to go with it but with a flagship price that goes with them and other commitments keep delaying it for last couple of years it intrigued me for the money a Dacamp that had such connections as balanced XLR headphone out and pre out for use as a pre-amp with a speaker set up so curiosity killed the cat at this money to give it a try.
     
    DSC03479.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Specifications
    SPECS:
     
    Input: USB/COAX/OPT/AES
    Output: XLR/RCA
    Headphone output port: 6.5mm headphone amplifier port , four-core balanced headphone amplifier port   
    Headphone amplifier matched impedance: 32-600Ω
    Headphone output power:
    Balanced Headphone Output:
    32 ohms: 8000mW (MAX)
             1000mW(1khz@THD+n 0.001%)
    300 ohms:1000mW (MAX)
             246mW(1khz@THD+n 0.001%)
    600 ohms: 500mW (MAX)
              120mW(1khz@THD+n 0.001%)
    Single-Ended Headphone Output:
    32 ohms: 2500mW (MAX)
              280mW(1khz@THD+n 0.001%)              
    300 ohms: 250mW (MAX)
              72mW(1khz@THD+n 0.001%)
    600 ohms: 125mW (MAX)
              36mW(1khz@THD+n 0.001%)
    Input sampling parameters:
    USB:           
    Maximum word length:32Bit          Maximum sampling rate  :384K          Maximum DSD rate(DOP) :DSD128
    AES/COX/OPT:
    Maximum word length:24Bit         Maximum sampling rate:192K      
    Line out typical value: 
    XLR/RCA:
    Frequency response: ±0.4dB(20 Hz to 20 kHz)       Dynamic range: 116dB                SNR: 115dB 
    THD+N: 0.0008%@1KHz                                          Stereo crosstalk: -132dB
    Output amplitude RCA: 2Vrms                                XLR:4Vrms 
     
    More details about the Aune S6 can be found here:
    http://en.auneaudio.com/index.php?s=Home/Article/detail/id/148.html


     
     
    Package Content 
     
    DSC03569.jpg DSC03573.jpg DSC03575.jpg DSC03576.jpg
     
     
    The Aune S6 comes in a nice solid box which has a style that is meant to look polished and sophisticated in an understated way and simply the box lid has a silver AUNE logo on the black box.
    Underneath the hood of the Aune box you will find the S6 unit itself sitting in protective foam and comes with a USB stick instruction manual with drivers for the Dac and a USB cable as well as mains cable. 
     
     
     
    Design
     
    DSC03470.jpg DSC03481.jpg
     
    The design of this from the get go is neat lines, very tidy in appearance and is not sporting a number of switches and lights to compete with the IIS Enterprise. The build is solid with good sturdy connectors with the balanced sockets been good quality Neutrik supplied.
     
    The digital volume also doubles up for mode selection by pressing the in with a push so pressing once will cycle to the next input selection whilst a double quick press will change the output to line out or headphone out.  Holding in for five seconds will put the unit into standby or wake it up from standby mode. 
     
    The volume dial itself rotated with a satisfying click with each step on this digital volume but would say it sometime would get a bit tedious with the amount of turns you had to do in relation to the actual volume percentage it went down or up so is more turning involved than your normal volume dial. 
     
    The display read out is a very simple yet large clear IPS display which is well laid out and gives you the info you need easily readable that even from just over twelve feet away when in my speaker set up I could see the volume level clearly thanks to also showing you via a little ball that sits on a horizon line going from low on the left hand side to higher volume the more it is to the right hand side and looks quite cool as it looks reminiscent of the earths outline from space with the moon just following it’s out edge
     
    DSC03477.jpg DSC03455.jpg
     
    The display also shows what input and output is selected as well as the very handy and essential sampling rate and type is currently going through the S6. 
     
    Just a shame there was not an option to dim the display and turn off if wanted or when in off mode came on for 5 seconds every time you adjusted a setting on there.
     
    The design was by a British team which has made it look nice with the arc designed top casing but maybe less practical to stack any source gear on top compared to if it was flat but maybe the more frustrating part of that was the finish of the casing which looks nice again but seemed to mark to easily. 
     
    I liked the overall design and made sense and is made so you do not need a degree in how to do the power up procedure of a Jumbo 747.
     
    Lastly have to commend Aune in this price range bringing all the inputs and outputs which really gives this Dac/ amp an edge with a four core XLR balanced headphones socket as well as THE STANDARD ¼ inch SE headphone jack. 
     
    DSC03478.jpg
     
    The back comes with two rca analogue out sockets as well as the option to do XLR 3 pin left right balanced out and then the digital inputs consist of USB ‘B’ type in, Coax digital and Optical inputs as well as an AES XLR socket. Also on the back is the main power button which is next to the 3 pin kettle style plug connection.
     
    What is clever yet simple idea is Aune have taken the trouble to screen print the outputs with writing upside down so makes it easier if you are popping your head over it when it is set up in a rack. That was a nice touch which shows attention to small detail for me. Other than that it is hard to imagine what other inputs/ outputs they could have put on here given its price tier.
     
    DSC03562.jpg DSC03563.jpg DSC03561.jpg
     
     
    Sound Impressions...
     
    Firstly the reason why most of us on here will want to project interest in this rather sleek good looking minimalistic designed unit is to run our Headphones or IEMS through it.
     
    So I will be reviewing this firstly as a headphone source then as a pre-amp through my floor standing speaker set up.
     
    I have to say at this point the only balanced XLR cable I had that I could try with the S6 at time of writing had a break in it so was not working thus could not try it in balanced mode apart form a supplied pair of Zen as part of the tour that was hard wired into a balanced plug, something don’t see every day so will only be able to give my “balanced” opinion running balanced with the VE Zen IEMS. 
    From now on I will be buying a back-up balanced cable from now on for such curve balls as this.
     
    One thing I found with this been a versatile ability to pre amp for speaker set up’s also was I had quite a lot of testing to get through in a short space of time and all though the primary objective for most on here will be to use it as a headphone amp I will give my impressions of it running through a reasonable 2 channel speaker set up also as all I can say for those who buy this they have that option if wanted to can run in speaker mode will have an even better value for money set up with the S6. 
     
    Like the design and layout of this Aune S6 unit I would say it is simplistic, not in a negative manner. No far from it, I say it from a point of view the S6 Dac is uncluttered to listen to and tells you a story wit out any complications or overcooking it in any particular area.
     
     Overall balance is quite an even keel with the S6 and seems to present bass mids and treble all in equal manner than they are presented with a well-balanced pitch and scope that does not take away your attention from one being overwhelmed by the other. 
     
    Soundstage appears to be fairly wide in dispersion, not quite HD800 scope but made a difference to narrower field sounding headphones I have like m Sony 7520 closed backs.
     
    For the amp side of this it is meant to be powerful enough up to those cans hard to drive in the 600 ohm region but was only able to try a pair of older 300 ohm Sennheiser Ovation open backs running SE which had plenty of room left and never felt pushed to its limits from my brief couple of hours with them on. 
     
     
    With Meze 99 Classics…
     
    DSC03524.jpg DSC03521.jpg DSC03528.jpg
     
    Luckily what I started to hear with the first headphone I plugged into the S6 SE input was a the familiar Meze sound signature which I think is complimented by the AKM AK4495 dac used inside the S6 as the dac gives a smoother presentation in sound which is why it feels a more relaxed, easy going listen.  No harsh treble end here or over bright signature with this dac.
     
     The S6 is not trying to be too clever or over-elaborate in how it is trying to sound , the AKM dac inside is quite natural in tonal  balance with instruments all though the S6 does side towards a warmish feel with it been smooth in delivery yet does it without been overly thick or coloured with instruments which have a good sense of timing and decay, maybe not the most snappiest or fastest response to transients compared to other amps but is hardly laying on its back struggling to keep up with proceedings.
     
    It actually surprised me how tonally balanced the S6 did sound especially with the top end although it is never prominently forward it just plays it like it is and has a realistic reproduction with metallic sounds that symbols will come through with enough shine and sparkle to strikes and crashes of copper/ brass cymbals/ hi-hats without ever been aggressively over sharp.
     
    It may not been the most fastest with keeping pace but is far from the slowest I have heard with it still sounding quite snappy and quick footed with change of notes without sounded muddled and kept good pace to keep the rhythm flowing with the music.
     
    The soundstage helped what is already quite good ability to reproduce it in the Meze for a closed can had some of its most exciting experiences with stereo panning sounds were accurate and far field in the distance in travelled so made the Meze closed backs sounded a bit bigger than usual.
     
    This helped such albums such as the Interstellar OST which relies on space, depth and timing to give the effect of listening to a soundtrack that is all about building up the stunning  aural experience to match the equally stunning the IMAX picture it accompanied.
     
    The 99 classics with its warm signature has a pleasant engaging sound that compliments the  
    S6. The Aune is actually sounds like it is tuned to be fairly neutral on the whole so the classic sound is still distinct to its original signature.
     
    In all keeping the Meze signature intact and been easy to drive really suited the 99 Classics and just wish I had my balanced cable to try with these on the S6.
     
     
     
     
    With Grado GS100e…
           
    DSC03504.jpg       DSC03509.jpg
     
     I then moved onto an open back headphones I have in my Grado GS1000e which although again is easy enough to drive and will not vex the Aune into submission for lack of power it still needs the right amount of ingredients to make a Grado sing just right so unlike the Meze been quite a natural fit with the S6 I was more apprehensive how it would pair with the GS1k’s but should have had no worries here really as the clear mids of the S6 dac come through to make the mid driven detailing GS1k’s sound at home also.
     
    The GS1Ks are more of an analytical listen as it loves to show of detail which is its thing rather than just an all-rounder with a wall full of sound so you would think this is only suited to dac amps worth more than the S6 level it resides in.  But the S6 been fairly smooth with a balanced mid-range in conjunction with the GS1KS prominent mid-section allows it to shine those nuances of detail the Grado’s can pick up on. 
     
    Even with the good bass response the S6 can go down to the Grado's never go into overdrive or turn into a pair of hard hitting HD800 bass or say the full rounded bass of the Ethers but just has the right amount of detail and control the Grado's can handle without ruining the mids the Grado does so well. Treble is again accurate in tone and right amount of sparkle to the ringing sound of hi-hats and symbols but is never dominant or recessed.
     
    One thing I have not mentioned yet is vocals and the S6 is clear and crisp with vocals and love the forward raw edge it has makes them come across more real as there seems to be good depth at times between lead vocals to backing bands playing.
     
    Ward Thomas Cartwheels album is handled well with the S6 and Grado's always been able to hear both vocals in harmony yet choose the distinction between both sisters singing with clarity and the S6 places the very good backing band they have well into the sound staging with acoustic guitars sounding sharp and dynamic with the S6 Grado combo.
     
    With the GS1K the vocals excel and easily leads you to be transfixed by the singer with them been forward with a clear outline of their vocals been paramount on the GS1ks.
     
    Over all I liked the GS1Ks with the S6, maybe not quite as good in SE mode when paired with my Vorzuge Pureii+ amp which is also a special little box of amping but I could listen to the GS1Ks a lot with the S6 as it just keeps unveiling what detail in the music the Aune has to offer in a relaxing manner yet stopping short of been too polite.
    It is easy with the wrong pairing for the Grado to sound to shrill or thin on top end and the S6 does the opposite here so another good pairing here for the S6 with Grado GS1000e.
     
    After doing two cans closed and open back I thought I would turn my attention to IEMS and start with my four year old trusty pair of JH16Pros which I still love the sound of despite hearing the improvements in the latest V2 Freqphase version. Yet it still doesn’t detract this is still a fine sounding IEM with that added bass response and headroom for those who like their concert style sound.
     
     
    With JH16Pros…
     
     
    DSC03545.jpg DSC03542.jpg
     
    Again the JH16 sounds like the Meze did and did not sound different at all keeping the JH16 signature in place and recognizable from the word go with the S6 tidy and coherent delivery really suited the way the JH16’s work with those BA drivers and maintained the JH16’s very above average headroom it has as well as a good full bottom end response all though not maybe as tightly controlled as I’ve heard it before on other occasions but in fairness apart from my Vorzuge amp this would have been with amps costing over the grand mark anyway.  
     
    Listening to the latest Yello album ‘Toy’ had a nice holographic feel with this album with very generous amount of spatial cues from all corners of the listening sphere with the way Yello engineer their albums which came through in a very effective manner and there was good definition between subtle and bigger impact sounds going on in the mix which had good timing to the ear.
     
    The JH16’s was very familiar and the S6 made it shine in the right places with the right amount of dynamics and drive with accurate tonal clarity made this a good a match than it is with my Sony W1MA Walkman for pairing compatibility. 
     
     
    With Vibro Lab ‘Maya’…
     
    DSC03536.jpg DSC03538.jpg DSC03541.jpg
     
    I then moved onto my new found love I reviewed recently the Vibro Lab Mayas which have really struck a chord with me and is my type of sound and really wanted for these to match well as I would be crying all over my laminated flooring if they didn’t. 
     
    Why was I worrying again? The Mayas were actually pretty quick and responsive (which I think is helped by not having so many BA drivers to feed) with very concise and pitch perfect prominent vocals that you have that connection where you feel the emotion of the artist singing.
     
    None more so than the Rag’N’Bone Man ‘Human’ album which really connected and keeps you so focused on every word he is singing as his vocal pallet in hearing the pitch changes in his voice is so close you can hear the nuances in detail with every breath he takes to carry on the next line or verse is crystal clear.  This is recorded well in 24 bit but is still sampled at 44khz yet the fullness and richness of the band is very dynamic with good resonance of strings and percussion playing of the Mayas is brought out by the AKM dac in the S6 whilst the amp side helps drive the impact of sudden bass kicks and when a verse stops suddenly on a sixpence you can hear the sudden echo of the trailing sound of instruments in the room trail of into the night.
     
    Have listening to the Mayas on here with any music was a joy with the S6 but listening to this 24 bit version showed how it can scale with well recorded high res files.
     
    The soundstage was quite wide for an IEM with convincing imaging and very accurate panning of sounds. The S6 certainly brought out the best in the Mayas mid- range which is where the Maya really does shine that little extra to an amazing right amount of bottom end which is not too much or too little and the accurate tonal properties and shimmer of treble detail is kept with the S6.
     
    The bass notes actually sounded better controlled, more tightly and defined than it did with my JH16’s all though the Maya bass goes nowhere near the fathomable depths my JH16 does this gave a bit more focus on lower mid-range tracking clarity with the sub bass when it came in.  The Mayas had good transient through the bass response giving clarity to hearing changes easy in the frequencies and different layering of bass notes.
     
    Having the Maya come through the other end of the S6 star was a relief as these are the IEM I would listen to exclusively from what I have at the moment and really loved this combo all day long.
     
     
     
     
     
    With the supplied VE Zen balanced IEM’s
     
    DSC03565.jpg DSC03568.jpg
     
     I tried the supplied VE ZEN Iems that were balanced and once got them in the right place as a little fiddly with the old school sponge pads design the Zen’s have it was quite a clear sound with quite full bodied signature with ever present mid-range with a solid mid bass and reasonable sub bass that is maybe not quite as tight due to lack of seal so lacking true impact with this style of old school ear buds which was a bit surreal as it took me back to my childhood days in the 80’s of how earphones were designed.  The soundstage sounded just as tall also which felt nice considering it was a pair of IEMS and not headphones plugged in. They seem a fairly reasonable
     
     
     
    With the Mr. Speakers ‘Ether’ open back…
     
    DSC03485.jpg
     
    The other bright star that shone with the S6 was the Ethers which I love also but have not heard them for a while and have to admit going by the sort of signatures of the 99 Classics, Maya and JH16’s this should be another can with its warm friendly immersive sound should be a natural pairing.
    …How wrong was I?! (Once again) It was a magical pairing just like the Maya, the Ether is like it has had a light shone upon it and just excels In the areas that I already know the Ether can perform in with its vast immersive soundstage with great micro detailing cues (just like the Maya).
     
    Listening to DSD 2.8 MHz Bluecoast All Stars Jam really gave a fuller greater extension to notes and the detail in the bass guitar was pretty nice to hear the depth of the vibration of each string.
    Whilst the higher pitch sound of the violin is keeps a good amount of extension which is the nearest this gets to been uncomfortable with this higher strung string sound yet is meant to be as it tonally gets the way this dirty southern violin sound is meant to be portrayed.
     
    Hearing some old Tori Amos remastered Little Earthquakes on the piano in 16 bit WAV made my hairs of my arms stand on end as it conveys the echoes and trailing edges of notes on Tori’s subtle to hard hits of the keys very dramatic are carried well on the black backdrop of nothing on the S6 with the Ethers.
     
    Again the AKM DAC inside the S6 is been faithful in rendition through the Ether’s but just has a smoothness with that hint of siding on warm that invites ones ears to engage without trying but the combination is never stuffy or over warm as the S6 still has that ability to be clean and open enough with its delivery with good separation even during heavy going passages of music.
     
     
     
    The Smooth and the Rough…
     
    DSC03552.jpg DSC03548.jpg DSC03529.jpg
     
    It all looks like plain sailing so far with the S6 but like any amp there is always going to be ones that don’t pair well with them and I had two in the form of the RHA T20 and my old sentimental modified Sony 7520’s with Whiplash Hybrid cable welded to both drivers as well as stock pads swapped out for Beyer DT velour pads.
     
    The RHA T20 is or can be a fussy suiter anyway but I have heard this when paired right is a good sounding IEM despite some finding it too edgy or hot on the treble and I am one that is also treble sensitive and have to say it was not the issue with this amp as after all it has a polite top end compared to how the T20 is designed so cancels that out to a degree. 
     
     The T20 just sounded isolated with a lifeless un-dynamic cohesion going on which is anything but how I have heard this dac/ amp until now.  The mids on the T20 by nature are also a little recessed but this sounded more evident with this pairing and to me the T20 would not be one I go to first for a session on the S6.
     
    The 7520’s had a similar experience in sounding a bit dull and flat with actual lack of bass energy which is strange to say but what I was hearing from what I have experienced so far with both S6 and my 7520’s with other gear.
     
     It was not long ago I reviewed the RHA Dacamp and could not believe the pairing with the Sony’s and was the best I had heard them even other my Chord Hugo with Vorzuge Pureii+ amp in tow so sometimes it can really be a head scratcher when you pair two items you have heard sound good but just clash due to the way they are both tuned.
     
    There is a similarity that both the T20 and Sony both are a bit lively top end with been more raw/ stripped in their approach to the others I tried with the S6 which all coincidentally have a natural tendency towards a warmer sound so thinking all though in theory sometimes two opposites like a cold sound and warm sounding bit of kit sometimes off set each other as the RHA Dacamp did with my 7520’s it is not the case with the S6 and warmth & warmth = great things whilst colder and warm do not mingle here at the house of Aune.
     
    I actually do not think it is so much that the Sony and T20 are maybe cold but more a case of the are not so subtle with how they strip away at the details after all the Sony is meant to be a studio monitor par sae all though it is still a musical headphone hence why I have kept it this long (four years and counting) but it at times can bit critical especially with poorer recordings not so forgiven so with this I feel the S6 dac keeping it accurate with instruments tonally this is the area that those slightly less forgiven with such headphones like my Sony 7520 or the T20.
     
     
     
    Finally, S6 as a pre-amp in a speaker set up…
     
    Another reason for this one been a hectic review is the S6 can act as a pre-amp with either XLR outs or analogue RCA stereo output and unfortunately I did not have the correct XLR for these as I only had male not female which was needed.
    So went ahead and plugged in my two RCA left and right analogue cables to my Tag McLaren 250W Monobloc amps running into my old trusty B&W CDM7SE speakers via Chord Signature speaker cable and have to say once again the S6 does a fine job and scales well with each step up in bit rates from cd quality through to DSD, just a shame again this does not go beyond DSD128 but it holds its own as a pre-amp with a good musical friendly balanced engaging listen without ever offending or been over critical.
     
    There is a good amount of space and air with the S6 running through the speakers with a good dynamic range and certainly sweeps low when needed with tracks that demand it when sub bass comes into play. The treble is smooth but tonally sounds real in reflection like chimes, triangles and symbols have a nice extension to a note ringing with good decay and sound audible in the mix.
    The mids are once again like with listening to this with headphones are quite neutral in location, not recessed or pushed forward at all even though vocals have a closer intimate stage setting to the listener which is how I prefer it anyway. There seems to be more depth to the soundstage as compared to listening to them with headphones but is not a million miles away from the overall listening experience the S6 delivers when in headphone mode.
     
    It may not be quite as open or quite detailed still as even my old Sharc Tag DACS but is above average for sure through my speakers that I could quite easily site there and have a good listening session with them in a speaker set up.  I am sure this would just be that much more open and fuller with it running balanced but that’s for another time hopefully….
     
     
     
    Over all sound…
     
    DSC03557.jpg DSC03512.jpg
     
     
    It seems to me as long as you pair it with a more forgiving pair of headphones that are not too lively and not one that are either too bright or over analytical then the Aune will provide a natural interpretation of instrumental sounds with an equally balanced signature with a touch of warmth, a reasonable soundstage that allows space for the music to breath allowing the S6 to never sounding cluttered even with challenging more complex passages of music.  It may not be the most sharp agile attacking Dac amp around if that is on your list for a Dac Amp but it will allow for a pleasant easy listen to music that is not over critical on detail so is set up to enjoy the music and not think about it too much. 
     
    Is there anything I would change on the sound of this, probably not the way it has such a good balanced mix of everything without one section being a distraction which is a sign of a good engineered dac and amp that has been designed by someone who just enjoys listening to music rather than analysing it which have to say surprised me as I was expecting something from the Chinese outfit here to try and be all Hi-Fi and concentrate on been a bright top end  detail monster  equals Hi-Fi sound but they have not. 
     
    Probably the S6 biggest test was how it managed to scale from Flac 16 bit files through to 192 and then DSD 128 files with a noticeable difference and gave the player a new lease of life each time with a more defined fuller picture to each note being played just had better leading edge detail to notes and had a fuller dynamic range making songs even more engaging to listen to.
     
    It was just a shame this particular model seems to be capped to 128DSD and not beyond as I had some higher DSD files to try which would not play on the S6 but what I heard in the S6 when sampling at higher rates made a difference but only if the album is engineered and recorded well at source in the studio as some so called high res stuff up-sampled or not true hi-res can sound worse than just the 16bit wav version of a song.
     
    Poorer recordings on the S6 had a similar sound experience to the T20 sound in which the sounded just flat and closed in but still listenable. Just not as enjoyable as what I was getting used to with good material on the S6.
     
    Conclusion
     
    I would say it is an understated sound to a degree and taking into account what is also on this feature wise with at this price is pretty impressive along with the solid build that puts some other companies in this domain asking three-four times more that this should take note a good solid build can be achieved without costing the earth.
     
    My only main negative comes with the remote if they want to take this seriously as a pre-amp as much as a headphone amp and maybe some nit picking with the amount of volume adjustment needed and the surface finished used on the casing for the price and build quality and ease of use with the final delivery of how well the sound quality has been implemented it is hard to fault this Aune S6 and can only imagine if they apply this methodology to their other products they will be one to watch for anyone wanting cost to performance ratio with good spec list look no further.
     
    Certainly one worth auditioning if you are looking for an affordable Desktop Dac/amp combo that ticks the boxes for being balanced outputs and a pre-amp.
     
    I have to say I liked it that much when funds permit a bit later on I am contemplating getting this dac amp at this price for what it has feature wise with the sound as it does not take up much room on my glass coffee table beside my sofa where I sit and will soon have a new balanced cable for my Meze so hopefully when I get it I will update my review here on how it performed balanced a bit more.
     
    Well done Aune on a solid performer that I think will surprise and impress many to come when they listen to the S6.  
  9. JoeDoe
    4.5/5,
    "Great Choice for Those Needing a sub-$1000 Combo Unit"
    Pros - Ease of use, versatility, power, SQ, display
    Cons - Curved top plate
    Here we go...
     
    Gear used: Macbook Pro running JRMC21 > S6 or Cuinas DAC/WA6 > PS1000s and ZMF Ori
     
    Test tracks:
     
    "Strasbourg/St. Denis" by The Roy Hargrove Quintet - Earfood
    "Grown Folks" by Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha
    "Gold" by Chet Faker - Built on Glass
    "Best for Last" by Adele - 19
    "We are Free" by Planetshakers - Endless Praise: Live
    "Jupiter, from The Planets" per Sir Adrian Boult and the LSO
     
    From the bottom up...
     
    Bass:
    Full and tight. Definitely not as plump as the all-tube WA6, but not as bass-light as a lot of solid-state gear I've heard. It's a very nice middle ground that checked most of my boxes. The ZMF's hit hard when needed, but never felt bloated (which can happen easily depending on the recording). Like a lot of other head-fiers, I enjoy the PS1000 out of a SS amp rather than a tube. This was no exception. From Snarky Puppy to the LSO, the low end was well-extended and thumpy.
     
    The bass test: 
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Mids:
    Clean and clear! I'd call this a conservative midrange presentation. Neither forward, nor recessed. I didn't get the lushness that the tubes offer, which is what makes a lot of vocal tracks SO engaging, but at the same time, I never felt like I wasn't getting anything. Instruments like sax, guitar, and organ cut beautifully, and came through both headphone in a way that I think a lot of DAC designers miss. 
     
    Great track for midrange voices/instruments: 
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Treble:
    Very similar to the midrange in that I'd say it's a conservative sound. Cymbals and high string sounds in the test tracks never became strident or overly aggressive (looking at you Jot!), but I definitely got all the detail I've heard before. The Cuinas/WA6 combo provided a little less detail, but a more smooth presentation overall. 
     
    Soundstage/Imaging/Separation/WhateverYouWantToCallIt:
    Above average for sure, but not as holographic as what a well-designed tube amp can offer! Soundstage was a very average size that didn't push me way back, nor did it put the instruments just outside of my skull. There's lot of power on tap, so I do feel like both my dynamics and planars had plenty of headroom. Once again, a conservative presentation that doesn't necessarily wow me, but certainly didn't do anything poorly!
     
    Qualms: 
    Nothing major. I did not experience any operational niggles or issues, so I won't comment. All jacks and plugs were sturdy and well-implemented, and there wasn't really a learning curve to getting the music flowing! In this day and age that's something pretty special.
     
    Build/Design:
    Very solid. From the easily-read screen to the layout of the outputs, to the feeling of the volume knob, everything seemed to be assembled very well. I'm not a huge can of the somewhat convex shape of the top of the unit, really just because it makes any kind of stacking look/feel unsafe, but that's not a huge issue. One thing I do want to mention is that the S6 really impressed me with this single characteristic: simplicity. Does it have a bazillion filters, upconversion, digital playground options? No. Does it have more buttons than a scientific calculator? No. Can it stream wirelessly while picking up your kids from soccer practice? No. But, it's a very well-thought-out unit, that handles any music you throw at it, has a well implemented USB input, runs SE or balanced headphones with plenty of power, and displays only the information you need when you're playing music. The fact that it sounds very good for such a low price is really just icing on the cake!
     
    Final thoughts:
    I said it above, but I think that the S6 represents an excellent value all-in-one unit for headphone listeners who want top quality function and sound for under $1000. It's middle-of-the-road sound signature means that it will play well with a variety of headphones, it's got lots of power on tap, it will play any normal file format you have, and best of all, you just plug and play. Great job Aune!
  10. tassardar
    4.5/5,
    "A Great All in One Value"
    Pros - Wide Sound Stage, Good detail retrieval, nice soothing sound
    Cons - Vocals not as smooth, a little slow in transition, volume knob
    Aune-1.jpg
     
     
    The Aune S6 provided was part of a review tour for my region. Thanks to Aune for the chance to try this out.
     
    Exterior
     
    The S6 was a well designed piece of DAC/AMP. Its heavy and had everything that you will need for both a home headphone system to a DAC connecting into a much larger system. From various digital inputs to outputs going both stereo and balance, it was clearly designed to either standalone or integrate into a larger audio design when needed. The outer covering was some matted black coating similar to Chord products which I personally dislike. Its too easy to scratch and leave marks. I just wish everyone use anodised coating or something.
     
    Aune-2.jpg
     
    Aune-3.jpg
     
     
    The front comes with 2 outputs, a balance XLR and a standard stereo, an LCD that shows the volume/bit rate and a knob for controlling volume. I mainly use the XLR for this review and if anything I would like to comment on, its the volume knob. The knob was nice to turn with smooth indents, the issue lies with the amount of turns needed to raise the volume. Being a digital amp, turning the knob raises the volume in steps. All this was fine but what I personally didn't like was how I need more then a full turn to actually raise it to the level I need. Else theres really not much to complain about.
     
    Aune-4.jpg
     
     
    For the back their are various input and output to use it as a pure DAC. The S6 accepts USB, Optical and Coaxial while outputs in both stereo and balance. For this review, I used only the USB and the front outputs due to the lack of time available and mainly as a standalone system with no amp in-between. The ports I personally thought were better designed and built then the TT, which has this tiny wiggle that makes me wonder when its going to break. I also liked the upside down words as they actually considered how people are going to attach the cables while looking over it.
     
    Sound
     
    For this review I used the provided Balanced VE Earphones provided by Aune, Abyss 1266 and the KSE1500. Now some of you maybe saying that the Abyss won’t run off it. I can say it does just fine at around 80 points to the volume. Maybe its just me listening to really low volume but a great headphone is one that doesn't need to be running at full volume isn't it? I will be comparing to the Hugo TT and the ALO CDM. Both are all in ones amp/dac, one being portable while the other represents the higher price spectrum of the market.
     
    For this review I used the following tracks:
    Hello, Remedy by Adele
    Apocalypse Notis, Answers, Ultima from Final Fantasy
    Reflection from Disney Music
    Ninelie by Aimer
     
    Aune-5.jpg
     
     
    I’m heavily into vocals, with final fantasy tracks covering chants and instruments
     
    The S6 from the get go had a slightly warmer tone then even the hybrid tube CDM. Personally thats a preference though I prefer the CDM signature a little more. Whats notable however was the feeling of transient speed between the devices. Among all 3 devices, the S6 felt the slowest. It gave this feeling that the music was just cruising along. It felt ever so slightly slower then the CDM while the TT was like instant reaction. This characteristics favours some song like Hello which felt right with the slower transitions. In tracks from final fantasy, the instruments and chants were a lot better off with something such as the TT, which had this instant transition from instrument to instrument.

    Soundstage quality wise the S6 stands between the CDM and TT. The Chord was wide while the CDM narrow with focus especially on the mids. The S6 had this more disperse characteristics that spreads the sound widely in the left and right axis. The TT had more depth which gave it a slight edge over the S6. On general this dispersion made the S6 soothing to listen compared to the CDM which was really focused. However, CDM does render a smoother sound most notable in the mids partially cause of its tube characteristics. This was obvious in Remedy where the CDM gave Adele a smoothed but focused tone while the S6 spreads it out while feeling a little edgy. With the warmer tone and disperse soundstage, the S6 gives a laid back signature and to me, its definitely beneficial to songs such as jazz. Its also great when you just want to relax rather then concentrate on the music.
     
    The S6 in terms of details were pretty good. Better then the CDM and just a touch poorer then the TT. This was apparent in Ultima with its complex instruments and chants, the S6 revealing every little details of the song, from the little tinkles mixed into the Chants and other instruments. If anything, that little touch of poorer detail maybe due to its lower treble energy which gives it a perception of lower detail retrieval then the TT.
     
    And on that point, the treble on S6 was really tamed versus the TT and even the CDM. There was never any harshness, but it also lacked the sparkle and bite which makes some instrument a little more exciting. I believe that this was the element that gave TT the more cooler and lighter feel while the S6 felt warmer and heavier. This gave the S6 not as much ‘air’ in the tracks compared to both the CDM and TT.
     
    Bass wise, the S6 lack the final oomph that both the CDM and TT does better. It goes deep but lacks that final impact that gives that smile on your face. This was notable in Answers when the drums kicks in the middle of the track, being a song with not many instruments, one can really feel the bass which the S6 lacks that final push. It still retains that bass rumble on the Abyss, just don't expect it to give that impact.
     
    Aune-9.jpg
     
     
    So between the KSE,Abyss and Balanced VE earphones, how did the S6 perform.

    Where power and control is concern using the Abyss, the CDM was last with the S6 sitting in the middle and the TT in-front. Do note I listen at really low volume with the Abyss so absolute wattage doesn't really much to me. The TT leads purely by sheer control of sound, each note and voice being distinct with clean transition. While the S6 never gets muddled no matter how dynamic or complex the tracks are, it just lacks the final finesse and control to split various sound distinctly.

    On the Balanced VE earphone, I will say the S6, CDM and TT performs quite similar just different a different Flavour. Want smooth with power? CDM. Want light and quick? TT. Want something laid back and relaxing? The S6 will do.
     
    On the KSE1500, a pure test of DAC, I will place S6 and CDM at equal levels while the TT in-front. The TT really enhances the effect of electrostatics like the KSE, bringing in a lot more sparkle and ‘air’ while being lightning quick in the transitions. The S6 and CDM gives a much slower like pace feel with a more soothing sound. The key difference here was that the S6 gave a more dispersed wide soundstage while the CDM was more Focus.
     
    Aune-7.jpg
     
     
    Closing off
     
    Now with everything said, the S6 is great value. It cost way cheaper then the TT and even the CDM, out performs the CDM when power and control is needed and drives a beast like the Abyss decently (to my ears at low volume of course). Its a little laid back but there are definitely people who prefer it then the quick and cool of the TT.  With all the input and output choices, its a great entry to good sounding all in one Amp/Dac at a much more acceptable price. In-fact theres probably not many competitors at its price range that offers as much as the S6.
     
    Thanks again to Aune for the review sample. I enjoyed it though a little more time would have let me dived deeper into capabilities and sound more.