Astell & Kern AK T5p 2nd Generation Review

Astell & Kern AK T5p 2nd Generation

Powering and sources

 

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Being developed principally to partner with a range of portable devices, the AK T5p V2 is appropriately easy-to-drive at 32-ohms impedance and a sensitivity of 102 dB/mW. My Samsung S9+ smartphone easily gets the AK T5p V2 to ‘too loud’ levels at around 60% volume, and I have to say that it doesn’t actually sound half-bad when played out of a smartphone. There’s a nice sense of percussive dynamics on Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Galapogas‘, and acceptable levels of clarity and separation. This combination is more than acceptable in a pinch, and I did indeed happily use the AK T5p V2 in this configuration when my Samsung happened to be the only player in arm’s reach.

Astell&Kern SA700

While it’s nice to know that you can extract reasonable levels of performance from your garden-variety Android, you’re not buying a top-of-the-line portable pair of headphones only to pair them with a sub-par source. I was glad to have an A&K DAP on hand to pair with the AK T5p V2 with in the form of their impressive SA700. I did the majority of my listening with the Astell&Kern ‘family combo’, and found it to be an impressive combination in terms of synergy, and being able to adequately power the AK T5p V2 – as expected, really. All the above listening impressions on the previous page (but for the comparisons with other headphones) were performed using the SA700, which comfortably got the AK T5p to adequate listening levels at 80/150 volume increments using the 2.5mm balanced jack. Compared to the Samsung, the SA700 tightened the bass response, and lifted a veil off the dynamics in the top-end, making the S9+ sound like wet cardboard by comparison. What I was interested to see was how similar or different the AK T5p V2 would perform when used with other portable and desktop sources, to see if Astell&Kern players really are the peanut butter to the AK T5p V2’s jam. 

Astell&Kern AK T5p V2

Astell&Kern AK T5p V2

Chord Mojo

An A/B comparison showed the SA700 to have more treble energy and an overall more vivid playback character versus the more laid-back presentation of the Mojo, which is my gold-standard benchmark in the portable hifi stakes. While the Mojo creates a slightly more liquid, smoothed-out presentation, the SA700’s adds a little more aggression at both bottom and top, with more distinct separations between vocal and instrumental parts. The SA700’s presentation is far more suited to the AK T5p V2, whose virtues really are detail clarity, rather than euphony or warmth. 

Astell&Kern AK T5p V2

Astell&Kern AK T5p V2

Questyle CMA600i

If you’re in the market for a $1,199 pair of portable headphones, then you sure as hell want them to sound good in your desktop set-up as well. Swapping the Mojo out for my reference solid-state desktop amplifier, the Class-A Questyle CMA600i, I set about seeing whether the AK T5p V2 would further ‘scale’ with the addition of additional power and quality of source components upstream. Swapping back-and-forth between the SA700 and the Questyle, the desktop set-up (capable of 2WPC at 32-ohms) showed that the AK T5p V2 was capable nominally better performance when used with powerful, high-quality components. Treble extension and energy was improved over the A&K DAP, as well as low-end control and overall deftness and speed. 

Astell&Kern AK T5p V2

Astell&Kern AK T5p V2

Thoughts and conclusions

I like the Astell&Kern AK T5p V2. It’s wonderfully packaged in terms of form-factor, and in terms of sound it’s a decadent, fun and altogether different type of tuning to what I personally enjoy – it’s nice for a change. But we have to look at it in terms of how well it answers the portable ‘brief’, and especially with the $1,119 pricetag looming overhead. From my perspective, The AK T5p V2 will make you very happy if you use it as your portable solution as a part of a collection alongside other headphones – if you can afford it – but it’s technically not up to scratch as a general-purpose audiophile headphone for this asking price if you intend it to be your only pair of headphones. And if you do buy it for strictly portable use, just make note that you’re going to need to figure out how to accommodate them in terms of size within your luggage or everyday carry. 

For most people, it’s simply too expensive for what it is to recommend as a good value purchase. But, where the AK T5p V2 becomes a more serious recommendation is for someone who’s fully committed themselves to the Astell&Kern DAP ecosystem and is looking for an ‘endgame’ pair of bass-y full-sized headphone that *can* work well in portable circumstances, or with particular music genres. There may well be 1000 of you out there who will no doubt enjoy it enormously. Have fun! 

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Hailing from Sydney's eastern beaches, Matty runs his own beer business, 'Bowlo Draught', as well as working in creative advertising. When he's not enjoying his hifi and vinyl collection at home, he can probably be found rolling-up on the green at his beloved Bondi Bowling Club.

9 Comments

  • Reply June 22, 2020

    ArieLext

    Are you sure they use real leather?

    • Reply June 22, 2020

      Matty Graham

      My understanding is that they use sheepskin.

  • Reply June 22, 2020

    EmpeirosAudio

    If you have the chance, you should try the Astell & Kern T5p 2nd Generation with the Dekoni Audio Elite Sheepskin Replacement Ear Pads… to my ears they became a different beast altogether.

    • Reply June 22, 2020

      Matty Graham

      That sounds interesting – did you try the standard of fenestrated ones? How did it affect the sound? I did mention in the article that I thought that these might benefit from a pad swap.

      • Reply June 23, 2020

        EmpeirosAudio

        The standard ones.

        More precisely, these ones: https://dekoniaudio.com/product/dekoni-audio-elite-sheepskin-ear-pads-for-beyerdynamic-dt-series-headphones/

        I also ordered the fenestrated ones but they made the A&K T5p 2nd Gen sound too airy and thin, killing the low-end altogether.

        The main benefit of the standard ones for me is that they got rid of what I can best describe as a plasticky resonance which I attributed to a poor seal I had with the original pads.

        To my ears, they literally transformed a pair of unacceptable headphones in this price range into the best closed-back headphones I ever had, beating Campfire Audio’s Cascade which have been my all time favorite.

        • Reply June 24, 2020

          Matty Graham

          Ok, consider my interest piqued. I’ve contacted the local distributor for Dekoni and I’m getting the fenestrated sheepskin, elite velour, and the hybrid pads in so that I can do a follow-up with the AK T5p V2. I have a hunch there’ll be some intersting results. Watch this space!

          • Reply June 24, 2020

            EmpeirosAudio

            ‘Looking forward to your impressions — you didn’t want the standard ones or the dealer didn’t have them?

  • Reply June 23, 2020

    Joe

    I’ve got these phones, which I pair with the AK A&Norma SR15. Curious to know whether you applied AK’s EQ. While I agree with the majority of your assessment of the AK T5P2s, I find the character of their sound is altered substantially with the EQ engaged.

  • Reply November 14, 2020

    Thierry

    Very good review, i have the opportunity to find a model of the 1st generation at a very good price (less than 300€)do you recommend it for on-the-go usage?(is there a big difference between these 2 generations?)
    Thanks for all

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