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Aune S8 Balanced DAC Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC. It was kingly sent to me by the company a few weeks ago. I searched but could not find any pricing or availability online. Hopefully they were not waiting for my review to release it. :)

The Aune S8 has a similar design language to the rest of the Aune products with slightly curved up and slanted sides:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Audio Review.jpg

In white, it looks quite striking and a departure from its competitors.

The large and detailed high resolution display is also quite attractively designed. Filter settings can be instantly rotated through for those of you who want to mess with that. A remote control is provided which is typical of the breed.

The back panel is as you would expect:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Back Panel Connectors Inputs Audio Review.jpg

My overall impression is positive.

Audio DAC Measurements
As usual, we start with our dashboard view of 1 kHz tone with output adjusted to nearest 4.0 volt from XLR connectors. USB input is used:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Audio Measurements.png


Frequency is right on the money at 1 kHz to 5 decimal places. Distortion is below threshold of audibility at -120 dB. Some mains spikes are visible. They are below -130 dB but curious that they are there given the balanced output.

The combination of noise and distortion create a SINAD of 116 dB which places the S8 in the top 10 DACs tested regardless of price:

Best Balanced USB DAC 2020 Review.png


Dynamic range is just shy of state-of-the-art:
Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Jitter and noise performance (over USB) is excellent:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Jitter Audio Measurements.png


32-tone test signal resembling "music" shows very low distortion levels as well:
Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Linearity is near perfection:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Intermodulation and noise relative to signal is very good sans our old friend, the ESS DAC chip rise in distortion at mid levels:
Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC IMD Audio Measurements.png


Maybe Aune can tune the design as others have done to eliminate this.

Filters are just numbered from 0 on:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Dynamic Range Filter Audio Measurements.png


Post running the above test, I noticed that filter 0 rejects ultrasonics better.

Finally, there is THD+N versus frequency:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC THD vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


I was surprised by this rise in distortion with frequency above 500 Hz. Analysis of the spectrum showed both harmonic distortion and aliasing due to filter setting.

Thermal Stability
Performance seems quite solid from cold to operating temperature:

Aune S8 Balanced USB DAC Warm Up Measurements.png


Above is with lower output voltage so don't worry about the SINAD being lower than the dashboard.

Conclusions
The Aune S8 shows off its good looks which sets it up above many of its competitors. From engineering point of view, it is just shy of the best of the best. Audibly that won't matter and the performance is still good enough to land in top 10.

Overall, I can recommend the Aune S8 DAC.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

To economize as much as I can, when I want fast food, I go to Burger King and get the Whopper Junior Hamburger. This sandwich used to fill me up but now Burger King has made it smaller to the point where it is just 3 to 4 bites and it is gone! :( So reluctantly I have to get full size Whopper now which costs more money. Or be hungry after lunch. Help me not be hungry after lunch by donating a few dollars using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

JohnYang1997

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#9
Thanks for the review, Amir.

Seems to be a decent but not impressive product given the release time. It's 2020 already!

I'm actually a little surprised that jitter performance is better than their own measurements.

The price in China is 4399 rmb, roughly 630 usd. Should be a bit higher when you actually get it. So it's certainly a flagship product. For the price, I don't think it's that competitive. SGD1 gives much better all round performance for a lower price and at similar price you can get DX7pro which is basically a flawless design as a DAC (hp amp is a bit useless to be fair but the price).
 

anmpr1

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#10
How can vapor ware be recommended? Is this thing even a thing? If a product is readily available I understand it. But for 'pre-production' items, I just don't understand the benefit of spending time with it. Unless it is something that is so over the top in performance that you really want to get the word out. For something just 'pretty good' what's the point?

PS: Went to their Web store and received a "potential security threat" warning. I don't know what that's about, but it doesn't sound good.
 

anmpr1

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#14
No issues here, http://en.auneaudio.com/. Maybe your web browser is just complaining because its not HTTPS.
I think aune ought to hire someone who can configure their site for at least a modicum of basic security. Or maybe the browsers have it all wrong.
Maybe it's just a firefox/brave thing. I tried it in MS IE (that bastion of security! LOL) and got the same message.

1581787598479.png
 

anmpr1

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#15
By the way Aune is located a Wuhan, the most affected area of Coronavirus.
Then I definitely wish them well. Wuhan is evidently ground zero, so all living there need to take as many precautions as they can. Life is more precious than a good measuring DAC, or a properly configured Web address. That much is certain.
 

anmpr1

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#17
I had the same thought. It's fine to show the measurements in absolute terms. But recommendation depends on value relative to other offerings in the market, so I'd expect it to depend in part on price.
On an absolute basis, I've always thought that anything that is best can be sold for the best price. Obviously this may easily conflate into 'opportunism', however there are bragging rights that adhere (and cannot be denied) to the best. One can then make a purchasing decision based on whether they a) want the best and b) are willing to pay the asking price.

Il meglio è l'inimico del bene... The best is the enemy of the good. But it works the other way around, too. The fact is that eventually someone will learn how to make something as good as (or better than) the best for less dollars. Then, it's Goodbye Charlie for what once was. That is why I appreciate companies like Benchmark. They make 'the best' amplifier, yet sell it for much less than top dollar. Can anyone accuse them of opportunism? Look at Topping. They practically give away close to the best.

What I cannot understand or get behind are outfits (you know the names) who produce average to less than average for top dollar prices.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #18
I had the same thought. It's fine to show the measurements in absolute terms. But recommendation depends on value relative to other offerings in the market, so I'd expect it to depend in part on price.
I recommended the Mola Mola even though it barely broke out to top spot at a cost multiples of the next one down.

So no, that is not the basis directly. My recommendations come as a subjective overall gut feel after I think through the whole package. Yes, at times I penalize a device that is expensive but its measurements are horrid. Other times I put value on such things as aesthetics as I did here. It is how I feel after I evaluate the product as a whole. Once you read the review, you have most of the same data as I have (sans touch and feel of the device) and you can arrive at your own conclusion.
 
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#19
I think aune ought to hire someone who can configure their site for at least a modicum of basic security. Or maybe the browsers have it all wrong.
Maybe it's just a firefox/brave thing. I tried it in MS IE (that bastion of security! LOL) and got the same message.

View attachment 50301
Well, it's kinda weird because other Chinese manufacturer like Topping and SMSL also have this issue. It has been years so they should try to deal with it way before.
 
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