Astell & Kern SA700 review

SA700 components and specifications




The SA700 has some impressive horsepower under the hood. Power-wise, it’s capable of  2.0Vrms from its 3.5mm single-ended connection, and 4.0Vrms from its 2.5mm balanced jack. Its Android-based operating system features a quad-core processor, and digital to analogue conversion duties are managed by a pair of AK4492ECB DACS from AKM. Just about every file type you should worry about can be played via the SA700 (including some controversial proprietary ones if that’s your thing), and it will happily dispatch very hi-res music well above the classic 16/44.1 Redbook sample rate. In terms of connectivity, there’s the SA700’s aforementioned Wi-Fi which uses the 2.4GHz band, and it also has Bluetooth v4.2 and is capable of aptXTM HD transmission.  

The manufacturer’s specifications are as follows:

  • Supported Audio Formats: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF, MQA
  • MQA playback: Services(Tidal Masters), Local files, External USB, MQA-CD(ripped)
  • Sample rate: PCM : 8kHz ~ 384kHz (8/16/24/32bits per Sample) / DSD Native: DSD64(1bit 2.8MHz), Stereo / DSD128(1bit 5.6MHz), Stereo / DSD256(1bit 11.2MHz), Stereo
  • Body Material – Stainless Steel
  • Display – 4.1inch (720 x 1,280) Touch display
  • Input – USB Type-C input (for PC & MAC)
  • Outputs – Unbalanced Out (3.5mm) / Balanced Out (2.5mm, only 4-pole supported)
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz)
  • Bluetooth – V4.2 (A2DP, AVRCP, aptXTM HD)
  • Dimensions – 2.32 ”(59.1 mm) [W] x 4.56 ”(115.9 mm) [H] x 0.64 ”(16.5 mm) [D]
  • Weight – 10.68 oz (303 g)
  • Feature Enhancements – Firmware upgrades supported (OTA)
  • Frequency Response – ±0.24dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalanced / ±0.24dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Balanced ±1.95dB (Condition: 20Hz~70kHz) Unbalanced / ±1.94dB (Condition: 20Hz~70kHz) Balanced
  • Signal to Noise Ratio – 120dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced / 123dB @ 1kHz, Balanced
  • Crosstalk -134dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced / -138dB @ 1kHz, Balanced
  • THD+N – 0.0006% @ 1kHz, Unbalanced / 0.0006% @ 1kHz, Balanced
  • IMD SMPTE – 0.0003% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Unbalanced / 0.0004% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Balanced
  • Output Impedance – Unbalanced Out 3.5mm (1.8ohm) / Balanced out 2.5mm (1.9ohm)
  • Clock source – Reference Clock Jitter 70ps(Typ)
  • Battery Capacity 3,150mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer Battery
  • Continuous Playback Time – Up to 8.5 hours (Standard – MUSIC: FLAC, 16-bit/44.1kHz, Unbalanced, Volume 80, EQ OFF, LCD OFF)
  • Charge Time – About 4.5 hours (Standard – 5V/2A Charging)
  • Built-in Memory – 128GB [NAND]
  • External Memory – microSD (Max. 1TB) x1
  • Supported OS – Windows 7,8,10 (32/64bit), MAC OS X 10.7 and up

On paper, the SA700 is a very, very capable small device but it’s also a reasonably expensive one – $1,299 can buy you quite a lot of desktop DAC/amplifier, and let’s face it – desktop listening has never felt like a more inviting prospect than it does now. So, at this price is the SA700 good value? Does it manage to combine form, function and of course performance? And for our readers, is it worth picking up for both home and away duties (well, when we’re let back out, anyway)? 



Packaging and presentation

Hats-off to Astell&Kern for providing one of the most premium packaging and unboxing experiences around. The SA700 certainly feels like a $1,299 device in terms of the ceremonious way that it’s revealed in a display plinth, that wouldn’t look unwelcome holding a Fabergé egg. A screen-protector bearing the maker’s mark and an ‘Ultimate High Fidelity Sound System’ message is a nice touch. As well as the device itself, the SA700 ships with a USB-C charging and data cable, two sets of screen protector/player protector film, a user guide, and a warranty card.

Astell&Kern SA700

The SA700 is also available with an optional $169 protective case in three different colour schemes: Poppy Red, Viridian Green, and as featured in this review unit: Neo Black. The skeletonised pattern on the rear continues the visual theme established in the volume wheel, which is apparently inspired by a string bridge (well there you go). It also allows for heat dissipation, which as I found out is kinda necessary as the SA700 does like to get a little toasty from time to time during playback. 

SA700 with optional Neo Black protective case

Design and build

The SA700 is constructed from Stainless Steel, which rare for a portable device but chosen in this instance for its corrosion-resistant properties and its strength. This choice has resulted in a device that has some noticeable heft about it – 303 gram’s worth of heft, to be precise. When you lift it up you know you’re holding something expensive – the combination of its weight, precision machining and restrained industrial design gives the SA700 the satisfying feeling of a luxurious performance machine. I’m also pretty confident that you could use it to smash-open a plate-glass window in a pinch. It’s that solid. 

The SA700’s weight and size, however, does push the limits of what you might consider to be ‘pocketable’. Under normal street conditions, it would be a squeeze to fit into the front pocket of some snug-fitting jeans, but that’s not really a problem right now…right? Given that track-pants are the new-norm for business wear right now in the work-from-home world, hilariously I found that the heft of the SA700 tends to want to make them fall down around your ankles. Not great for video calls with colleagues. 

Astell&Kern Kern SA700

Astell&Kern Kern SA700

Jokes aside though, the 4.1-inch touch-screen and button layout have been designed with one-handed operation in mind, and I can report that the SA700 is a joy to hold and operate. The knurled volume wheel is tactile, precise and has just about the right level of ‘clickiness’ – it’s a winner. The playback buttons on the left-hand side, however, are definitely on the subtle side. I have found myself accidentally fast-forwarding/rewinding when I wanted to press ‘pause’ more than once due to their size. This is exacerbated further when the SA700 is in its protective case, which makes the shape of the buttons even more indeterminate. This would make in-pocket playback control a bit of a game of guesswork. It must also be noted that the grippy pattern on the volume-wheel does like to grip on fabric when moved, so you might experience some unexperienced volume-changes from time-to-time. However, there is the option to lock the wheel while the screen is off via the SA700’s settings.

3.5mm and 2.5mm headphone-out

Both 3.5 and 2.5mm headphone/line-out jacks are accessed on the top of the device, along with the SA700’s power button. Power and data are fed to the SA700 via a USB-C port on the bottom of the device, next door to a sliding ‘trapdoor’ that your external Micro-SD card slots into.

User Experience and Connectivity

First up, I gave the SA700 a good charge out of the box – Astell&Kern recommend 4.5 hours for a full charge for the 3,150mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer Battery, which they claim will deliver around 8.5 hour’s worth of playback. Next, I fired-up the device which treats you with a very premium and serious-looking red ‘Astell&Kern’ logo on the inky black screen. It looks the business. After hooking-up to my 2.4GHz home wifi network, I was immediately prompted to give the SA700 a firmware update, after which I popped-in a 400gb Micro-SD card, and we were in business. 

Astell&Kern SA700

The user interface is fairly intuitive and requires only a cursory learning-curve to work out how to navigate between the device’s settings and your music library by song, artist, genre and folder. Playlist creation is pretty straight-forward, although I tend to only play albums. Being an Android user I felt right at home immediately. Scrolling and tapping is smooth and lag-free, and images and font are rendered in crisp high-definition – it’s a good-looking screen and also feels good under the thumb. 

I must point out that the ‘keyboard’ that pops-up when prompting wifi passwords and for searching within streaming apps is hilariously small, and I guarantee you’ll succumb to ‘fat thumbs’ syndrome more than once. However, that aside it’s an overall easy to live-with interface and gets you into your music quickly. 

Tidal connectivity

Once up and running on wifi I jumped into my Tidal account and was pleased to find quick and easy access to all my saved artists, albums and playlists with just a couple of swipes. Music discovery and browsing is reasonably easy, although I must note that installation of an APK is required if you’d like to download music for offline playback. Navigation does become a little confusing when listening via Tidal – tapping the ‘home’ button takes you into the SA700’s offline player rather than Tidal, meaning you have to navigate back through the menu to control what you’re playing via Tidal. 

Deezer and Tidal streaming apps

Line-out and DAC-mode

If you’re planning on using your DAP as your primary source for two-channel listening or for feeding an external amp, it’s a simple case of selecting ‘Line out’ mode which sets the SA700’s output to a fixed 2 Volts. The SA700 also includes a ‘car mode’ which adapts the screen to a more appropriate layout to avoid distractions. 

The SA700 operating as a USB-DAC via Roon

The SA700 is also able to function as a USB-DAC, making it possible to take full advantage of that pair of AK4492ECB DAC chips in between a computer/mobile source and your amplifier of choice. Hitching the SA700 to my Macbook, Roon found the SA700 as an audio ‘zone’ quickly and I was able to play over the device from both the native files on my laptop as well as Tidal. 

EQ adjustment

The SA700 has a fairly comprehensive EQ adjustment system, allowing for a number of user profiles to be created. Precise tweaking of peaks/troughs for individual frequency bands is controlled via an array of ‘sliders’ that I found to be infuriatingly difficult to accurately given how small they are. Parametric-style equalisation can also be deployed using a more friendly ‘graph’-style system which also allows the user to set the Q-value for each band. 

Astell&Kern Kern SA700

SA700’s adjustable equaliser settings


The SA700’s AptX-HD Bluetooth setting is a ‘nice to have’ feature for the would-be ‘do-all’ source and provided yet another way to keep my music keeping-on around the place. I found pairing with my NAD D3020 receiver and Audeze Mobius to be an unremarkably simple affair, and playback sounded more than acceptably transparent for causal listening around the house.

As well as looking terrific, so far the SA700 has proven itself to be rather clever in terms of working in just about every conceivable digital application, but that’s all for nought if it doesn’t have it where it counts – let’s see how it sounds.

Head over to Page Three for more, just CLICK HERE.

4.1/5 - (102 votes)

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.


  • Reply March 30, 2020


    While a good review, this review along with all others out there for Astell and Kern DAP’s fails to mention the terrible support from Ak the poor firmware and software implementation, the dead units many have purchased and waited months to get resolved. Take a look at Head if forums or a quick google search from there flagship down to the SR15 bricked, minutes to start, poor sound quality with side loaded apps, nil response from support, for the price of there kit you would be much better served with Sony, Cayin or Fiio products.

    • Reply March 31, 2020

      Matty Graham

      Hi Craig, thanks for reading. I didn’t have any firmware or software issues with my review unit, it operated flawlessly – I can’t comment on the experience of others in this regard.

      • Reply April 1, 2020


        Perhaps, some investigative reviewing is in order Headfonia always highly rates Astell and Kerns products to its readers, they are at the top end of price and apparent quality and whilst I agree they have a beautiful build and sound quality the customer service and software issues that are manifest right through the product range has many people getting rid of their units. I will not buy another AK product. A quick read on any of the Head Fi forum threads will enlighten you and other readers who deem Headfonia as a trusted source of quality reviews, including me into the issues that plague AK units.
        I purchased my 64 Audio A12t and effect Audio Leonidas II based on your sights reviews and couldn’t be happier.

        • Reply October 10, 2020


          I fully agree. Every single one of my A&K units have failed at the jack, under normal daily use. In addition, the AK’s sometimes don’t boot up, or, sometimes freeze or lag. But most importantly, the constant jack failure on ALL of their units is not acceptable. Even my 10 year old ipod is STILL going strong with ZERO jack issues and flawless function. So I’m moving away from A&K because I’m sick and tired of all of a sudden being without my music at the drop of a dime with a jack failure that surfaces, literally, out of the blue for no reason, no drops. Literally, I was listening to my Kann Cube and needed to take a nap from getting up early. When I awoke a half hour later, and fired up the Cube to get back to work, wha-la : Jack failure. So they have issues. And this the THIRD Time it has happened. So no more..Im done with A&K. And oh, I forgot : the battery life is god awful on ALL of my A&K’s. Just awful.

  • Reply March 31, 2020


    I don’t get why a company like Astell & Kern who have been in the business for many years are still producing these $1000+Daps with poor battery playback times.

    This paticular one has only 8.5 hours and thats on a standard FLAC file using unbalanced and most of the display turned off.

    I would not even consider a Dap costing $1000+ that does not have atleast 15 hours+ playback time which is why i have waited until now to purchase my next Dap which is being shipped as we speak.


  • Reply April 1, 2020


    Nice review, but its usefulness is slightly limited without a slightly more extensive list of comparisons with for example it’s siblings, SR15, SE100, Kann Cube, Etc not too mention the likes of the ibasso DX220. i’d wager most of the readers, like me have not heard the plenue. Being in isolation reviews are taking a great prominence in buying helping to make buying decisions as demo’s are obvs awkward. Sadly i cant make and informed choice using this review.

  • Reply April 9, 2020

    saumitra biswas

    What is the best sounding DAP one can buy
    without wifi and with wifi


    • Reply April 9, 2020


      L&P LP6 or the LP6Ti

  • Reply April 9, 2020

    Steven Zore

    I’ve owned multiple A&K products, and while customer service is poor, I have never had any other issues. People buy the DACS for the sound quality, not the ‘battery life’.

  • Reply April 10, 2020

    Angry A&K USER

    Astell and kern could be a good brand with great product but they have the worst customer service. I understand that you review the product and that’s ok but I think a whole product includes the presales, unpackage, product usage and finally the post sale process. Those aren’t cheap product. It’s mandatory a good customer service!! Thanks

  • Reply April 11, 2020

    Ian T


    I have the opportunity to buy a SA700 or a 1000M to use with my 64 Audio A12ts. Do you have any thoughts? I listen mainly to Tidal.

    Many thanks

    • Reply June 29, 2020

      Matty Graham

      Hi Ian, it ought to be a terrific-sounding pairing but if you’re mainly using Tidal I must remark that the keyboard is kinda frustrating when using the search function. If you’re scrolling through your own artist/playlists etc you shouldn’t have any problems.

  • Reply April 23, 2020

    noel robert vandenbroucke

    I have a SA 700 silver since one week …With wifi and bluetooth off , brightness set 75% and files 24bits 96 kHz on the go the dap could sing for 9,5 hours and battery indication still 15 % ..I’m very pleased wirh the sound already ..Mostly playing with desktop gear ..
    gtrs noel –

  • Reply April 27, 2020


    Anyone compare it with SE100 or DX220 amp8?

  • Reply May 31, 2020

    noel robert vandenbroucke

    I have the SA700 and SP2000 cu . After hours of listening with NAGRA gear I think ( for my ears ) the new baby is 95 % of her father at 1/3 of the price ..Fantastic result .;And i never had any issues with every unit i owned …The AK4492 has its fathers genetics while the Kann Cube is a little bit softer but even so enjoyable …

  • Reply August 17, 2020

    MR fripp

    Hi, good review
    I trying to decide beteween this or the KANN Cube. Do you have any recommendation? I looking SQ and my dealer is sellin both at similar price. Thanks
    PD: I don’t care the size i only looking sq. I have owned many dad like sr15, Kann, fiio m11 pro, dhanlimg m6 and hiby r6 pro

    • Reply August 17, 2020


      If you can handle the heft, go with the Cube. But seriously, that thing is massive…

      • Reply August 17, 2020


        I love it but because of its size, I only use it on my desk as a digital transport.

      • Reply August 25, 2020

        Mr fripp

        Thanks. Unfotunately the cube will no longer be able in my country. Finally i change my order for the se200.

  • Reply December 2, 2020


    Many users are having troubles with their SA700 unit like the wifi and the operate system. I don´t know if you had some issues too. Despite of all this issues do you recommend this product?? Or there are better DAP for the same price with great sound and more stabilty?

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