Pros: Superb black background, transparency and details.
Cons: Only one slot SD card
I recently acquired Aune M2S and I found out that there is barely any update reviews on this excellent DAP so I feel compelled to write something about it.
I have had many many different DAPs in the past and my favorite one is AK120ii. This DAP has been my daily doze of audio drugs for the past year and half and it's keeping me away from trouble so far. I mean wallet wise,it works. The SQ is very very good and I thought I couldn't ask for more. I enjoy full-size headphone so whether playing it straight or couple it with B1 or my fav amp Mk3B+ in balance I get a sound that's comparable to desktop rigs. I used to own RSA Intruder and it works really well in this regard too. Wonderful !
In this review I'm not going into too much detail about the specs and build other than the SQ and the comparison to other DAP or DAC that I currently own. This is not a review units so I'm not obligated to say anything nice if I don't want to. Here it is:
Navigation is pretty simple and basic if you are familiar with FiiO or Ibasso DAP then this is a piece of cake however, the DAP is on firmware 1.22 at the time of writing and there is more work to be done and it needs to support 200GB micro SD card since it has only one slot. No support for album art, no playlist, folder browse is in random order not alphabetical, and no digital out nor stand alone DAC support.I also managed to squeeze about 7 hours playing time at 80/100 vol. Future firmware should be be able to fix all this. I hope. Aune please!
Aune DAP has three different models i.e.M2, M2 Pro (both in black and silver) and M2S in blue color only and this review is for the flagship model M2S.
To make this thing easy I'm going to compare it to my trusty AK120ii so I hope some of you have a clearer understanding on how it actually sound.
How does it sound ?
In one world it is Excellent ! Out of the box you can tell that there's a huge potential and promising SQ and with more burn in time this DAP becomes more and more mature.
M2S is dead neutral with no warmth or brightness and it has a lean texture but in no way it is thin or anemic like some DAPs out there. Nothing is being exaggerated every freq seems to be pretty equal in harmony with each other. You can hear everything very clearly from bass, mids to highs. The DAC is quite revealing more so than AK120ii. It is apparently the same type of DAC as flagship AK380 i.e. 32-bit AKM AK4490. It plays DSD files but I'm not sure whether it is native or converted PCM like AK120ii as I hear no different between the two DAPs.
Couple things that l notice really stands out more than AK120ii is the superb black background and very very transparent sound.
If I can describe between the two perhaps like this:
AK120ii is smoother, softer, a little velvety background and it has slightly thicker notes and thicker woolier bass with less detail and impact while M2S is lean, very very clean and very transparent with better..no much better micro details that comes to the surface. With AK the micro detail is presented in subdued, softer ways.
The bass with M2S is very detailed and has more punch, with customizable attack and decay time by using the four different filter i.e. sharp-short decay, sharp-long decay, slow-short decay and slow-long decay. AK120ii bass note sounds almost similar to slow-long decay but still with longer decay time making it feels slower and less-groovy not in line in a certain songs ( faster/groovier bass line).
Listening to Justin Bieber new album...no I am not a fan I am far too old for this but I will have to admit his latest albums is very good, mature and musical. Anyways, the song called "Company" has a nice contrast of texture between the vocal, background and punchy bass line. With AK it sounds smoothed out less pronounced while M2S has tighter, punchier better groove to it.
As with Jess Glynee song "Hold My Hand" there's a really dancey syncopation between the piano riff, beat and the bass line in the chorus and again, AK makes this all smoothed out with less dynamic and loose timing but with M2S it it a DANCE music all right, very toe tapping one.
M2S superb black background makes depth and layering of instruments much better and much clearer than AK and it has bigger sound stage too, wider and spacious. Both DAPs have very good tonality and M2S has a bit more fundamental note. You can hear the resonance of the acoustic strings, decay and tone of the piano, the shrieking violin and sizzle and tone of a ride cymbals. Vocals are more articulate and present and just a tiny bit more forward than AK. Try listen to a classical pieces with solo instruments such as violin or cello and I bet your ear will be heavily rewarded with the sound. If any of you is familiar with the artist "Enya" than you know what I'm talking about. Listening to Enya's music with M2S is such an enlightening and euphoric experience.
Both DAPs sounds very good with M50, HD650, 700 and LCD X but however, I prefer AK with HD650 on balance it has much better synergy between the two due to the slightly warmer tonality of AK120ii. I have a modded my HD700 and I use Audeze stock cable with it. Now it sounds much better, less treble glare, deeper sound stage and much better bass. It behaves very close to my LCD X and M2S makes them sing with more clarity and punch. IMO, better pairing is with a slightly warmer phones or iems but this is just my liking. I don't use IEM so don't ask or buy me one and I'll tell ya.
Portable Amps Pairings
Together with M2S I also bought Aune B1 Amp. Very good sounding amp, clear and very transparent but however I prefer to pair my M2S with MK3B+ in balance mode. This ALO amp has a slightly warmer tonality that also improve texture, layer and deeper bass. This combo is absolutely freaking amazing with both HD700 and especially LCD X ! The clean sound from M2S with the added wee bit of warmth sounds just perfect to my liking, very very musical and engaging. Layering and separation becomes much bigger and wider just like desktop amp. As with the AK, B1 seems to be a better pairing, slightly warm meets transparent neutral amp. B1 is very neutral amp with slight focus on the mids it doesn't seem to add anything other doing a good job amplifying the source signal. B1 makes AK120ii sounds bigger and more spacious than it already is. The sound is seductive and very very easy on the ear. Both DAPs are now perfect !
Lets go further…M2S/MK3B+ vs AK120ii/Hugo shall we ?
Is it too much too ask to compare the combo with Hugo ? Really ? Hmm..why not
Most people here agree that AK makes the better if not the best transport for the all mighty Hugo and this is …ahem, was my best combo. I'll say this, M2S/MK3B+ combo sounds much better than AK/Hugo. You get much better transparency, bigger dynamics, better layering and faster-bouncier-groovier bass note while AK/Hugo has slightly fuller and warmer sound, softer, smoother and bigger but slower bass. Both are very musical indeed. The bass on the first combo is punchier and on time but the Hugo combo has bigger body and impact. It reminds me of the bass comparison between LCD XC vs LCD 2 pre fazor or HD700 vs HD650.
It seems like AK's transparency and dynamic is holding up what Hugo is actually capable of and I get the feeling that If only M2S has a digital out it will be the best transport for Hugo Ever.
To sum this up: Aune M2S is a new generation of HIFI portable music player that uses the latest ARM+CPLD+AK4480 DAC and high bias Class A amplifier that plays WAV/FLAC/APE/DFF/DSF/DSD/ISO/M4A/AAC/MP3/ALAC/AAC and support 32 BIT/192K files playback.
At THD+N 0.0009% you can blast this player and hear No distortion, doesn't get shouty or brighter it maintains its composure elegantly. M2S is more than capable of driving my pretty efficient HD650/700 and LCD X with better authority than Ak120ii at 85/100 vol. If you are an IEM user I would think you should have no problem.
AK120ii is still an excellent DAP with built in 128 GB storage plus 200GB compatibility, great UI, desktop quality in balance mode, bluetooth compatibility,DNLA and so on. Both DAP are great but if you want SQ more than anything else than Aune M2S is the way to go.