Aune B1 – Vincent

A final niggle is its countersunk in/out ports. Because they neither sit flush with the case, nor in wide-mouth wells, certain headphones/connectors may have connection problems. It’s not that the jacks themselves are shallow, and their mouths just tapered out; I can plug thin-line plugs flush with the socket. It’s that the case protrudes beyond the jacks themselves. Ditto USB jacks. I’ve not had trouble, but I foresee certain plugs not going all the way in. The B1 is designed with style in mind, but its form does not appear to follow anything but a stylistic vision. It’s a shame. Its aggressively 1960s HiFi lines are incredibly handsome. Had they been followed by safe-to-handle gain and CLASS A switches, B1 would be a freaking classic.

Sound

The main reason for that is that it sounds good. It’s got enough detail, and good drive power, but better than that, it has a quasi-comfy-chair sound, which you can relax into. Its treble doesn’t drop off, or anything, but its stereo channels bleed into each other a little, which makes harsh headphones a lot easier to listen to. This amp is another one that really really makes the Beyerdynamic DT880/600 sound its best. And it has hella enough power to make that headphone sing.

It effortlessly drives my DT880 even at full gain/volume, with only the slightest rise in IMD distortion. At normal listening levels, it supplies wonderful power and quality signal for most, if not all home headphones. It reaches its current ceiling when driving low-resistance, semi-sensitive headphones such as Mr. Speakers Alpha Dogs whose bass, after a twist of about 50%, rattles like a can full of broken glass. Have no fear though, at normal to high volume levels, it powers them perfectly, and every other headphone I’ve tried, perfectly. The B1’s high gain is incredibly aggressive, but not backed by heaps of current, and thus is best suited for high-resistance headphones that are never starved for current.

I am most comfortable listening to both the DT880/600 and the Mr. Speakers Alpha Dog in low gain at a setting of around 40-60% of the B1’s pot.

As you can imagine, pairing sensitive earphones with the B1 is somewhat tricky. My two favorite universal earphones are the Ultrasone IQ and the Grado GR10  The first reaches borderline uncomfortable levels right as the B1 balances the difference between channels. The latter is about the same. The slightly less sensitive Grado GR8e can handle slightly more volume, but just barely. What does handle the B1’s aggressive gain is Earsonics Velvet, and EM32. The thing about the EM32 is that it is a bass-and-mid earphone, which, I think, sounds best paired to sharper-sounding amps. The B1 is gracefully extended, and warm and atmospheric in the mids and bass. Its handling of distortion is beautiful.

The biggest shame is that the B1 doesn’t really hiss. At all. Its background is blacker than any other amp in my arsenal. In fact, I put it ahead of the PURE II and two steps ahead of the Portaphile Micro  It simply doesn’t hiss. My ears tell me that it may have a bit more background noise than the Mezzo Hifi MZAK100, but only barely. And so here I am, an earphone guy, really wanting to enjoy my GR10 through it, really wanting to enjoy my Noble K10 through it, but because of its aggressive gain, I have a very hard time.

It supplies good current to low-Ω earphones, but it’s not perfect. I’ve not measured its output, but I’d guess it’s between 2 and 4 Ω. Easy-to-drive earphones: GR8, ER4s, Velvet, SM3, etc., are in tip-top condition from the get to, and suffer much less from the aggressive gain. But those expensive ones, you have that detect the hiss in the vacuum of space: those don’t pair as well.

End Words

So, my petition is this: Aune, fix your gain. The B1 is a dream. A bloody dream. It is lush, powerful, and its channels bleed so sweetly. This is an amp that deserves the comfy chair, the whiskey, and a good long go at Vibrasphere, or Chicane, before hitting Wu Tang Clan. And sometimes, that comfy chair fits on the train, or bus, and props up elbows and ears stuffed with high-end earphones, not just full-size headphones. I can promise you this: nail the gain, clean up the switch problem and, BAM! the B1 will be a winner. In its current state, it is simply a wonderful sounding amp that in many ways takes the crown for doing the clean, comfy listen perfectly: but only for the big guns.

And when on the go, scale really does matter.

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

17 Comments

  • Reply April 9, 2015

    dalethorn

    This is good. Massdrop has been featuring Aune amps lately, and hopefully they will pick this one soon.

    • Reply April 10, 2015

      ohm image

      Massdrop would be interesting, but according the to B1 site, it is out of stock at the maker, so I have a feeling bulk deals won’t happen soon. Again, fix the issues I stated and BAM! amazing amp.

      • Reply April 10, 2015

        Colton

        Great review. If this were to be used primarily on a desktop fed from an E07K as a DAC, would it be worth picking up? At least I wouldn’t have the switch issue since I wouldn’t be pulling it out of a pocket.

        • Reply April 10, 2015

          ohm image

          Colton, thanks for the comment. What headphones would you be using? If you can control the output of the DAC losslessly to something lower than the voltage going out from an iPod line out, then yes, amazing. Even for earphones, rock on. But if not, I would suggest using only headphones, or insensitive earphones.

          Again, amazing-sounding amp.

          • Reply April 10, 2015

            Colton

            Thanks for the quick reply! Right now I have some DT770 80ohm, and I’m looking to get either the HD600 or Fidelio X2 as my first open set. I was thinking of running the E07K from my computer’s usb, then line out to an Aune B1. Does that make sense?

            • Reply April 10, 2015

              ohm image

              Then light it up: those are perfect for the B1.

              • Reply April 10, 2015

                Colton

                Awesome, thank you!

  • Reply May 1, 2015

    Nathanael Vega

    How you compared b1 with oppo ha2, just in amp mode??

    • Reply May 2, 2015

      dalethorn

      There was no comparison, besides the faux leather skin.

  • Between the FiiO E12A Mont Blanc and Aune B1, what is best choice for IEMs?

    • Reply July 25, 2015

      dalethorn

      (In case Nathan doesn’t respond right away) – I don’t have the Aune, but reading Nathan’s comments about IEMs it seems clear that it’s a case-by-case thing – you have to know which IEM and how it performs with the Aune. OTOH, I’d use the E12A with just about anything.

  • Reply September 23, 2015

    Langlang

    Great review. I’m currently deciding between this and the Cayin C5 which was also reviewed here. What would be the differences in sound to expect?

  • Reply September 25, 2015

    .nozomi.

    So, I guess this is a no go for the Shure SE846? I also own the JVC HA-FX850 and the HD650. But since the SE846 is my main driver, looks like I’m gonna have to pass on this one.

    Is there really nothing that is actually suitable for the SE846?

    • Reply April 25, 2016

      ohm image

      Unfortunately, the SE846 is really sensitive and prone to hiss and channel imbalance. As such, a good DAP (iPod nano 7G, iPhone 4s, AK380, Plenue D, etc.) is probably better than a DAP and an amp. The SE846 heavily loads up weak outputs. A Mojo would batten down the SE846 perfectly. So would the Grace M9xx.

  • Reply September 8, 2016

    Sebastian

    Hello,

    I have just entered the world of better audio. I currently own q-JAYS earphones, Sennhesier Momentum M2 headphones and Cowon Plenue D DAP. I travel a lot so I look for devices I can take with me to hotels/planes/trains, etc. I was thinking about higher quality AMP which I could use with my Plenue D or MacBook Air (Cirrus Logic 4208-CRZ sounds really really good). Would you recommend this AMP? Would it bring any positive results to my systems?

    I also plan to buy Beyers DT150 and I guess B1 would help to drive them properly.

    Many thanks for all your work.

    • Reply January 15, 2017

      Bharat

      Hi,

      i don’t think any of your phones need amping, regarding the MacBook you will be double amping the signal so thats again a no go in terms of SQ, best bet is to get a dac-amp combo and use it as an amp with the Cowon and a amp only with the mac.

      better phones will be a better option though.

  • Reply January 15, 2017

    Bharat

    B1 is on its way , though i am really scared about the self and ear destruct buttons, don’t want to destroy my 1 grand ciem’s and my ears or the unit.
    please some detailed info on that?

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