Pros: Neutral and accurate sound signature
Good driving power
Good option of inputs and outputs
Cons: Not very engaging sound signature
Aune X1s Pro
Disclaimer: The unit has been sent to me from Headphone Zone India as a part of a review circle. I am not working for Headphone Zone and I am not being paid or influenced otherwise to say anything positive or negative about this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Aune Audio is a Chinese audio brand and is pretty common amongst audiophile community for their previous products. They are known for their outstanding build quality, high performance but at a budget friendly price point. Aune X1s Pro is the 7th generation of their X1 range. It is a desktop grade DAC that comes with various input options.
The Aune X1s Pro comes in a hardcover packaging. There is a white paper cover with the unit displayed on it and features listed. At the back we have detailed information about the product.
Inside the box, we get the DAC, power DC adapter with removable cable, USB Cable Type A to Type B, 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter, a setup mini cd and some documentation.
Design and Build Quality
The Aune X1s Pro is a pretty compact device for a desktop DAC. The build quality is good, the chassis is made up of thick aluminum with a matte finish. My unit is black in color. At the front we have the input button to toggle between various inputs, four led lights to indicate the active input, the 6.3mm output port and the volume knob. The volume knob is also made up of aluminum, it is quite big but smooth. I didn’t notice any channel imbalance even at lowest audible volume.
At the back, we have the DC power input port, USB B input, power switch, Coax input, Optical Input, Line in and Line out.
The top of the Aune X1s pro is slightly curved and if you are thinking of stacking something on top of it, I don’t think that would be good idea. At the side we have the concavely curved projections at both sides. Overall, the build quality of the Aune X1s Pro looks pretty solid, its heavy but can be easily moved. The connectors, volume knob, input switch everything looks pretty premium and should be durable.
Inside the Aune X1s Pro, we have dual ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M DAC chip capable of decoding:
USB: 32bit/768k for PCM and DSD512
COAX: 24bit/384k for PCM and DoP128
OPT: 24bit/192k for PCM and DoP64
The sound signature on X1s Pro is balanced with not much emphasis on any of the frequencies. The sound is neutral in nature and doesn’t have any noticeable coloration.
It has ESS Sabre DAC chip inside it. We have seen across many other devices with the same chip; however, the implementation varies and hence the sound signature varies slightly too but the characteristics remains the same. X1s pro is fairly linear in terms of sound signature.
Lows: The lows are quite good on the X1s pro, the quantity is appropriate and has decent resolution. The bass extension is good too. Bass heavy tracks doesn’t sound overwhelming, drums, bass guitar and cellos sound natural and decent.
Mids: The mids stay pretty natural. There isn’t any special emphasis on mids and aren’t too forward, and that is something I like, I am not a fan of mid forward or mid focused signature. The vocals sound natural and aren’t shouty on any tracks that I have tried. I didn’t notice any bass bleed into the mids and its not likely as bass quantity is also not that high. The mids aren’t very engaging and is particularly attributed to the darker tonality of the DAC.
Highs: The highs are pretty accurate sounding, good amount of details and decent air. They aren’t sibilant at all infact they are smooth sounding. Even with Sundara I didn’t find and bright characteristics to the sound. However, the highs do carry the Sabre DAC signature and sound kind of clinical and lacks sparkle. It is more about the preference though and the pairing with headphones and the kind of music one listens to.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation: The soundstage is decently wide and has decent height too. It felt more like a two-dimensional presentation rather than a holographic one. The imaging is fairly accurate and works well with most type of genres. The layering is good to and doesn’t struggle for most music. In an absolutely busy track the sound layering might suffer but that is again depending on the headphone we are using. For something like Sundara, we do get a good support from the headphone to survive through such busy tracks.
Conclusion: Now, lets be direct here. Is the X1s Pro the best sounding DAC I have ever heard? No, but it surely does really good for the price. The accuracy in the sound and fairly natural presentation is definitely worth the price. The Aune X1s Pro also packs quite some power and are able to drive HD650 to decent levels and something like Sundara are easier. It would do good for most efficient headphones, hard to drive IEMS and earbuds. The tonality being balanced is easier to pair up with most of the headphones. The sound is dark and smooth but isn’t much engaging. Overall, I believe the Aune X1s Pro offer a really good performance and punches above the price.