Disclaimer: Beyerdynamic sent us the A200P as a review sample and it will go back to Germany after this review.
The AK10. I mean, the A200P
The Beyerdynamic A200P is the Astel&Kern AK10 with a Beyer branding. For those not familiar with the AK10: the A200p is a mini portable DAC/AMP combo for your iDevice, Android phone or your computer. That means the A200P extracts the digital signal from your source and amplifies the signal for your headphone or earphone, resulting in an elevated sound quality.
Strong points of the unit are its tiny size and its price: measuring only 55 x 55 x 13 mm it is one of the smallest and lightest (51grams) portable AMP/DAC combination on the market. Priced at 299€ it is one of the cheapest devices that allows you to extract digital data from your iDevice. Units like the Hifi-M8 and Theorem, which of course are playing at a whole other level, set you back double or triple the investment. This is one of the first units that lets you get the most out of your iDevice for such a small price.
I like how the A200P looks, it is small and stylish and it is easy to use its controls. Well, let me get back to that. The A200p has a next/previous and play/pause button next to the power/lock button which are all located on the sides and which are very easy to use. They even work with Foobar when using the A200P with my laptop, very easy! The main button however is the scroll wheel on top of the unit that controls the volume. Brand new out of the box I had a really hard time to get the wheel to move at all leaving me very frustrated. There are two ways to make it work; the first is by sticking one of the sticker buttons that come with the unit on top of the wheel. (see pics) The second, how I did it, was by just using the wheel a whole lot. (It’s kind of hard to put the sticker on a review sample) I have been turning the wheel even when I wasn’t using the A200P and by now it has become very easy to use and I love how easy it is to change the volume. The volume wheel has 135 steps so it is very easy to get the volume exactly how you want but in the beginning, using the scroll wheel really was very frustrating.
The A200P comes with a leather case, the 3 stick on buttons I mentioned earlier and a bunch of cables: a lightning cable for your iDevices, a micro USB cable for your Android units and a USB cable for your PC. The down side of the A200P is that the connector on the unit has a special form so getting aftermarket cables for your A200P might not be that easy. As expected the A200p only has one 3.5mm headphone out as it will mostly be used with small portable headphones like the T51P or IEMs.
Inside of the A200P is a Wolfson 8740 DAC chip. You can’t do much wrong with a Wolfson but more on that later. The A200p cannot be used as a stand-alone DAC, unless you would turn the volume up 100% and use the headphone out but this unit, in contrast to the Resonessence Herus, is not meant to work like this. I was told guys on Head-fi have managed to extract 24/96 playing FLAC from iDevices using an upgraded AK10 with a specific iPlayer. In normal circumstances however, you would be limited to 44.1 on an iDevice.
Battery life is estimated at 11 hours but I never got to test this as I mostly used it in combination with my laptop or for shorter times when I was on the go.
It is no surprise that the overall sound signature of the A200P with the Wolfson chip is smooth and relaxed and on the warmer side. The A200P is dead silent, clear and has a black background and produces a linear sound. There no special focus on the bass, mids or treble but the treble do is softer.
Positioning and balance even is quite good on the A200P but the sound stage isn’t the widest. Detail levels are OK and while the A200P certainly is a big improvement over my onboard sound card from my laptop and it has enough power to drive most portable headphones and IEMs, I can’t really call the sound quality spectacular compared to the other iDevices on the market. But that of course isn’t its goal either: the A200p, for a small price, lets you improve your “on-board” sound whether it’s from your iPhone, PC or Android phone.
The A200p is very inoffensive sounding and easy to listen to. It works great with the easy to drive T51P and they make for an excellent (on the go) combo as the sound signatures fit perfectly together. I even prefer the amp section of the A200P over the amp section of the Herus when using the hard(er) to drive Sennheiser HD650. Of course the Senn sounds a lot better out of a more powerful amp but it’s more than just “doable”. The A200P does well with the “smaller” and easy to drive headphones like the HD25 and ATH-M50.
When using IEMs the A200P is dead quiet and you can set the volume to really low volumes without hearing any hiss or background noise, not even when connected to your pc over USB. While I loved using the A200P with my laptop when listening to my custom IEMs I actually preferred the headphone out of my Samsung S4 with the 1964 V6S (review soon). It was more energetic and faster sounding, more alive. I just found them to mellow sounding from the A200P but then again other IEMs sounded better when using the Beyer unit. I don’t have an iPhone myself but George who’s a loyal reader and fan of portable audio (he uses a TOTL FitEar) confirms the improvement in sound quality over the headphone out of the iPhone and he loves the unit.
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