Aune X5s Review - Sort Of
And how to optimize file
organisation on the SD and display META tag information
last update: Sept 13, 2017

Copyright 2017 by H. Gragger. All Rights Reserved. All information provided herein is destined for educational and D.I.Y. purposes only. Commercial re-sale, distribution or usage of artwork without explicit written permission of the author is strictly prohibited. The original units  with their associated  trade-names are subject to the copyright of the individual copyright owner. The Author is by no means affiliated with any of those companies. References to trade names are made for educational purposes only. By reading the information provided here you agree to the Terms of Use.
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Index

Introduction
Subjective Sound Quality And Handling
Aunes Got Limited File Handling Capability
Improve File Handling
Ripping, Compressing and Tagging With EAC
File Name Generation And Tag Manipulation With Mp3tag
File And Directory Sorting With DriveSort
Writing Files To the SD card
Downloads

Aune
                        X5s
Picture source: https://www.auneaudio-europe.com/


Introduction

Recently I had been looking for a possibility to rip CDs to a medium other than yet another CD, which are frequently rejected by CD players. Being spoiled by using contemporary media like computers and mobile MP3 players, some visual track indication to aid track selection would be most welcome, since the information is inside the trackss META flags anyways.

These days mobile players abound, with an increasing trend towards high quality players beyond plain MP3. These range from user friendly price tags to incredibly ludicrous price tags in the 1000 Euro range.

Since I found the sense of using a mobile HQ player in a loud public environment questionable, besides trading in fragile interface connectors, I opted for a desktop model.

The best on price/performance ratio appeared to be the Aune X5s player that plays MP3 and FLAC compressed files (amongst others) with subjectively excellent quality and a price in the range of a medium HIFI CD player unit.

The files are stored onto a removeable SD card up to 128GB, which appears an enormous amount of music in practice.

Since handling such great amounts of music files can easily lead to a mess, and since the Aunes META tag display capability is quite rudimentary (which will inevitably lead to a mess), some freeware programs have been devised that make life much easier.

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Subjective Sound Quality And Handling

The sound is subjectively excellent. A direct A/B comparison with a CD player yields some subtle coloration, but it is hard to tell which unit adds this effect. It can, however, safely be assumed that both units add their own type of coloration.

The provided remote control works, although the infrared reception is not terribly hot. You have to aim towards the unit quite precise. But then the sorting and replaying works quite as expected with a functionality akin to a basic CD player: play, pause, next, previous. You would not be able to read the display from a few meters away, but the same will hold true fr most other systems except an on-screen TV display. Similar to a CD changer, there is also a mechanism for selecting a directory, i.e. a different CD volume.

Using the stationary buttons is possible, but cumbersome, so dont loose the remote.

The unit comes with Mandarin Language preselected for the on-screen menu, but just follow the instructions in the manual to change this to English. The manual is located on the small SD card supplied. Use this card to upload new firmware if needed.

The supplied wall-wart power supply appears more than ample. It stays cold to the touch and does not introduce any audible sound degradation. This is mentioned, since an allegedly upgraded supply is offered for respectable money. A phone call to the seller revealed that even they would not see a necessity for any other PSU.

The only thing I have to complain about the PSU is a slight mechanical vibration that is audible when the unit touches a rigid surface, such as an metal amplifier case. A piece of soft foam underneath stopped this.

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Aunes Got Limited File Handling Capability

Contemporary players, particularly PC based, tend to scan all files META tags beforehand (probably due to their superior computing power and scanning speed) and then provide selection mechanisms based upon the collected information.

Even the meanest MP3 player will let you sort your music by tags like author, genre or the like.

Not so the Aune. It displays the files in the order they are written onto the storage medium and it displays only the file name. It does not currently utilize META information. After some sessions with writing files to the SD card you invariably will end up with files that appear in the display following no meaningful order (most people probably expect the files to appear in an alphabetically sorted order...).

There is some sorting number displayed, but this again is not coincident with the track number stored in the META tags unless the file writing order were the same.

The display will show the left bound file name letters first up to a certain number or characters, persist for a while, scroll towards the right, persist for a while, and restart.  So if the file name is garbage, so will be the display.

Directories are not shown during playing (i.e. the "CD" name), which you would not have on a real music CD either, but during "CD" selection. See later for meaningful naming conventions.

Although the unit can use SD cards up to 128GB, at some point you may want to change cards for another music collection. With a growing music collection the question of  purposeful archiving arises, possibly by genre or the like. This invariably raises the question of how much sense it makes to obtain such big cards, unless you want all your music on one physical storage medium. New technology, new problems.

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Improve File Handling

Note we are working our way backwards here. Before you start, be sure you have the current firmware installed (see download list).

  • If you found that a folder (resp. CD) would not fit onto one collection by style, you would just delete it from your card. However, this changes the order the files are written onto the medium. Keep in mind that the Aune just reads files in the most primitive way.

There is no mechanism to change the file sorting order in the Aune. There is also no way to change it on the card via the operating system (such as Windows). We will find a way to change the file sorting order later to change the directory sort order to an alphabetical way (or other if desired) and make the tracks appear according to their inherent track number later on.

  • The Aunes display just shows the current file name, which way ever this was created by the ripping program. Usually this is not very helpful.

Sample Display:
Jestofu~.mp3

Now this is not very informative. We thus may want to compose the file name in a way that it reflects the META information properly.

  • Unlike a casual MP3 player, the Aune is a HQ unit so it makes no sense to use a lightning fasts ripping program that does its job sloppy, since there is no such thing as a bit-for-bit copy from a CD (further reading: EAC documentation). A reliable ripping program is introduced later.
  • The best archivation can only be as good as a careful tag assignment right after ripping, which at the best is done by using an online database, or at the worst by hand if no entry is found[1].

[1]When contributing to their database, be careful as not to send them faulty (sloppy) CD tags. They may be distributed all over the world once they harvest the database entries.

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Ripping, Compressing and Tagging With EAC

I used EAC for years, and despite some lengthy initial setup procedure this yields excellent results, provided some reasonable CD-rom reader is used. I always use some elevated quality setting over ripping speed. Many popular CDs are in their online database, so meta tags can be assigned in a snap.

You can select to have them ripped to WAV or whatever compressed format on the fly, although in lieu of the Aune, MP3 and FLAC will be ideal.

Due to the sheer amount of storage FLAC will lend itself readily to this task, although nothing speaks against choosing MP3 with a high quality setting except for purists.

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File Name Generation And Tag Manipulation With Mp3tag

With Mp3tag program you can

  • edit the meta tags to your like, if you think something is wrong or missing or if you create files of your own. You can also
  • create meta tags from the file name autmatically (in case of files imported from the internet), or, more often,
  • create a file name from meta tags automatically.

The program is quite powerful but easy to deal with, once you get the hang of those tags.

Take care that the track information in the meta tags reflects the order of appearance on the CD, if you want this.

Although the Aune displays some track number, this is only the sequence of appearance on the storage medium and not the META tags track number.

It thus appears useful to make the track number part of the file name first place. Use two places for the number or a number 10 will appear right after a 1 as different to a 10 appearing in place 10 after a 01.

File ordering sample starting with one character place:
Using one character
Using two characters
1 01
10 02
11 ...
2 09
3
10
... 11

The Aune does not display the directory name (i.e. the CD name assigned by you) due to the limited display size. Instead, a (more or less) lengthy file name is displayed in a scrolling manner with an initial delay of a few seconds dwelling on the start of the name.

So a file name composition of track number (two places) track name (optional) artist (optional) volume name appeared useful. You can coax MP3tag into producing that easily.

Improved Display:

01-State Of Mind-Jestofunk-Love In A Black Dimension

The display will show the left bound letters first up to a certain number or characters, persist for a while, slowly scroll towards the right, persist for a while, and restart. Upon browsing through the files you would only see the leftmost characters.

It is no problem for Mp3tag to work on a whole directory or even a whole card volume directly. It does it surprisingly fast.
Be careful with exotic characters, the Aune might regress to Mandarin ;-)

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File And Directory Sorting With DriveSort

This program probably does not make sense if used on a PC based system, since all full-blown operating systems have enhanced on-the-fly file sorting and displaying mechanisms built in. It does however make a lot of sense on the SD card.

Generate meaningful file names first with Mp3tag and then sort them with DriveSort directly on the SD card, using long file names sort. You will have to repeat this every time you add files to the card, but this is very quick.

Naming the directories currently is of little consequence, since the Aune ignores the directory names when it displays the played files. It does nevertheless sort them in the way written and displays them during directory (i.e. "CD") selection.

Enjoy your vastly improved file access and display experience on the Aune!

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Writing Files To the SD card

Since I had a very old card reader, that did not read SD-HC, I bought a new one for a few bucks. It turned out it transfers files with USB3.0 speed. So if you have a PC that has an USB3.0 connector, dont hesitate to get an associated card reader unless you want to wait for global earth warming to supersede you upon file transfer. Gigabytes take long enough even on USB3.0.

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Downloads

be sure to also grab the Fat32 formatter while you are there, since this is the format the Aune expects to see on the SD.
Addendum: their version of it is obsolete at the time of writing. Use the file from the original source (although it says formatter4 it is vers. 5.0):

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Update History
  • Sept 13, 2017:  updating download section
  • Sept 1, 2017:  first release
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