I wanted an Aune M2S. I do. Badly. Too bad for me though, the missus isn’t a big fan of me toting yet another DAP for no business reasons at all (honestly, I only get away getting another DAP by asking the CFO of Aurem Fidelitatem and Cruz Residence by saying that I intend to add the DAP to our growing product line). Sometimes I am lucky, sometimes I am not. However, in the absence of an Aune M2S, I got lucky by scoring the newest DAP from Aune, the Aune M1S.
Before I even received the M1S, I know for a fact that there has been a lot of positive feedback about the said DAP. No surprises there, as its predecessors successfully broke the market with such incredibly sounding DAPs for such price. They are not the cheap, budget-fi DAPs (the blue M2S is priced at $649 from mall.aune.com) you can get from the market today but trust me, the way it sounded is worth much more than the price it is quoted for. With the M2 line, Aune has cemented its position to be one of the best DAPs in the market today.
Now the question is, how does the M1S fare after the success of its bigger, beefier brothers?
Just to set some expectations here, the M1S is currently priced at $249, a significant difference of 400 bucks from its big brother. I would really not dwell on which between M1S and M2S is better; it is just going to be a comparison on what Aune sacrificed to get to this budget wonder. Or maybe what Aune sneaked up M1S’ sleeves that may not be in the M2S.
Alright, let’s roll.
The build of the M1S is archetypal to Aune: solid. Holding the M1S gives you the premium feel you would normally get out of Aune DAPs. The frame is quite tough and is made of high-grade aluminum sculpted by CNC machine which somewhat gives the guarantee that the frame should be able to withstand some pressure. The primary difference one would notice in comparison to M2S is that the M1S is a slimmer version of the M2S, toting a dimension of 55mm x 126mm x 14.8mm.
Another big change Aune did to M1S is the addition of a more premium looking control in front of the DAP. While M2S displays 3 buttons in front, M1S now carries a 4-directional buttons in a form of a wheel with the select button nested in the middle. Upon trying the M1S when I unboxed it did I find out that these isn’t really a wheel but just a, well, 4 directional buttons. Shame, would have been fancier if it was indeed a wheel. Also in front above the directional buttons are the Home and Back buttons.
The scroll wheel from the M2S is also something that Aune left out in M1S. What replaced it was a pair of volume controls and the power button at the right side of the DAP. You can also find here the TF card slot and the hard reset button in case needed.
But perhaps the most interesting thing that Aune did with the M1S was the addition of the 2.5mm balanced output port at the bottom of the DAP. Balanced output! Yes, now we are talking. Forgive me for being overexcited, but since I started using balanced terminations I have never been able to get enough of it. It’s clean, highly detailed and gives me additional use for my my balanced terminated IEMs. Thanks Aune, the inclusion of the balanced output port in M1S instantly made me realize that I will not part from this DAP for quite some time.
Apart from this, you can also find the SE port and the micro USB slot along the balanced output port at the bottom of M1S.
One thing that Aune did not decide to change with the M1S is the absence of a digital output. It would have been nice if an option to connect with a DAC is available, but I guess Aune designed the M1S as a standalone DAP so they decided to ditch the fact and go for a line out option instead.
Quite safe to say, just as with the M2S, Aune did a fairly great job with the M1S in terms of build. I will not apologize, but the balanced output pretty much influenced about 40% of my judgment of the build of the M1S, unless of course the port churns out bad sound, of which we will find out in a bit.
So yes, the M1S is built quite fine, yeah yeah, but everything will be pointless unless it can generate great sound to match its build. To see how well it does, I will depart a bit from my usual reviews and will use multiple IEMs to see how well it synergizes with each. Let’s go on, shall we?
These Dreams (Heart & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Live At The Royal Albert Hall)
With this track, I used the Tingker T180, and foremostly what I noticed is the sub-bass being quite extended. Ann Wilson’s vocals remained surfaced in spite of the number of instruments playing along. Sparkle is a bit limited but not lacking, at least for my taste.
Welcome To Paradise (Green Day, Dookie)
I used the Trinity Audio Atlas armed with a gold filter for a bit of treble helping, and true enough, the execution of the IEM in synergy with the M1S, and fairly enough, the raunchy guitar intro of Billie Joe Armstrong was quite amusing for my taste. Detail separation seems very distinct although Armstrong’s vocals seems to step back a bit in comparison to the T180.
You’re The Inspiration (Chicago, Chicago 17)
This one I decided to go for the Advanced-AAW collaborated CIEM. Notes of the piano at the intro is incredibly crisp while the drums are quite tight. Peter Cetera’s vocals is slightly forward to be quite enjoyable for mids-freaks without it being too overwhelming. Details are spectacular, so granular that you can distinguish the second voice clearly. Channels play the notes nicely without any hint of hisses nor noise.
I tried using each of the IEMs tested with the M1S with a balanced termination and true enough, it did hold its end of the bargain. I expected no less than a clean, immaculate tonality using the balanced termination; it did not fail me. Details has been quite splendid using the single ended termination, even more so with the balanced output.
I guess Aune decided to have a simplified control with the M1S compared to the M2S. While M2S’ controls were a bit complex, M1S was more of a simpler approach where Aune decided to have the middle button as the select button. The 4 directional buttons simply allows the user to navigate back and forth, making it easier to get used to compared to M2S.
A few quirks though, the battery meter doesn’t indicate how far you already are in terms of charging the M1S. Language is also defaulted to Chinese, and you will have to go through each of the Settings options to find the Language option (tip: it is the first option in the second page of Settings options). Balanced output port will also switch to Line Out when you have the Line Out turned on.
Overall, I enjoyed this BRI immensely. Rarely do I find a DAP with such great sound considering its price, and I must say, just like the M2S, Aune did break the market again with this incredible piece of wonder.