Yesterday I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at a new portable amplifier from Aune, the company behind the excellent, budget priced tube DAC, the Aune T1. The new amp is known as the B1 and has some very interesting features that could prove to be winners for many enthusiasts out there. Thanks to Billy at Noisy Motel for letting me see this very interesting upcoming amp.
Size and design
The Aune B1 is a fairly standard size with a similar footprint to the FiiO E12 range of amps, but it’s a little thicker than the E12s by just a couple of millimetres. On first glance it looks like an aluminium and leather hip flask which seems to be a bit of a trend with audio products of late – I have no idea why!?
Flipping the amp over you see a couple of windows into the circuitry of the B1. There’s nothing too juicy to be seen there other than some capacitors, resistors, two LEDs and some transistors. There’s nothing that indicates what op amp the B1 might be using under the hood, but that doesn’t really matter anyway because there’s more to a good amp than the chips it employs.
The whole amp is made from machined aluminium which is nice, but there are a few edges that are a bit ‘edgy’ for my taste. They’re not exactly sharp, but they’re sharp enough to feel a bit rough. Most noticeable of these are the machined edges around the leather inserts. It’s not a deal breaker as such, but it does detract slightly from the ergonomics.
Buttons and Switches
Looking further, there is a simple battery indicator on one side of the amp which consists of a single LED and a button. The indicator is simple and the implementation prevents a permanent LED display from draining the battery – I like it. The way it works is that a press of the button initiates a series of pulses from the single LED. 5 pulses means the B1 is fully charged while less pulses mean less power remaining (down to 10% remaining if it flashes just once).
Flipping to the other side there are 3 switches to play with. One of these is the power switch, as in on / off. The other two control the delivery of sound to your ‘phones. At the top of the amp nearest the volume control and input / output sockets is a gain switch. The gain options are 5dB or 15dB.
Below the gain switch is a switch labelled “Class A”. According to what I’ve found online, the Class A switch changes the amount of current used by the amp to deliver sound to your headphones. In the “off” position the amp works with 20mA while in the “on” position the amp works with 40mA. I’m not yet entirely clear on the setup being used here because I didn’t really have time to test it thoroughly, but it sounds like this switch may give users a way to get a bit more current for resistive headphones like planar magnetics (e.g. Audeze LCD-2s).
On top of the amplifier are a pair of 3.5 mm sockets (in / out) and a volume knob.
Quick Sound Impressions
I hadn’t visited Noisy Motel with a view to auditions or testing yesterday so I wasn’t fully equipped to run the B1 through its paces, however, a short session using the outstanding line-out of the HUM Pervasion and a pair of the wonderful Thinksound On1 headphones yielded some very nice results.
The sound from the B1 was smooth and warm in the best senses of the terms. There was no sense of bloat or roll-off, just a very organic and enjoyable sound with plenty of detail and a nice sense of space in the soundstage. Power levels were ample on the low gain setting and the current setting made no discernible difference with the On1s so I’ll have to try again some time with something a little trickier.
This is just a quick heads-up so I don’t have anymore to offer at this stage, but this is an amp worth looking out for and I hope to have a review of it for you very soon. I believe it will be priced in the ballpark of other options like the Cayin C5 and FiiO E12s, but whether it’ll be slightly higher or lower I don’t know. It looks like it’ll also be available in silver and red or straight black.
No matter how you look at it, the Aune B1 could be another very strong offering in the ‘getting crowded’ portable amp market. It has a few features that might just set it apart from the crowd and it sounds like it’s got the chops to really compete. Check back soon (or subscribe) to find out more as soon as I have more to share.