Original article: https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/aune-m1s-32-384-dsd128-balanced-portable-music-player.22222/reviews#review-18535
At the time this review was written, the Aune M1S was listed for sale on their website. Here is a link for more information and purchase.
If you’re looking for high tech, bluetooth, streaming capability you should stop reading this now and look somewhere else. If you find all that stuff to be a distraction that takes away from remarkable fidelity, carry on…
Today’s market is absolutely flooded with digital audio player options. Several companies are currently offering portable sources that come in at every price point. Options vary, sometimes significantly between models.
Technology is advancing at a tremendous pace. Even still, portable music players that mimic the basic DAPs of yesteryears can still offer tremendous value to audiophiles and music lovers all over the world. In a day and age where I’m still finding features in my phone a year after getting it, sometimes it’s nice to have a dedicated music player that is straightforward and easy to figure out relatively quickly. The Aune M1S is just that.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t make it all day on a single cell phone battery without needing to recharge it. That’s without using my phone for music playback! Because of this it comes in handy to have a separate music source like a digital audio player. I save battery and can still get phenomenal sound at the same time.
When Aune asked me if I would be interested in beta testing and reviewing the M1S, I was quick to take them up on their offer. Looking at the specs, it seemed pretty cool that Aune was offering something with a 2.5mm balanced line out and still comes in under the three hundred dollar mark. Let’s take a look at the unit, and go over it with a comprehensive review.
I was given a free review sample of the M1S in exchange for my input during beta testing, and review of the unit. I am in no way affiliated with Aune Audio aside from offering input on the device and sharing my honest opinion with all of you.
The M1S comes in a black box with a foil stamped Aune logo on the front. There’s not too much more to say about the box beyond this. Removing the top, I’m greeted with an initial glimpse of the device and a charging cable. Removing the player from the foam inlay reveals an owner’s manual and a couple of screen protectors.
Also included in my package from Aune were three different colored silicone skins (sold separately) for the player to slide into. Kudos to Aune for offering the screen protectors and skins (Gray not pictured). It’s nice to see that owners will be able to protect their investment from the start.
Specifications and Accessories
Screen: 2.4inch IPS Screen
Medium: TF Card ( Max support 128GB,FAT32 format)
Language: Chinese/English/ Japanese/Korean
Playback time: can continue play above 10 hours( 16bit/44.1 file)
APE :44.1k/1 bit
CCIF: 19KHz+20KHz 0.00012%/32R
Headphones maximum output:110mW/32 ohm BAL output--180mW/32 ohm
The headset impedance: 8-600Ω
MAX Level: 1.92Vrms
3.5mm headphone socket
2.5mm Balance headphone socket
1 x Aune M1S
1 x USB Cable (no wall socket)
1 x Manual
Design and Build
Holding the device in my hand, the device has a somewhat sturdy build and a bit of heft to it. The all aluminum chassis seems durable. The device does have some somewhat sharp edges to it, but is a non-issue with a silicone cover applied.
Looking at the front of the unit I couldn’t help it think of an old Ipod upon first glimpse. However, functionality is not the same. What looks like a scroll wheel is actually a D-pad (more on this in a bit). Also located on the front of the device are a home button on the middle left, and a back button on the middle right of the player. The screen is pretty small and made of plastic, making the screen protectors a necessity to prevent scratches.
The right side of the unit has a power button, + and - volume buttons, a small reset pinhole and a micro SD TF card slot which supports up to 128GB of music files in FAT32 format.
The bottom of the device has 3.5mm and 2.5mm balanced outputs, as well as a MicroSD port for file transfers and charging the device.
The top, left, and back sides of the unit have nothing to note. To be honest the layout is very elementary. The device looks like a sleek and sophisticated version of MP3 players in their early years of development. If you find joy in simplicity, Aune has got your back with the M1S.
The M1S has a very simple user interface that mirrors players of years past. There is no album artwork, no fancy themes and no colors beyond a black and gray background with white lettering and thumbnail images that represent areas of navigation. The M1S has no Wifi, wireless or bluetooth capability. It stores your files and plays them out of the headphone jacks. There’s nothing high tech about the player beyond balanced output and DSD playback.
Battery life is one of the M1S’s strength. In low gain the M1S has up to eleven hours of continuous playback time. I was able to easily get two days (and sometimes three days) of moderate use (two to four hours each day) from the unit. When the battery is running low I was able to recharge it completely in less than two hours (depending on what charger I used). Thanks to the fact that there is no wireless functionality and music could be controlled without turning the screen on, battery life is concentrated on music playback.
The player has four folders which are scrolled through by pressing left or right on the D-pad then selecting it with the center (enter/play/pause) button. Here are the folder options explained:
Playlists: Select this folder and you can access either your most played or tracks you’ve identified as a favorite during music playback.
Settings: Lots of options here… From this menu you can adjust various playback functions, adjust screen and lock settings, change gains and filter modes, switch from variable to line-out, and upgrade firmware.
Folders: From here you can access your music. Folders are arranged by artist, then by album, then by tracks
Songs: This is a line list of every song you have on your TF card organized numerically then alphabetically.
Despite being incredibly simple, the music playback screen layout is very smartly designed and gives owners all of the information they’d need (with the only exception being album artwork). Volume, Filter option and battery status are located on the top of the display. Artist, track number, album name and file bitrate are located in the middle of the screen. Favorite song status, playback status, repeat status, track number status, and playback time status are located on the bottom.
Long pressing downward on the D-Pad during playback changes between three filter modes:
FAST= Balanced sound presentation
SLOW= Soft music presentation
MP= Analog sound presentation
These filters are subtle, but do work as advertised. It is more noticeable to my ears with sensitive in-ear monitors. I consider the sound filters to be a fine tweak that works well to try and squeeze every last ounce of synergy out of whatever pair of earphones you use with the M1S. To my ears the FAST setting worked best with warmer and bassier earphones, the SLOW setting seemed to work best with leaner and brighter sounding earphones, and the MP was kind of a crapshoot depending on what earphone I used with the M1S.
Long pressing the up button during music playback made the track a liked song and added it to your “liked” songs playlist (accessed via the playlist folder). A quick press of the up button changes the repeat setting.
Music can be loaded onto a SD TF card in FAT32 format. Aune is specific about the FAT32 setting. It can be loaded onto a SD card via your computer, then loaded into the M1s to be scanned. If you want to leave the card in your player and load music via the micro USB cable, you can do so by powering down the unit, plugging it into a computer and utilizing the drag and drop feature once your device’s storage card is recognized.
Firmware updates are relatively simple to do and reminiscent of other players on the market today. Since obtaining the player I have done two firmware upgrades (I’m now on version 1.03) and there are talks of future firmware updates as well. With the 1.03 firmware the storage card has been expanded from 128GB to 256GB. I wasn’t able to test and confirm (I used my 32GB card and had no issues with storage or scanning).
The M1S is a versatile player in the sense that it plays just about every file of music you can get your hands on, from MP3 to DSD. There are two outputs on the bottom of the player, a 3.5mm single ended output and 2.5mm balanced output. The two outputs can be used simultaneously but are at the mercy of one volume setting, meaning you can use both outputs at the same time but volume cannot be adjusted separately. To add to this, the 2.5mm balanced output is slightly more powerful than the 3.5mm single ended port.
Switching to line out mode in the settings menu, the M1S output is fixed at max volumes, making the player a source that can be stacked with an external amplifier. Be aware that switching to line out with earphones on and plugged in IS NOT a pleasant experience, as you are essentially maximizing the volume output instantly. I made this mistake once with sensitive in-ear monitors and nearly blasted my eardrums out. Take caution and make sure line out setting is accessed with no earphones plugged into the device.
I would consider the sound of the M1S to be transparent and neutral, offering a nice balance between all frequencies. Firmware update 1.03 did seem to give the sound a bit more bite than the original firmware (going off of memory).
The 2.5mm balanced output of the M1S is superior to the 3.5mm single ended option. From what I heard, separation, texture and detail got a slight bump at matched volumes. Still, the 3.5mm output is no slouch. I didn’t hear any difference in sound signature or tuning when switching between the two.
The M1S has no equalizer, bass boost, or any other DSP adjustment beyond the gain and filter settings. To be completely honest, I didn’t miss having any of these luxuries. Aside from using a junky pair of earphones, the M1S didn’t leave me wishing for more sound adjustments. The sound quality from the M1S is excellent in my opinion.
From what I experienced, the best aspect of this player was its ability to sound magnificent with in-ear monitors (in low gain). Of all the players I currently have at home, the M1S delivered the goods in terms of synergy with sensitive high end in-ear monitors. This is in thanks to the combination of a dead silent background, balanced output, balanced signature, various filter settings and low power output. The noise floor of the M1S is dead silent and I didn’t get any audible hissing from it. If I see you soon at the next Chicago area Head-Fi meet and want to show you a cool new in-ear monitor, I’m probably going to have you try them with a DSD file out of this DAP.
Low impedance headphones sound good with the M1S (in medium gain). Some notable headphones that seemed to benefit from the player were the Meze classic series (99 classics and 99 Neo), the Xiaomi headphones and Koss porta Pros. Between the three gain settings and filter options, I had no qualms about the player’s ability to drive these with excellent fidelity.
Although adequate (in high gain), the M1S didn’t maximize sound quality with high impedance cans like the HD600/6XX, ZMF Eikon/Atticus, or AKG K7XX. Between the power output and sound signature, to my ears the M1S doesn’t maximize the ability of headphones that fall in this criteria. Long story short, the M1S couldn’t hang with the likes of the slightly warmer and more powerful Cayin I5, iBasso DX80 and Luxury and Precision LP5. One thing to note, the fact that I can go from variable to a fixed line out, the M1S can be stacked or paired with an external amplifier and give you the oomph needed to rock a pair of high impedance cans.
Summarized, if you want something for your collection of in-ears, GO FOR IT! If you want to rock your hard to drive orthos on the go (and don’t have a amplifier to pair it with) you might want to look somewhere else.
The Aune M1S is a drag and drop single SD slot music player that disregards much of the cutting edge technology of today, and focuses on file playback, balanced and single ended outputs, Hi-Res file playback and most importantly, a transparent and balanced sound signature that audiophiles and music enthusiast will enjoy thoroughly.
Aune has cut out a lot of the modern bells and whistles to get to the heart of what makes a great portable music source. The M1S is a simple and easy to use music player that is geared to make the best of any earphone under 150 Ohms (IMHO) sound fabulous. If you have some high quality music recordings and a few good pairs of high end in-ear monitors and low impedance headphones the M1S will bring all of it together into one awesome combination. If you have a good amplifier laying around, you can flip the M1S into line out mode and rock your music files with your high impedance stuff as well.
Aune hasn’t reinvented the wheel here. They’ve broken away from the tech push, considered what maximizes sound quality and ditched most of the stuff that degrades it. For around two hundred fifty dollars Aune is offering a DSD capable portable player with a dead silent background and balanced output. Pretty darn cool if you ask me!
Thanks for reading and happy listening!