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Aune X1s GT Review (DAC & Amp)

Rate this product:

  • Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 7 4.2%
  • Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 42 25.1%
  • Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 104 62.3%
  • Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 14 8.4%

  • Total voters
    167

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Aune X1s GT stereo DAC and balanced headphone amplifier. It was stent to me by the company and costs US $320.

I really like the industrial design of the X1s GT:

Aune X1s GT Review Stereo DAC Headphone Amplifier.jpg


It looks even better than the picture in a dark setting with the red accepts nicely illuminating (you can turn off the one around the volume control). As you see you have both unbalanced 1/4 inch headphone output and 4.4 mm pentacon. To select inputs, you simply push the input button. To change filters, double click it and wait for the blue led to change positions.

Power is provided using an external switching power supply:

Aune X1s GT Review Stereo DAC back panel balanced Headphone Amplifier.jpg


Unusual for the class is the inclusion of clock reference so you could synchronize it with others in a studio using a master clock (otherwise I have not seen a benefit to it).

While the headphone output is balanced, pre-amp/fixed outputs are only unbalanced RCA.

Aune X1s GT DAC Measurements
Let's start with the DAC dashboard:

Aune X1s GT Measurements DAC USB Headphone Amplifier.png


Distortion is well below audibility at less than -120 dB. Add some noise to it and it droops to 114 dB in the form of SINAD:

best stereo DAC review.png


As you see, it lands in the "excellent" category but not in the same class as our state of the art desktop products. This is also reflected in dynamic range:


Aune X1s GT Measurements USB Dynamic Range DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Intermodulation test unfortunately shows our old "friend," the ESS DAC's class rise in distortion in mid levels:

Aune X1s GT Measurements DAC IMD USB Headphone Amplifier.png


It is a shame that ESS is still sitting idle after nearly 3 years when we first discovered this issue and not helping all of their designers mitigate this problem.

Jitter test shows some unwanted but harmless products:


Aune X1s GT Measurements USB Jitter DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


There are four filters that are provided:

Aune X1s GT Measurements USB Filter DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


I wish there was one that was sharper. Its absence causes THD+N versus frequency to get polluted with out of band spectra:

Aune X1s GT Measurements USB THD+N vs Frequency DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Aune X1s GT Measurements USB FFT DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Linearity is excellent showing high accuracy:

Aune X1s GT Measurements USB linearity DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Finally, multitone output is excellent due to low distortion of the device:

Aune X1s GT Measurements USB Multitone DAC Headphone Amplifier.png


Aune X1s GT Headphone Amplifier Measurements
Let's start with our noise level at 50 mv output:

Aune X1s GT Measurements 50 mv Headphone Amplifier.png


This is above average but again, not at the top of the class as I like to see:

most quiet headphone amplifier balanced reviewed.png


The inclusion of balanced output allows us to get healthy levels of power:

Aune X1s GT Measurements Power into 300 ohm Headphone Amplifier.png


Aune X1s GT Measurements Power into 32 ohm Headphone Amplifier.png


Note that lowering the volume control helps with the noise level. It seems that unlike what 99% of the companies do, the volume control is acting on the headphone amplifier and not the gain of the DAC.

Switching to unbalanced output we naturally get less power but still good:

Aune X1s GT Measurements Power into 300 ohm Unbalanced Headphone Amplifier.png


Aune X1s GT Measurements Power into 32 ohm Unbalanced Headphone Amplifier.png


Channel matching is decent:

Aune X1s GT Measurements Channel Balance Headphone Amplifier.png


Finally, varying the load while sweeping for distortion we get:

Aune X1s GT Measurements Power vs load Headphone Amplifier.png


Good news is that even at max volume there is no clipping down to about 50 ohm load. This means that if you hear distortion, it is in your source.

On the other hand, there is a slight drop in output as the load goes down. I measured the output impedance and it is 5 ohm in unbalanced and likely 10 ohm in balanced. This is borderline too high. On the plus side it means that its output will be more robust against damage due to shorts and such.

Headphone Listening Tests
I tested unbalanced output using my Sennheiser HD650. There was just enough volume there to be loud enough and produce excellent fidelity. If you want to have some headroom, you would want to swap its default cord for balanced. Speaking of that, I tested the balanced output with my Drop Ether CX. There was excellent performance to be had there until you pushed it to max volume. There, it would get a tiny bit distorted but then was too loud to listen to on a normal basis.

Conclusions
Competition is so tough when it comes to desktop DAC and amplifiers. Aune struggles to get into that high end category but produces enough good numbers that when combined with its excellent looks, gets a positive reaction from me. I hope there is an "X2" version which pushes the performance one step higher.

Per above, I am going to recommend the Aune X1s GT.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Victoria

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Thank you Amir!~ This is certainly a cute little DAC haha! I tried to dig around a little to see if I could find a photo of the inside and this is all I could find (from Audiophonics) and the inside does look even more interesting! Never seen this kind of colour combination on a PCB before and it somehow makes it look a little retro-ish!

Aune-X1S-GT.jpg
 

GWolfman

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If it weren't for that IMD hump it would have been a near excellent execution (not considering SE almost not having enough juice).
 

Veri

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Thank you Amir!~ This is certainly a cute little DAC haha! I tried to dig around a little to see if I could find a photo of the inside and this is all I could find (from Audiophonics) and the inside does look even more interesting! Never seen this kind of colour combination on a PCB before and it somehow makes it look a little retro-ish!

View attachment 162151
Looks like it is also a 'fully discrete' amplifier implementation. The 50mW performance is quite goood for such a design.

It's a pity IMO there is no analog input nor balanced input though. I also see they sell a 100mHz clock in the same form factor which seems a bit snake oily.
 
Last edited:

nyxnyxnyx

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I'm fond of aune products but I really don't understand what's the deal with them creating low power amplifier sections. It was the same with their older products too.
I bet anyone who purchases this will mostly use 4.4mm so it's a good choice, if only the amp section could pump out more juice in SE it'd fit better with headphones audience.
 
Last edited:

Tks

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Seems apt for the time. And by time I mean the sorts of DACs seen when the ESS hump was discovered. Seems they've not moved much since. And judging by the image of the PCB, looks like they wanna go backwards. Someone help me out here, what are these pre-PCB materials called?
 

naviivan

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They should have sent a Master Clock with this unit to measure!
 

Ralf Stocker

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Thank you Amir!~ This is certainly a cute little DAC haha! I tried to dig around a little to see if I could find a photo of the inside and this is all I could find (from Audiophonics) and the inside does look even more interesting! Never seen this kind of colour combination on a PCB before and it somehow makes it look a little retro-ish!

View attachment 162151
The PCB is pretty stupid. The solder stop is only on the copper. The danger is great that the edges are not covered. Increased risk of shortcuts. In addition, you can see that the ground plane is very fragmented.
 

F1308

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As you see, it lands in the "excellent" category but not in the same class as our state of the art desktop products.

It seems Excellence has reached too wide a segment.
What about restricting it to, say, higher than or equal to 120dB SINAD ?
Or placing those in a new SOTA category ?
 

nyxnyxnyx

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Looks like it is also a 'fully discrete' amplifier implementation. The 50mW performance is quite goood for such a design.

It's a pity IMO there is no analog input not balanced input though. I also see they sell a 100mHz clock in the same form factor which seems a bit snake oily.
What do you think about their digital music player (Aune X5S)?
It has been on my eyes for quite some time. I don't believe in audible benefits of those kinda devices, but for the price it doesn't look too bad for a "boutique" audio source.
 

Veri

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It's a pity that one cannot chose a proper filter. There is too much disrespect of the math behind digital audio to warrant a happy panther, sorry.
The real travesty is that all four filters are custom. With weird names like "headphone".. unless it comes with some crossfeed or anything I can't for the life of me think of what a headphone oversampling filter should even do.
 

Spkrdctr

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I have noticed that the Topping products have become the standard measure of a great product or not. So, considering the pricing, Topping is doing DACs right. Good to know!
 

Rottmannash

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Thank you Amir!~ This is certainly a cute little DAC haha! I tried to dig around a little to see if I could find a photo of the inside and this is all I could find (from Audiophonics) and the inside does look even more interesting! Never seen this kind of colour combination on a PCB before and it somehow makes it look a little retro-ish!

View attachment 162151
What is that big red bulbous thing toward the back of the PCB? LED?
 

phoenixsong

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Lmao I searched it in the search bar because Drop's offering got me curious. Saw the time/date of the post and couldn't believe the coincidence, so I ended up here again via the main reviews page :p
 

Neddy

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Tantalum cap.
 

Labjr

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I've never seen a SMD tantalum cap that looks like that.
 
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