Disclaimer: Aune provided the B1 for the purposes of this review, free of charge. It goes for just south of 250$ USD. You can find out more about it here.
Finish and Design
Talk about cleaning up: especially under single light sources, the Aune B1’s bold lines border on sexy. It is a symmetrical box, ins and outs arrayed evenly either side of the half-a-flying-saucer volume pot, dual windows down the front, dual brake pads down the back. Sexy, and yet almost Sony-esque in its reliance on branding and other graffiti. It doesn’t need massive FCC, recycling, and other passed-test icons. I say hide them along the B1’s, ass; they take away from what otherwise, is a perfectly modern version of Vincent, from Disney’s The Black Hole. The Made in China text, not to mention the website, should be much smaller, if not hidden. What really counts are the model name, the brand, and important interface labels.
Interestingly The B1 is the second China-made amp I’ve tested clad at least partially in ‘leather’. The other one being the Oppo HA-02 . The B1 splits faux animal skin along its bum, with enough space between cheek for yet another duo of Aune and B1 trademarks. And once you’ve got headphones and source plugged in, and its circuits switched on, its green eyes light up. Vincent. My Fujifilm X-T1 even detected a face in the photo taken on my kitchen table. Go figure.
I should point out that the B1’s metal chassis is rock solid. And while I’m no Rock, I’m no 50kg weakling either. And, twisting hard left, and wringing hard right, I’ve tried to bend it. There is no flex anywhere. Its volume pot is part of that: while it may look like Vincent’s cap, it glides from its lowest to its highest setting with Leica ease. Sexy. And, impressive.
Just as impressive is the work that went into the B1 commercial photos (not mine). They are well shot, and comely. Good job.
And then there are the parts that show that Aune could have used a real interface designer. Symmetrical lines and stuff are not enough. Case #1: the B1’s interface buttons appear to float in metal wells, but they do not. They are just improperly aligned. Not a one perfectly lines up with the case, and each cants right-wise. The B1 Manual does little to illuminate what the middle one is for. But reading between the lines, I reckon it doubles the amount of wattage to which the B1’s battery has access. And then, there’s the self-destruct function. Here’s what the manual says (verbatim):
Never flip this button under B1 is working.
-which I translate like this: never, under any circumstances, move that easily-moved switch, or you’ll blow up.
WTF? Can someone say Tree of The Knowledge of Good & Evil, for me? If there’s an easy to press button somewhere and I shouldn’t press it, sure as shit, I will press it. It’s Murphy’s Law. Aune, let’s look at this seriously: if engaging the CLASS A button hurts the B1, it shouldn’t be so easy to press, nor so starkly out there. Well, I took the warning as a challenge, though not necessarily on purpose. Several times, whilst prying the B1 out of my front pocket, I moved the CLASS A to the ‘up’ position. Whilst putting it back in, I moved it into the ‘down’ position. Ditto the gain gain switch. Of course the amp was on. Thankfully, the mostly innocuous power button is far enough removed from prying fingers. I’ve never accidentally bumped it off or on. And fortunately, the self-destruct function appears to be faulty. This is a bad design.
You may have defter fingers than me. You may never accidentally switch on the self-destruct button. But I guarantee that you will accidentally nudge the ‘ear self-destruct’ button, aka the gain switch, which adds about 12dB to the signal. If you’ve got earphones in, it may be the last time you use them.
Finally, while the battery seems to last well (I kept recharging it so I have no idea how much farther past 7 hours the 20mW setting (the lower of the two CLASS A settings). I assume that 8 to 9 hours is the most anyone would realistically get out of it. That isn’t bad. It’s actually sort of a recent trend. Battery life is getting worse. But Aune is biased for Class A operation, so it should tear through batteries. I’m surprised by how long its battery life lasts.
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