Astell&Kern SP2000T Review

AK SP2000T

AMP Modes

This is of course what the SP2000T is all about: Different amp modes!

As said before, the SP2000T offers three different amplification modes: OPAMP mode (as before), Tube mode and Hybrid mode. These modes are available/compatible with all the outputs. To highlight this new feature the SP2000T has a nice large LED on the back of the unit on the top.

OP AMP mode puts AK’s AMP technology expertise to use, delivering extreme clarity and dynamic sound, while TUBE AMP mode provides a uniquely warm and musical sound. HYBRID AMP mode enhances the resolution and clarity of the existing TUBE AMP mode to express more musical detail. HYBRID AMP mode combines the advantages of retro analog performance and high-resolution output, giving you the pleasure of a brand-new tonal characteristic.

AK SP2000T

Accessories & Price

The SP2000T is selling for $2,499 USD and when you buy such a high-end portable player, it’s the full package that matter. The SP2000T 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 absolutely love the yellow new style (side entry) case. The full package holds:

  • A&ultima SP2000T Device x 1
  • Leather Case x 1
    • SP2000T Onyx Black: Tan Case
    • SP2000T Copper Nickel: Green 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.

AK SP2000T

Firmware/ User Interface/ Usability

 The FirmWare version of the SP2000 at the time of the review is version 1.21CM. The A&ultima SP2000T features the same interface design as the SP2000, which provides music playback from the home screen to give users a more music-centric experience.

Finding your way around the SP2000T menu structure is very easy. Like any modern Android unit you can now swipe menus down, left and right. This allows for a much easier and faster use of the player. The menu structure also is very clear and learning the basic principles only takes minutes. If you’re familiar already with the SP1000 or SP2000, working with the SP2000T will be a piece of cake.

The User Interface, as we’re used to from Astell&Kern, is clear and straight forwarded. The player never is slow or non-responsive. The overall user experience is very positive: no flaws – no hiccups – no crashes.

4 features I want to highlight are the following: AK file drop, Roon Ready, ReplayGain and AK connect. The AK File drop function makes file transfers easier and more convenient. Using AK File Drop, you can freely transfer files wirelessly through a PC, smartphone, or FTP program located on the same network. ReplayGain adjusts different volumes to an identical level, giving you a more relaxed listening experience. Note that ReplayGain supports up to 24bit/192 kHz sound sources. If you’re a ROON user you will love AK’s “Roon Ready” feature, allowing you to set up your DAP as a Roon endpoint. AK Connect is a DLNA-based Control APP with which you play back music data on your NAS and PC from the AK DAP.

AK SP2000T

Just like before you can use this Astell&Kern DAP with its Line-Out in combination with an external amplifier or you can choose to use it as a USB-DAC. The DAC chips inside the AK players are usually very good, so do try this if you have the chance. You can also use the SP2000T as a digital source only (like the xDuoo X10Tii). In the latter case you can connect an external DAC to the SP2000T using the USB-C or SPDIF output. I don’t do that very often, except with high-end DACs such as the dCS LINA and Musician Aquarius, when my laptop isn’t available.

The AK SP2000T also offers you 3 different DAC filters. My preferred one is the default one (Linear Phase Fast Roll-Off) even though I do tend to switch regularly to the 2 other filters depending on the gear used. If you want to influence the sound even more, there is always AK4s EQ option. Personally I never EQ, so I haven’t really experimented with this feature (as usual).

Sound – Intro

The SP2000T has 3 amplification modes, and it uses quad ESS ES9068AS DACs, so the sound in all cases is different from its big brother, the SP2000. More on that later

AK SP2000T

According to the Astell&Kern engineers the SP2000T achieves a detailed and balanced sound with great depth and spatial realism. In OPAMP mode they describe the sound as having extreme clarity and dynamics”. In Tube mode they say the SP200T provides a uniquely warm and musical sound. In Hybrid mode AK claims it enhances the resolution and clarity of the existing TUBE AMP mode to express more musical detail. HYBRID AMP mode combines the advantages of retro analog performance and high-resolution output, giving you the pleasure of a brand-new tonal characteristic.

For the part on sound, we have mostly used the SP2000T as DAP, but also as DAC and digital source. The SP2000T was mostly used with a whole series of IEMS and CIEMS, but also with easier to drive headphones such as the Meze Audio Liric. Wherever possible (and unless specifically mentioned), I have always used the balanced output of the SP2000T.

I received the SP2000T when it was first launched, so that means I have been using it for a long time already. The down side is that this review is rather late, mea culpa. The advantage however is that I have hundreds if not thousands of hours of playtime on this unit, so I am extremely familiar with it. And as Astell&Kern just launched the Copper Nickel version yesterday, it’s a good time to revisit the unit’s performance.

The part on Sound continues after the click here.

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

4.3/5 - (121 votes)

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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.

2 Comments

  • Reply July 19, 2022

    Christian

    Hi
    I usually read all of your reviews even though i understand 30% of the terminology used as i dont know that much about these kind of things. I do love new technological gadgets and i do love good sound,but budget and time is not on my side always so i only dream about owning many of the products you review. I like your reviews because you seem so dedicated ,educated and passionate about the product you review. Keep up the good work,I’ll continue to visit this website for a good read.

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