Aune S9C DAC with a capable headphone amplifier – review

Aune S9c front

Aune S9C (Tested at $699)

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Sound (Line Out) 8
Sound (Headphone Out) 9
Build 10
Compatibility 9
Features 10
Value 10
  • Powerful headphone amplifier
  • Neutral tonality
  • Clean and precise sound
  • Tone timbre could be richer

Aune S9C is a model attempting to bring a desktop DAC with a capable headphone amplifier. A one that is not just a feature to be checked off the list, but good enough to compete with powerful standalone amplifiers. Can Aune pull this off for the asking price of 699 USD? Let’s find out.

Build and Connectivity

First of all, Aune S9C is a big and chunky desktop product that will not be suitable for small and cramped spaces. That said, the build quality is very high with a sturdy all-aluminium build. The front of the unit is dominated by the big LCD display in the center and the volume knob on the right. On the left side, we find three different headphone output jacks, one of which is single-ended 6.3mm, while the other two are balanced ones in the form of 4.4mm and XLR.

Aune S9c front
Aune S9c back

In the back, we can see four digital inputs: USB, optical Toslink, coaxial SPDIF, and AER. There’s an external clock input if you wish to use one which I find highly unlikely at this price point. Finally, there are two sets of line-level outputs, single-ended RCA, and balanced XLR. These outputs feature variable output levels, meaning that you can attenuate the volume level using the volume knob in front or the remote control.

Finally, the Aune S9C can be purchased in two versions, one is without Bluetooth functionality with the price listed above, and the other one is with BT which costs roughly forty dollars more. You can decide for yourself if you need it or not.

Sound (DAC – Line Output)

Aune S9C offers tonality that is quite neutral with no particular part of the frequency spectrum being emphasized. Tones are presented in a very clean and clear fashion, with a clear preference for speed and precision. And while I would never call this sound unrefined or edgy, there isn’t much in terms of rich tone timbre or warmth to be found here. If you want that, you would have to look elsewhere because the Aune S9C is all about precision, speed, and clarity. All of that is put inside of a decently wide soundstage, with well-separated instruments that could be easily distinguished from each other. Soundstage depth is nothing to write home about and there are DACs in this price range that are doing that better.

Sound (Headphone Output)

Move to headphone outputs and the overall sound signature is the same. We’re talking about hi-resolution, hi-speed, hi-dynamics kind of sound. You can browse through music genres trying to find something that would make S9C miss a beat, but I doubt you’ll find it. The headphone amplifier is good enough not to hamper any of the DAC’s qualities, and powerful enough to drive almost any headphones with aplomb. Sounding weak, flat, or lifeless is not something that will ever concern owners of the S9C. It’s a powerful, dynamic, and lively kind of sound that will probably make your feet tap with rhythm.


Chord Mojo 2 is a similarly priced DAC and headphone amplifier. Unlike Aune, this one is small and portable. Their feature sets are slightly different too, with Aune leading in terms of connectivity and power, while Mojo 2 counters that with a very good integrated band equalizer. You can always browse their specs and features in more detail to decide what suits you more, so let me focus on the sound difference here instead.

Chord Mojo 2 when used as a DAC to provide line-level output to the integrated amplifier, preamp, or headphone amplifier, sounds richer. Aune S9C can’t match Chord’s tone timbre and dense, creamy, midrange. Tones with Aune S9C appear crisper around the edges but simpler – not as rich with inner details and harmonic overtones. In a certain setup S9C might appear “cleaner” sounding, but when put into a truly revealing and high-resolution system – Mojo 2 wins with better fine detail retrieval, tone texture, and tone complexity.

Moving to driving headphones directly instead of feeding line-level to another device, the impression changes. While Mojo 2 is a very capable headphone amplifier in isolation, it can’t really match the power, drive, and dynamics of the Aune S9C. Aune is more explosive, snappier, and simply sounds more alive with greater dynamic range. Chord Mojo 2 still has an advantage in terms of midrange richness but next to S9C it appears dynamically flatter, with kick and drive not matching what a bigger device can bring to the table. So for use with headphones mostly, I would rather listen to my music with Aune.


Aune S9C is a well-built, well-performing, and well-priced product. While it is a competent DAC, it comes just a bit short of matching the best in the class like Chord Mojo 2 or Topping D70 Pro. But this is a skilled and powerful headphone amplifier, which is one of its strongest traits. Because of that, it’s quite easy to recommend using it as a desktop DAC and amp that will power any headphones you hook to it without a fuss.


Aune S9C spec table


Official product page

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