Astell&Kern has always been at the (priciest) pinnacle of portable Digital Audio Players (DAP). If you carry an Astell&Kern, it’s basically a status symbol and an indication of how much you are willing to splurge on your audio hobby. I’ve had the chance to try out a previous flagship model before, the AK240, but not the new AK380 or SP1000.
But first let’s see how much A&K has innovated in five years with the A&Ultima SP2000.
The SP2000 is a hefty beast, solid in the hand with good weight distribution that never feels unbalanced. There are two models to choose from – the stainless steel that weighs 410g and the copper design that weighs 432g. Speaking of which, I managed to get a bit of listening time on both models and I was quite surprised by the slight sound difference between them.
I’m opening a can of worms, honestly; the debate on whether copper, silver or other materials affect sound is a longstanding one, but let’s just go with the age-old “we’ll agree to disagree”. Personally, I felt that the mids were a little warmer with the copper model, while the highs felt just a tad brighter with the stainless steel model. I prefer a warmer sound signature, so copper is my choice, especially since there’s no price difference between the two models (S$5,299).
A&K did not leave out previous flagship model owners. If you previously bought the SP1000 and don’t want to spend on a new player when yours is still working fine, A&K has also introduced the SP1000 AMP (S$1,249) just for you.
This external amp adds another 9 hours of playback time and brings the total power output to 10Vrms on balanced high gain and 6.2Vrms on unbalanced, all in an unibody enclosure that fits the SP1000 perfectly. The SP1000 AMP will be the additional piece that gives the SP1000 the power to drive high-impedance headphones.
If you don’t already own the SP1000 and you’re looking to use high-impedance headphones on the go, the KANN CUBE (S$2,349) is the answer. Designed with dual 8-channel ESS Sabre Pro DACs, the soundstage and audio performance out of this sound machine is incredible.
But best of all, the power output goes all the way to 12Vrms on balanced high gain. That means power hungry headphones like the Sennheiser HD800S and the Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro 600 ohm model can all be powered through the KANN Cube, without the need for an external amplifier.