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Aune S1 Media Player
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Conclusion
Measured Performance
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AUNE S1 MEDIA PLAYER

Aune S1 Media Player

 

 

 

Aune computes


Is this the media player of tomorrow? That's how Chinese manufacturer Aune presents their S1 media player. Noel Keywood is impressed...


I agree with Aune that the future lies somewhere near here – a media player that is simple to use but powerful. The Aune S1 is almost as simple to use as a turntable. OK, it occasionally refused to start, unlike my Garrard 401, and whilst it is conceptually straightforward, it’s not without its foibles and difficulties. But the S1 gave lovely sound quality at the push of a button, when playing high resolution digital music files stored on a memory stick. And it costs a very reasonable £500, about half the price of competitive hi-fi players.  

 
Think of the Chinese Aune S1 as a CD player of the future, which is why I said the future starts somewhere near here. If you don’t want to faff around with music libraries and playlists and all that computer related compilation stuff, this is the player for you. Download and store music onto the computer, using it as a music purchase and storage mechanism, then copy those files to a USB memory stick and play them on the S1. What this does is simplify and clarify track selection. The memory stick stores what you currently want to hear in good depth, as a 32GB stick will hold 150 high resolution tracks (at 200MB/track). You are not faced with a vast music library to sort through; it’s like having your recent favourite LPs on hand, in a place where you can find them easily.


Ironic that this access issue hasn’t gone away with digital. And the S1 doesn't solve it: it has a tiny display screen that isn’t legible unless you are close, a drawback shared with all network players except the Cyrus Stream series that put the screen into the remote control. Aune don’t offer any solution to this difficulty in the S1, but if albums are saved into folders on a memory stick, finding what you want to play isn’t too strenuous, as menu tree depth is limited.


Playback from a memory stick also avoids streaming digital through a Cat5 wired home network; a reader explains in Letters this month why this is not the best idea if you value sound quality. All the same, the S1 does play from UPnP servers feeding a home network if you so desire.

 


Unlike most other players currently available, the Aune S1 places emphasis on playback from various forms of memory storage. The left side panel carries sockets able to accept two USB memory sticks, an SD card, an e-SATA input for an e-Sata equipped hard drive and a home network connection through the usual RJ45 ethernet socket. That’s far more inputs than most network players, most of which cater for USB only, and those sockets will appeal to various interests. SD card is the storage device of choice for hand held digital audio recorders used for live recording, and e-SATA (external serial ATA, a computer internal comms protocol externalised), gives direct connection to e-SATA storage.

Aune S1 media slots
The rear panel carries normal analogue audio outputs for connection to a stereo amplifier, plus optical and electrical S/PDIF digital outputs, like any CD player. The analogue outputs deliver no less than 2.8V, our measurements showed, so the S1 plays 3dB louder than a CD player.


There is also an electrical digital input that enables the player to be used as a DAC, in conjunction perhaps with a CD player acting as a transport.
Headphones can be used in conjunction with an on-board volume control and they connect on the rear panel too, through a 3.5mm jack. Pressing Up or Down volume buttons on the remote control brings up a volume level display.

Aune S1 rear
 An USB A ‘printer’ socket accepts software upgrade from a computer, about which no information was provided, and finally a power input socket from an external power supply sits on the rear panel also, using a 180 degree 5-pin DIN socket.


 A sturdy power supply comes with the unit, built into a heavy aluminium case carrying a mains power on/off rocker switch on the IEC input socket. This is left on, the player being switched on and off by remote control. Or that’s the idea. Mine hung up using software start and had to be switched off, then on, with the mains switch on the power supply. Then it booted in 25 seconds. Once on it would switch off from the remote control.


 The S1 is shaped like an original Mac Mini and is almost the same size, measuring 16cm x 16cm (the Mac Mini was 17 x 17cm). It is beautifully made from machined alloy.  A matching solid, machined alloy remote control measures 5cm x 9cm and is 1cm deep, so it fits easily n the hand and the small buttons have a solid feel. There is no light on the remote, but the few controls were easy enough to identify, even in low lighting. The front display is just 3cms high and 4cms wide. It is bright, clear and legible, but only within a few feet.


Once booted a Play Music screen appears by default, of four screens in total. Pressing an Enter button brings up the usual style of menu tree, showing folders and songs, identified in text by name. Songs in a folder can be played individually or in sequence. Pressing Stop also jumps back in the menu, an unusual action. Pause must be pressed to Stop so that a song can be restarted without re-selection.

 


 Having multiple inputs, songs and folders stack in the option list; inputs do not have to be selected individually. I played from a fast LaCie Whizkey memory stick, but the S1 saw UPnP servers on both Macs and PCs on my home network and played music from them, including 24/192 WAV and AIFF files, something few media players are currently able to do. Aune list compatible file formats as APE, FLAC, TTA, MP3 and WAV. It played our FLAC, WAV and AIFF 24/192 test files without problem, but refused to see Ogg Vorbis.  There were some inconsistencies, such as MP4s playing through the home network, from a UPnP server, but not direct from memory stick, and AIFF files also refusing to play from a slow storage USB (with flashing LED) rather than the fast Whizkey, which has no flashing LED. This is perhaps why Aune do not quote AIFF as a supported format. The S1 crashed and had to be re-booted occasionally, but this didn’t happen often enough to be annoying. It isn’t, however, as stable as players from Cyrus, Naim etc.
    Alternative selection screens offer D/A Input and settings, but these were few.


To keep cost down Chinese manufacturers use freeware or low cost software and this player uses Linux in a Texas Instruments ARM based DSP, the 1808 based on their Sitara processor. As this reportedly has stability problems I wonder whether it explains my experiences with it. An AK4390 32-bit DAC is used, but  I'm unaware of commercially available music downloads at this resolution, and I would have thought 24bit was enough, but perhaps not!

SOUND QUALITY
The Aune was easy sounding, open and silky smooth. Playing 24/96 files it revealed lovely depth perspectives behind the Minnesota Orchestra playing Rimsky Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden, timpani thundering away to give plenty of weight. Cymbal crashes were sudden and powerful, but not hard and lacerative as is so common with CD. Bass sounded large and sturdy, without being bloated. With Benjamin Britten’s Boisterous Bourree in 24/192 WAV strings did not have quite the sawing edge to them as they do from the 2L Blu-ray and here lies the main difference between quality downloads and silver discs, from CD through to Blu-ray it appears.  
    The Aune S1 made clear the improvement 24bit resolution brings over CD’s miserable 16bits, a greater depth and intensity to detail banishing the sparse quality of CD. The S1 also possessed no digital glare or sterility, sounding creamy smooth to the point of being mild mannered up top. From a wide variety of Rock recordings through to Classical, this player gave powerful dynamics from an easy delivery that was almost laconic. I used it with my 300B World Audio Design valve amplifier and the Yamaha RX-A3010 receiver reviewed this month and both happily conveyed the extra shove the S1 brought to music.

 


CONCLUSION
As you may have gathered the Aune S1 wasn’t the most stable and consistent product I have come across, its total refusal to software start from the remote control being the most obvious problem, solved by using the hardware power switch. That and a few other hiccups apart though, it got on with its job and was easy to use, being all but Press and Play if you ignore menu legibility issues.
    In the all important sound quality arena though, the S1 offers a gloriously rich and intense experience way ahead of CD, by fully exploiting the benefits of high resolution recordings. It doesn’t  cover all formats admittedly, but a conversion programme like CKD can fix most issues here. Then, as £500 CD players go, the S1 is streets ahead, only it isn’t a CD player of course, it is what comes next.

VERDICT
An easy to use and inexpensive media player that gives superb sound quality, if with some foibles.

FOR
- smooth detailed sound
- ease of use
- flexibility

AGAINST
- no software power-on
- system hang-ups
- small display screen

AUNE S1                         £525
imported by Item Audio
+44 (0)1782 621225


http://en.auneaudio.com/
 

 



MEASURED PERFORMANCE

Rohde & Schwarz UPV

Measurement by Rohde & Schwarz UPV audio analyser

Frequency response measured flat to 45kHz and then rolled down smoothly to a 48kHz limit with a 96kHz sample rate signal. With a 192kHz sample rate test signal the S1 was -1dB down at 60kHz and reached right up to 96kHz our analysis shows, so it achieves the full potential of high sample rate PCM.


Distortion with a 16bit signal was as good as possible and with 24bit distortion at the critical -60dB level measured a low 0.05%, comparable with the best DACs available. EIAJ Dynamic range with 24bit was a high 104dB as a result of low quantisation noise. Output was very high 2.8V at 0dB.


The Aune S1 measures very well in all areas and unlike so many current DACs, offers the full analogue bandwidth theoretically available from 192kHz sample rate PCM digital. Being so thoroughly engineered it is likely to have very good sound quality.NK


Frequency response (-1dB)    24/192 PCM     1Hz - 60kHz

Distortion (24bit)
0dB        0.002
-6dB       0.004
-60dB     0.05
-80dB     0.47

Separation (1kHz)     95dB
Noise (IEC A)            -99dB
Dynamic range (24bit)    104dB
Output    2.8V

 

FREQUENCY RESPONSE  (192kHz sample rate)              what it means

Aune S1 frequency response (192kHz S.R.)

 

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