Aurender Flow DAC / headphone amplifier review (TONEAudio)


Turn down for what. Volume pots – few things in hi-fi feel as satisfying as a sharp turn to the right just before that solo kicks in. Heck, there’s even a Tumblr page dedicated to reviews of nothing but knobs – a field day for Viz’s Finbar Saunders.

In the portable head-fi space, the downsized nature of DACs and headphone amplifiers more-often-than-not keeps ergonomic considerations at arm’s length.

Case in point: maximum air guitar satisfaction eludes the Resonessence Labs Concero HP’s onboard control. Pinching the pot between thumb and forefinger just won’t cut it each time you exhume Frampton Comes Alive.

Similarly, the multi-coloured day-glo of the Chord Hugo is a recessed push-me-pull-you, so designed to prevent in-pocket jags. Fair enough too, it’s a go anywhere device. But turning the crank on Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer” probably won’t deliver the feeling you’re after.

One of the few manufacturers to almost nail deep volume turn satisfaction is ALO Audio. Their Island USB DAC’s (review here) volume pot might not be as large as those found on full size components but it sits sufficiently proud of the surrounding chassis to make good with the illusion of turned satisfaction.


Moreover, being able to reach for a volume pot is both more pleasurable and convenient than fumbling with keyboard media keys. The tap-tap-tap of keyboard for volume up and down is the aural equivalent of a decent Shiraz served in a plastic cup – functional but flaccid.

ReTURNing hands to the volume knob are South Korea’s Aurender, whose Flow DAC / headphone amplifier (US$1295) has just been reviewed by yours truly for TONEAudio.

It’s tempting to see the Flow as a direct competitor to the Chord Hugo, especially in light of a user-installable mSATA drive to its internals which removes the storage burden from the host PC. However, a DAP it is not – a PC, Tablet or smartphone is still required for playback.

With rubber feet on its underside side and an OLED display sitting inside the volume pot ring, the Flow is entirely desk bound. And that’s a good thing! Meet with regular interruptions at work? The Flow’s volume pot is there for the turning down; it is easily the most ergonomically satisfying in its class. Think of the Devialet remote control unit transplanted to the portable head-fi space. The Flow’s pot-flow is smooth with a reassuring amount of resistance.


Also in the box – and not mentioned in my TONEAudio review – are a mini-TOSlink cable for connecting Astell&Kern DAPs and an RCA breakout cable for hooking the Flow up to bigger rigs. It’s easy to envisage the Aurender brick fronting a pair of desktop mounted active loudspeakers.

For commentary on how the Aurender Flow stacks up sonically against the Chord Hugo and Resonessence Labs Concero HP, you’ll need to spill US$5 on Issue 70 of TONEAudio over at the iTunes newsstand. Better still, US$19 nets you an annual subscription to the newsstand release which publisher Jeff Dorgay says will now see light of day well ahead of the free, lower-res .pdf that’s available over at Those without the cash will need patience instead.

Thanks go to Light Harmonic for providing LightSpeed 1G USB cables terminated with both microUSB and Type B to ensure consistency whilst conducting comparisons.

Further information: TONE Publications | Aurender

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. They used to list the low and hi-res on the Tone site. Now they are charging… Beautifully designed pub the owners wife designs. I wouldn’t pay for it though, I do have a subscription for Stereophile, maybe if it went to print….

  2. Hi, John.
    I just read the Aurender Flow review in Tone mag.
    How would the Flow fit the Oppo PM-3 cans?
    I am primarily thinking of the treble area and if there is enough juice available.
    It seems that with the Flow I don’t need the Oppo HA-2 amp/DAC.

    kind reg,


    • Hey Frode – I’ve yet to run the PM-3 with the Flow but you’re absolutely correct, no need for the HA-2 when the Aurender’s playing ball. More than enough juice on the Flow for even the Beyerdynamic T1 so should be zero issue with the PM-1/PM-2/PM-3. That said, if you find the PM-1’s top-end a little too hooded the Flow might not be the best match around.

  3. Wow. The Aurender has been elevated to a piece of art. I am a sucker for good looking equipment too.. lol I see you say it runs cooler which is my only reservation. Im a fan of tubes, my HD650s and would also like the DAC to power my 2.1 system. If I am to read the review straight and not cruel over the looks of the thing.. its probably not a good DAC for someone looking for warm and inviting sound?

    • I wouldn’t call it warm but it is inviting – like a glass of cold water on a hot day.