Pros: + Musical and organic
+ Timbre realism and lack of artificiality
+ Crystal clear and transparent
+ Excellent technicalities
+ Holographic soundstage
+ Powerful output
+ Remote control
+ Three headphone jacks
+ Line output
+ External clock and AES digital inputs
+ Excellent build quality
+ Value for money
Cons: - Power switch is located at the back
- No mute and standby
- No analog line input
- Can't switch off the LCD display
- Not suitable for sensitive IEMs
- The headphone output sound quality is better than the line output
This is a brief review of the Aune S9c Pro, all-in-one DAC and headphones amplifier. You can read the full review in my website.
Build quality and appearance
The Aune S9c Pro is quite compact and suitable for desktop use. The chassis is made from aluminum that helps to further isolate the circuit from electromagnetic interference. The unit is sturdy and very well made with a fine sand-blasted finish that is available in black and silver.
The S9c Pro adopts the Aune trademark arc-shape design which is classic, simplistic and beautiful looking. The only disadvantage is that when you stack two units together, like the S9c Pro and the S17 Pro headphone amplifier, there is a visible gap at both sides and the top device is not so stable.
Musical, engaging and captivating is the Aune S9c Pro and you don’t have to listen a lot in order to understand how much effort was put into fine-tuning the device. This is not the usual, mass produced Chinese DAC/amp with the latest chips and the same topology that is used again and again without much inspiration and thought just to measure well in the lab. The S9c Pro is an “old fashioned” audiophile design where the engineer cares about sound and timbre realism and it is pretty obvious that has spent hundreds of hours to commit his vision into actual music.
And don’t even think that the Aune S9c Pro is not technically skillful or lacking in what we call “technicalities”. Frequency response is absolutely linear, the sound is transparent and crystalline with excellent clarity and definition throughout the whole frequency range. The bass is tight and controlled, full bodied, weighty and visceral with ample dynamics and physical impact. The mid-range is spacious and open sounding with surplus of resolution and refinement as is also the treble which is extended, energetic and detailed but without the usual ESS shrillness, brightness and analytical character. The soundstage is spacious and extended with sharp imaging and a well organized and impressively holographic relief.
I have lately reviewed many audio devices with the ES9068AS DAC chip (or even the ES9038PRO) and I must admit that the Aune S9c Pro is one of the least digital sounding while it has the most natural and smooth treble among many of them. This is not a coincidence though because Aune have gone into the effort to write their own low-pass algorithms and design a discrete headphone amplifier, specifically for making the S9c Pro to sound natural and realistic. This is the kind of audio device where you start listening to music and forget about everything else, you don’t have to think why the sound is bright, unnatural or artificial, the S9c Pro is about pure music and nothing else.
The Aune S9c Pro is extremely colorful and harmonious, expressive, organic and musical, almost analog sounding like there is a tube stuffed inside or using some class A topology. The S9c Pro is versatile when it comes to headphone matching and the only thing you have to do is to choose the right one according to the music you are planning to enjoy. With the Meze Empyrean (angled pads) they made a match made in heaven and produced extra realistic and natural sounding instruments with stunning vocals. Classical music is the forte of this combination and the Aune S9c Pro is highly recommended as one of the least expensive audio devices that can offer a taste of the high-end sound.
With an audio performance that far exceeds the asking price, the Aune S9c Pro represents an outstanding value because it is the most affordable DAC/amp in the market that can give you a taste of real “high-end” sound.
Aune Audio is a Chinese audio brand that deserves a great applause for not following the easy path and taking great effort to design and tune the S9c Pro in order to produce music full of sentiments and emotions backed by some strong technical performance.