Today we review the Astell&Kern SP2000T portable player. The SP2000T DAP is selling for $2,499 USD
Disclaimer: The sample of the AK SP2000T DAP was sent to us free of charge for this review on a long-term loan. After the review the SP2000T be returned Astell&Kern. AK is in no way related to Headfonia.
Astell & Kern
The Korean DAP manufacturer Astell&Kern has been around since 2014 and since then has been the driving force of reinventing the portable audio player market. Ever since their first product, the AK100, they have been on a mission to make the best possible DAPs, and if you ask me, they have succeeded.
A&K is a subsidiary of the famous iRiver brand, which is now called Dreamus. The company that rose to fame with their excellent and wildly popular mp3 players. With that extensive knowledge they have launched an uber-high-end brand for the niche market that is headphone enthusiasts.
Astell&Kern not only brings us portable audio players alone, no, they have also been collaborating with other big industry players such as Crystal Cables, Beyerdynamic and Jerry Harvey Audio. They have released several cables, headphones and In Ear Monitors with these three brands, and continue to do so.
The SP2000T DAP shares a lot of features with the original SP2000 (and SP1000), so we suggest reading up on that portable player first. You can do so right here.
The SP2000T DAP is part of the A&Ultima series together with the SP2000, SP1000 and SP1000M. That means it’s the fourth player released in this series.
The SP2000T is not the flagship player (the SP2000 still is) and it is selling for $2,499 USD. That is $1K less than the SP2000. There are two different versions of the SP2000T: Onyx Black & Copper Nickle (released July 18, yesterday). The version we have is the Onyx Black one, and it looks and feels smooth and luxurious.
As before the SP2000T comes with a 3.5mm single ended output which also serves as the 3.5mm optical out (3.5mm) and a 2.5mm (4-pole supported) balanced output. New is the 4.4mm balanced Pentaconn output, and it means AK is now offering all common outputs, like most brands are doing with their latest DAPs.
According to Astell&Kern, the “T” in SP2000T does not stand for a specific word, but rather encompasses design approaches and directions made during the product development process.
New with the SP2000T is the fact that multiple amplification modes are now available. You have the OPAMP mode, TUBE mode and Hybrid mode. The SP2000T sports a dual-triode KORG Nutube. Nutube offers a reliable continuous playback time of approximately 30,000 hours. It features an anode grid filament structure which operates the same as a triode vacuum tube. It’s much smaller, consumes far less power and yet delivers the same audio with rich overtones. We have of course seen this before with Cayin’s N8 and the N8II. We will get back to the amplification modes in a later chapter in this article.
With the SP2000T, you now also have an option to activate ReplayGain which will allow you to enjoy your own playlists seamlessly. It4s not really something I use, but it can indeed be very useful.
Like the latest AK DAPs, the SP2000T also offers the use of the Open APP Service. It enables you to install specific APK music streaming apps to the device. You can copy the desired APK into the Open Service folder of the product and install the relevant App in the Menu. In this article AK explain how to use the Open App Service: Using Open APP Service
You can find out all about the SP2000T portable player on its dedicated web page here: https://us.astellnkern.com/collections/portables/products/a-ultima-sp2000t
You either love or hate the typical edgy design by Astell&Kern, but to me this new SP2000T is another beautiful creation. At first glance you would say the SP2000 and SP2000T look very much a like, but because of the addition of a Nutube amplifications stage, the SP2000T now looks a bit different (compared to the original SP2000). It’s also a little bigger.
The only eye-catcher no longer is just the beautiful crown, but also the LED on the back which either displays the AMP mode or Playback mode. In OPAMP mode you will get a red LED, Hybrid mode is blue/green and Tube mode is orange. In Playback mode the LED turns green with 24bit audio, orange for 32bit audio and purple for DSD audio. You can also switch of the LED feature.
The Astell&Kern SP200T measures measures 3.07” (78.1mm) [W] x 5.55” (141.1mm) [H] x 0.68” (17.5mm) [D] and weighs either 309 or 505g (Copper Nickel version). The SP2000T sports a 5 inch (1920 x 1080) touch display.
Like with the SP2000, the front is almost all screen except for the part at the bottom where the hidden “home” button is located. The back of the player features a soft glass panel without screws, which makes the player look smooth. It’s quite different from the stainless-steel back plate of the SP2000, which still has a more luxurious & high-end look.
Another novelty is the use of the new style leather case. You no longer slide the player in from the top, but from the side. And because of that all 6 sides are now fully protected. You can find out all about the SP200T’s design right here.
The lay-out is similar to what we have on the SP2000 but the biggest change is on top of the player. Where the SP2000 only had a 2.5mm and 3.5mm output on top, the SP2000T now has an additional 4.4mm output as well as a power button on the right. This means the crown on the right side of the layer now functions purely as a volume dial.
The bottom of the unit and the left side of the player still have the same lay-out. USB-C and MicroSd slot on the bottom and the Play/Pause, Next, Previous buttons on the left. The back panel on the SP2000T now features the LED section at the top.
The front part sports a 1920 x 1080 FHD 5” screen with 16.7M colors (441 PPI). That’s the same as the SP2000 in size, but with a higher resolution.
The SP2000T – Inside
The SP2000T combines the OP AMP configuration of the SP2000 with a vacuum TUBE AMP, adding a vintage feel to the portable player.
The SP2000T comes equipped with a quad ESS ES9068AS DAC. The SP2000 flagship sports dual Asahi Kasei AK4499EQ DAC chips, so this is quite a big and important. difference. The SP2000T features AK’s Terathon Alpha sound solution and it now comes with a replay gain option.
TERATON ALPHA is AK’s ultimate Sound Solution to produce audio playback that is close to the original sound through the audio output interface by use of effective power noise removal, efficient power management and amplification with minimal distortion. You can find out all abut the Teraton Alpha technology right here.
The SP2000T’s internal memory is 256GB but you of course have one microSD slot to extend the memory. The SP2000T officially allows cards up to 1TB. Battery-wise the SP2000T holds a 4,200mAh 3.8V Li-Polymer Battery which gives you around 9h of playback time under normal conditions. Charging it takes about 3.5h.
The streaming experience with the SP2000T has been optimized by implementing dual band Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz). The SP2000T has the MQA label which is no surprise as Astell&Kern is an MQA fan. BlueTooth-wise the SP2000T also delivers with V5.0 (A2DP, AVRCP, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, LDAC)
All the specifications of the SP2000T can be found here if you want to learn more about the technical side.
The article continues on the second page, click here or use the jumps below.
Page 1: Astell&Kern, SP2000T, Design, Lay-out, Inside
Page 2: Amplification Modes, accessories & price, Usability & UI & Versatility, Sound Intro
Page 3: Sound General, Sound Classics, Sound AMP modes, Vs SP2000, Vs Cayin N8ii, Conclusion
Page 4: Sound Vs SP2000, Vs Cayin N8II, Conclusion