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Aune X1S 32Bit/384KHz DSD DAC Headphone Amplifier

Rating:
4.61905/5,
  1. Peter West
    Aune - X1S - Highly recommended
    Written by Peter West
    Published Oct 14, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Inexpensive, Top-Notch Audiophile DAC/Amp, versatile, sounds terrific, silent even with IEM, big soundstage, clarity, punch
    Cons - power adaptor cable needs to be longer
    I have never been so ready to write a review in such a short time. It's less than 24 hours since the Aune X1S was delivered and I've spent several hours listening and comparing. I will spoil the surprise by saying I absolutely love the X1S and I bought my own already. It's not perfect and there is an issue (see below) but it compares very favourably to my much more expensive ($1200 CDN) Fostex HP8A.
     
    My last review of the Aune B1 amp went so well, especially when I used it to drive my Audeze LCD-X headphones that I immediately bought that unit and I've been very happen ever since.
     
    So what do I like about the X1S?
     
    It worked immediately without reference to a manual. Love equipment that is so well designed. I did have to search for how to change the filter (Hold the input button down on the front.) but that's no issue.
     
    The unit is a nice size for an office desktop sitting easily on my Tivoli Audio Model Two. (The small Tivoli is a much easier sound to listen to when working even with its small sub-woofer under the desk. Okay it's not audiophile listening but it's cheap and cheerful.). Streaming Tidal through headphones can be way too intense an experience especially if you want to think, type and listen all at the same time. This gets harder as you get older.
     
    The X1S has an optical in as well as USB and RCA in and out and coax in and out as well. Unlike the B1 amp, the X1S runs cool which is a good thing. PA100002.jpg

    (In Photo: That's the mess that happens when I start comparing stuff. The X1S is sitting on top of the Fostex HP8A.)
     
    There are lot of reviewers out there who are way more technically oriented than I am so I'll just refer you to them. Mostly they're saying the X1S is pretty amazing handling a ton of formats at insanely high speeds and I'd have to agree. The unit played everything I own and streamed Tidal easily on USB out of the MacBook Pro.
     
    But, (and there's always a but in audio) I did have an issue streaming Tidal to the X1S through the Apple Airplay system. Now this issue may not be a X1S problem but an issue with my own streaming of the WiFi signal through the house. When I tried the X1S with one of my Airplay units which I usually use in my front room with my Fostex into a Panasonic Technics receiver (circa 1970s) and Swedish ProSonab speakers I got dropouts in the streaming every second or two. I swapped the X1S with the Fostex and no issue. I've had no issue with streaming to my Fiio E-17 to another AirPlay in an upstairs room.
     
    To be fair I swapped out cables and brought the Fostex down to my office and changed the Airplay unit and again it worked fine. The X1S streaming was better with dropouts every 15 seconds or so but they were still there. This is not a good thing but I can't tell if it's my streaming setup or the interaction with the X1S.
     
    If anybody else is streaming using the Airplay and has the X1S I'd sure appreciate you sharing your experience here. Again this might not be the fault of X1S. I did send Aune a private message and they had nothing to offer so it's up to us to share our experience here. Love to hear it's my issue and not the X1S. 
     
    While I'm on the bad news i don't much like the short cable on the big power adaptor that comes with the X1S. I like big adaptors as they are likely to be robust enough to power even the most power-hungry units but the short cable means the adaptor just makes it to the floor when the X1S is on my table top. If I wanted to put it on a shelf I'd have some issues. Not a deal breaker but inconvenient.
     
    Okay enough already with the gloom and doom. Let's get to the good stuff and there's a ton of good stuff.
     
    I love good audio. I'm retired now so all of my hobbies involve sound (audiophile listening, Amateur Radio, and music as I try to play jazz guitar badly). This means I sit around a lot either listening to music coming out of speakers or from a large variety of headphones.
     
    I know that some setups (I've got the Fostex, Fiio E17 and the Olympus 2, Cozoy Astrapi) which I use with the Audeze LCD-X, Fostex unmodded T50RP, Grado SR60, Sennheiser 439 modded, 590 unmodded and Momentum on-ear plus Shure 535 in-ears, Titan 1, Baguettes, and T-Peos D-202N work better than others with different DACs and amplifiers (B1 and Cypher Labs Picollo). Plus I've bought Astell and Kern AK-100 II which I love and can't wait until Tidal finally starts streaming directly to it over my WiFi. Come on Tidal - you promised!
     
    So I thought I'd immediately compare the X1S with the Fostex with a variety of headphones.
     
    I was thinking the Fostex would smoke the X1S...well it didn't work out that way!
     
    The Fostex is a very very smooth and refined DAC and amp. Listening to the Fostex through the LCD-X headphones is about as close to perfect as I can afford to get. So I wasn't expecting all that much from the Aune X1S at under $300 CDN. After all I can sure hear a difference in the overall quality from the Fostex to the Fiios. It's noticeable but not huge and actually running Olympus 2 out of the MacBook Pro and into either the Tivoli or modded 439 Sennheisers is a really nice, non-fatiguing experience. I can listen for hours and hours as I work at my desk. But the Fostex / Audeze combo rules.
     
    And then I fired up Joanie Mitchell's Raised On Robbery and my jaw dropped.
     
    The Fostex / LCD-X combo was perfect. It was like driving a Cadillac at a 110 down the highway with one hand on the wheel. It was smooth baby. And then I swapped out the X1S and we weren't in Kansas anymore Toto but screaming at 140 with the Ducati just starting to open up. Just after Joanie sings the first few bars the band kicks in and when you're using the X1S it's a big kick in the head. I loved it.
     
    The X1S got even better with the Shure 535 in-ears which emphasized the impact that the X1S was delivering and yet remained silent in the quiet parts. Impressive!
     
    So what's happening? The X1S produces a fabulous soundstage and a brilliant sound. There maybe a bit of shimmer listening to Rhianna's Stay but it might be just the X1S is resolving the sound that's actually on the recording and I'm hearing it better. Regardless the sound is amazing.
     
    Listening to Get Lucky by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers you can hear how fast the electronics are handling the audio. There's an audible impact to what you're hearing. Listening to Bob Marley's Is This Love is an exceptionally bright and full experience. The X1S even drives my unmodded T50RP to new levels of clarity and punch. 
     
    I could go on but I won't as I just placed my order for my own X1S. That's the best recommendation I can make. Oh yeah I'll be keeping the review unit for a few more days. Hopefully by then my own X1S will have arrived  [​IMG]
      Billheiser and stalepie like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. hakushondaimao
      Nicely done, Peter. Gotcha again with another purchase, I see  :wink:
      hakushondaimao, Oct 15, 2015
    3. Peter West
      More on the Apple Airplay and X1S. I forwarded the review unit to the next reviewer and my own 1XS arrived today. Identical issues with audio dropouts using X1S and the Apple Airplay system which are not present with the Fostex HP8A. Took the 1XS out of that setup and plugged it directly into the MacBook Pro using an optical cable and it works flawlessly (as it always does using USB)!!!!! So is the issue with the Apple Airplay or is the issue the Apple Airplay plus the X1S??? Regardless I remain committed to my 4.5 star rating and I'm typing while the X1S streams George Harrison's new album into the LCD-Xs. Sounds amazing.
      Peter West, Oct 19, 2015
    4. Peter West
      Aune has gotten back to me and it seems the X1S won't work with Apple AirPlay. Here's what they said:
       
      " Hello, i  already checked your problem with our engineer , your Air play is for DTS singal for optical , but our X1S is normal singal , so it can not work with the Apple Air play of the optical  ,may be you can try with a CD player 
      Thanks for your time "
      Peter West, Oct 21, 2015
  2. Cotnijoe
    Aune X1S: For All Your Desktop Needs
    Written by Cotnijoe
    Published Oct 6, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Solid Build, Versatility, Quiet Noise Floor, Fantastic Sound, Great Value
    Cons - Clunky Power Brick, Output Power
    Introduction:
                The Aune X1S is a product that has piqued my interest since its release. After getting the chance to hear the B1 amp, Aune was a company I kept my eyes out for. This X1S unit is part of the review tour that Aune kindly organized, and I’m very happy to have the chance to partake in reviewing the X1S. Reviewers are supposed to spend 5 days with the review unit, but I actually took a bit longer because I was out for 3 days at RMAF 2015 and because I wanted to wait and see if I can get some time pairing the X1S with the new ZMF Omni (which unfortunately did not arrive on time). Big thank you to Aune for giving me another opportunity to give their products a listen and for accommodating the fact that I needed a few extra days to put out my review. The X1S is a beautiful piece and I’ve enjoyed the few days I spent with it.
     
    Packaging and Accessories:
                The X1S come in a relatively large box considering the size of the amp itself. The box is a solid feeling black cardboard box with a nice finish and the Aune logo on the front. Opening up the box, you learn why the box is so big. Rather than cramming everything into as small of a package as possible, the amp and accessories are separated cleanly to give a nice overall presentation. Accessories include a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor, USB cable, power cord, and a USB drive with the firmware and manual loaded onto it. Because of that, there are no paper manuals or directions in the box. I think that’s a really cool touch that makes the product feel more advanced. You also don’t have to visit the Aune website to download the firmware, though I’m sure they’ll put a firmware on their website if they ever put forward newer and updated firmware.
     
                Now, onto the power cord and power brick. I think people have complained about it before, but I will put forth my opinion about it as well. I’m also not a fan of it. The length between the end that plugs into the X1S and the power brick is about an average desktop’s height length, which means if you’re looking to put it on a higher shelf, you’re gonna have a bad time. In addition, the power brick is pretty bulky, so you’re outta luck when it comes to hiding it behind a bookshelf that’s close to the wall. You’ll probably need to keep your shelf at least 3 or 4 inches from the wall if you want to hid this thing behind the bookshelf. The power brick wasn’t a problem for me personally since my desktop rig is on a low shelf that’s a good 6 inches or so way from the wall, but it’s something to look out for.
     ​
    DSCN0090.jpg
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    Exterior and Interior of the Packaging
     
    Build and Design:
                While the material of the X1S’ exterior isn’t the flashiest (I’m a sucker for brushed finishes), the X1S is fantastically well-built and put together. It has a decent heft to it and the construction feels very solid. Nothing feels loose and nothing rattles when shaken. The only real bit of plastic you can see on the exterior is the power switch – everything is metal. Simply put, the X1S is built like a tank and built to last.
     
                The X1S is a DAC and amplifier in one box solution that comes with a very respectable number of inputs and outputs. It has coax in/out, RCA in/out, USB in, optical in, and of course, a 6.3mm headphone out. I think that pretty much covers most, if not all, of the bases that someone looking for a simple desktop solution would need. Switching between the inputs are also as easy as clicking a very responsive button that switches between the various inputs.
     
                I’m also a pretty big fan of the volume knob of the X1S. It’s extremely smooth and it looks quite nice. A small part of it, where the volume pointer is, is etched in. I’m not sure if that’s just to look nice or not, but I personally found that it makes adjust the volume quite easy since you can turn the knob with just a finger. Maybe I’m just lazy and thought of that though… haha.
     
                The X1S is very desktop friendly and is also a good looking device that certainly doesn’t compromise the look or fengshui or whatever of your office or desk. I’m a fan of the slightly curved top and the overall design of the piece. Aune did a very good job creating a sturdy device that is versatile and beautiful in design.
     
    DSCN0017.jpg DSCN0019.jpg DSCN0023.jpg
    Front and Back of the X1S
     ​
    Listening Impressions:
                I set up the X1S with my desktop rig for my listening impressions. I’m running music of various genres and quality (minus DSD) to a Schiit Wyrd, then to the X1S with my HIFIMAN HE560 and Noble Audio Savant as my main listening gear.
     
    Background Noise
                So I was actually very impressed with how quiet the X1S is when I plugged my Earwerkz Supra 2. As the most sensitive and prone-to-hiss IEM I’ve encountered, it was quite surprising how quiet the X1S was. There is still a small degree of background hiss, but I actually found it to be quieter than some portable DAPs I’ve used.
     
                The only bit of complain I have is that with more sensitive IEMs, there aren’t a while lot of the volume knob available to you before the sound gets to be too loud. I definitely think that implementing a gain setting would give a bit more freedom for users looking to use their IEM with the X1S.
     
    General Sound Impressions
                The X1S is a very good sounding device and a very impressive performer at its 300 dollar MSRP. Its sound is well balanced and offers good detail retrieval as well.
     
                I think the only real upfront criticism I have for the X1S is bass extension with my more demanding HE560. I don’t feel that the X1S has enough of what it takes to let my HE560’s planar drivers really deliver its low end oomph, making the bass sound just a bit polite with my HE560. Besides that point, the bass impact is tight, punchy, and can dig deep when it needs to with good texture and separation.
     
                I would describe the midrange of the X1S as being clean and transparent. It’s smooth and doesn’t sound particularly warm or dry. Instrument separation is also very good, and vocals have a natural sense of presence that doesn’t sound too forward but also doesn’t get lost and overpowered by the presence of other instruments.
     
                The treble is well balanced and non-fatiguing. I don’t feel that it adds any extra shimmer to the sound nor do I feel that it’s particularly smoothed out. I thought the amount of treble detail was quite fantastic for a device of its price, but I do think it lacks the last little bit of texture from something like a cymbal crash or a hi-hat. Despite that, the treble is crisp and has very quick decay. Treble extension is also quite capable on the X1S, being able to give a natural sense of air to the music without being artificially open sounding.
     
                While the soundstage of the X1S doesn’t feel like it extends out limitlessly, it is nonetheless open and natural sounding. The music tends to be presented just a bit in front of you rather than around you. I found the soundstage’s extension in all directions to be very good. However, there is a good perception of depth, but only really in the sense being in front of you, and not so much behind you. To me, this is what makes the presentation of the sound slightly in front of you rather than a more immersive around your head experience.
     
    Comparisons
     
    Aune X1S and Asus Essence III
                I think the biggest thing that separates the X1S from my significantly more expensive Asus Essence III is soundstage and imaging. The Essence III offers more of an around-your-head presentation and extends quite a bit further with its soundstage in all directions. The Essence III also sound just a bit more open sounding. Switching from the Essence III to the X1S and you instantly feel that the sound is a bit more closed in. When you have effects in music that involves something moving across the headspace, like the opening effects from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” it’s becomes quite obvious that the effects sound much more convincing on the Essence III.
     
                The other big difference that is quite obvious when switching over to the Essence III is the effortless bass reproduction that the Essence III is capable of when driving my HE560.  With the Essence III, you’re really able to the HE560’s drivers do the things in the low end that make planar drivers so popular.
     
    The Essence III also has that last bit of micro detail, resolution, and texture that the X1S isn’t quite capable of. The Essence III sounds crisper and tighter in comparison, and can make the X1S sound a bit smoothed over despite the fact that both devices are very neutral, transparent, and similar in signature.
     
    Taking into consideration the fact that the Essence III is about 6x the price of the X1S, all I can say is that the X1S certainly exceeds expectations when it comes down to price. While the performances of the two aren’t exactly close, credit is given where credit is due. The X1S is a very capable device at its price.
     
    DSCN0087.jpg
    HIFIMAN HE560, Asus Essence III, iBasso D14, and Aune X1S All Piled Together
     
    Aune X1S and iBasso D14 “Bushmaster”
                The design and intended use of the two products are somewhat different, and the price of them also differ a bit, but both can be used as a USB DAC/Amplifier solution and I did get a couple request for this comparison, so I thought I would put these two against each other anyways. The comparison was done using my Noble Audio Savant.
     
                The bass of the D14 is a little more accentuate than that of the X1S and has a little bit more bloom to it. However, separation and detail of the X1S’ lower end is cleaner and tighter. In particular, the impact from the bass of the X1S is more textured and true to whatever instrument it is, while the low end of the D14 doesn’t quite have the texture of the X1S and can sound a bit more of a thump than a realistic hit. The bass of the D14 is definitely tuned to be more fun than the X1S, and there is a little bit of a tradeoff there.
     
                The midrange of the D14 is just a tiny bit richer than the midrange of the X1S. This gives the X1S the edge in terms of separation, as the air between voices and instruments are quite excellent on the X1S. The D14 also has a very clean sound but has a slightly darker presentation.
     
                The treble of the X1S is more extended and crisper than the treble of the D14, which I felt has a very slight roll off and a slightly smoother, but still energetic, sound.  The better extension of the X1S makes it sound more open and a bit more natural as well.
     
                In terms of soundstage, I felt the two were close, but the X1S does perform noticeably better in terms of depth. For example, the decay and echo of a snare drum is substantially more realistic with the X1S – not because it’s much better in terms of texture or detail, but because you can feel that it’s moving further away from you.
     
                In conclusion, the X1S does outperform the D14 in terms of technical capabilities, but the D14 does have the richer and arguably more enjoyable sound. Of course, the D14 also has the benefit of being a portable device with a battery and all that good stuff.
     
    Ending Thoughts:
                There’s no question that the X1S is a very good sounding product. The only issue is the possibility that it doesn’t have quite enough juice to drive more demanding headphones – the HE560 is honestly not a particularly hard to drive headphone, and the X1S seems to struggle just a bit with it. The X1S is also a versatile piece of equipment that will be able to fulfill most of your desktop needs.
     
                The performance you get out of the X1S is very impressive, and the size of the X1S makes it a very manageable desktop, maybe even transportable, DAC/Amplifier solution. The solid build also ensures that it’s built to last. The X1S is a product that is very easy to recommend and should pair very well with the majority of IEMs and dynamic driver headphones. Great job Aune!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Cotnijoe
      The bass extension issue was only an issue with my HE560. Bass extension was not an issue for anything else I tried, so I wouldn't doubt that the X1S does indeed have a ruler flat response in the low end. Perhaps I could have been a bit clearer in stating that, but I did mention that besides the issue I found with the HE560, the X1S can dig deep.
      Cotnijoe, Oct 8, 2015
    3. monkey046
      Excellent review! I have one and i am very happy with it. 
      monkey046, Oct 15, 2015
    4. pila405
      How far did you have to turn the volume knob?
      pila405, Oct 27, 2015
  3. GioF71
    Amazing. Superb quality/price ratio!
    Written by GioF71
    Published Oct 6, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Support for PCM up to 384kHz and for DSD, Detailed, Warm, All-In-One, Elegant, Perfect for desktop usage
    Cons - Falls a little short of output power. Besides that, excellent value for money.

    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: http://www.head-fi.org/t/777650/aune-x1s-32bit-dsd-dac-worldwide-review-tour-reviewers-wanted.
    I am not affilitated to the Aune company in any way; the tour ends with five units delivered for free to the author of the best reviews:
     
        Five luckly winners will be  chosen to get a set of X1S DAC for free according to the reviews 
     
    As you will probably notice if you will read the review entirely, I ended up liking this unit.
    Of course, I would be happy to win one, but I will not try to do so by overly exagerating its good features while hiding its defects and/or limitations.
    Instead, I will try to win by describing, in the most honest and thruthful way, the five days I could spend with this unit. 
    Please not that English is not my first language, so I hope the errors in this text will not make the reading too annoying.
     

    Associated Equipment, including Hardware and Software

    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 15.04, 64bit, Low Latency 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
     

    Additional software

    Windows 7 desktop PC, used to run GMPC/Cantata as MPD clients and Linn Kinsky 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
     

    Headphones and Speakers

    Headphones: Sennheiser HD650; Sennheiser Momentum On Ear; Denon AH1001; Yamaha HP-3 (Orthodynamic, modded)
    SMSL SA-50 amplifier
    JBL Control One speakers.
     

    At the Office

    Linux PC with Intel Core2Quad Q6600 @office, also used with MPD (Music Player Daemon - http://www.musicpd.org).
    Headphones: Sennheiser HD650.
        

    Unboxing

    The first thing I noticed, looking at the box, is that the Aune brand is symmetric. Nice!
    I then realized (after reading WayneWoondirts' review) that I was not the first to notice this curious fact. Still, that reading led me to know the Aune logo is actually an "ambigram" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambigram): I didn't even know the term. Thanks, WayneWoondirts.
    The box is appropriate in size, everything has its place. Sometimes happens that when you need to put everything back, you wish you had a bigger box. Luckily this is not the case.
    The PSU is 220V, and has plugs suitable for my area (Italy). So no adapters needed: good! 
    The other thing I immediately noticed is the nice design of the DAC itself. My wife liked it, too.
     
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    Description

    The unit is quite small, and can fit nicely on most desktops. It feels very sturdy.
    The PSU is quite big and bulky, but luckily its conformation does not require to connect it directly to the wall, having a power cord (non detachable) instead, on both sides. The cords are long enough to comfortably place the PSU away from the desk area. So no big issues here.
    The side panel curves are similar to the one on the volume knob: a nice touch! The unit IMO is aesthetically very pleasing.
    Its curved top surface might be an issue if you plan to stack something on it; of course, you can stack the Aune X1S on other (supposedly flat) unit without issues. During my tests, I stacked the X1S on a Yulong D200.
    The volume knob itself, while it does not offer a lot of resistance to the rotation, feels well implemented. During the listening session, I did not notice any amount of channel imbalance.
    The front panel is very simple: a simple selector (which also controls the active filters), the headphone 6.3mm socket and the volume knob. A 3.5 to 6.3mm adapter is included.
    The Aune gets only slightly warm even after many hours of usage.
    On the back side, you can find the usual power connector, the USB type B socket, two SPDIF inputs (Coaxial and Optical), a Coaxial output (quite unusual on this kind of products). Also, there is a couple or RCA analog output (fixed level) as well as a couple of RCA input.
    So the unit can be used as a DAC alone as well as a headphone amp alone.
    Some people complained about the analog output being fixed: if you want to connect speakers, you need either an amp (as in my case), or powered speaker with indepent volume control.
    Of course, if the output had been variable, someone would have complained because it is not fixed. You can't please everyone.
    Very few DACs have both variable and fixed outputs. Personally, I prefer the fixed option because I use an amp to drive my desktop speakers.
    Also, implementing both options would surely raise the final price, so I think Aune made the right decision.

     

    Specifications

    I do not want to replicate the specifications page you can find on Aune's site.
    What's worth mentioning, and what probably people expect to find in a review, are the supported formats and the adopted DAC chip.
    The DAC chip is, accordingly to the specs, a Sabre ESS9018K2M.
    The device supports all sampling rates up to 384kHz (including 88.2, 176.4, 352.8 as well as, of course, the usual 44.1, 48, 96, 192).
     

    The setup

    All listening tests were made using the mentioned dedicated Linux box with mpd, either with the mediation of upmpdcli or natively.
    The Linux box also benefits of a Schiit Wyrd, which supposedly "cleans" the usb signal and has its own separated power supply, isolating the DAC from the noisy PC environment. 
    In my experience, the use of the Schiit Wyrd is very effective, altough the improvement is less evident when used before a dedicated interface like the Gustard U12. I consider the Schiit Wyrd one of my best audio purchases ever.
    I find the Linux setup so clearly superior to the Windows counterpart that I do use the latter only occasionally: the Gustard X12 is connected via usb to the desktop PC, while the Gustard U12 is connected to the Linux box, with the Schiit Wyrd in the middle.
    I also used upsampling @352.4kHz and @384kHz with sox, alternated with a more native configuration (a.k.a. bit perfect).
    Another advantage of using Linux is that you do not need to install any driver. Using multiple dacs on windows can be very annoying if not a nightmare. Try dealing with 3-4 XMOS control panels that all look the same (distinguishable for the different version numbers, when you're lucky enough) one for each XMOS based DAC you ever connected. 
    Definitely not funny. Not so with Linux!!
    So, I did not use the usb flash drive at all. However, it is a nice touch, since it is more likely that new PCs do not come with an optical drive.
     

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    The Tracks

    For this review, I mostly used the following tracks:
    Carlos Santana - 'Aqua Marine' from 'The Ultimate Collection'
    Miles Davis - 'So What' from the 1959 album 'Kind of blue', purchased on HDTracks (24bit/192kHz)
    Eric Clapton - 'Tears in Heaven', 'Running on Faith', 'Layla', and really most tracks from the 'Unplugged' album
    Dire Straits - 'Money for nothing' and 'Brothers in Arms' from the omonimous album; 'Fade to Black', 'Planet of New Orleans', 'My Parties' from the album 'On Every Street'
    Janine Jansen - 'Le quattro stagioni' (Antonio Vivaldi), purchased on HDTracks (24bit/96kHz)
    Rebecca Pidgeon - '24 hours of love', 'Primitive Man' from the album 'The New York Girl's Club', also purchased on HDTracks (16bit/44.1kHz only, sadly)
    Sting - 'Consider me gone', Moon over Bourbon street', 'Fortress around your heart' from the album 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'; 'They dance alone', 'Little wing', 'History will teach us nothing' from the album '... Nothing like the sun'
    All the tracks come from flac files ripped from my precious personal CD collection with Exact Audio Copy, except when otherwise noted (HDTracks downloads).
    Of course other tracks were used, these being the most relevant ones.
    I also used some demo DSD tracks to test the functionality with each and every possible operational modality (e.g. all sample rates) of the X1S.
     

    The Listening

    Now, the fun part. I prepared a short playlist and connected my faithful Sennheiser HD650 to the Aune X1S.
    The first listening was really a pleasant surprise! I did not imagine to be gratified by a sound so detailed, rich and non fatiguing. Also, the soundstage is so immersive.
    Listening to Santana's 'Aqua Marine' was real good. I used this track multiple times during the comparisons with my other systems. A great sense of depth was clearly perceivable. It was a please to hear fast changes from quite to loud passages.
    Miles Davis' 'So what' from HDTracks @192kHz flows nicely and natural, an incredible track. Miles' trumpet is very real and I had the impression to be present in the recording studio.
    Eric Clapton's classical 'Tears in Heaven', 'Layla', 'Running on faith' from 'Unplugged' (as well as all the other tracks: that album is really amazing...) sound live, detailed, vibrant and dynamic as they should. Some background noise, present in the tracks at times, tells the listener how natural the recording actually is. It feels like you can see Eric touching those strings and tapping his feet.
    'Le quattro stagioni' played by Janine Jansen are fast, detailed and dynamic. Again, this recording is live and natural. The player's breathing is clearly audible, the violin sound is so sweet and natural, while the continuous bass sustains the performance wonderfully.
    I also especially like the indicated Dire Straits' tracks (as well as many others) for the clean and elegant executions. In particular, while 'Brothers in arms' is one of the tracks I always greatly enjoy, the tracks from 'On Every Street' are exceptional in the quality of the execution, so lush, warm, expansive. The Aune X1S renders them very well! It is a very relevant test for me.
    The same mostly applies for the Sting tracks. In particular 'Fortress around your heart' is a best favourite, for the nice soundstage with instruments' positions so definite. Also, I like Sting's voice a lot. I enjoyed a nice refined reproduction with the X1S.
    During the tests, I used other headphones too.
    In particular, the Sennheiser Momentum sounded very nicely with this dac/amp. I know how easily the Momentum can play with a really bloated and confused bass if the amplifier has non-optimal output impedance. In particular, they sound almost unlistenable with the SMSL SAP-III, which is in fact targeted to high-impedance headphones. In case you wonder, no, there is no comparison between the SMSL SAP-III and this Aune X1S. The Aune X1S is simply in another league.  
    I also used the Denon AH1001. No surprises here: these are decently sensitive headphones (more than the Momentum On Ear, or maybe their isolation is better, or maybe both!). Decent neutral sound.
    The Yamaha HP-3 are not very sensitive and are around 150ohm of impedance. In my opinion, the X1S lacks some power when driving those. Still, it drives them to good levels, but something is missing.
    I also used, for a small amount of time, the SMSL SA-50 amplifier to drive the JBL Control One speakers. No surprises, the sound was nice, deep and detailed as expected.
    So, is everything ok and aligned to the expectations, and even beyond? Sure. The Aune X1S seems a perfect companion for serious headphone listening.
    Does it smash any competitor in any category? Well, not so fast...
     

    Denon.jpg

     
    HD650.jpg
     
    MomentumOnEar.jpg
     
    Yamaha.jpg
     

    Comparisons

    Of course, I compared the Aune X1S to my other gear: the Yulong D200 and the full Gustard Stack (U12/X12/H10).
    The Schiit Wyrd was used for ANY of the mentioned configurations.
     

    Versus the Yulong D200 DAC/Headphone Amp

    Compared to the Yulong D200, the X1S performs very well. The detail on the D200 is a hair better IMO, and the sound signature is quite similar (after all, they are both ESS Sabre Chips, ESS9018K2M for the X1S and ESS9016 for the D200). Where the D200 shines against the X1S is the output power, which is probably responsible for tighter bass. The D200 has more body and handles dynamic passages with more ease. It feels like the D200 has more 'control' on the music.
    Of course, it's a bit unfair as a comparison, as the price of the D200 is more than 2X the price of the X1S.
     

    Versus the Gustard Stack (U12/X12/H10)

    Where there is not chance for the small X1S is when I compared it to the Gustard Stack. Simply, the Gustard stack is on a higher level. More power, more depth, more details. Almost every aspect is inevitably better on the Gustard stack. In this case, again, the comparison is sort of unfair. The Gustard stack is composed of separated interface, dac and amp. The size of the kit is enormously different and the price is about 4x the price of the X1S. 
    But, paradoxally, it was this test that showed me the real value of this X1S: for 1/4 of the price of the Gustard Stack, the performance is surely enjoyable and pleasing. In fact, like other uses, I think the X1S has considerably raised the bar of 'entry level' quality, and that's really a good thing. Further competitors in the 200-300$ price range will have to be able to at least not disappear against the X1S.
     

    Versus some other Stuff

    At the office, I am using my FiiO X5 as a usb dac with a Epiphany Acoustics O2 headphone amplifier. In this case, yes, the X1S is clearly better. Awesomely better. The X1S has more functionalities (up to 384kHz sample rate support, and DSD support), more quality, more detail, wider soundstage, more power, a nice pleasant design. More everything. 
    Plus, it's a one-piece kit, perfect for office use.
    Previously, I was using a SMSL Sanskrit with a SMSL SAP-III (mentioned before). No contest here, the X1S beats this kit hands down.
     

    Concerns about the PSU quality were expressed on Head-Fi.org

    Some users expressed concerns about the PSU quality. They say the stock PSU is a SPSM, and therefore not suitable for an audio device. AFAIK, a SPSM is not bad per se, but usually a linear power supply should be a better choice. That said, it seems to me that adopting such a PSU would have raised the price of the X1S considerably. 
    Still, in case Aune decides to disclose the specifications of the PSU (which seems to me to be dual, but I am no expert), adopting linear PSU might be a nice upgrade.
    Anyway, I did not notice any issue that can be related to the PSU: no background noise is audible to my ears, and it seems that the PSU is good enough. I don't know for sure if a different PSU solution would add some grunt to the amp module.  
     

    Conclusion

    Again, I want to say "Thank you" to Aune for the opportunity of having the X1S for some days of testing.
    The Aune X1S is a very nice concentrated of audio technology. It will surely please anyone looking for a compact all-in-one solution in the 200-300$. I cannot make comparisions with stuff I do not own, but considering how close it is to the Yulong D200, I think its value can surpass many if not most current DAC/AMP in the 300-500$ range with ease. It is just an speculation, but I am quite confident of it.
    The X1S is detailed, powerful enough (unless you use very difficult headphone: I think, for example, that the HifiMan HE-6 are out of reach here), it offers a good soundstage, and delivers hours of non-fatiguing listening pleasure. Definitely a bargain for the required price. 
    Congratulations Aune, well done.
      bilboda likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. GioF71
      Hello ipromesisposi. Any cange you are Italian? Reading your nickname suggests so.
       
      I still have (both) my Aune X1S, still going strong. I also bought one XP1 (the linear power supply) for the one I keep at home.
      The X1S is still very appreciated around, and I think this happens for a good reason. I am still recommending this dac to a friend of mine. He listened to it and was very happy with it.
       
      I think you can't go wrong with X1S and the Sennheiser HD650 and 6XX, the new massdrop version,
      If you can stretch your budget a little, the linear power supply (around 80€) is a nice addition. You can add it later though.
       
      Anyway if I were on the market for a sub 300€ dac/amp, the X1S would still be on the top of my list.
       
      Hope this helps.
      Giovanni
      GioF71, Dec 19, 2016
    3. ipromesisposi
      Thanks for the comprehensive response.
       
      Yes, looks like the Sabre DAC 9018 is the way to go. Find out a nice implementation and an adequate amplifier, that’s the challenge. Another budget option would be the Audio Gd NFB-11, which uses the same chip and gives more raw power that the X1S.
       
      And no, I'm not italian, but, yes, the nick comes from the (wonderful) Manzoni's novel.
      ipromesisposi, Dec 20, 2016
    4. GioF71
      Hello, yes the NFB-11 is an interesting product! Let us know about your final choice.
      Happy listening!
      GioF71, Dec 21, 2016
  4. WayneWoondirts
    Aune's setting new standards for the budget audiophile
    Written by WayneWoondirts
    Published Oct 1, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - sound, build, usability, size, design, DSD, inputs
    Cons - nothing!
    Aune X1S – the stylish beast
     
    P9280420.jpg
     
    Disclaimer:
    I was provided with a loaner unit as part of Aune's review tour. I got to keep the X1S for seven days until I had to send it to Italy. Neither do I work for Aune nor have I any afiliation with this company.
    So thank you Aune for including me in your tour!
     
    Introduction:
    Honestly, at first I struggled to decide if I wanted to apply to Aune's tour. But in the end I made up my mind and I'm very glad I did. The X1S is an amazing versitable DAC with quite a few inputs (optical, coaxial, USB, line in) for its size and most of all it has an incredible sound!
    I connected the DAC to my computer using an Audioquest Forrest USB cable and sending the Line Out signal to my Stereo Box S made by Pro-Ject which fed my speakers (Speaker Box 5, also Pro-Ject).
     
    Setup:
    PC (Linux, mpd) → X1S → Stereo Box S → Speaker Box 5
    AK 100ii (opt) → X1S → Stereo Box S → Speaker Box 5
    FiiO X5ii (coax) → X1S → Stereo Box S → Speaker Box 5
     
    PC (Linux, mpd) → X1S → Final Audio Design – Pandora Hope VI
    PC (Linux, mpd) → X1S → AKG K240 (Sextett, 600 Ohms)
     
    Package and Content:
    The very first thing I noticed when I opened the delivery box was Aune's logo. An ambigram, I love those things! Did put a wide grin on my chin. I know, not audio related, but still...
    The box itself is kept in a simple black design with their logo on top. In it you'll find the DAC itself, the (huge) power chord, a warranty card, a USB stick containing the manual, a mini stereo jack adapter and a USB cable to connect the DAC to the computer.
     
    P9280436.jpg P9280439.jpg
     
    Everything sits in the box well secured in its own little chamber.
    The charger brick is massive to say the least, quite heavy too, but it did get stored behind my desk where it didn't bother me, and besides, it's about the DAC.
     
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    The X1S for the european tour looks stunning, I like the black version better than the white one. It is a real beauty.
    It looks like it's build to last, very solid and robust design. What do you want more?
     
    Usage:
    On the back are all the available inputs (USB, coaxial, optical, Line In) plus two RCAs for line out and coaxial out. I have read that a few people complained that the volume is fixed via line out, this didn't bother me at all since I connected the device to my amplifier.
     
    P9280430.jpg
     
    On the front plate you will find the LED indicators which tell you what input's currently in use. You can switch inputs by pressing the button on the left.
    It also supports three different filter settings (fast roll off, slow roll off and minimum phase) which can be set by long pressing the input button. Once the LED turns red you can pick your preferred filter.
    On the front there's also a headphone jack and the volume control for it.
     
    P9280421.jpg
     
    Most of us might connect the X1S up to the computer for main usage, and so did I, unfortunately I encountered a little hick up: I often had to unplug and replug in the USB cable because my computer did not recognize the DAC. Could have been because I didn't use the stock USB cable (don't think so) or because I use Linux (would surprise me too). But this happened a few times in a row actually. Nothing too big, but still annoying.
     
    P9280422.jpg
     
    For best possible sound make sure to get a bitperfect playback. Disabling pulseaudio and using mpd with Linux helps a lot and improves the sound massively. Take my word for it.
     
    Sound:
    The X1S uses the mobile version of the phenomenal ES9018 the ES9018K2M as DAC chip, it decodes files with samplings up to 384kHz/32bit and does native DSD playback up to DSD128. So on paper this is an astounding piece of hardware. The question is how does it behave in practice. Simple answer to that: nothing less than perfect!
     
    Its soundstage is huge, depth is amazing and the detail is simply overwhelming. Never have my speaker put out a sound like this. Fascinating.
    Every song I played through the Aune was clean, clear and natural. I found myself changing tracks and genres rapidly at one point, simply because I wanted to know how it sounds. I couldn't wait to hear what the X1S had to say. Jazz – amazing trumpets and super realistic bass. Rock – so much energy, infectious. Electronic (IDM) – insane detail and instrumental separation. Orchestral music – wonderful strings, every high hat crush sounded super natural. Needless to say: I loved it.
    To me it is dead neutral, no coloring added. This is the sound of the sound. Pure.
    One of my most loved tunes (Björk's Lionsong) sounded especially great, her voice so clean and with wonderful body, bass went deep and smooth, I could almost feel the strings.
     
    This DAC pushed watching movies and TV-shows to a new level. Its amazing depth revealed an experience I've never had before. Suddenly everything became more three dimensional, imaging was easier and of course everything became more life like and realistic.
     
    I used two pairs of headphones for this review, the Pandora Hope VI (8 ohms) by Final Audio Design and a vintage K240 (600 ohms, original Sextett, made in the 70's) by AKG.
     
    The Pandora is an easy to drive headphone which is used on a daily basis, and it became my reference can over time. The X1S had absolutely no problem driving them of course. Like my desktop setup, the headphones sounded insanely great! Wonderful soundstage, image, separation and also very natural and neutral.
    As always when it comes down to testing the power capabilities I take out my AKG K240. At 600 ohms they are a lot more difficult to drive. So when I plugged them into the headphone out of the X1S I was impressed with how much authority they were driven. The in total 12 passive radiators and both 32mm drivers were pushed to their best and out came a sound of pure happiness. Never have they been touched like that since I got them, never have I gotten to hear them sound like that.
     
    Conclusion:
    Sound as its supposed to be, great input selection plus a very PC desktop friendly size make it very easy to fall in love with this DAC.
    For 249$ this is a no brainer. Take it and enjoy it.
     
    Final Words:
    I'd like to thank Aune for making this tour possible and for including me. Also I would like to say thank you to @reiserFS for everything he had to put up with, to even get the unit to Europe! If it wasn't for him the X1S might still be in delivery somewhere.
    It was a short but very welcome time.
     
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    P9280426.jpg
      stalepie and sledgeharvy like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. earfonia
      Nice! Thanks for this review! Looks like one of the best bang for the buck DAC!
      earfonia, Oct 1, 2015
    3. WayneWoondirts
      glad you enjoyed it! definitley one of, maybe the best bang for buck...
      WayneWoondirts, Oct 2, 2015
    4. braaam
      Great review! Did you also compare the dac and amplifier part separately with your Gustard stack?
      braaam, Jan 3, 2016
  5. rarrior
    Great Value DAC/AMP
    Written by rarrior
    Published Sep 24, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound, Clarity, Plug-in Options
    Cons - None so far
    Headphones used: MEElectronics M6 Pro, Sony MDR-ZX300
     
    Sources used: iBasso DX50 (various MP3's and FLAC files), Galaxy Note 4 (Pandora)
     
    Amps used: FiiO E11k
     
    Granted I only had the unit for a few days on the Aune X1S review tour, in those few days I could tell this DAC/amp was a great value.
     
    The first day, I plugged my DX50 in through the coaxial output and into the Aune X1S. I first used my M6 Pro's and just sat back and listened. The wow factor isn't there right away, but the more and more you listen through the X1S the more you notice how great it is. Clarity of the music was the first thing I noticed after listening for a while. The X1S really made me value my DX50 more after listening for just a few hours. I would always read reviews on how great the DX50 sounds and now I actually know.
     
    The amount of volume adjustment you have on this thing is great. The volume knob has such a great range that you can really get into the right sound level for whatever you're listening to. Not to mention the number of inputs you have to choose from, there is no way you should not be able to get the best out of your music collection from the X1S.
     
    I then used my Galaxy Note 4 and my Sony's to see how the X1S does with lesser sources and headphones. It did not disappoint. After a few hours of listening, this DAC really showed what it can do, even with lesser quality components. Streaming through Pandora sounded more detailed and open. I used the E11k just as a reference point since I've used that amp with my Sony quite often. The X1S does a good job of amping but it's definitely on the bright side. The E11k helps in the low end, especially with the bass boost on and gain switch to high.
     
    Overall, I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a desktop amp. It has the best value from what I can tell; numerous options for inputs, great sound quality, and broad range of volume adjustment.
     
    DSC_0050_zpsh04c6mnq.jpg
  6. NeObliviscaris
    Who knew music could be so sweet!
    Written by NeObliviscaris
    Published Sep 20, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Design, Ease of Use, Transparency, Soundstage, Clarity, Value for Money
    Cons - Lack of Gain Switch, Revealing (with poor source files), Power Brick size
    Disclaimer:
    I received this Aune X1S as part of the Australian/New Zealand tour that @AuneAudio arranged. This is my honest opinion of the X1S, and I am in no way affiliated with or work for Aune Audio.
     
     
    Introduction:
     
    Hailing from China, Aune Audio has been working and providing affordable yet high-quality audiophile level products for several years. With both Desktop and Portable sized offerings, the quality, build and value for mine has been a common factor across all Aune consumers.
     
    The Aune X1S is the fifth in the X1 range that began in 2008. This latest DAC & Amp offering from Aune has been well received by several hi-fi blogs & magazines, and this tour will no doubt echo this reception.
     
     
    Hardware:
     
    WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
    Most of the reviews you will read regarding the X1S will detail the packaging – so as to not repeat and rehash what’s already been said – the package is sleek & simple. A black box, opened to reveal a beautiful silver monolith sitting inside a foam cutout.
     
    The contents of the box included:
    1. The Aune X1S DAC
    2. Power Supply
    3. USB Cable
    4. 3.55 to 6.35mm Adapter
    5. USB (with Foobar files & Drivers)
      Aune Card/QR Code 
     
    BUILD & DESIGN?
    Again most of the reviews you will read regarding the X1S will detail the build & quality – the photos however speak for themselves. I received a brushed silver unit, and out of the box this thing complemented my MacBook. It’s as if they were designed to sit side-by-side.
     
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    About Me:
     
    As with any tour or review, these are my opinions and observations with the Aune and my hardware. For the purpose of this audition, I used the following equipment –
    Source: MacBook Pro, DSD & Apple Lossless files
    Headphones: AKG K712pro, Grado SR80e, Yuin PK1, 1964Ears V3
     
    My taste in music is quite peculiar and focuses heavily on heavy metal – in all forms. A majority of my listening was with bands such as Iron Maiden, Fallujah & Ne Obliviscaris. However, I still enjoy a variety of genres, so also included Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Classical. I’ve included Pink Floyd, Simple Minds, Norah Jones, Steely Dan, Santana, Deep Purple and Boston in my rotation of albums. All of which I have gotten in High Resolution DSD/DFF formats.
     
     
    Sound:
     
    Having only re-entered the Head-Fi community and audiophile hobby, I have spent the last years rocking nothing but Custom Westone 3’s from an iPhone. When I dug out my HeadAmp Pico and a few remnants of my previous dabble with audiophilia, it inspired me to re-ignite my passion (and yes, sorry about my wallet!). In terms of my review, I tend to write as I listen, and tend not to break down my reviews based on key areas or genres. Sometimes I ramble, or stray a little off-topic, but I hope that the review is just an easy and enjoyable read.
     
    This device blew me away. More so my new understanding of DSD files and the quality they hold for music. In order to full appreciate this DAC, I ensured I purchased some DSD files of music I was familiar with, but also relied on my trusty FLAC and ALAC tracks too.
     
    The one thing that stood out to me immediately was the expanded soundstage and distinct instrument separation this DAC presented. Listening to complex music such as Ne Obliviscaris (which is progressive black metal – clean & harsh vocals, violins, guitars, bass and technical/fast drums). I was able to place each instrument onto an imaginary stage when I closed my eyes, and being able to isolate different aspects of the track without any of them overpowering. Metal, and such a complex genre that Ne Obliviscaris fits into, is hard to find a suitable setup. Using my AKG K712pro worked well with the Aune. I’ll get back to the AKG/X1S pairing later on in the write-up.
     
    It may be just me, but as I switched between different in-earphones, earbuds and headphones, I found that my Yun PK1 were not a good pairing with this DAC. The Yuin PK1 are difficult to drive, and they were extremely veiled running them from the Aune X1S compared to the HeadAmp Pico. The bass was nowhere to be seen, and highs were quite bright (painful at times). Some might refer to this as a neutral sound – but to me it just sounded unnatural. With the 1964Ears Custom In-Ear Monitors I was pleasantly surprised. In the past I had issues such as static and hiss driving IEMs from desktop-class hardware, the Aune had no such issue. After the bad experience with the Yuin I did worry how the IEM + X1S pairing would go. It went fine. I usually only use my CIEMs on-the-go, and opt for my full-sized cans at my desk, but driving them through the X1S was pleasant. The sound presentation was full-bodied which thick, punchy bass.
     
    On the flipside, the Aune was built for the full-sized can, and I experienced my AKGs and Grado SR80s in ways I’d never imagined with the little Pico. One of my benchmarks for how any audio device sounds is with it’s representation of cymbal splashes. I’ve heard poor devices fail miserably with replicating the smoothness of a crash, a track such as Money, by Pink Floyd, is not only a fantastic track to sample this, but also gives an opportunity for my second benchmark: Jazz. Ok maybe not the best segue, but still. Queue in Mr. Miles Davis. Listening to Miles Davis gave me a true appreciation for the wide soundstage the Aune offered, coupled with my Grado SR80e headphones.
     
    I used a 5.1 SACD DFF source of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – which I’ve had for a while but never a) got around to playing it, or b) actually had a DAC powerful enough to deal with them. The Aune absolutely impressed me listening here. Lush cymbals, warm trumpets and bass that made your heart thump.
     
    I found it difficult to compare something like the Aune vs. the HeadAmp Pico (which is the only other DAC I currently own). Both were designed for two separate uses, the Aune is a desktop monolith, whereas the HeadAmp is a pocketable portable buddy.
     
    Through a various array of source formats: DSDs, FLACs, ALACs, WavePacks and MP3s, the Aune X1S was true and thorough with sound quality. Only after several re-listens with utmost concentration was I able to discern the differences amongst the same track through different formats. However, when I gave the AKG/X1S a standard lossy MP3 it really showed the flaw in low-quality music. Coming across high-resolution music of my favourite bands/genres is very difficult, so I reverted to what was available to me from the sites listen in the Music section of the Head-Fi forums.
     
    I did fiddle around with the filters built into the Aune X1S (by holding down the Input button), but not enough to really compare them to each other. I found myself just sticking to the default.
     
    Favourite pairings:
    AKG K712pro + Aune X1S

    1964Ears V3 + Aune X1S
     
     
    Value & Conclusion:
     
    At $350 AUD ($249 USD), the Aune X1S is a fantastic addition to any desktop rig. I found myself at the end of the review seriously considering ordering one of these bad boys, to give it a permanent placement next to my MacBook. Being able to enjoy all formats of music, and as most audiophiles have, the highest quality files possible gave me a better appreciation for not only the Aune, nor the music, but also for my AKG K712pro headphones.
     
    Aside from the above-mentioned cons, it was really difficult to fault this hardware. From it’s impeccable build and design, to it’s reference-quality representation of a variety of genres, the Aune X1S is a stellar DAC and I expect many consumers to be extremely satisfied owning one.
     
    Dabbling with high-resolution audio has not got me contemplating my life. I am disheartened at the lack of availability of DSD/DFF quality files from my favourite metal bands, but also that the portable players I have (iPod & iPhone) won’t ever be able to play music at this high quality. So for now I revert back to my ALAC & FLAC dreaming of a day in the near future that I will have a decent desktop setup (and maybe portable) which allows me to enjoy all fidelity of audio.
  7. money4me247
    Clear Choice for an affordable DSD-supporting dac/amp with transparent high quality performance
    Written by money4me247
    Published Sep 14, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - affordable price, dsd support, sleek sturdy design w/ small footprint, lots of inputs (coax/opt/usb/rca) & outputs (coax/rca/1/4”), transparent sound
    Cons - no gain switch, amplifier power ratings not very detailed & seems a bit on the low side, large power brick w/ long non-detachable cables on both ends
    Aune X1S desktop dac/amplifier Review
     
    2015-09-1414.54.26.jpg
     
    1. These impressions are based on the X1S review unit provided by Aune Audio for their head-fi reviewer tour. Thread link HERE.
    2. Do note there is an opportunity for 5 reviewers to be selected to win a X1S. However, I am not censoring my thoughts about the product and hope to provide an objective review of the pros and cons.
    3. Extensively tested the X1S over a period of about one week.
    4. Primary source files consists of Spotify Premium, Tidal Hi-Fi, FLAC files
    5. My normal main set-up is Schiit Bifrost Uber > Schiit Lyr 2 > HE-1000
    6. My full gear profile is available HERE.
    7. Favorite musical genres include everything from electronic, edm, house, trance, hip hop, r&b, rock, female vocals, pop, alternative, metal, classical, instrumental, piano, acoustic music, soundtracks. I have very wide & varied listening habits depending on my mood.
    8. These are just personal subjective sonic impressions. I am NOT a professional reviewer. I am not associated with Aune Audio and I have no financial stake in this product. As always, YMMV and I hope you enjoy my review!! :)
     
     
    Intro: Established in 2004, Aune is a Chinese company based in Wuhan that focuses on audiophile external components. Aune is part of HiFiDIY.net, which is one of the largest Chinese audiophile communities (similar to head-fi.org community with enthusiasts chatting on forums). Their focus is crafting feature-packed products with high-end sound and unique designs at an affordable price point. They have an unorthodox vision, making unique products such as the newly released B1 ($199 fully discrete “Class A” portable amplifier - my review HERE), and the T1 MK2 (a $229 tube dac + solid state amplifier). Other products in their current lineup includes the S18 (digital transport at $499), the S16 (desktop usb-powered dac at $699), and the upcoming X1S (desktop dac/amplifier).
     
    The X1S is the newest evolution of their long-running X1-series desktop dac/amplifier that began in 2008. Featuring a completely redesigned chassis and improved feature set compared to the older X1 Pro of 2014, the X1S is the fifth generation update to an already well-received product that offered a great sonic package at an affordable value.
     
    Tech: The X1S is a desktop digital-analog convertor and headphone amplifier released by Aune in 2015. Price point on Amazon is currently listed at $289.98 with a MSRP of $369.99. Lowest price point I saw was at ingeniousingenuity.com.
     
    2015-09-1414.57.05.jpg       2015-09-1414.56.04.jpg
     
    Features:
    1. x3 outputs: digital coaxial, analog RCA, 1/4" headphone out
    2. x3 digital inputs: USB, coaxial, optical
    3. x1 analog input: RCA analog
    4. USB dac supports 32 bit depth, 384kHz sampling rate, and DSD128 formats
    5. Coax and optical supports up to 24 bit depth and 192 kHz sampling rate
    6. Low-jitter master clock with a jitter measurement of 1 picosecond maximum
    7. No measurable jitter-induced distortion above -135 dBFS
    8. Works as a standalone dac or standalone amplifier
    9. Can be used as a preamp for active speakers
     
    Official Technical Parameters:
    1. Output voltage level @ 0dB: 2.1 V RMS
    2. Headphone output power:
      1. 80 mW at 300 ohms
    3. Dynamic Range: 127 dB
    4. THD+N @ 1kHz: -100 dB
    5. IMD+N @ 192 kHz, 20 kHz: -100dB
    6. Stereo Crosstalk: -112 dB
    7. Bit Resolution: up to 32 bit depth via USB, up to 24 bit via coax or optical
    8. Sampling rate: up to 384 kHz via USB, up to 192 kHz via coax or optical
    9. Dimensions: 145mm width x 171mm depth x 45 mm height
     
    Packaging:
     
    2015-09-0118.57.02.jpg       2015-09-0118.59.03.jpg
     
    Design: The X1S features a sleek compact rectangular design with a curved top. The front panel features a selectable input button on the left that toggles between USB, optical, coax, and line in. There is a 6.35mm headphone jack located in the center. A large (30mm diameter) volume knob with a nice sculpted cut-out with an engraved volume indicator line that allows for easy identification of the volume level sits on the right hand side. On the back, there is the power switch, USB B connector, coax in, coax out, rca in, rca out, and power connection. There is four round clear rubber feet on the bottom on the unit. I measured its weight to be at 887 grams. It is a very practical and industrial design that has a very small footprint for those tight on desktop space.
     
    2015-09-1414.52.34.jpg       2015-09-1414.50.54.jpg
     
    2015-09-1414.52.55.jpg       2015-09-1414.54.13.jpg
     
    2015-09-1414.53.15.jpg       2015-09-1414.53.46.jpg
     
    2015-09-1414.55.09.jpg       2015-09-1414.55.49.jpg
     
    2015-09-1414.56.30.jpg       2015-09-1415.02.25.jpg
     
    Accessories: The X1S includes all the accessories required for usage right out of the box, a very welcome inclusion as many audiophile companies omit key accessories.
    1. USB drive with X1S drivers, DSD drivers, and different filter options
    2. 6.35mm male to 3.5mm female headphone adapter
    3. Power supply
      1. Dimensions: 10cm depth x 6.5cm width x 5.75cm height
      2. Non-detachable cables on both sides measuring 2ft 10in on the amplifier end and 3ft 3in on the electrical outlet side
    4. USB A to USB B cable (about 5ft long)
     
    The issue I had with the accessories was the included power brick. It is a quite large with non-detachable cables coming out of both sides. I found that the cable that attached to the amplifier was not quite long enough for the power brick to sit comfortably on the floor from the ideal placement of the X1S on my desk. Will either need to have the X1S on the edge of the desk for the power adapter to sit on the floor or have the brick on the desk.
     
    2015-09-1415.04.22.jpg       2015-09-1415.04.55.jpg
     
    The X1S has quite a few different filter options bundled on the USB drive included, and I briefly explored those options as well, though it was difficult for me to ascertain which one I preferred as there is a few steps required to switch back and forth, so hard to do rapid A/B testing. Would have been something that would be neat to further explore.
     
    2015-09-1415.03.17.jpg       2015-09-1415.03.44.jpg
     
    2015-09-1415.03.31.jpg       2015-09-1415.03.40.jpg
     
    Sound Quality:
    1. Windows 10 PC > Tidal HiFi lossless primarily and some Spotify Premium Ogg Vorbis
    2. Tested FLAC and DSD files primarily through foobar2000 v1.3.8
    3. Please use this resource for the definitions of the audiophile terms I am using: http://www.head-fi.org/a/describing-sound-a-glossary
     
    Overall, the X1S has a very clear and detailed sound that does not add any additional coloration to the source. The X1S has an extremely transparent sound that really allows the different nuances of each of my headphones to really shine through. The X1S has a delicate, clean, and precise delivery that is extremely resolving of subtle details.
     
    Treble Tuning: Very smooth treble response. Not peaky nor excessively sharp. Does not get fatiguing at all. Very clean note spacing without any excessive edginess in the treble region. Great treble extension with a good sense of airiness. Does not add extra treble energy to the sound.
     
    Midrange Tuning: Articulate linear midrange response. I did not get the sensation that there was any particular region of the midrange that was emphasized. Extremely clear depiction of the instrumental micro-details, textural shifts, and subtle vocal intonations. Does not add any ‘liquid’ smoothing or clinical sharpness to my different headphones, but depicts the headphone’s inherent presentational style very accurately. Extremely spacious sound with a subtle distant feeling to sound for very expansive performances.
     
    Bass Tuning: Clean, fast bass response. Each bass note presented is extremely tight without any excess weight or fullness added. The X1S very noticeably cuts down on the bass bloat of darker headphones and tightens up decay transients of the low frequencies. Good sense of punchiness, but may be a tad lacking in impact and weight on my more difficult to drive Hifiman headphones. Not lacking in the visceral slam on any of the rest of my headphones. Does not add any extra underlying warmth to the notes, which I greatly appreciate. Very excellent sub-bass extension into the lowest registers for a seismic sensation when called upon by the source file.
     
    Other Sonic Attributes: The X1S excels at maximizes the technical attributes of individual headphones adding a laser-like precision to imaging, stretching out a more cavernous soundstage, tautening each individual note for a faster perceived speed and better defined note spacing, and extracting very subtle microscopic nuances of detail. The X1S noticeably condenses down decay transients for a cleaner and clearer sound. The attack of notes stay very well-defined with a solid kick.
     
    I do feel like it is difficult to truly describe and capture the “sound” of the X1S as it is a chameleon with each one of my different headphones. Extremely transparent to the wide variety of different personalities displayed by each individual headphone that I own while augmenting the overall polish and technical performance.
     
    Test Tracks: Primarily tested with a wide variety of classical music. Please see some of my other reviews for some of my favorite classical tracks. Also, added some fun Star Wars soundtrack music with the recent Force Awakens buzz.
     
    DSD testing: I found a website that offered high-quality classical tracks encoded in various DSD formats (including 256, 128, 64) and some 24 bit depth/96 kHz sampling rate Flac files to do some comparisons. The test track I ended up using the most was Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major KV 218 performed by Marianne Thorsen and the Trondheim Soloists as it was available on both Spotify Premium and Tidal in the same master. Setting up foobar to play DSD files requires quite a few steps, but Aune thoughtfully included a walk-through and all the necessary files to make it work flawlessly.
     
    To be perfectly honest, I personally had quite a bit of difficulty reliably hearing the differences between all the various formats, especially between the well-encoded FLAC files against the DSD files even on the HE-1000. Definitely something I am interested in further testing out myself to see what specific cues will result in reliable identification of each file format. For those who have a collection of DSD files requiring an affordable desktop dac/amp capable of playing back those file formats, the Aune X1S is the most affordable desktop dac/amplifier supporting DSD formats currently (to my knowledge).
     
    2015-09-1415.00.57.jpg       2015-09-1415.01.19.jpg
     
    Headphone Pairings:
    *******Important Notes*******
    Tested with my source volume maxed, only controlling volume via the X1S pot
    Tested each headphone listed on the X1S against the same headphone with:
    1. no amplification
    2. the Oppo HA-2
    *********************************
     
    IEMs tested: Flare Audio R2PRO, Samsung Galaxy S5 OEM wired stereo headset, Xiaomi Piston III, Creative EP-630, Bose SoundTrue
     
    Over-ear Headphones tested: AKG K553, AKG K7xx, Audeze LCD-X, MrSpeakers Alpha Prime, MrSpeakers Ether, Oppo PM-3, Hifiman HE-400s, Hifiman HE-560, Hifiman HE-1000.
     
    Overall thoughts on headphone pairings: Comparative findings showed a noticeable amount of improvement over unamplified set-up using my computer’s stock sound card. Increased technical improvement with a more expansive soundstage, more precise imaging, increased clarity and detail resolution, and cleaner edges to the notes with the perception of quicker attack and decay times (more noticeable with the decay). The amount of scaling was dependent on the headphones being tested, but all the headphones maintained their overall sound signature with very minimal coloration.
     
    For IEMs, I did notice that if the source player’s digital volume was maxed out, there was very little playroom for volume adjustment with the volume being too loud for my personal preferences at the 10 o’clock position on the volume knob. For sensitive IEMs, digital volume adjustment will likely also be required to more precise volume settings. The X1S did offer the immediately perceivable benefit of tightening of the bass bloat of the Bose SoundTrue headphones and Piston XIII, but the additional bass coloration of those IEMs were not altered. The Flare R2Pro sounded very gorgeous with additional power scaling up its detail retrieval and treble clarity quite nicely, though bass weight seems a touch lighter compared to my other amplification options. No background hiss or noise detected on any of my IEMs at normal listening volumes.
     
    For headphone pairings, the Hifiman HE-560 and HE-1000 seem to be a tad bit lacking in bass weight and impact for my personal preferences and I do think that a more powerful amplifier would be more ideal to reach those headphone’s full potential. More likely due to requiring more specific amplifier synergy for those headphones to really shine rather than any deficiency with the X1S.
     
    For the other headphones, the combination was pleasant without any noticeable clipping. The X1S was able to work very well with the AKG K553 Pro (32 ohms, 114 dB/V) and the AKG K7xx (one of the harder-to-drive dynamic headphones I have with sensitivity of 105 dB/V and rated impedance of 62 ohms). I am unsure how well the X1S will work for the really high impedance options that go from 100-600 ohms as I currently don’t have any of those types of headphones in my collection. The X1S also works well with plenty of headroom for the easy-to-drive efficient planar magnetics such as the Audeze LCD-X (20 ohms, 103dB/mW), Hifiman HE-400S (22 ohm, 93dB/mW), Oppo PM-3 (26 ohm, 102dB/mW), and MrSpeakers Ether (23 ohms, 96dB/mW).
     
    The X1S proved to be a very clean addition to my chain with each headphone still maintaining their characteristic sound signature with minimal coloration. Really does improve the subtle technical attributes of their performance compared to unamplified. The most noticeable overall improvements for all the headphones is the improved detail resolution and better sense of note spacing with tighter individual notes. The X1S will work very well if already satisfied with the headphones sound signature, but will not work for those who are trying to ‘tune’ their headphones’ sound signature. Subtle but very noticeable improvements even for headphones that can be easily driven without an amplifier.
     
    Direct External Component Comparisons:
    *******Important Notes*******
    1. Primarily used the Flare R2Pro IEMs, PM-3 (closed), AKG K7xx (open), and HE-1000 in comparisons
    2. I believe the K7xx and PM-3 are both highly-resolving, very transparent mid-tier headphones. The R2Pro is the nicest IEMs I own. The HE-1000 is the most resolving headphones with the greatest scaling potential that I own.
    3. The differences being described below are extremely subtle variations that are extremely difficult to tease out in blinded comparisons. May sound more exaggerated in writing than in real-life.
    4. Please remember these are my own personal subjective impressions. YMMV!!!
    *********************************
     
    Against the Oppo HA-2 portable dac/amplifier: Portable Class A/B amplifier with ES9018-K2M dac at $299
    Overall, these two external components are quite close, but I do think that the X1S offers a subtle improvements in technical performance. The Oppo HA-2 has harder-hitting bass, but a bit more decay to the bass notes for the perception of some slight additional reverb.  The X1S has a subtly tighter bass presentation. Treble on the HA-2 is a touch sharper and crisper. Very subtle flavor differences between these two amplifiers. They both measure the FR curves of my headphones extremely well.
     
    AKG K7xx MeasurementsAune X1SOppo HA-2
    Impulse Response Screenshot2015-09-1402.19.34AKGK7xxIRonX1S.png Screenshot2015-09-1402.21.14AKGK7xxIRonHA-2.png
    Frequency Response Screenshot2015-09-1402.19.54AKGK7xxFRonX1S.png Screenshot2015-09-1402.21.29AKGK7xxFRonHA-2.png
     CSD Screenshot2015-09-1402.20.04AKGK7xxCSDonX1S.png Screenshot2015-09-1402.21.40AKGK7xxCSDonHA-2.png

    The above are the measurements I did using the X1S and HA-2. The graphs are extremely close.
     
    Comparative sonic differences heard during audition can sometimes not show up in measurements. The differences in performance between these two external components does vary a bit depending on the different headphones that were used for testing. I do personally think that the differences between well-designed solid-state amplifiers can often be quite difficult to reliably discern in blind testing. Both these amplifiers are quite good, providing extremely solid sound quality for their intended usage. I would give the subtle performance edge to the X1S from my subjective side-by-side direct comparisons.
     
    Against the Aune B1: Portable discrete Class A amplifier at $199
    ***Note: Comparisons were done with the X1S as the dac and the B1 as the amplifier vs the X1S dac/amp combo. Without a dac, the B1 falls behind in detail retrieval and overall clarity with a subtle fuzziness to its sound.***
    The B1 has a bit more underlying warmth than the X1S and a stronger sense of bass impact. The B1 has a bit harder bite to its attack as well. A slightly more present bass response response on the B1. The B1 has a subtly more intimate presentation, while the X1S has a larger soundstage and more precise imaging. The X1S sounds a bit more delicate and light on its feet with shorter decay times and no additional fullness. The X1S has better treble detail and tighter bass response without as weighty a bass sensation, which improves the perception of detail and clarity. The X1S sounds faster and more precise while the B1 sounds heavier with a closer, more intimate presentation. The X1S sounds a bit smoother with a slightly relaxed, non-fatiguing presentation while the B1 sounds more energetic and edgier with a touch of extra crispiness to its treble response. Both devices are quite capable with very subtle sonic differences in their presentations. I do feel like the X1S is the more transparent device.
     
    Against the Schiit Lyr 2 + Bifrost Uber Gen2: Desktop Dynamically Adaptive Class A/AB tube hybrid amplifier and AKM4399 desktop dac at $986 ($449+$519).
    The Lyr 2 has a bit of underlying warmth and fullness to its sound with its slight tube distortion. Very strong sense of impact and body to its notes. Still maintains extremely good detail resolution, soundstage, and imaging. Very energetic presentation with good textural detail. The Bifrost Uber balances out the warmth of the Lyr 2 very well with its clean and highly detailed performance. My personal favorite external component set-up in the sub-$1000 price point, but the X1S does not fall too far behind despite the vast difference in price point (illustrating the concept of diminishing returns with external components when doing volume-matched comparisons). The Schiit combo does add some additional flavoring to the chain.
     
    From Memory External Component Comparisons:
    *******Important Notes*******
    1. These comparisons are of gear that I have owned/demoed extensively
    2. Since these comparisons are by audio memory, the impressions here are not as reliable as insights gained through direct comparisons
    *********************************
     
    Against the Cozoy Astrapi: USB-stick dac/amp at $129.99
    Overall, I feel like the Astrapi and the X1S shares similar overall presentation style and sound signature. Very close to neutral with very minimal coloration. The Astrapi does have quite a bit more smoothing effect to the edges of its notes for a relaxing laid-back presentation. The X1S also displays this trait, but to a lesser extent. The Astrapi may be subtly warmer than the X1S, but overall sound signature to so close that it is hard for me to say from memory. The X1S easily beats the Astrapi in overall technical performance though.
     
    Against Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2: USB-stick Sabre dac/amp at $149
    The Dragonfly has a much more energetic and lively sound with a bit of heightened treble and bass response for a bright sense of clarity and impactful bass. I do view the Dragonfly to have a bit more coloration than the other dac/amp options I’ve personally tried with its sound signature seeming very subtly v-shaped. However, it does add a dramatic flair to the sound and is a quite enjoyable addition. Very high performance:price ratio.
     
    Against the Cayin C5Dac: Portable TI BB PCM1795 dac with Class A/B SS amp at $199
    Cayin C5Dac has a very high energy presentation with a subtle focus on the upper mid and treble response without the bass boost activated. It has a very crispy sound signature with great definition to the edges of the notes. The C5Dac is not a very forgiving and has a very clinically-orientated presentation. Strong emphasis on the attack of notes. I personally find the C5Dac to sometimes get a bit fatiguing for my tastes. A very zealous presentation.
     
    Against the Resonessence Labs Herus: USB-stick ES9010-2M dac with DSD support and a Class A/B SS amp at $350
    The Herus should have a brighter overall sound with a bit of extra crispy treble kick. Very clinically-oriented presentation and picks up a lot of subtle micro-detail that can be unforgiving with poor source files. A very sharp bite with very clean edges. The X1S is relatively more forgiving with a smoother sound. I consider both these options to be quite close to neutral and just subtle preferences will determine which one is more suitable.
     
    Against the Oppo HA-1: Desktop Discrete Class A balanced SS amplifier with ES9018 Sabre dac at $1,199
    The HA-1 has a very clean and transparent overall sound with great deep bass extension. The HA-1 will sound a bit brighter and clearer in relative comparison to the X1S. The HA-1 has an extremely wide sound stage, very precise imaging, and very competitive sonic performance for its price range. The X1S does keep a similar overall clean sound signature, but does have a much softer impact and a bit more rounded off edges to its notes. The HA-1 has very detailed textural presentation and extends very well into both ends of the frequency response. I do view the HA-1 to be an extremely capable performer with many more features at its price point, so if finances can stretch that far, it is a very solid pick. HA-1 offers a fully balanced design for those who have balanced headphone cables to take advantage of that feature. While the X1S may not be as detailed and precise, it does have a tad less brightness for those who find the HA-1 too sharp for their tastes.
     
    Against the Woo WA7+WA7tp desktop tube amplifier: Pure Class A transformer-coupled tube amplifier with TI PCM5102A dac at $1,398
    The WA7 has a very warm euphonic distortion for a rich warm sound. I view its sound signature to be noticeably colored, but quite enjoyable. Does shrink the overall soundstage with less precise imaging and note spacing for that very intimate and lush presentation. Has quite a bit more of an ‘organic’ smoothing to the edges of the notes and a much warmer richer tonality. Choosing between the X1S and the WA7 will really depends more on sonic preferences. Fans of a very warm and gooey tube sound or a more organic ‘liquid’ presentation should strongly consider the WA7.
     
    Overall Sound Signature Differences:
    Components that sound warmer: Aune B1 < Lyr 2 + Bifrost < WA7+WA7tp (warmest)
    Components that sound brighter: HA-1/HA-2 < Dragonfly < C5Dac < Herus (brightest)
     
    Value Judgement: Excellent
     
    The X1S hit an extremely competitive price point of approximately $290 for an desktop combination unit. Its price point beats the popular, commonly recommended entry-level combos while adding on DSD playback capabilities (which is typically unheard of for desktop units at this price point).
     
    The most popular budget-level desktop amp/dac combinations on head-fi are the JDS O2+ODac at $279 and Schiit Magni+Modi from $198 for the standard version and $298 for the Uber version. JDS does not currently have any DSD capable equipment while Schiit offers the $149 Loki to add DSD playback abilities to non-DSD capable equipment. New JDS flagship desktop dac/amplifier combination is the Element at $349 without DSD support. The cheapest desktop DSD-supporting external component that I currently know about is the SMSL M8 at $249-$299 for a standalone DSD-supporting dac. The SoundMagic H100 Serenade Pro at $299, Yulong U200 at $399, Matrix Audio M-Stage HPA-3U at $419.95, Fostex HP-A4 at $499, Matrix mini-i pro at $519, Sony UDA1/S at $525 (from $799 MSRP), and Yulong D200 at $600 (from $799 MSRP) are some of the most affordable desktop dac/amp options currently on the market with DSD support, and cannot be currently found under the extremely competitive price point of the Aune X1S.
     
    It is actually more common to find DSD support on the new portable dac/amp devices rather than entry-level desktop set-ups. Fiio is another popular entry-level option on head-fi, that is pretty renowned for their affordable portable dac/amplifiers. Their flagship portable, the E17K (MSRP $139.99), is the only option that offers DSD support. Some other portable dac/amps with DSD support include the ~$263 iFi iDSD Nano, Onkyo DAC-HA200 at $249.99 (MSRP $399), the Oppo HA-2 at $299, and the Sony PHA-2 at $429 (MSRP $599), and iFi Micro iDSD dac at $499. For the usb-stick-style dac/amp options that draw power directly from the USB port, none of them offer DSD support to my knowledge except for the Herus by Resonessence Labs and GeekOut series by LH Labs.
     
    My Overall Ratings: (ratings displayed on the side of head-fi are averages)
    Do note that I hardly ever give out full score ratings even on extremely good products. Reserve that rating for products that I feel far exceed and redefine my previous notions of what is capable
     
    Audio Quality: 9/10
    Design: 8/10
    Quality: 9/10
    Value: 10/10
    Overall Score: 4.5/5
    Notes: The high rating is awarded as the X1S is the most affordable DSD-capable desktop combination dac/amp unit that I am currently aware of.
     
    Important considerations for potential purchasers:
    1. I was unable to really test this product with high impedance (250 ohms and above) headphones
    2. For certain headphone that are more ‘picky’ with their external component matching, their may be better options out there. The harder-to-drive HE-560 I feel like excels more with the more powerful Lyr 2 pairing and many enthusiasts recommend the Gustard HP10 for those looking at inexpensive powerful solid-state amplification for these headphones.
    3. Combination unit, so more suitable for the user who wants a all-in-one package to keep things simple rather than the user who likes to upgrade/switch between different dac/amp combinations.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    There is nothing harder to describe than a well-made solid-state amplifier that sounds essentially transparent. The X1S achieves this description effortless and may be the ideal desktop combination for those looking for true-to-source audio reproduction with DSD support.
     
    The greatest sonic pro of the X1S is its clean transparent sound that is extremely smooth and non-fatiguing without any excessive brightness or additional warmth. Features that make the X1S standout is the inclusion of DSD support at its price point and a plethora of inputs including USB, optical, coax, and RCA. I am not currently aware of many other desktop dac and amplifier combination units with DSD support in this price range. Featuring a sleek minimalistic design and bundling all the accessories needed, the X1S is a breeze to set-up and use.
     
    The biggest sonic con with the X1S can be a bit lacking in weight and impact on some of the harder-to-drive planar magnetics I own, presenting a lighter, more delicate sound. Other considerations is the lack of a gain switch and its amplifier power rating seems to be on the lower side for a desktop unit. May not be the best fit for the picky or hard-to-drive headphones (such as some planar magnetics or really high impedance headphones). The power-brick could also have been better designed.
     
    For the majority of headphones and IEMs, the X1S will provide an extremely detailed, clean, and transparent sound that is extremely competitive for its price point. If I was personally looking at a sub-$500 combination unit, I would view this as an extremely competitive option among my own top picks. For audiophiles looking for a very good value all-in-one desktop dac/amp that supports DSD, the new Aune X1S is a clear-cut winner! Ethereal transparent sound at an extremely affordable price point!
     
    2015-09-1414.46.46.jpg
     
    Product link: http://en.auneaudio.com/html/en_products1/Portable_series/190_11.html
    1. View previous replies...
    2. money4me247
      @Army-Firedawg, glad to hear that you enjoyed it. A/B comparisons actually is typically the meat of my review. I find that personally that is what I am most interested in reading as we all have different reference points, so I think offering a lot of different points which others may have some experience with can be very helpful. It can be quite time-consuming to do, but I feel like it offers the best way for other people to get perspective on my subjective statements (especially if they have experience with any of the gear that I mention).
       
      @hakushondaimao, thank you! happy to hear that our thoughts matched as I recall you always have very good insights on things I don't always pick up on.
       
      @Billheiser, yes, I did try the RCA out, but only to confirm that it did indeed work. I have a pair of really crappy speakers, so not really even worthwhile mentioning. as @Brooko stated, volume is fixed via rca out. My speakers have volume control on them, so it wasn't an issue for me personally.
       
      @Brooko, thanks for the compliment. means a lot coming from you. always love reading your detailed work. will be reading everyone else's reviews on this item soon to see how our thoughts compare. would always love to see more measurements in reviews so looking forward to seeing how it goes for you next time! :)
       
      Thank you to everyone else who took the time to read my review. Please feel free to PM or post here if you have any additional questions.
      money4me247, Sep 16, 2015
    3. blmcycle
      Another great review of this fine product.  I now have had one for a couple weeks.  I would caution anyone who wants to run high impedance low sensitivity phones with this unit to test it carefully.  My phones of choice (now) are 250 ohm Beyer 880 Premiums that have a sensitivity rating of 96 db SPL/V.  They do not sound their best with this amp.  For many files the volume knob is at 4:00 or higher.  I just listened to the same digital file on the X1S and then then the Cayin C5 with the 880s.  The difference was considerable - the 880s sounded wonderful with the C5.
       
      On the positive side I am now using a pair of HD555s I dug out with the X1S and they sound great.  They are 50 ohm phones with sensitivity of 112 db, if I recall.  I now have a set of HD598s in the mail - efficiency, comfort and pretty good sound are on the way.
       
      I will keep the X1S.  It works perfectly in my home office setup.  Thanks again for the review.
      blmcycle, Apr 15, 2016
    4. Dabore84
      I have them a couple of month's now together with the HE400s and they are excellent. Bought them after reading your review :wink:
      Dabore84, Feb 2, 2017
  8. reiserFS
    The New Price to Performance King
    Written by reiserFS
    Published Sep 14, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Aesthetics, amazing soundstage, great detail retrieval, DSD playback, price
    Cons - Length of AC adaptor cable, might not pair well with treble canons
    Foreword
     
    I am in no way associated with Aune. This unit is part of a world wide review tour organised by Aune. I have also had a very short time with the X1S, 2 days to be exact, so you might want to take this review with a grain of salt. These two days have been one hell of a fun ride though, so you might want to continue reading!
     
    I'll mainly be comparing the X1S to Audiotrak's Dr. DAC 2 DX Top Edition, which roughly goes for the same amount the X1s does. I'm not the best when it goes down to describing the sound, but I'll give it a try. 
     
     
    About Aune:
     
     
    What's in the box:
     
    The X1S arrived safely from China in a box filled with a lot of foam. Once you take off the top cover, you'll find the X1S nicely lay'd out with all it's accessories, such as the AC adaptor , USB cable and a thumb drive. I have never seen a company include a thumb drive for their DAC / AMP, which is a nice and refreshing thing to see. What's on it you ask? Aune included a copy of the driver for Windows users and the manual on it.
     
    The first I immediately noticed is the short length of the AC adaptor cable that you actually plug into the X1S. I've already noticed this on the T1 MK2. You're out of your luck if you're planning to put the unit itself on a higher desk. I'd really appreciate it if Aune had decided to use a longer end.
     
    DSCF3839.jpg   DSCF3849.jpg
     
    DSCF3852.jpg  
     
    Did I mention that the AC adaptor itself is quite heavy and big? It almost doesn't fit into my hands, so it's portable uses are limited. Aune have decided against using a internal PSU in favour of sound quality.
     
    DSCF3853.jpg
     
     
    The X1S itself:
     
    This DAC / AMP is one of the most beautiful and modern ones I've seen so far. It's sleek, minimalistic, made out of sandblasted aluminium and even sounds good. On the front you'll find your input source select button with according LED's that light up when the source is switched. On the back you'll find the AC in, RCA in- and outputs, USB in, coaxial in- and output and optical inputs. Said inputs are protected with some small red hoods. The volume knob turns smooth as butter, a bit too smooth for me to be honest, but that's just a matter of taste. 
     
    The X1S uses the known XMOS chip for it's USB input, allowing for up to 384KHz and DSD playback. A ESS 9018K2M is being used as the DAC chip. A pretty popular combination these days and if the implementation is done right, can sound wonderful.
     
    While playing back DSD, the user has the choice of selecting different filters. This is done by holding the input selector button until the LED changes color according to the selected filter. I didn't notice any hearable difference though.
     
    DSCF3856.jpg   DSCF3861.jpg
     
    How does it sound?
     
    Tracks used for comparison (Audirvana Plus -> Aune X1S DAC (USB) -> Aune X1S AMP -> Brainwavz HM5):
     
    Exterminate - Mizuki Nana
    count it from Zero - Kajiura Yuki
    METACORTEX - WAVE
    Shooting Star - KOTOKO
    Shatter Me - Lindsey Stirling
    In Your Pocket - Maroon 5
    Dreaming of the Crash, Interstellar OST - Hans Zimmer
     
    I was shocked. Shocked at how the X1S literally wipes the floor with my Audiotrak Dr. DAC2. Words can't describe what I was hearing, but I'll try nevertheless. The X1S is utterly resolving, I've noticed this right away when listening to Hans Zimmer's "Dreaming of the Crash". There's wind movement going on at the beginning of the track which I didn't notice on the Dr. DAC2. Not only that, the soundstage the X1S produces is simply beautiful. It's massive. It's engaging. It makes you think that you're right in there, almost holographic. I can't get enough of good soundstage presentation and the X1S does it right in so many ways.
     
    Mids are rendered smoothly, sweet and making you want to listen some more. Compared to the Dr. DAC 2 there's slightly less emphasis on the mids. I'd say the X1S presents these fairly neutral.
     
    On the contrary, I'm not too sure on the highs. My first impression was that they were slightly rolled off, but after listening to some Japanese vocals for a bit, I think there's a slight emphasis on them. Some tracks just hurt. Maybe that's where the detail retrieval comes from? Keep in mind that I'm very sensitive to treble. 
     
    Audiotrak seems to have rolled of the highs in the Dr.DAC2, which makes it easier for more extended listening. 
     
    Lows are rendered neutral compared to the Dr.DAC2. The Dr.DAC2 only has a slightly bit more bass presentation.
     
    DSCF3864.jpg
     
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    The X1S is a powerhouse. It combines a great price with amazing performance, DSD playback and all that in a small footprint. I have thought that such amount of soundstage and detail retrieval is reserved for units way above $700, but boy did Aune prove me wrong. Aune have put a great DAC / AMP on the market that is simply underrated right now and should be getting more attention when more people realise what a gem this truly is. I just wish that I had more time listening to it.
     
    tl;dr: Where do I put down my order?
    Yy
    1. Peter West
      This was my experience with the Aune B1 driving my Audeze LCD-X headphones. I couldn't get my wallet out fast enough. I'm on this tour as well so saving up my pennies as I'm anticipating another unexpected but welcome purchase if all goes well.
      Peter West, Sep 14, 2015
  9. Brooko
    Aune X1S – Simplicity, Performance and Value
    Written by Brooko
    Published Sep 12, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Aesthetics (it looks gorgeous), inputs, features, supported formats, power output, value, manual and driver inclusion
    Cons - Size of the power adaptor, lack of variable control on rear RCAs, text on silver case difficult to read, filter use is cumbersome, no gain switch
    x1s04.jpg
    For larger images (1200 x 800) click the image
     

    INTRODUCTION

    I’ve been aware of Aune for some time during my Head-Fi journey – particularly their T1 Tube DAC, and more recently the B1 portable amp which was recently featured on Head-Fi. But until now I’ve never had a chance to sample their gear, and indeed haven’t really taken much notice of their product line.  That changed recently when Aune offered a chance to audition the X1s desktop DAC/amp in your own home for a week.  I jumped at the chance, and for the past week have enjoyed putting this little unit through its paces.
     
    ABOUT AUNE
     
    One of the nice things about reviewing audio gear is doing the research and getting to know the individual companies a little better. Aune (Wuhan AO LAI ER Technology Co.ltd ) was formed in 2004 and was one of the first Chinese companies dedicated to high quality digital audio.  From the website (I have paraphrased some of it):
     
    What I’ve really appreciated from Aune so far has been their willingness to provide me additional information about their products – something some other audio companies are often more reserved in supplying.
     
    DISCLAIMER
     
    I was provided the Aune X1S DAC/amp as a review sample, for one week’s use before sending it on to the next participant in the tour. I am in no way affiliated with Aune - and this review is my honest opinion of the X1S.  I would like to thank Aune for making this opportunity available, and also for providing me additional information during the review.
    EDIT : I was later lucky enough to win the X1S in a giveaway graciously run by Aune. 
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
    (This is to give any readers a baseline for interpreting the review).
     
    I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portables (Fiio X5ii, X3ii, LP5 and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5ii/X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1, Sennheiser HD600, and AKG K553.  A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).
     
    I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
     
    For the purposes of this review - I used the Aune X1S in as many different scenarios and tested all of the inputs and outputs to test its versatility. Primarily though I was looking mainly at use as a desktop DAC/amp for my main system.  I also took the opportunity to test The X1S against my Audio-gd NFB-12 and iFi Micro iDSD.
     
    WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A PORTABLE DAC/AMP
     
    I thought I’d list (before I start with the review) what I really look for in a desktop DAC/amp. In listing these points below, I tried to think what the device would need to do/have in order to convert me.
    1. Clean neutral signature
    2. Ability to drive higher impedance cans (eg my HD600 and T1)
    3. Ability to take a variety of different inputs – but primarily optical and USB.
    4. Ability to decode a number of different resolutions
    5. Ability to control/drive my active JBL LSR-305 monitors
    6. Easy to use and configure
    7. Value for money
     
    As an addition I also tested the Aune X1S as a DAC > line out to my LD MKIV OTL tube amp, and finally with IEMs.  Although I don’t use it for IEMs, I know there are others who do, so it was worth testing.
     
    Did I get all of this with the X1S?  Well not all, but quite a bit.
     
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
     

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
     
    The Aune X1s arrived in a large black box and lid with the Aune name printed on top, and a silver sticker on the side with some detail on the product. The box is quite large (319 x 262 x 97 mm), and to be honest when I first laid eyes on it, my immediate thoughts were “this things going to be a lot larger than I thought”, and also “how am I going to fit it on the desk!”
     
    Thankfully on opening the box, the X1s was a much more svelte size, and I also have to give kudos to Aune for the beautifully form fitting foam enclosure.  The components are really well protected.
     
    x1s12.jpg
    The large outer box
    Inner foam packaging - great protection
    Contact card, USB key and adaptor

     
    Included in the package is the Aune X1s (complete with rubber caps on the rear inputs/outputs) the quite large power brick, a USB cable, 3.5-6.3mm adaptor, contact card (a nice touch), and a mini USB stick which holds not only the manual (pdf), but also Windows driver, a word document to show how to set-up native DSD playback (this document is really easy to follow and quite well written with very good pictures and screen shots), and files for Foobar set-up.  This is really quite comprehensive, and shows excellent commitment to the product.
     
    The rather large 12v converter
    Plug
    USB cable

     

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
     
    The table below lists most of the relevant specifications, and because I’ve compared them later in the review, I’ve also included same specs for my NFB-12 and iDSD.
     
     
    Aune X1s
    Audio-gd NFB-12
    iFi Micro iDSD
    Cost (approx.)
    USD 249
    USD 235
    USD 499
    Dimensions
    145 x 171 x 45mm
    160 x 260 x 45mm
    68 x 180 x 25mm
    Weight (unit only)
    880 g
    1320 g
    300 g
    Outer Shell
    Anodised aluminium
    Brushed aluminium
    Anodised aluminium
    Input power
    Walwart + 12V adaptor
    Walwart (internal adaptor)
    USB + has internal battery
    Input coax
    24 bit / 192 kHz
    24 bit / 192 kHz
    24 bit / 192 kHz
    Input optical
    24 bit / 192 kHz
    24 bit / 96 kHz
    24 bit / 192 kHz
    Input USB
    32 bit / 384 kHz
    24 bit / 96 kHz
    32 bit / 768 kHz
    DSD (DoP via USD)
    Up to DSD 128
    Not supported
    Up to DSD 512
    Frequency response
    20 Hz – 20 kHz +/- 0.5 dB
    20 Hz – 20 kHz  +/- 0.2 dB
    Not stated
    Dynamic range
    126 dB
    118 dB
    117 dB
    THD+N
    -110 dB @ 1 kHz
    Not stated
    < 0.008%
    IMD+N
    -110 dB @ 19KHz & 20KHz
    Not stated
    Not stated
    Stereo crosstalk
    -112 dB
    Not stated
    Not stated
    Line Out Voltage (fixed)
    2.1 Vrms
    2.25 Vrms
    2 Vrms
    Line Out Voltage (variable)
    Not supported
    Up to 5 Vrms
    Up to 5 Vrms
    Headphone out impedance
    10 ohm
    2 ohm
    < 1 ohm
    Output power (1)
    1550 mW into 16 ohm
    3500 mW into 25 ohm
    Up to 4000 mW @ 16 ohm
    Output power (2)
    1200 mW into 32 ohm
    1800 mW into 50 ohm
    Up to 2000 mW into 32 ohm
    Output power (3)
    200 mW into 300 ohm
    300 mW into 300 ohm
    Up to 212 mW into 300 ohm
    Output power (4)
    100 mW into 600 ohm
    150 mW into 600 ohm
    Up to 106 mW into 600 ohm
    Digital filters
    3 (front panel)
    9 (internal jumpers)
    3 PCM and 3 analog (switches)
    Gain switching
    Not supported
    High and low
    9 settings (3x3 options)
    USB support
    Driver required (Windows)
    Standard Windows Driver
    Driver required (Windows)

     
    X1 SERIES HISTORY
     
    I wasn’t aware how much history there was with the X1 until I’d read through some of the material on the website.  It was interesting enough to warrant listing in the review. The first generation was actually introduced in 2008, and there have been 5 releases in total for the series. With each generation, there have been improvements in features and technology, but with the X1S there has also been a definite change in style also.  From the 4th generation X1 to 5th generation X1S, there has also been advances in better SNR, lower THD, less crosstalk, and better support for higher res formats.
     
    x1sprogression.jpg
     
    BUILD / AESTHETICS / HEAT
     
    I guess I’m like many others on the forum – sound is most important to me, but I’m a sucker for a really good looking unit as well, and on the style front, the X1S is simple, elegant, and gorgeous.  The body is entirely anodised aluminium, and looks to be a seamless central chassis, with separate front and rear panels.
     
    The top of the unit is slightly concave – but this shouldn’t be a problem as this being a DAC and amp, most people won’t want to be stacking anyway.  The front panels sports a really easy to control analog pot on the right hand side which is nice to grip and tracks exceptionally well – totally smooth with no grabbing.  The indicator has a nice indent and is very easy to see exactly where the pot sits. In the center is a standard 6.3mm headphone in socket which is gold plated and fits very snugly. On the left hand side is the input switch – which has a green LED which indicates that the power is on, and also which input has been selected (USB, optical, coax and line-in). This switch also doubles as the input for the digital filters (which I’ll cover later in the review).
     
    Front face - text is actually a lot harder to read under real light
    Inputs (also doubles as filter indicators
    Volume knob (classy and with a really smooth action)


     
    My only gripe with the front panel on this unit is that the markings are excessively difficult to read (grey text on a silver anodised panel). This is something that should definitely be fixed at some stage.
     
    The rear panel has a 5 pin DIN socketed power cable on the left hand side, along with venting for the power supply.  There are also 3 pairs of RCA connectors – a pair of “audio in”, a pair of “audio out”, and a “coax in” and “coax out”. Next to this is the optical-in port, and on the far right is the on/off switch and USB plug socket. The USB socket takes a standard USB-B plug. The rear panel is quite clean, and easy to identify and plug.
     
    x1s17.jpg
    Rear panel with connector caps
    Rear panel
    Close up of power connector and venting


     
    The included USB cable is a very good one with gold connectors, well shielded, and is 1.5m in length. The power brick (15v adaptor) is large and almost as heavy as the X1S itself, weighing in at 800g. It has a cord length of 1.75 m from plug to adaptor, and then a further 0.95m from adaptor to DIN plug. This is worth mentioning because for my set-up, I had to have the bulky adaptor body on my desk – safely hidden behind my monitors – but there all the same.
     
    All in all, the build is very solid, very clean looking.  My one wish would be for clearer text on the front, and a smaller power adaptor. Even after a few hours use, the X1S has only been lukewarm to the touch – and barely registering above room temperature.
     
    DRIVERS, MANUAL, FILTERS, SUPPORTED RESOLUTIONS
     
    One thing I love about the Aune X1S is the inclusion of the memory key for both the manual and Windows drivers. The manual is easy to read and lists specifications, features and how-tos, along with measurements at the end (a nice touch).
     
    Sadly I couldn’t test the X1S with Mac as we don’t have one in the house.  I was able to test it with my Debian Linux netbook though, and after plugging, it was immediately recognised at kernel level (as an X1S USB DAC no less), and selectable as default.  Within less than a minute I was playing music over USB.  Very easy – no fuss.
     
    With Windows, I could immediately play via optical or coax with no drivers needed. For USB, I plugged the unit in, turned it on, and Windows came back telling me it needed drivers.  I ran the driver executable from the USB stick provided, and within less than 5 minutes I had the drivers installed and was playing music.  Again – very easy install.
     
    One thing to note though (and this may have been simply my older motherboard) the driver did not seem to play nicely with the iFi HD USB driver – so I had to uninstall one to use the other.  Not a big issue – but one worth noting.  With the driver properly installed I was able to set highest resolution at 24/384, and after configuring Foobar (I’ve done this before with the iDSD) play DSD files natively.  I also tested redbook, 24/96 and 24/195 files, and all played without issues.
     
    It took me a while to work out how to set the filters – there are three:
    1. Fast roll-off
    2. Slow roll-off
    3. Minimum phase
     
    x1s15.jpg
     
    To access them you simply press and hold the input button until the LED goes red, and then continue to hold, and it will cycle the first three lights. Stop pressing at the filter you want and it is activated. I tried the filter settings over a couple of hours, and there really was little difference between them – the first filter was a little less bright than the second one, so I left it set at slow roll-off for most of my testing. One thing I’d suggest to Aune for future would be to have a separate switch for activating the filters, and also a separate LED.  It would make things a lot easier – especially if each was labeled.  The current system is a little cumbersome.
     
    INPUTS AND OUTPUTS
     
    As advised previously, I tested optical, coax-in and USB, and all worked well.  Next to test was the line in, and also coax out.  For the line-in, I simply switched the spdif input to the iDSD, and ran some RCAs from it to the X1S. Easy to set-up, and instant music. I also tried this with my X3ii running as a player to the X1S amp, and this set-up worked incredibly well also.  The versatility so far has been very good.
     
    For the coax out, I tried several different ways to get this working – running to my iDSD, my NFB-12, even to the E17K. At no time could I get it working. I haven’t listed this as a negative anyway – as I can’t honestly see why I would ever want to run coax (digital) out through the X1S (ie use it as a pass through).  It honestly makes no sense to me why the RCA is even there. It is simply puzzling.
     
    Lastly, I ran the X1S as DAC, and then line out to my LD MKIV OTL tube. This set-up was very good, and every bit as enjoyable as when I use my iDSD in the same set-up. This would be an ideal set-up for someone on a budget – X1S > LD MKIV > HD600 = a really nice listening experience. For under $1000 dollars, this would give most people a very good fidelity system.  My only concern with this is that with the fixed line out on the X1S and no gain switch, the LD MKIV was running at around 15% of the total pot.  Any louder than 20% and things were getting uncomfortable.
     
    OUTPUT PERFORMANCE (POWER)
     
    For this exercise, I simply used the optical-in, Foobar playing a 24/96 album (Bob Dylan’s “Infidels”), and then cycled through all of the headphones I would normally use with my own gear – and compared them quickly with the iDSD to make sure there were no major changes in presentation.
     
    x1s18.jpg
     
    AKG K553 (32 ohm, 114 dB SPL)
    Comfortable listening level at around 9 o’clock on the pot for me. Very linear presentation.  The two devices sound very similar with the only noticeable difference being that the X1S might be very slightly brighter/leaner – but we are talking micro amounts.
     
    HD600 (300 ohm, 97 dB SPL)
    Comfortable listening level at around 10 o’clock on the pot for me. Again really nice neutral and detailed presentation.  Again the difference with the iDSD is that the iFi has a slightly warmer more organic tonality where the X1S seems to be a shade leaner and lighter.  Both sound great with the HD600 though.
     
    T1 (600 ohm, 102 dB SPL)
    Comfortable listening level at around 10.30 – 11.00  o’clock on the pot for me. This is a really nice pairing, and there is no doubt that the T1 are being driven well. Frequency balance is good, and bass presentation is clean and dynamic. Switching to the iDSD,a nd once again the major change is flavour rather than quality – with the iDSD again being a little more organic sounding and not quite so lean.
     
    JBL LSR 305 Active Speakers
    The X1S had no trouble driving my desktop monitors, and sounded pretty good with them.  My issue though is that the rear RCA is fixed, and there is no way of controlling them via the X1S volume control.  This is a pity – as it does make it a deal breaker for use as my main desk-top DAC/amp.  Both my iDSD and NFB-12 can run the speakers on variable volume control. With the X1S I’d have to use the Windows volume control. Workable – but not ideal.
     
    Dunu DN2000J IEMs (8 ohm, 102 dB SPL)
    I’m using these mainly because they are very sensitive and I wanted to see what the X1S 10ohm output impedance would do with the Dunu’s low 8 ohm impedance. First up – I couldn’t hear any hiss, so unless it was under my hearing threshold – tinnitus sometimes masks hiss for me), then the X1S definitely has a lovely black background. For this test, the pot is just under 9 o’clock, so there is enough play with more sensitive loads. Switching to the iDSD and it’s quite hard to say whether the change is impedance or simply more of the same difference in tonality.  Things don’t sound to different to me – just again the iDSD’s more organic sound.
     
    DIRECT COMPARISONS
     
    The next section is simply to compare the X1S very quickly with my other two desktop amps – the NFB-12 and iDSD.  With this test, I only used the HD600, and used optical in for all comparisons so I could switch very quickly.  I volume matched first using a 1 kHz test tone and SPL meter to level the playing field as much as possible.
     
    Vs NFB-12 - $235 USD from Audio-gd
    The NFB is a veritable powerhouse, and easily one of the most powerful amps in its price bracket. Compared to the X1S it is larger (so less small-desktop friendly), and my version has the filters set with jumpers (you have to open the case). The NFB-12 has all the inputs the X1S has except for a line-in. It does have a gain switch though, and has a variable out so that speakers can be used and controlled by the volume pot. It does not need a power adaptor. It does not play DSD, and its highest resolution over USB is 24/96. Sonically the NFB-12 sounds a little fuller, warmer, and richer than the X1S.  The X1S does sound slightly more detailed. Both have great balance and neutrality, and although their sound signatures are different, I’d find it hard to pick one I like more – both have their strengths. I think based on the more modern architecture, smaller footprint, and nicer aesthetics I’d choose the X1S – BUT – that decision would be reversed if I needed to run speakers.  Both are really good versatile sources.
     
    x1s19.jpg x1s20.jpg x1s21.jpg
    NFB-12, X1S and iDSD - profile view
    NFB-12, X1S and iDSD - side view
    NFB-12, X1S and iDSD - rear view

     

    Vs micro iDSD – $499 USD from most US agents
    The iDSD is one of the most configurable DAC/amps I have ever owned, and whilst not competing in the same ballpark as the Aune X1S it was going to be interesting to pitch them side by side. The iDSD has easier access and more configurability with filters and gain settings. It has essentially the same inputs and outputs as the X1S.  Both require drivers, and essentially play at the same resolutions – but the iDSD has higher DSD resolution capability. The iDSD is also more powerful, and does have the ability to control rear RCA out with the pot (for speakers). The iDSD has the smaller form factor, can be used portably, and is powered by USB. In side-by-side comparisons, the two units sound a lot more similar than the NFB-12 vs X1S. They have similar levels of overall resolution, with the X1S sounding very slightly thinner to me, whilst the iDSD is very slightly warmer and fuller.  Both have excellent detail presentation and clarity. The Aune X1S though is much cheaper, and presents a real value alternative for someone wanting sonics close to the iDSD, and doesn’t need a lot of it’s features.
     

    VALUE & CONCLUSION

    I’ve really enjoyed my week with the Aune X1S. Its level of detail, power, and configurability is fantastic for the low price it is being pitched at.  Throw in the beautiful aesthetics and form factor, and I do think Aune has a winner on their hands.
     
    The X1S would be an ideal unit for a second room, bedroom, holiday home, work place set-up, or for any budding audiophile starting out.  Sonically it is very neutral – maybe very slightly on the bright/lean side – but wonderful sounding with the headphones I have tested it on.
     
    It isn’t without its faults though – and I have listed them below as recommendations for changes in future.
     
    I would recommend this DAC/amp without question to someone who wants very good quality and sonics, but is maybe limited on available budget.
     
    RECOMMENDATIONS TO AUNE
     
    For future iterations I would suggest considering the following:
    1. Change the text on the silver unit to something with more contrast
    2. Add a variable line-out option (controlled by the pot) for those wanting to run active speakers.  This would need to be switchable (outputs) but I think it is the single most important feature missing.
    3. Add a gain switch to allow more use of the pot
    4. Add a separate switch and indicators for the filters
     
    FINAL THANKS
     
    My thanks go to Aune for giving me a chance to review the X1S.  It really is a wonderful unit and I look forward to seeing more products from Aune in the future.
     
    x1s13.jpg
      bilboda, pila405, djvkool and 10 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Brooko
      As I've replied to you in the X1S thread and on the other review - I directly asked the Aune rep on this forum.  He gave me the figures I used in my review. They are the correct measurements.
      Brooko, Apr 7, 2016
    3. DBaldock9
      I was wondering if a Midi extension cable (5-Pin DIN Socket to 5-Pin DIN Plug) would work to allow the power brick to be placed further from the X1S?
       
      If a Midi cable is too small of a wire gauge, then it should be fairly cheap & easy (for someone with a soldering iron) to assemble an appropriate "large gauge" extension cable.  5-Pin DIN plugs & sockets start at less than $1 each.
       
      Take Care,
      David Baldock
      DBaldock9, May 14, 2016
    4. Brooko
      Hi David - good idea.  In the meantime we are using the X1S on a secondary PC, and because it has an appropriate shelf, we're having no issues with the "brick".
      Brooko, May 15, 2016
  10. hakushondaimao
    Aune X1S: The Little DAC that CAN!
    Written by hakushondaimao
    Published Sep 11, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Clean, honest, detailed, natural sound; compact size; design and build quality; ease of use
    Cons - None I could find; I don’t own one
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    Have you ever seen one of those videos on Facebook where they show a deaf kid or baby with a new cochlear implant who hears sound for the first time? I’ve seen a few of them, and the script is always the same:
    • Faffing around getting things hooked up, checking everything is in working order. Baby or kid looks nonchalant, or uncomfortable with all the activity and attention and wires and stuff.
    • Sound is turned on. Doctor and parent(s) look on expectantly. Little person looks confused, perplexed, uncertain of what’s happening as this new sensation registers.
    • Something clicks that what is happening is a good thing… a very good thing. Smile gradually takes hold, first with a mild upturn at the edges of the lips, and then taking over the whole mouth, eyes, face, until joy radiates in unfettered abundance.
    • Fade out… feeling warm and fuzzy… The End.
     
    Something like this scenario happened to me this weekend. Well, steps 1-3 anyway; there was no fade out. Was I deaf and did I get a cochlear implant? No… nothing like that, but I did get to experience the X1S DAC/Amp from Aune Audio, and I was left with a grin from ear to ear. Okay, the experience wasn’t as extreme as hearing for the first time, but I will say I was blown away by the sonic performance of this rather small, inexpensive piece of desktop audio gear.
     
    Now I’ve had several days to enjoy the X1S, I’m still very impressed with the sound it pumps out, and how well it plays with every headphone and IEM I’ve thrown at it. And that leads us to this review.
     
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    Disclaimer: I applied for and was selected by Aune to be part of their worldwide review tour. Five reviewers will receive a free X1S, but it is unclear at the time of writing whether this will be decided based on review quality (however that might be perceived) or as a random draw; that said, I pride myself on honesty, and would not write a positive review in the hopes of receiving an item I didn’t like at no charge.
     
    About Me
     
    Before getting into the review, a little about me. I’m 50 verging on 51, and so probably have deficiencies in my hearing (in a recent, entirely non-scientific test I discovered I can’t really hear anything over about 15 kHz, with roll-of starting around 12 or 13 kHz, which I guess is pretty good for someone of my vintage but not perfect). I’ve been a music lover for decades, but am still relatively new to the MidFi/HiFi/Head-Fi game; I haven’t listened to a lot of high-end equipment (yet), and am not an expert on the technical aspects of electronics or musical terminology. I have read a lot of reviews and threads on Head-Fi, and spend a lot of time on the site; as such I know what has been helpful to me in reviews and endeavor to provide what I consider useful insights to help others make decisions about items they are thinking about trying or buying.
     
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    I listen to a variety of music genres, in particular, Classical (mostly mid 1700s to mid/late 1800s), Jazz (‘50s to 70’s), Rock and some Prog-Rock (‘70s), ‘80s New Wave/Electro, and Trip Hop/Acid Jazz (90’s into 00’s). My preferred sound signature would be characterized by a good sub-bass presence, tight mid bass, and relatively linear, detailed mids and highs. I like my music quite lush and rich, but with a good level of detail. I’m not a bass-head, am not a big fan of anything too boomy, and don’t like highs that are too intense or harsh.
     
    I have limited experience with desktop audio equipment, having only recently purchased my first desktop DAC/Amp (the Audio-GD NFB-15). In addition I have had a brief time with a couple of DACs from Yulong and Matrix. The bulk of my headphone music listening has been with portable equipment, and I certainly don’t consider myself in any way expert in DAC performance or the various DAC chips currently available.
     
    About the X1S
     
    The X1S is an attractive and relatively small piece of equipment. It comes in black or silver, and I received a black unit for review. Build quality is solid and to high tolerances; everything fits together very well, there are no unsightly gaps or mismatched joints or edges, and no give or rattle to control elements.
     
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    The front of the unit is simply laid out, with input selector (for USB, optical, coaxial or line) on the left, 6.5mm headphone jack in the centre, and volume pot on the right. The input selector button is firm, with no looseness. The selector doubles as a filter switch, with long touches switching modes between fast roll-off, slow roll-off and minimum phase filter modes. I used the fast roll-off setting throughout my listening tests. The volume pot is large and moves smoothly, offering good resistance but still easy to adjust.
     
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    The rear of the unit is relatively busy due to the X1S’ small size. There are a lot of inputs and outputs to accommodate, but layout makes sense and is well labelled. From left to right one finds power input, RCA audio in (left and right), RCA audio out (left and right), RCA coaxial in and out, optical in, and USB in with power switch directly above.
     
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    The top of the unit is very slightly curved so not really suitable for stacking anything on, though with the X1S’ small size, the unit is likely to be top of anything it might be stacked with. If using a portable DAP as source, curvature isn’t a problem as it is only very slight. Sides are grooved in a modern make-over that pays homage to the shape of earlier “X” models but puts the X1S firmly in 2015 from a design standpoint.
     
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    Specifications (from PDF manual included with device):
    1. USB: Supports 32BIT/384K DSD128
    2. Coaxial and optical: Supports 24Bit/192K
    3. Digital coaxial out: Supports 24Bit/192K
    4. Output voltage (@ 0dB): 2.1 Vrms
    5. Frequency response (from 20 Hz to 20 kHz): ±0.1dB
    6. Dynamic range: 126dB
    7. THD+N @ 1KHz: -110dB
    8. IMD+N @ 19KHz & 20KHz: -110dB
    9. Stereo crosstalk: -112dB
    10. Headphone output: 300 ohm/80MW
    11. Size of product: 145mm x 45mm x 190mm (including volume pot and rear RCA inputs)
    12. Net Weight: 2kg
    13. Components: X1s, Power adapter, Manual (on USB stick), USB cable, 6.5mm to 3.5mm headphone adapter
     
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    The Aune X1S Sound
     
    Listening was performed with a variety of headphones, both over ear (R70x, K7XX, HD598, and MSR7) and IEM (Noble 6 and Heaven VII). For source during general listening I used my MacBook Air with iTunes via USB. Comparisons were done with the Audio-GD NFB-15 and Yulong D200, using Aune S18 Digital Transport via optical as source. All music files were Redbook quality ALAC, ripped from CDs.
     
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    Tracks used:
    1. alt-J – Ms (from An Awesome Wave) for male vocals and instrumental balance.
    2. Al Di Meola – Mediterranean Sundance (from Elegant Gypsy) for soundstage and detail.
    3. Albeniz – Iberia (Alicia De Larrocha) for detail.
    4. Cannonball Adderley – One For Daddy-O (from Somethin’ Else) for comparisons with D200.
    5. Dire Straits – Communiqué (from Communiqué) for mids and highs.
    6. Dvořák – Symphony No. 9 “From The New World” (Carlo Maria Giulini, Philharmonia Orchestra) for detail and soundstage.
    7. Massive Attack – Weather Storm (from Protection) for sub-bass.
    8. Pearl Jam – Jeremy (from Ten) for detail and balance, and vocals.
    9. Sade - Bullet Proof Soul (from Love Deluxe) for sub-bass and female vocals.
    10. Simply Red – Sad Old Red (from Picture Book) for vocals, and mids and highs.
    11. Steve Winwood – Spanish Dancer (from Arc Of A Diver) for detail.
    12. Steely Dan – Hey Nineteen (from Gaucho) for comparison with NFB-15.
    13. Other tracks also used, though not referred to in the review.
     
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    General Impressions
     
    Bass: Bass goes low and has good crunch to it, with satisfying, visceral quality, and sub-bass felt in the pit of the stomach. Speed and transients are delivered honestly, with quick attack and natural decay.
     
    Mids and Highs: Clarity and detail are the name of the game. Piano, sax, guitar and toms sound clean and realistic, both in their lower and upper registers. High hats and cymbals have good shimmer to them. Transients are quick, clear and lively. Definition and articulation in middle and upper registers is excellent.
     
    Vocals: Male and female vocals are gorgeous.  They are neither dominated by nor dominating of instruments and other musical elements. Voices are clear, pure and true to the recording, and sibilance is curtailed. Sade, Norah Jones, Beth Hart, Stevie Nicks, Mick Hucknall, Eddie Vedder, Mark Knopfler… whoever the singer, whether vocally textured, smooth, rough or clear, they sound natural and real, like who they are.
     
    Sonic Balance: With every track and every headphone, balance was natural and realistic. There were very few points where I felt any instrument or frequency was over-emphasized or subdued, and I’d venture those times were due not to the X1S but to the nature of the headphone used. If it’s in the track and the headphone is capable of playing it, you’ll hear it.
     
    Detail: To me this is an area where the X1S excels. Each sound is delivered cleanly and clearly, with great texture. Solo guitars and solo piano are delivered with clear realism and a strong sense of sting contact and vibration. Complex pieces – rock, jazz and classical – come through cleanly and clearly, with sparkle on high and thump down low.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging: Sense of space and air is impressive, with X1S pushing headphones to their limits with all genres of music. With classical, in quiet passages the vastness of the hall and distance of the players can be felt, with a sense of blackness and emptiness pierced intimately by the instruments. In louder, more energetic passages, intimacy is replaced with dynamic energy; the players are no longer distant, but space – depth, width and height – remains. Instrument position is accurate, both left-right and front-back.
     
    Hiss: The X1S is dark. No hiss at all with any of the cans or IEMs I tried. Just a vacuum of deep-space silence.
     
    Comparisons
     
    Since I have a couple of other desktop DACs on hand, I decided to pit them against each other. I find comparisons help me pick out finer details of sound delivery as differences are easier to discern then sonic nuances in absolute terms.
     
    X1S vs. NFB-15: The X1S has no gain, so what you get on the volume pot is what you get on the volume pot. Even though only rated at 300 Ohms, X1S drives the R70x (470 Ohm) emphatically and robustly at around half-past-one on the pot (just over half volume; pot zeroes at 8 o’clock and reaches max at 6 o’clock). For equivalent volume, NFB-15 on High Gain is at 10 o’clock on a pot that goes from 6 o’clock to about four-thirty. Both seem to have ample power to drive more power-hungry cans. Both units sound excellent, and very close in sound signature, with natural, realistic presentation. X1S is slightly leaner and cleaner, and NFB-15 fuller. NFB bass is slightly rounder and smoother, and mids very slightly more strident and forward, with a harder attacking edge. Overall X1S is more laid back and NFB more dynamic, but the difference is minimal and only really evident after repeated switching back-and-forth.
     
    X1S vs. D200: Similar to the NFB-15, I found the D200 just a bit fuller and more dynamic, and X1S leaner and cleaner. Differences were subtle.
     
    Bass: Bass goes low and has good crunch to it. With R70x and Noble 6, the bass line running throughout “Weather Storm” has a satisfying, visceral quality, with sub-bass felt in the pit of the stomach. With the Heaven VII there is some roll-off, bass quantity is lacking, but quality is there, very tight, heart-beat-like, though less dynamic and sub-bass muted (though if I weren’t comparing, I wouldn’t feel dissatisfied with the bass quality). Similarly in “Bullet Proof Soul,” the Heaven VII lacks the deep sub-bass, but mid bass has a tight, punchy quality with short, sharp attack and quick decay. The Noble 6 adds back in the gut-punching sub-bass… full and physical on top of (below?) the mid-bass quality, though a touch looser.
     
    Mids and Highs: Clarity and detail are the name of the game. Piano, sax, guitar and toms sound clean and realistic, both in their lower and upper registers. In “Communiqué,” Noble 6 sounds magnificent. Transients of guitar are quick and twangy, especially in the high notes. Drums (toms, high hat), piano and handclaps sound clear and lively. Bass response is round and impactful, without bleeding into mids. With HD598, overall sound in “Communiqué” is drier (bass under-represented), but definition and articulation in middle and upper registers is excellent. HD598 also delivers for “Sad Old Red,” with crashing cymbals, tingy high hat, rattly snare, plinky-plonky piano and wailing sax distinct and crystal clear.
     
    Vocals: Male and female vocals are gorgeous.  They are neither dominated by nor dominating of instruments and other musical elements. Voices are clear, pure and true to the recording. In “Ms,” K7XX and Heaven VII here share a clarity and realism that is hyper-engaging. In “Bullet Proof Soul” (again with Heaven VII and K7XX), Sade’s vocal is balanced with the rest of the track, with open, airy, textured quality. In “Sad Old Red,” Mick Hucknall’s throaty, soulful voice comes though beautifully via both HD598 and Heaven VII, bright and textured. At around 3’00’’ Hucknall belts it a bit at the upper end of his range, which can be piercing and sibilant through some equipment; here it is bright but not harsh, very nice. Heaven VII especially hits the sweet spot. In “Jeremy,” Eddie Vedder’s dynamic, throaty, textured vocal shines clearly through the noise with MSR7, edging on harshness but avoiding sibilance.
     
    Sonic Balance: With every track and every phone, balance was natural and realistic. There were very few points where I felt any instrument or frequency was over-emphasized or subdued, and I’d venture those times were due not to the X1S but to the headphones used. If it’s in the track and the headphone is capable of playing it, you’ll hear it. In “Jeremy,” an energetic, grungy track, balance between vocal and instruments is excellent with the MSR7. Vedder’s wailing vocal blends with but is distinctive from the crunching guitars, pounding drums and thumping bass. This is a piece that can sound noisy, but here it is musical and presents as a cohesive whole.
     
    Detail: To me this is an area where the X1S excels. Each sound is delivered cleanly and clearly, with great texture. Each string pluck is crystal clear and distinct in the flamenco duet, “Mediterranean Sundance.” K7XX and HD598 deliver both string vibration and touch of hands on strings and knocks on guitar bodies; dynamics, attack, decay are natural and impactful. Detail with K7XX perhaps focused on the treble while HD598 more mid-centric, though neither feels lacking in mid or treble detail. Piano tone and musicality is wonderful in the “Iberia” suite; right-hand notes are bright and sparkling, with left-hand notes having depth and sustained sound without overpowering or engulfing the upper end; each note is clear and discernable. In “Spanish Dancer” there’s lots going on, with interplay and intricate little side-runs of bass, keyboard and synths, drums and vocals; with R70x, all is delivered cleanly and clearly, with sparkle on high and thump down low. Likewise the MSR7 delivers, though leaner in the bass and brighter in the mids and treble, and clarity taken up a notch. In Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, clarity and definition are beautifully rendered by the K7XX. Throughout the piece there is intimacy in the quiet passages and real power to crescendos, and instruments can be heard clearly and distinctly – here a flute, there a clarinet, over to the left a chorus of violins, over to the right plucked cellos and basses – while at the same time sound intermingles and blends musically above the orchestra.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging: Sense of space and air is impressive. K7XX and HD598 are both known for good soundstage, and the X1S pushes them to their limits. With K7XX and HD598, closing my eyes for “Mediterranean Sundance” I’m transported to a stone chapel, with Di Meola and De Lucia sat several feet in front of me. There is depth and height to the sound with realistic atmospherics as sound bounces back in from the walls, moreso with K7XX but evident with HD598 as well. In Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony and with K7XX, hall dynamics add to the experience of the music itself. In quiet passages, the vastness of the hall and distance of the players can be felt, with a sense of blackness and emptiness pierced intimately by the instruments. In louder, more energetic passages, intimacy disappears, replaced with dynamic energy; the players are no longer distant, but the space – depth, width and height – remains. Instrument position is accurate, both left-right and front-back. With Noble 6 and the same piece, the vastness of the hall in absolute terms is diminished, though instrument placement is still there, as is sonic depth.
     
    Hiss: The X1S is DARK. No hiss at all with any of the cans or IEMs I tried. Just a vacuum of deep-space silence.
     
    Comparisons
     
    X1S vs. NFB-15: The X1S has no gain, so what you get on the volume pot is what you get on the volume pot. X1S drives the R70x (my lovely 470 Ohm friend) emphatically and robustly at around half-past-one on the pot (which is just over half volume as the pot zeroes at 8 o’clock and reaches maximum at 6 o’clock). For equivalent volume, NFB-15 on High Gain is at 10 o’clock on a pot that goes from 6 o’clock to about four-thirty. Both would seem to have ample power to drive more power-hungry cans. Both units sound excellent, and very close in sound signature, with natural, realistic presentation. Listening to “Hey Nineteen” via R70x, X1S is slightly leaner and cleaner, and NFB-15 fuller. NFB bass is a touch rounder and smoother, but just a smidgeon, and mids very slightly more strident and forward, with a harder attacking edge evident in the guitar and piano, and vocals more prominent. Overall X1S is more laid back and NFB more dynamic, but the difference is minimal and only really evident after repeated switching back-and-forth.
     
    X1S vs. D200: Similar to the NFB-15, the D200 is ever so slightly fuller and more dynamic, and X1S leaner and cleaner. Listening to “One For Daddy-O” via K7XX, X1S displays tight, quick bass, sax is bright and clean, trumpet brilliant, piano natural and sparkly and high hat shimmers and sparkles. With the D200, sax and trumpet are rounder and smoother, bass is fuller, piano slightly dulled, like dampers on, and high hat drier and less shimmery.
     
    Conclusions
     
    The X1S is an attractive, sleek little box that carries a big punch. It’s easy to use, with almost no learning curve at all. I was very impressed with its sound quality and sound stage. I don’t have a lot of desk room so space-saving is key, and I’d love to pair it with the X5 Mk. II DSD Player for a beautiful desktop set-up with small footprint.
     
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    I found sound output dependent on cans or IEMs used, in that the X1S drives headphones to their full potential without adding colour or falling short sonically; if it’s in the music and the headphone is capable of producing it, the X1S will bring the sounds out.
     
    At a retail price of around US$290, I think the X1S is a steal, and well worth considering if you’re looking for a design-conscious, compact DAC/Amp that delivers clean, clear, detailed, natural sound together with great soundstage. I’m certainly very tempted to purchase one myself!
    1. RedJohn456
      Awesome review! Looks like another solid offering from Aune. First the B1 and now this. They are on a roll
      RedJohn456, Sep 11, 2015
    2. hakushondaimao
      @RedJohn456: Thanks Tamal. You're right... some quality coming outta Aune at the moment. To me the X1S trumps the B1 on build quality (no plastic buttons), but both sound excellent.
      hakushondaimao, Sep 11, 2015