Original article: https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/aune-m1s-32-384-dsd128-balanced-portable-music-player.22222/reviews#review-18470
Ok, so it's my very first review (everybody say "aww!" and pat me on the head), so please go easy on me. All (constructive) criticism will be taken on board and considered for future reviews.
All details, comments and the firmware updates etc can be found in abundance upon the following thread:
I'd like to begin by thanking Aune and @glassmonkey, firstly for arranging the tour, and secondly for being brave/reckless enough to include me on it
I shall endeavour not to abuse the trust placed in me.
Ok, so first some shamelessly copied and pasted specs and details (because why re-invent the wheel?):
AUNE M1S 32BIT/384KHZ DSD128 3.5MM/2.5MM BALANCED HIFI AUDIOPHILE LOSSLESS PORTABLE MUSIC PLAYER
The M1s is the second generation product of the popular Aune M1 , it adopts an asynchronous clock technology and the latest Cortex-M7 pure hardware solution framework, supporting multiple music formats and DSD hard-ware solution. It is high-end mini high fidelity player with balanced output and continuous playback. Specification Output： Headphone impedance range: 8-600R Headphone output THD + n: 0.00027% Headphone output power: 110mW @ 32Ω BAL output -180W @ 32Ω DNR: 120 dB CCIF: 19KHz + 20KHz 0.00012% @ 32R Noise: 2.52μVrms MAX Level: 1.92Vrms Supported formats: WAV: 16bit︳24bit︳32bit-44.1K/48K/88.2K/96K/176.4K/192K/352.8K/384K WAV + CUE FLAC: 16bit︳24bit-44.1K/48K/88.2K/96K/176.4K/192K DSD: DSF/DFF/ISO/DSD128 APE: 16bit/44.1K normal level MP3/ALAC/AAC Battery： Continuous playback of more than 10 hours (16bit / 44.1K file / continuous playback) The maximum charge current of the battery is 1.3A, 1.5A or more recommended adapter to achieve the fastest charging effect Interface: 3.5mm headphone jack, 2.5mm balanced headphone jack Screen: 2.4 inch IPS display Media: TF card (up to 128GB, FAT32 format) Font: Simplified Chinese / Traditional Chinese / English / Japanese / 한국 의 Size: 55 × 126 × 14.8 (mm) Weight: 147g Package Includes: 1 x AUNE M1S 1 x USB cable
These may be later placed below (or not; as I wish. Tee hee.), in order to serve the twofold function of enabling you to clearly visualise the player whilst simultaneously marvelling at my mad skills in photography
Stock images above: beautiful, handcrafted ones* to follow shortly
*i.e. inferior, but my own
Build and appearance
The player is solidly built, hefty and could easily double as a suspect implement in a game of Cluedo should the need arise.
It could be (pretentiously) described as a retrospectively reimagined deconstruction of a modern DAP, in that it exhibits what I can only describe as 'brick-esque' visual qualities whilst offering a somewhat stripped-down experience.
Bluntly, it's form factor and 'old skool' UI is not going to win any beauty contests or have the faithful masses drooling into their flat whites, but it's rather appropriate given that this player is all about the music, rather than the bells and whistles. Pun intended.
The demo unit I received came encased in in the kind of rubbery silicone that is usually the province of the, ahem, adult toy domain (so I've heard), but does a very good job without inhibiting useability.
The player feels like it could be dropped repeatedly and still laugh in your face, even more so when in its protective sleeve/case.
Since it's my first review and I don't wish it to be my last, I did not however test out this hypothesis.
The physical interface was generally fine, but occasionally frustrating; the buttons on the wheel-that-is-not-a-wheel have to be pressed just right in order to elicit the desired response, and the on/off switch was annoyingly similar and close to the volume buttons.
This may of course simply be a result of my having become used to the button layout on the xDuoo X3, so take this with a pinch of salt.
The UI was fast and responsive, and having updated to the latest firmware (1.058 at the time of writing)
Ok hep cats, the moment you've all been waiting with bated breath for...
I tested the DAP with a plethora (3) of the finest quality IEM's and a pair of Apple earbuds because, as my review so amply demonstrates, sometimes the underdog should have his moment in the limelight too
Trinity Audio Phantom Master 4, Trinity Audio Hunter (demo version) and the Noble Katana (wizard version) were the IEM's used.
At this point, a healthy dose of reality. I have heard setups at Canjam costing thousands of pounds/dollars.
£4k worth of DAP, hooked up to a Chord Hugo etc. I've heard levels of clarity, detail and musicality that made my heart and so forth swell and my jaw drop.
A $249 DAP is simply not (at present) going to provide that level of experience.
Conversely, I've heard the Colorfly C3 and my current DAP, the xDuoo X3 (Rockboxed FTW), which fall into a lower price bracket than that of the Aune M1S.
So whilst I cannot provide a specific 'like for like' comparison, at least I hope to convey what it is and what it isn't.
I've read many saying that a good DAP should be one that is transparent and neutral, merely conveying the music 'as is', without colouration, in order to allow the natural character of one's IEM's/headphones to shine.
Mind you, I've heard similar comments about IEM's and headphones too, so who knows?
What I can say is that the Aune M1S does everything that my xDuoo X3 can do, only better. And the X3 provides a good level of sound quality with a reference style sound signature, so it's no slouch in that department.
It's like the X3 +1. It is indeed quite transparent and neutral, and it does indeed enable the characteristics of the different IEM's I gainfully employed in this review to shine through.
With the Hunter and PM4, I could perceive eye-opening levels of detail and clarity.
Clarity and detail were similarly abundant on the Katana, with a generous sound stage, clear separation and imaging and just an overall beautiful balance to the sound.
I couldn't identify clear differences between the DAP's single ended and balanced outputs, but this could be a result of using the player with the latest update, which apparently improved the SE output to the level of the balanced one.
I experimented with the 3 sound-altering settings (MP, Fast and Slow).
The differences were perceptible if I listened closely, albeit subtle.
On Anberlin's staggering song 'The Art of War', the bass enters around 6 seconds into the song. I'm no bassist, but I think it's being played with a pick and I feel I can perceive more individual plucks and vibrations of the string with the Fast setting than with the MP setting.
Generally, I feel the Fast setting increases the soundstage (height, mainly) and clarity slightly and just makes subtle details stand out slightly more.
I couldn't really notice much difference with the Slow setting, but the MP setting seems to provide a slightly softer, more analogue/organic sound.
Being the detail lover that I am, I left the player mostly on Fast.
As others have observed, the differences between these filters can be slight to the point of imperceptibility.
However, I would comment that one of the reasons the Mojo has developed such a following is because it's makers understood the way in which tiny, barely perceptible details are processed by the brain and how this can, especially with time, result in a significant elevation in the experience of enjoying the music you play through it.
With this in mind, although the filter differences were slight and subtle, I thought carefully about which one I enjoyed the most, and stuck with it.
True to the reference sound alluded to at the beginning of this section, I feel the DAP doesn't much colour the sound signature.
Where there is little bass, the tracks play through my IEM's with little bass.
Occasionally, I found this a bit frustrating, and wished I had some electronic means to change it (EQ, amp or whatever).
At least the fabulous interchangeable filter system of the Trinity IEM's allowed me the ability to customise the sound signature of the IEM's to suit different genres/moods, but still, I would have liked an EQ on the DAP or perhaps a more demonstrative electronic filter selection on the DAP.
Conversely, where there was bass, it was delivered beautifully (due in no small part to the IEM's too, I would assume).
Jamiroquai's 'Deeper Underground' has underpant-soiling levels of bass and sub-bass, and the player delivered with aplomb, conveying rumble and depth without ever becoming muddy or incoherent.
U2's 'Love is Blindness (from the 24 bit HDTracks version of the album) made an already spine-tingling song even more so; the bass shivered through me, the separation and soundstage increased the song's mood of loneliness and isolation and the whole thing just sounding beautifully clear and clean.
Jewel's 'Amen' showed that this player is, well, a serious player in the female vocal department.
From 2:40 into the song, her voice ranges from low, to husky, to powerful and emotional, finally soaring angelically to ever-higher registers, all of which are presented flawlessly by the Aune M1S
On Paul Simon's 25th Anniversary edition of Graceland, Ladysmith Black Mambazo sound remarkable at the opening section of the track 'Homeless'.
Every voice, every harmony is represented exquisitely. All IEM's tested here produced excellent results, a testament to the Aune M1S (and of course the album and the mastering thereof).
The PM4 and Hunter brought out slightly more detail, but the Katana was more smooth, balanced and musical.
'Ghost' by the excellent band confusingly called 'Live' highlighted another aspect of music that this player revealed, namely that of 'atmospherics'.
Something I've particularly enjoyed whilst doing my critical listening has been songs with what I could describe as 'atmospheric' backgrounds.
U2's 'The Unforgettable Fire' (MFSL version), The Cranberries 'I still Do', Joan Osborne 'St. Theresa', Chris Isaak 'Wicked Games', Doves 'Firesuite'; all of these are prime examples of what I mean about the mood and often the little details in the background that inform it.
Since I was until recently lamentably devoid of audiophile equipment, this review has by necessity been a voyage of discovery into the new IEM's as much as of the DAP, and a delightful journey back into my own music collection; a biblical reference springs to mind: Matthew 13:52 - "every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." I've been listening to songs I've heard countless times before, even on quality equipment, and I've still been noticing previously unnoticed details over the last week or so - new treasures coming out along with the old!
Indeed, since any DAP review necessitates an audio speaker of some kind, I imagine this is an unavoidable factor when reviewing a DAP, and without multiple DAPs of a similar price/performance level to compare against, it has been difficult to do otherwise.
On a positive note, the more products I review and/or purchase, the less of an issue this will become; how very motivational
I suspect I'll once again be shamelessly copying and pasting from my own review of this DAP in order to accurately review the IEM's mentioned here later.
In conclusion, I'd say that this DAP offers a transparent and reference sound signature, and the better the stuff you feed it or listen to it through, the better the results you'll get.
It scales accordingly to some extent, although in fairness you won't expect a player in this bracket to reach TOTL levels.
However, I feel this is an excellent player at its price point, and would recommend it wholeheartedly as long as you are not looking for the 'smartphone experience' in your DAP and all the bells and whistles available these days.
This DAP is all about the music, and in that regard, I cannot fault it.
Honestly, I don't want to send it back.
For those of you that have made it all the way to the end, I salute you and hope to see you again