Aune X-Series Mini DAC in the house!
By: hifidiy | 2012-04-26 12:58:07 Discuss [ ] Comments
This is going to be an extensive review of the AUNE X-Series Mini DAC so I am going to do it in parts, over a period of time, as I believe this is something that a lot of people are really interested in (DACS) and I want to be very thorough with my review.
I will also be reviewing the AUNE X-Series Mini amp (a 25watt per channel loudspeaker amp) in a seperate thread.... it is burning in now and will be ready for review in a couple of weeks.
Back to the Mini DAC, It arrived this afternoon in superb packaging... inside the outer carton were two X-Series boxes (one containing the Mini DAC and the other, the Mini Amp) the boxes are really classy and the DAC is protected against shipping damage in a custom fit polyfoam type thing:
The second you see what emerges from that plastic bag, you are aware that the construction is absolutely first class. The pictures really do not do the AUNE Mini DAC any justice, in reality it is a work of art, it feels tactile, it feels solid and it looks ever so sexy. So much nicer than your standard "black box" type of effort.... some real thought has been put into the design of the enclosure.
I could waffle on "describing" what the AUNE Mini DAC looks like but it's so much easier to show you pictures so here goes:
The User Manual
Here is the user manual, please click on the photos for full size view:
Under The Bonnet
Just like the outer shell, the innards have been put together very nicely using quality parts. Quite a lot of surface mount components (this is becomming a lot more common) which are physically small and allow the designer to cram more into even smaller enclosures.... quite amazing to think you can get 100uF of capacitance out of something the size of a pinhead!
Talking of capacitance the standard sized electrolytics are mostly audio grade Nichicon types, there is an OSCON under the amp board and a sprinkling of WIMA film caps.... good quality components and not the "Shi Toh" types you find in some low rent offerings
The amp board has an OPA2134 on it (SOIC) which is a generally regarded "good" audio chip.... it is a Burr Brown offering and part of their "sound plus" range.... specs here: http://www.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/opa134.pdf A generally "warm" sounding chip but also a very "predictable" chip..... handles most things well and doesn't offend. Transistors are TIP 41 / 42 so a pretty decent little head amp section.
The pot is not an RK27 (blue velvet) ALPS type but a standard carbon type ALPS dual log.... I tested it on the multimeter and it tracks very well (per side) and with the amp fired up it confirms this.... Very precise from zero volco onwards. The volume knob is solid aluminium and has a nice, weighty feel to it. The headphone socket is a good quality switchcraft type.
Pretty much bog standard (MF / Graham $lee etc. style) quad gold plated phono sockets, Good quality chassis mount coax socket, run of the mill USB / Optical inputs / selector switches and on off switch....
I don't claim to know anything about the inner workings of a DAC (or what the current flavour of the month chip is) so I will just report on what I saw under the bonnet.....
There was a Burr Brown PCM2707 DAC, a Burr Brown PCM1793 DAC, a WM8805GEDS transceiver and a Philips chip (whose model number I forgot to write down .... The "DAC" experts will be able to make more of what's going down than I can and I hope they "chip" into this thread
U10 (under the amp board) has been "sanded" so I can't tell what it is.... you can clearly see the markings have been sanded off it.... so this is either a TOP SECRET part or a shite part that they were too embarrassed to show..... I'd like to think of it as a TOP SECRET part!
All looks good to me and I can confirm that it WORKS "flawlessly" but more on that later in the review..... to complete this part I present you with some under the bonnet shots:
It was my fault all along! When using as a standalone DAC I was plugging the interconnects going to the amp into the "line in" of the DAC instead of the Line out ,My eyesight is getting terrible!
Yup, all working now after connecting the damned outputs to the LINE OUT instead of the line in.... what a wombat!
Optical in from ASUS Xonar DX, line OUT to NAD 315BEE amplifier.... firing on all four cylinders , Line out setting is a fixed output and P-line out is a variable output controlled by the volume control.... yup, got it now! I really like the P-Line feature that will come in VERY handy and I think I will probably use that more often than the fixed level output... more control baby!
OK, now I've actually put my glasses on and hooked the thing up correctly I'll be able to listen to it as a standalone DAC as well as a combined DAC / Headamp,
The headamp / DAC combo is pretty typical of the AUNE sound signature.... veering toward the warmer side of neutral and this is to be expected given the components that have been utilised.... NE5532 / OPA2134.... it's a very relaxed, warm, easy going listen and certainly not "top end" orientated as some of the Far East gear seems to be (especially headphones)..... It's no dynamic roller coaster ride or a visit to the dentist to get your teeth drilled without anaesthetic but a very nice "tubey" type listen with absolutely NOTHING that offends.
A lot of people will absolutely LOVE the head-out and it is, most definitely, a VERY important part of the design brief and NOT just an "add on".... the DAC section + headphone amp EASILY compares with my dedicated Cambridge Audio DAC and X-CAN V2 (for example) there is very little difference (apart from the price, of course) and a lot of clutter is saved with everything in ONE box.
I am VERY impressed with the DAC (as a standalone DAC) now I have put my glasses on and connected it up correctly My little Tannoy Eyris 1 desktop speakers always sounded a bit dry (and, quite frankly, SHITE) with the Cambridge Audio Dac Magic but this little Aune has totally energised them.... a lot more vibrancy, width, depth, height etc..... it's as if the Eyris have developed some "soul"......
I'm getting confused, music this good cannot be possible unless you pay a LOT of money? BULLCRAP! I would like to send this puppy to a few people for a listen (before I do my review) as I don't want to come across as "enthusing" and "gushing" (as I have been recently accused of) so will send to a few guys (including Leo) who will take great pleasure in giving a "warts and all" appraisal...
To my ears, so far, this is a SERIOUS piece of "kit" and AUNE are a serious, decicated company.
From Rock Grotto audio Forum by PinkFloyd.