Astell&Kern SP2000 Review

Astell&Kern SP2000

Lay Out

 

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The lay-out is partially different from what we had on the SP1000. The MicroSD slot has moved to the bottom and gone are the amp connectors on the bottom and back.

On the top of the player you from left to right find the 3.5mm output and the 2.5mm output. The right side only features the beautiful crown which is the power button and volume control. On the bottom of the player you find the USB-C connector as well as the MicroSD slot.  The left side features the play/pause, next and previous buttons. The front sports the large 5” touch screen. It’s all simple, yet elegant and one-handed operation is easy.

Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP2000

The SP2000 – Inside

The SP2000 is the first Astell&Kern player to use separate, independent audio channels between the Unbalanced and Balanced outputs. This design offers much more power than ever before, with 6 Vrms for Balanced output and 3Vrms for Unbalanced output. You can find all the specs on the last page of this article or on the SP2000’s dedicated website.

The SP2000 sports dual Asahi Kasei AK4499EQ DAC chips, as well as an octa-core CPU. That means great sound and a lovely user experience. The AK4499EQ DAC chip uses the most advanced ‘Current Output Architecture’ technology. To take full advantage of this new architecture, Astell&Kern redesigned the Op Amp and analog amp block configuration completely. The new circuit design optimizes the current consumption and brings out the most from these new DAC chips.
According to Astell&Kern, the combination of the SP2000 and AK4499EQ chips provide mind-blowing audio quality. We’ll get to the sound later.

With the AK4499EQ chip, the SP2000 is the first Astell&Kern model to support 32 bit/768 kHz
and DSD512 (22.4MHz) playback natively without compression or loss. The SP2000 also has the MQA label which is no surprise as Astell&Kern is an MQA fan.

Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP2000

The streaming experience with the SP2000 has been optimized by implementing dual band Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz) and with the 3,700mAh 3.8V Li-Polymer Battery you should easily get 8 h of playtime. I love the AK player’s battery life and if you don’t use the screen too much, it just keeps on going for 10 hours easily.

SP1000 vs SP2000

Besides the obvious difference in design, there also is a difference in weight. The old SP1000 with leather case weighs 418g, the new SP2000 weighs 458g. The difference might not seem much but in reality it feels a lot heavier for some reason.

The new SP2000 now also has 512Gb of internal memory. That’s twice the Amount of Internal Storage compared to the previous flagship models. On top of that there’s the MicroSD-slot which officially accepts SD-cards up to 1Tb.

As said before the SP1000 and SP2000 have completely different audio channel setups. The balanced outputs are now completely separated from the single ended ones. The pics below make it very easy to understand.

Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP1000

The SP1000 uses dual AK4497EQ DACs, where the SP2000 uses double and newer AK4499EQ DAC chips. Besides the differences in sound this leads to higher output levels and different THD and SNR levels. Here is the full comparison:

Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP2000

Specifications & Performance

The full specs of the Astell&Kern SP2000 can be found here.

Accessories & Price

The SP2000 as a flagship player isn’t cheap and it’s selling for $3,499 USD. It’s the same price as the SP1000 sold for when it was released. That SP1000 is still for sale and is now selling for $2,999USD.

When you buy a very high end portable player, it’s the full package that matter. The SP2000 comes in a gorgeous wooden box which has a good number of accessories inside, of which the nice leather case AK, which is famous for. I still have to get used to the green colour though. The full package holds:

  • A&ultima SP2000 Device x 1
  • Leather Case x 1 (Stainless Steel: Green Leather Case / Copper: Brown Leather Case / Onyx Black: Leather Case)
  • USB Type-C Cable x 1
  • Quick Start Guide x 1
  • Warranty Card x 1
  • microSD card slot cover x 2
  • Protective Film (Front x 2, Back x 2)

All-in-all a very complete package, with all high quality components and materials.

The review continues on the third page, after the click here. You can also use the jumps below.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

14 Comments

  • Reply May 12, 2020

    MhtLion

    As always, a great review. You are the best headphone reviewer to my eyes.

    • Reply May 12, 2020

      Lieven

      Hi. Thank you for the nice words. It’s appreciated

  • Reply May 15, 2020

    Claudio

    Good review. I always check your reviews when I buy my equipement. Regarding to A&K product I have to say that they offer premium DACs with great sound. It’s a pleasure have this product, the sound and the contruction are great. I only have a concern, a big concern. The have one of the worse customer service that I ever experimented. I have sr15 and the KANN (old one). I was one of the user affected by the new firmware that crashed the software and I have to sent my KANN to corea. When they sent me back my KANN to Chile I checked that everythin was ok but when i connect my grado sr80 to the 3.5 output for headphones I realized that it wasn’t working. It only sound in one side. I usually use the 2.5 output and the line out and i have this Kann less than an year. I have wrote several messages to the web page (the only way that you can talk with them directly) and I have no answer from them. I know this is a review for other product but i think a product comes with everything not only the DAP. The customer service is very important, even more that the final product because a good service customer will always give you the security that the brand will solve any problem. In this case A&K generate the problem and them gave me more problems because some guy probably made a mistake and broke something in my KANN but the sad part is that they are not answering so my recommendation is to try to check how is the customer support before to buy any expensive DAP because of they don’t take care of any issie you will have a trash that cost more than USD 1.000.

  • Reply May 23, 2020

    tunnel rush

    Thank you for this review, very helpful information!

  • Reply November 21, 2020

    Vladimir Vasquez

    Hi! I have seen in other reviews that SS and CU sounds different. I would like to know what you say about it if you tried CU version.

    Yesterday I have ordered the CU, but I need to know if go for SS because I like detailed sound and good imaging of instruments but also warm sound.

    Thanks in advance.

    Best,

    Vladimir.

    • Reply November 23, 2020

      Lieven

      Send me a CU and I’ll tell you 😉

  • Reply November 25, 2020

    Vladimir Vasquez

    Very nice review. I loved the way you did it. I have ordered the SP2K and it comes on next Monday. You said that to get the most of it, I needed a High end IEMs, for now I just have the Acoustune HS1650CU, they sound really good with AK SPKM. Have you used Acoustune? I’m thinking to own the Empire ears Odin or Wraith but now I can’t afford them because SP2K was very expensive 😀

    Other cheaper IEMs options are Empire ears Legend X, the Campfire Atlas and UM Universal MEST.

    Best,

    Vladimir.

    • Reply November 26, 2020

      Lieven

      The SP2000 and MEST combo is very good!

      • Reply November 13, 2021

        Ro

        I’m using SP2000 as a source for my car audio active 3 way set up. Is it better to set the output level to 3.0 vrms when playing car audio system.

  • Reply December 28, 2020

    Peter

    Do you think sp2000 would work well with zmf verite closed or Audeze lcd XCs? Looking for a portable player or dac/amp with mqa for them. Unfortunately my chord mojo doesn’t play mqa and I find myself mostly using tidal these days.

    • Reply January 8, 2021

      Lieven

      You would need something more suited for the XC

  • Reply April 14, 2021

    Thurein

    Hi Lieven,

    Kudos for an excellent review on SP2000.
    Currently, I am using Layla CIEM with SP2000.

    What other full sized headphones (open back) do you think I should try out with SP2000? Something that SP2000 can drive with authority.

    Looking forward to your reply.
    Thanks,

    • Reply April 14, 2021

      Lieven

      Hi, thank you for the nice words. I have to say I don’t use any of my full sized headphones with the SP2000, but I’d look at something like the Arya/Ananda

      • Reply April 14, 2021

        Thurein

        Thank you for your reply and something for me to start off.
        I will try Arya when I have a chance at local hi-if shops. 👍

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