Construction and Design
Packaging and Accessories
- Very simple and intuitive software.
- Huge sound, full, effective, weighty, powerful, concise, tight, natural, analogue, pure, neutral, precise, musical and silky.
- Three audio outputs, 2.5mm BAL, 3.4mm SE and 4.4mm BAL.
- The screen size is generous.
- Its shapes are very pleasant.
- It comes with a 128GB microSD card.
- Fast microSD boot and scanning.
- Choice of 7 sound filters.
- Good power level.
- It gets slightly warm.
- Display font can be a bit small (for those of us who are old), no choice of size.
- 72 volume steps instead of 100, no gain selector. The volume adjustment near the maximum is more abrupt, because the voltage jumps are bigger.
- This is a DAP whose size/battery ratio is not great, although it lasts longer than the 6 hours it specifies.
- Gapless can be improved.
Link to the WEB
My quest for the best DAP under $400 continues. And, luckily, I have come across a simple but great DAP along the way. It is the Aune M1p. Without a doubt, it is one of those DAPs whose best qualities are sound and simplicity of use. It’s not an Android-based DAP, it doesn’t have a HiBy-based operating system, it’s just an old and sparse OS, which doesn’t allow the display of cover art. It is a simple player, closer to a classic CD player than to any current touchscreen DAP. With a sober but elegant look, with a good, high-contrast screen, dedicated buttons, an operational simplicity, the M1p is the kind of DAP I want to have, fast to use and betting the rest on sound.
In the following review we will see what this peculiar DAP can do.
- DAC used: ES9038Q2M.
- Recommended headphone impedance: 8-600Ω.
- THD+N: 0.00021% @ 1kHz 3.5mm.
- Headphone outputs: SE 3.5mm, BAL 2.5mm, BAL 4.4mm.
- Output power per SE: 130mW @ 32Ω
- Output power per BAL: 280mW @ 32Ω
- DNR: 120dB
- Noise: 2.5µVrms
- Maximum voltage per 3.5mm SE output: 2.2Vrms
- Maximum voltage at 2.5mm/4.4mm BAL output: 4.57Vrms
- Supported formats:
- WAV: 16bit, 24bit, 32bit. 44.1K/48K/88.2K/96K/176.4K/192K/352.8K/384K/705.6K/768K. WAV + CUE
- FLAC: 16bit, 24bit. 44.1K/48K/88.2K/96K/176.4K/192K
- DSD: DSF/DFF/ISO (DSD64/128/256/DSD512)
- APE: 16bit/44.1K Normal
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0; Supported Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD.
- Battery life: 6+ hours continuous playback (16bit/44.1k; screen locked).
- Maximum charging current: 1.3A. 1.5A and higher chargers recommended.
- Display: 2.4″ IPS.
- Memory card: microSD (supports sizes up to 1TB, exFAT, FAT32 format).
- Interface languages: Chinese (simplified/traditional), English, Japanese, Korean.
- Dimensions: 56×124.5×15.5mm
- Weight: 147g.
The Aune M1p comes in a medium-sized white box, whose dimensions are 172x170x38mm. On the front face you can see the front profile of the DAP, the brand logo on the top right, the Hi-Res logo on the bottom right and the model name on the bottom left, as well as a minimal product description. Below, separated by a line, are a series of logos and icons describing the product features. On the back side there are icons describing the possible ways of use. At the bottom there is a silver sticker with the name of the model, the brand name, the logos of the standards it complies with and a pair of 1D barcodes.
Removing the cardboard box reveals a completely black box with only the Aune logo inscribed in silver letters in the centre. Lifting the box reveals a small transparent pouch with a 128GB microSD memory card, a brand data card and a quick guide. Behind this first layer, the DAP can be seen inside a protective white plastic pouch, encased in a thick black protective foam mould. To the left is an elongated black cardboard box containing a USB to USB TypeC charging cable. Surprisingly, it comes with a 128GB Kingston-branded memory card, and the cable is also from a well-known brand like Ugreen. This means that Aune is committed to quality first and foremost.
The presentation is simple but effective, with the brand’s usual elegance and care for the use of the best materials in the price range.
The matching leather case is an accessory that can be purchased separately.
Construction and Design
The Aune M1p has dimensions of 124.50x56x15.50mm. It is made of textured aluminium alloy in matt black. It is an elongated and narrow DAP with a 2.4″ IPS display with a double target button on the bottom. The outer ring-shaped button consists of four cross-shaped buttons. On the right side there are three buttons on the upper half, a double volume button and a smaller one for on/off and screen lock. On the lower half of this side is the Bluetooth antenna for those models with that option. On the left side, in the upper half is the back button and below that, the microSD memory card slot. On the bottom edge, left to right, you can see a small Philips screw, the USB TypeC socket, the balanced 2.5mm headphone output, the gold-plated 3.5mm single ended headphone socket, the gold-plated 4.4mm balanced headphone output and another small Philips screw. On the top edge, the two screws are repeated on both sides. On the back face, on the top is the brand logo. At the bottom is the model name, a short description, the charging parameters, the full brand name and the logos of the specifications it meets, as well as the serial number.
Inside, the M1p is the third generation of Aune’s DAP M1 series. It uses a freescale™ 600M processor and a hardware decoding framework. It uses FPGA algorithm and DAC clock synchronisation technology. The Bluetooth edition supports Bluetooth HD reception and transmission.
As DAC, the M1p uses the ES9038Q2M, as well as 4 headphone amplifiers.
It should be noted that my version is not Bluetooth and that there is a small hole where the antenna should be.
The design is very sober, simple and elegant at the same time. It is striking that the lower and upper edges have been rounded, something that makes the design much friendlier and also ergonomic. Another aspect I praise is that it has three headphone outputs BAL 2.5mm, SE 3.5mm and BAL 4.4mm, so it is not necessary to use adapters as these outputs are the most common ones. It is true that it does not have the 6.3mm SE output, but this is already more complicated in a pickup whose thickness is only 15.5mm.
The dimensions are also surprising, at first thought that its size was going to be smaller, but it is a bit elongated, while the screen is large, although I would have liked the font to be a bit bigger, as one’s eyes are already tired… otherwise, the construction is impeccable, fully functional and robust.
The Aune M1p has three headphone outputs BAL 2.5mm, SE 3.5mm and BAL 4.4mm. It has fixed or variable line output, via the SE 3.5mm headphone output, menu selectable.
It has bi-directional Bluetooth and can be connected in receiver mode to pair with a Bluetooth source, such as a smartphone. In transmitter mode, the M1P can be used to pair with Bluetooth headphones, a car or compatible Bluetooth speakers, as if it were a source.
The USB port is for charging only.
The operation of the Aune M1p is quite simple and the manual is very descriptive in this respect, so any attempt to comment on its operation would be redundant.
For this review we have used the M1p_1.064 firmware (2023-06-12).
It should be noted that the M1p supports up to DSD512 and PCM up to 32bit/768k. It also has 7 filter modes. The differences between them are usually quite subtle, as usual with this kind of filters. But it is always an interesting option to look for the differences between them.
The Aune M1p shuts down instantly. But the start-up is not as fast as I would like it to be. After pressing the power button, «NO DEVICE» appears on the screen for a few moments, followed by a scanning process of the memory card. Admittedly, the process is quite fast for 128GB. But I would have liked it if the phrase «NO DEVICE» had not been displayed, as it gives the impression that something is «wrong». I would also have preferred the card scanning to be menu-selectable, so that it would start even faster. On the other hand, I am sure that these small drawbacks will be debugged in the next firmware versions.
The volume has 72 steps and I would have preferred it to go up to 99, as in the last steps the volume change is more considerable. On the other hand, it lacks a gain selector, something that also contributes to more abrupt changes at the high end of the volume range.
The display has 5 levels of brightness and the font size is arguably medium/small. The operation is ultra simple, the display information is quite descriptive and the name of the song scrolls horizontally across the screen, with a brighter white colour. What I miss from the display information is the percentage of battery remaining, only a battery is presented, which drains in three or four positions.
And speaking of the battery, the battery life is specified to be around just over 6 hours. My tests have estimated the actual battery life to be longer, using a good level of brightness, FLAC format and using the screen quite a lot.
Finally, to maintain alphabetical order in a folder structure on the microSD memory, I recommend using some FAT sorting software (FAT Sorter), so that the M1p presents the folders and files in alphabetical order.
The output impedance is around 1Ω for both SE and BAL.
No load SE
The maximum no-load voltage at the 3.5mm SE output is 2.2V.
15 Ω SE
The maximum voltage without visible distortion is 1.3V, which implies a power of 110mW and 87mA.
33 Ω SE
Maximum voltage for this impedance, 140mW, slightly more than the specified 130mW. Very good.
100 Ω SE
Maximum voltage also for this impedance, just over 50mW.
No Load BAL
As usual for the balanced output, the voltage is doubled to 4.4V.
15 Ω BAL
With the usual current limit of around 90mA, the power per BAL for 15Ω does not aspire to be higher than per SE. In fact, it is somewhat higher, but with a small visible distortion. To be sure, when turned down a volume step, it stays about the same as SE, 1.24V, 100mW and 83mA.
33 Ω BAL
In an ideal world with 90mA at this impedance, the voltage would be almost 3V and would give that figure reflected in the spec, 280mW. The actual test without visible distortion on my humble oscilloscope is 2.7V, which gives a good 220mW. Pretty good.
100 Ω BAL
No voltage is reserved for this impedance and the M1p gives the maximum, 4.4V and 190mW.
Once again, I find myself in the difficult position of describing the sound of a source. And this is not just any source, but one of the most charming DAPS I have ever heard. One of the first things I noticed is its punch. This is a DAP with a very consistent, solid, powerful and weighty sound. And that’s a quality you don’t get just by turning up the volume. Sometimes this characteristic can be associated with power. But in the case of the Aune M1p, it is perceived at low volumes. It is an almost oppressive feeling of fullness, which is felt from the very first beat. But that doesn’t mean it’s dense. On the contrary. It is an open and clean sound. Perhaps, because of the dark, opaque look of DAP, with that basic display of just white letters, one might associate that feeling with its sound. But this is not the case. As I say, it is a big, surround sound with good three-dimensionality. It is also endowed with clarity and light, capable of offering a very diaphanous and separate feel to the sound. But it is not an analytical sound either. I am one of those who like the ability of some sources to dissect the music. On this occasion, that is not the case; instead, it is a very precise, yet completely natural, yet truly rich sound. And perhaps that is one of its great virtues, that mix of precision, level of resolution and richness, both of detail and tonal.
As I said, this is a very strong sound and the power that is demonstrated in the low end attests to that. It has a powerful bass, quite sensory, with a hint of darkness and it doesn’t feel coloured. Even so, it is very fast, agile and concise. The low end is tight, a little dry, but punchy, not too rough, and its texture is a little smoother, supporting a low end that is neither juicy nor boomy. It is a very realistic bass, offering no artifice, but it is not fun, vivid or playful either. The low end is serious, straight to the point. It offers the sensitive and sensory capability of the bass and this is reflected in a very deep, yet controlled sub-bass, but full of power.
The mid-range and also the high end are governed by an analogue feel that gives it a softness around the edges. The sound is not as ethereal, nor does it offer an escapist feel. But nevertheless, everything is very well put together, there are no notes that slip away or give a discordant impression, which could lead to an unpleasant or a more penetrating tone. Not so, the musicality in that respect is never lost. Thus, the vocals always come across as under control, melodious and sweet, but very believable and tonally appropriate. The instrumentation can seem more sedate and perhaps doesn’t have that expansive vibe that other DAPS can have. But it does again demonstrate absolute control in its development, which makes its timbre very pleasing and never strident. The resulting combination is a very attractive, pleasing, captivating, yet effective, absorbing and immersive compendium, where transitions are swift and dynamics are evident. The fact that the mids are so well matched, with weighty notes, a quick decay, an agile and energetic movement, but controlled, tight and without artifice, underlines that analogue, realistic and euphonic feeling, which allows an instant and lasting enjoyment, very suitable for long sessions, which invites to turn up the volume in a dangerous way.
The treble is extended, but docile, infused with naturalness, control and reproductive smoothness. They are perhaps not as sharp, nor are they as penetrating, something which, in the ensemble of the three strips, may give a sense of a certain darkness. But, I refuse to think that this is the case. It is true that the upper range is not sparkling, effervescent or bubbly, but neither will it be sharp, shrill, uncontrolled or unpleasant. It sticks to the analogue-musical pairing, without implying a lack of resolution, definition or detail. On the contrary, the cleanness and speed of the treble, its precise definition and the separation of the notes, offer a winning level of resolution, within that musical and pleasant sensation that accompanies all the ranges of the M1p. In this way, the development of detail is easy, not forced, without being explicit or clearly evident, but without needing to be. Such details are an intrinsic part of the music and do not require parallel or additional enhancement. In this sense, the M1p is very pure, natural, neutral and organic. That’s why the treble never sounds strident or impostured, but rather comes across fluently, being understandable and simple, even if it is complex to develop or evolve.
As can be expected and on the basis of all that has been said so far, the image is realistic, pure, precise and consistent. The placement of the elements is skilfully well positioned, but offering that sense of naturalness and speed that makes everything expressed in a simple way.
The scene, without being a monstrous source in this respect, is entirely in keeping, calm but spacious, with a good three-dimensional level, but without getting out of head, keeping control of all the music, without dissonance or out of tune. But, as a powerful, pure and neutral source, it is capable of expressing the music in a spacious, extended, deep and remarkably high space.
The other great DAP I own in this price range is the Tempotec V6. It uses a dual AK4493SE DAC and we all know what AKM’s motto is: «Velvet Sound». Well, as a conclusion, I would say that the M1p, with its ES9038Q2M DAC, sounds silkier than the V6.
The bass range seems wider and takes up more space on the V6, while it feels darker, deeper and more sensory on the M1p. Bass roughness and texture is more pronounced in the V6. The M1p is lower and offers drier bass. But the control over them is more exquisite, offering a more refined, deeper, realistic and restrained lower range, but very capable of reproducing complex situations. In these same situations, the V6 tends to sound a little more bloated and is less adept at regaining control, giving a slightly muddier feel in those tricky situations.
In the mid-range the M1p sounds drier, but also more organic, neutral and analogue. In contrast, the V6 seems to open up the mids more and delivers them with more projection and expansion. Just as it makes for a more ethereal sound, it also feels a little more discordant in some notes that seem to stand out in a less controlled way. If the music is slow and well-recorded, the V6 may offer a more dramatic feel. But if the passages are a little more complex, the M1p’s refinement and control will come through, and it will sound more seamless and natural.
The V6 has a sharper, crisper and finer treble. The M1p is smoother and more pleasant, but seems to lose a bit of sparkle. In this case, the V6 will sound more analytical and bright than the M1p, which is more neutral and quiet. But, the V6 again repeats the same excited pattern as in the other ranges. And it is perhaps in this range that this characteristic is most noticeable. It has more sparkle, yes. It’s crisper, too. But it can offer some undesirable stridency. Meanwhile, this same passage is not critical in the M1p.
The sound is a little more open on the V6, with a more ethereal and volatile feel. This can lead to a larger, more surrounding soundstage feel. The M1p is more concise, defined and focused, but its soundstage is not small, but rather more realistic and conjunctive. From the volatility of the notes, the V6 seems more detached. Whereas the M1p offers a darker and more natural background.
Against the large legion of DAPs based on Android or HiBy, there are always exceptions. The problem with those exceptions is that they don’t always live up to simple, fast and efficient operation. The Aune M1p has possibly one of the simplest OSes I’ve seen on DAPs of a certain level. It has been designed to boot up fast and also to work this way. There are still a few details to iron out, but I’m sure the brand is working to improve. Where there is no doubt that the philosophy of this DAP is a success is in the sound. Aune is synonymous with an uncontrived sound that strives for purity and neutrality. The M1p could not be otherwise. It is also tremendously musical, with a distinctly analogue and euphonic feel. It is designed to recreate music in the most natural and enjoyable way, to allow hours and hours of pleasure, without shrillness and with a dangerously addictive capacity for wanting to turn up the volume to get into the sound. The M1p is immersive and engaging, from the simplicity of its form and handling, to the powerful ease of musical presentation. From these premises, it seems difficult to achieve a sound as complete as that offered by the Aune M1p.
Earphones Used During Analysis
- Letshuoer DZ4
- Hidizs MS3
- Kiwi Ears Quartet
- KiiBOOM Evoke
- KiiBOOM Allure
- NiceHCK F1
- Letshuoer S12 PRO
- Rose QT9 MK2s
- Yanyin Aladdin
- ISN H40
- Penon Globe
- OurArt QJ21
- Rose Martini
- Sunrise Dragon 2 Limited Edition (SWD2LE) 10th Anniversary