Sound vs SP2000
If you have read the full review up to now, then you know that the SP2000 uses a completely different DAC chipset. The SP2000 still is quite a bit more expensive (+$1K) but it also is the better DAP from a technical point of view.
Usability- and UI-wise, both DAPs are similar, and they offer the same “options”. The SP2000T (as explained before) even brings a few novelties to the table, which we for sure will find in the SP2000’s successor as well.
Sure, the SP2000T offers you a Tube and an excellent Hybrid mode, but the original SP2000 still is king when it comes to technicalities. The precision, extension, layering, decay, PRaT, etc all are at a higher level in AK’s TOTL DAP. The AK SP2000 to me still is the ultimate AK DAP, with the highest-end, most precise and reference tuning. That said, I feel that an AK SP3000 might pop up soon, which will improve the technical level again. Technology advances fast and that is easily noticeable in our portable audio world.
I have the luxury of having both DAPS here with me, but if I am honest, I must admit that I still use the SP2000 more than I use the T-version. The only times when I reach for the SP2000T is when my IEM has a 4.4mm connector and I have no adapter at hand, and when I feel the ear/headphone connected can use a little bit of taming/softening.
The SP2000T in a direct test is less refined, less clean, less energetic. The SP2000 is more spacious and 3-dimensional. Depth, note decay and extension as well as sub bass rumble are all more impressive. When you switch to tube or hybrid mode, the difference becomes even bigger, but you do get that tube smoothness and warmth. Different tastes.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any other AK DAPs at hand anymore as I sent them all back to AK, and because Matty and Berkhan reviewed the others.
Sound vs Competition
There aren’t that many DAPs on the market with a Nutube implementation, so this chapter will be rather short and to the point.
The new Cayin N8ii is very much like the SP2000T, seeing it also has a Nutube integrated and it’s also offering a Solid State and Tube amplification choice. On top of that you can also choose between CLASS A and CLASS AB, taking the amplification options one step further. The N8ii (review soon) is selling for $3,499 USD, which is $1K more than the SP2000T and the same as the SP2000. Coincidence? I think not.
The Cayin N8ii also has the triple headphone output but it’s a bit different to work with. The UI is typical for Cayin, but it is also very easy as it is more Android-like than the AK SP2000T is. In fact, it’s much more versatile regarding applications and customization. It is more bulky, chunky and less portable though.
For me tube mode in the N8ii is closer to the solid state mode than it is in the SP2000T. The tube mode in the Cayin keeps a higher technical level, but at the same time that means that Cayin’s N8ii’s tube output is less smooth and warmth. When looking at just the OPAMP mode, I do feel the Cayin N8ii is softer, more rounded, where it in the SP2000T is more focused with more energy, note extension, liveliness and cleanness.
The Cayin N8ii and SP2000T are both high-end, well performing DAPS, but to me they are complementary. The tuning is rather different, so in this case it’s more what type of presentation you prefer. A more analytical, clean typical AK sound, or a softer, smoother and more natural sounding Cayin.
I am convinced a lot of people (will) like the Astell&Kern SP2000T. Not only does it offer multiple amplification options, it also is an easy to use, gorgeously designed and versatile DAP.
With the Tube and Hybrid mode, AK is giving something new to their fanbase. Both of these modes have quite the impact on the delivered sound, and I am convinced it will make even more people love the AK tuning.
The SP2000T isn’t an AK flagship player, even if it costs $2,499 USD. There still is quite a step up in pure sound quality when compared to the $1K more expensive SP2000. If you want the best technical level, the SP2000 flagship still is the DAP to get, but if you prefer a warmer, fuller and smoother sound, a still excellent technical level as well as triple output options, then the SP2000T could be the perfect player for you. For now, the SP2000T doesn’t manage to kick the SP2000 of our Recommended Buy DAP list but it’s still a very good DAP.
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