AUNE S7 REVIEW

MSRP: $569USD

  • TONAL BALANCE / NEUTRALITY 91%
  • PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE 96%
  • FEATURES / FUNCTIONALITY 72%
  • SOUND FIDELITY 95%
  • MUSICALITY 82%
  • BUILD QUALITY 93%

PROS

  • Natural Midrange
  • Low distortion
  • Excellent price
  • Solid build

CONS

  • Lacks drive
  • Gain setting is useless
  • Should only be used balanced

INTRO 

Much thanks to the Aune Company for sending me this unit.  for sending me this unit. My initial interest came from their first posting of their spectacular specs at such an affordable price point. My first amplifier was the Aune T1 and I was really happy to own one but never looked back at the brand once I moved on and tried more expensive gear because I always thought more money meant better sound. Well years later I find myself with a whole different perspective. Few pieces of gear have given me that ‘wow’ experience I was in search of but had this piece of gear came out back then I am sure I would have been very excited to hear it since a lot of other gear in between has been harsh, bloated, or something in between.

The Aune S7 is not cheap but still not uber expensive and it is good that they put their best foot forward at a reasonable price. 

 SPECS

Frequency response : 20Hz – 80kHz +-0.1dB
THD+n <0.0005% @1kHz 32Ω
Max output power= 112mW@300Ω
Max output power=450mW@300Ω XLR
Max output power=1050mW @32Ω
Max output power=3400mW @32Ω XLR
SNR>124dB @600Ω
SNR>126dB @600Ω XLR
Crosstalk< -101dB @1kHz 600Ω
Crosstalk< -105dB @1kHz 600Ω XLR
Dimensions: 288 x 211 x 63mm
Net Weight : 3Kg

These specs are impressive. Let’s see how it stacks up. 

 

BUILD/DESIGN

This is one direct and to the point no-frills amplifier. It’s made of a 3 part chassis that has a very unique feel to it. I have never held such a dry and ashy piece of metal like this before. It’s a little tough to describe but the closest I can come up with is kind of rough and grainy like when you touch wood but more soft. Anyhow, I give up trying to explain that, I just found it to take fingerprints and dust like no other amp. It’s a solid and heavy piece of kit though. Good thing it doesn’t take up much desktop space with its average footprint size.

Too bad you can’t stack any gear on it because of its contour top. If you buy an Aune S6 and S7 you will have to place them side by side. Oh well,  atleast it looks cool to someone (me included…kinda).  Now onto what starts to really matter…what functions well and doesn’t. 

Start with the single ended jack: Nah… don’t do it. Do not be casual in your approach to this amplifier and judge it from the single ended jack like I did at first. It had my impressions of it all over the place until I decided to get serious with the Aune and see what it’s about. The sound signature of the amplifier becomes accentuated, loses a lot of its clarity, and sounds flat and compressed. 

Continue on to the gain switch: NO…Don’t do it. Do not listen on low gain and hit that gain switch like I did. DANG boy I almost went deaf. Not because it is too much gain but because low gain is so freakin low in volume that I was perplexed and just held down the gain button to see what was going on. Bam my ear drum fell out. 

Get your headphones balanced and proceed to the next section. 

SOUND

  • BASS EXTENSION 92%
  • BASS PRESENCE       89%
  • LOWER MIDRANGE BALANCE 94%
  • MIDRANGE PROPER PRESENCE 94%
  • UPPER MIDRANGE PRESENCE 88%
  • TREBLE BALANCE       84%
  • TREBLE EXTENSION       88%
  • TREBLE DEFINITION 73%
  • BASS CONTROL   91%
  • TONE DENSITY (BODY , OPPOSITE OF THINNESS) 89%
  • MACRO DYNAMICS (SOFTS TO LOUDS) 82%
  • MICRO DYNAMICS (SMALL GRADATIONS OF VOLUME) 72%
  • SOUND STAGE WIDTH 89%
  • SOUND STAGE DEPTH 80%
  • BLACKNESS OF BACKGROUND 95%

The Sound signature is evenhanded from the bass through the mids with a gray upper midrange and treble. It has a laid back sound that is less punchy than its closest competitor, the Jotunheim but more nuetral, a little more spacious, deeper soundstage, and just about as clean. 

BASS

The Aune S7 is pretty good when it comes to keeping things under wraps. Sometimes I personally felt like higher impedance headphones did worse than lower impedance but my results were all over the place on the Aune S7. I won’t do a pairing section on this one but let’s get into how it responded in different situations.

Orthos. Well let’s get the bad out of the way here. I found the Aune S7s rating of 3.4W to be misleading when getting down to the gritty of making my orthos sing or thump. It seems that Orthos are become more efficient and amps are getting more powerful, well the truth is that even though they are efficient they still love power; don’t get it twisted. My T50RP is low impedance and while I found it decently controlled and far from sloppy I have heard it bang a lot harder on even lower powered tube amps. Volume is not an issue per se but while trying to make the bass knock I had the pot too loud for comfort and it was past 12 o’clock. The Odin had grip and control with the Aune S7 as did the Ether C Flow but even though they were efficient they didn’t knock like I have heard them on other gear like the all mighty HE-9 or NFB-1. The sidebar is that the Aune S7 isn’t as powerful as I was expecting anyway. My Mogwai is under rated in power and this one is over rated. HE-6 stay away I’m warning you. 

Now the TH900 was a different story; the moment I plugged it I knew there was a click of synergy. The Th900 is inherently punchy in the bass but it was just as punchy and tight in the bass as just about any other amp(give or take). The Atticus and Eikon sometimes got a little more sloppy when leaving my  tube amps to the Aune S7. Whereas the TH900 was very well controlled by the Aune. My lower impedance Pioneer HRM-7 sounds great in the bass with the Aune S7. Now something middle ground impedance like the Elear or LCD2 weren’t on deck during my time with the Aune S7 but I imagine they would fare like the HD650, Atticus, and Eikon.

Okay, so what about the balance, is it neutral, boosted, or what? Neutral to just barely shy depending on the paring. It never sounds over the top and when switching from the very balanced SPL Phonitor E I gain a little more control on the Aune S7 but lose just a faint amount of presence and punch.  My tendencies lean more towards more presence and slam than the Aune S7 delivers. If I were to say the Aune s7 lacked bass, I wouldn’t be accurate as again… it’s right about neutral. The extension in the bass is good with a linear balance that doesn’t roll off in the sub bass. The Cayin iHA-6 is tighter, hits harder, but has about the same amount of presence. 

MIDRANGE

Very even handed and neutral with a very faint warm spot in the lower mids. The upper midrange never sounds shouty or accentuated and the middle midrange sounds leveled lacking a little bloom but never shelved or dipped to my ears.  I find the SPL Phonitor E unit to have more realism in the midrange but they are pretty close in sound quality on some songs making the SPL E unit sound overpriced in comparison even though the SPL allows the colours of the music to flourish more sensibly. First plugging into the S7 had me taken aback at the clarity I was hearing at this price. From my Pavane it is exceptionally clear.  It is not only very clear but also clean with hardly any distortion. Voices have good air and presence sounding just a little dark but breathy but never overly thick. All of those adjectives emerge from a nice black background too.  Not too shabby!

The thing is that the upper midrange sounds just a bit drab and while present enough to give acceptable presence, there is a dim ambience to that section of the midrange that can take a little charisma out of the recording. This can make me want for more engagement but I have met several people that like a more laid back sound like this. With this sound it has it is a very good thing that the timbre is not as thin and sterile as I have heard on other amplifiers but also just as good that it is not thick and heavy sounding because the upper midrange dimness continues into the treble. 

TREBLE

The treble of the Aune S7 is tinted for sure. From the upper midrange up there is a decline that is apparent on the Aune S7 that works well for bright headphones like the TH900, is tolerable on headphones like the Eikon but too dark for the Atticus to be considered ideal. The Atticus sounds okay in the midrange proper but the treble tilt hurts it (as does the upper midrange shelving). The High band is not as crisp in texture as I would prefer either. Hi hats and cymbals don’t crack on the Aune S7, nor do the high pitches of . So while taken aback by the inner clarity of the midrange proper the treble doesn’t sound as impressive. The extension seems good though. While the amplifier is tinted my HD650 never sounded like it took a hit in treble extension, keeping its airy sound intact. I find it okay to have a darker sounding amplifier and usually lean that way instead of bright but when it lacks definition is when I have some concern. I have to consider the price though when speaking of these aspects because on my desktop holding its own next to gear that costs up 3-45x its MSRP and every one of them have their own weaknesses.

PERFORMANCE

  • Decently wide soundstage with modest separation and average depth. 
  • The dynamics are mediocre sounding a wee bit compressed and flat but not horrible by any means.
  • The Clarity in the midband is exceptional for the price.
  • Tone density is not thin sounding at all and it has a decently analog feel to it’s sound. I am not going to call it thin or dense but somewhat in between avoiding elusiveness. It could stand to sound a little more hard in the treble.
  • Resolution is decent to pretty good. It sounds above average for a mid tiered amplifier in this regards. 
  • Good tone quality and refinement; far from grainy sounding
  • Very black background and low distortion
  • The transient speed is average to slightly slow sounding with okay attack, good sustain, and average decay

CONCLUSION

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This is a plain, straight to the point amplifier that does its job well for the price. Depending on the headphone the person owns I can easily recommend it. I guess nowadays people think that balanced means better and gear like this will perpetuate that kind of thinking because it no doubt sounds better balanced. It’s priced just about right doing clarity above its price tier but other things just decently. Overall though, I give it a thumbs up but wouldn’t be able to own it as my main headphone amp since it requires careful pairing.

 

Now I did just see the Airist Heron on Massdrop for 599 and were it between the two no doubt I would get the Heron 5 instead. However, it is very rare to have this much clarity and low distortion at this price and those Madddrop deals have never been that low on the Heron 5. Also the Jotunheim at just a little cheaper performs more consistently accross a variety of heapdhones showing better control regardless of impedance. The Jotunheim is bright though and I would throw an HD800 on the S7 any day of the week before I used the Joti. The Schiit Jotunheims single ended and balanced jack are both useful and it functions as a preamp making it still the king of bang for buck. I would say that the Aune has earned its spot amongst the Jotunheim, Heron 5, and Cayin iHA-6 as some of the best bang for bucks out there. Its not at the level of the Cayin though so if you can stretch a little more I recommend that amplifier over this one unless you don’t like bright gear which is understandable.  In the end its all about what sounds good to you and now there are a lot of options out there so choose wisely. 

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