Aune X1s Pro

REVIEW – Aune X1s Pro Desktop AMP/DAC








Specifications





Price: U$D 299 / € 299.

Available in Black or Silver colors.

Credits to Aune Audio for arranging the X1s Pro for the long review time.




The Aune X1s Pro arrives in a standard box. An outer paperboard cover with a picture of the X1s Pro unit with the main features at the front and all the technical specifications at the back. The box is all black cardboard, simple with no fancy presentation. The unit itself is placed at the upper layer held by a thick foam material, and underneath all the included needed accessories – a power DC adapter with removable cable, USB cable of Type A to Printer plugs (Type B), mini-CD with the drivers and manual, and 6.35mm to 3.5mm adapter as the X1s Pro only has 6.35mm analog output. Extra optical and RCA cables might have been useful, but not really missing for the entry level device.




Design

As part of the Aune X series for desktop use, and more specifically the X1 Amp&DAC line, the X1s Pro is fairly transportable and relatively compact device. It has the right dimensions to be used with personal computers or notebooks without occupying too much space, or can be stacked along a more dedicated desktop audio player and then connected to speakers to complete a full audio setup.

Build quality is very good, with the whole external chassis made by very thick aluminum in a matte finish, and in this case, all black color. The design is elegant and discreet. The top part is not flat, instead it has a slight curve from the right to left sides; the result is nicer, though may not be most favorable when having it stacked with another device atop of it. At the bottom part there four feet with fixed silicone covers in order to protect the device and prevent it from sliding. Also, weighting about 2kg it is easy to carry and switch with different sources. The only thing I do not like is the rough surface finish which may also be prone to scratches.


As can be seen, the layout is pretty simple and well arranged. On the front panel there is a single button that works to switch between the four different inputs, USB, optical, coaxial, and line-in, and also to toggle between the three audio filters supported by the X1s Pro. A dedicated button for the filters modes would have been more convenient, but those who do not care about the so subtle changes can easily overlook this. There is a LED light over each input to indicate the selected one. It should be noted that the device will always start on the USB input as default; a minor issue. At the middle of the panel there is the headphone jack, limited to a single-ended 6.35mm plug only. And to the right side, there is the large round volume knob. It works very well, not loose and not too tight either, with a smooth volume adjustment that suits nice to more sensitive gears.


The real panel is just more populated with all the multiple connections supported by the X1s. Each one is labeled so it is more than self-explanatory. The power button and DC power input are aligned together. In the middle there are the coaxial, optical and USB input sockets. The USB is a printer USB type (aka Type B), and clueless why hasn’t it been updated to a more modern type. The Optical port is well covered too. And lastly, the RCA connections, right and left, for both line-in and line-out. Do note that the 3 inputs support different bit, sampling and DSD rates – the numbers are good, considering the price and entry level of a desktop device. Worth mentioning that it is possible to control the volume on the different inputs with the volume knob, while the line-out has a fixed volume.


The DAC chip inside is a dual Sabre ES9018K2M. Nothing new on the audio world, and already implemented on previous Aune devices. It supports three filters modes, standard ones, Fast and Slow roll-off and Apodizing Fast.

The setup is very easy. While there is a mini-CD for driver installation to be used as USB DAC, there was no need for it when paired with a Win10 system. Also, with Android DAPs like the HiBy R6 Pro and iBasso DX220, and even with a Shanling M5s, the connectivity is solid enough.



Sound Impressions

Headphones and Earphones:
Dita Audio Twins; final E4000, E5000, B1; Sendy Audio Aiva; Meze Audio 99 Classics; Custom Art Fibae Black; final Sonorous II; SoundMAGIC Vento P55; VE Zen 2.

Sources:
iBasso DX220 and HiBy R6 Pro (both with USB & Coaxial), Asus Notebook (Win10), Shanling M5s.
Amp/DAC: xDuoo XD-05 & XD-10 (Poke)

As the new model for the entry level Amplifier & DAC line, the X1 Pro uses the Sabre ES9038Q2M dual DAC chip. It is not to the specific DAC used but the implementation of it, and even though different sources may use a same chip the sonic results are not obliged to be same or even similar. Technical abilities are still shared, and so the limitations.

The X1s Pro is not intended to compete with more dedicated devices, but still for an entry-fi it is a solid option, at least as a desktop yet transportable solution. As such, it is has plenty of power for easy to drive gears and well matched for moderately demanding ones. Not best suited for very sensitive earphones, like IEMs with low impedance (multiple BA or hybrids), or at least not with the source volume set very high. And on the other hand, the X1s Pro would not be enough for very hard to drive headphones. Not for the lack of volume, but more exactly for not reaching the best dynamic range and speed. It simply shows best synergy with dynamic drivers based earphones and headphones.

Subjectively, the X1s Pro Amp/DAC offers fairly linear sound presentation. It is not completely neutral, though. But there is no real coloration or much emphasis on a very specific region. The device may be lacking Bass or Treble gains, however it is not missing any in terms of overall balance. The tonality is a bit towards the cool side of things, trying to show more technical characteristics than musicality or emotion on the sound. Not to be mistaken as flat or analytical, because it definitely is not, rather being more dry sounding and uncolored. Even so, a slight emphasis on the low-end is present. It becomes very obvious when going from headphones light bass sets to heavier ones. If something is very neutral, then it can be slightly north of neutral, and with warmer sets the bass will be more forward and powerful, and in occasions even annoying.
For example, the final B3 with 2 BA units and the Dita Audio Fidelity can sound a little fuller on the bass, while the E5000 and Meze 99 Classics will get too much emphasis, sounding less natural and refined.
Bass quality is actually good, considering the entry level of the Aune X series. There is good extension and depth with fine separation. Resolution is decent but not the best for most busy tracks, and speed is just moderate for a desktop amplifier.
The midrange is very clean. The slight emphasis on the bass does not add warmth nor does it affect the quality here, maybe a touch darker in tonality. It is so very linear, pretty neutral if a bit more forward, though the colder tone is easier to notice. The final E4000, Dita Fealty, Fibae Black and the Meze 99 headphones are good examples for the trade of richness and sweetness from the X1s Pro over more technical detail and sharper separation. The sound is full, though it tends to be rather dry sounding.

The treble has very good quality. There isn’t the emphasis as on the lows, and actually can sound smoother, bringing a slight darker tone to the presentation. It is easily noticed with brighter sets like the Sendy Aiva and the Dita Fidelity, both which have a brighter signature, and with the X1s Pro sound more subdued. It is not a bad thing per-se, because the X1s Pro shows very good control on the treble. The extension doesn’t feel limited at all and the micro detail retrieval does stand out as well as treble resolution. Not the very organic treble, which is not unusual for Sabre chips based DACs at more affordable prices, but yes it is airy and very clean.
The presentation is what would expected on a desktop amplifier, large and spacious. There is more width than depth and a sharper right and left channels differentiation.

Parings:

Meze 99 Classics
Bass is stronger than what I was used with the 99 Classics and the midrange less engaging, especially on vocals missing texture. The treble is nicer even though smoother and less sparkly, but the control is very good, something that 99 Classics really benefit from. For classical and similar music the pairing is very favorable with a clean instruments separation. Violins and brass instruments sound particularly good. Not for pop, rock or electronic genres, though.

Dita Audio Fidelity
From the two Twins in-ear models, the Fidelity has better synergy with the X1s than the Fealty. There is a little, yet very favorable gain on the bass and extra fullness on the midrange, and with the smoother treble it turns out more balanced even despite missing the sparkle and energy of the brighter Fidelity.

SoundMagic Vento P55
Similar good performance as above with the Dita Fidelity, but more bass power with a noticeable mid-bass lift. Smoother on the treble and thicker on the midrange. Quite ‘fun’ to listen with the larger soundstage, but of course missing the portability as an on-ear set.

For planar headphones, I could only try the Sendy Aiva. A rather efficient planar set but still needs the power and quality to sound best. The X1s Pro is not enough for the Aiva. Yes, it can sound loud enough and the treble is very well controlled; but, it is the speed and dynamics that are missing here as well as the so high detail the Aiva are capable of.

Venture Electronics (VE) Zen 2.0
A very demanding earphones with 320 ohms of impedance and somehow depending on the source tonality. With the X1s Pro there were no issues with power. Speed and resolution are very good too. The stage is wide. The presentation gains more energy on the bass with a thicker midrange, and treble a tad smooth but very detailed.

Value
Priced at $300, the Aune X1s Pro is a solid offer for an introductory desktop option. The multiple inputs option is a plus, though the device lacks the balanced output alternative, and is limited to only a 6.35mm plug. Sound-wise, it goes rather linear with very a slight gain on the lows, with a dry midrange and smoother and well controlled highs. It certainly is powerful for moderate to a bit more demanding gears, and plays best with dynamic drivers based sets.

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