First Look Sunday: Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP2000

Today we check out the $3,499 USD Astell&Kern SP2000 portable player for the first time before the full review. We know this unit isn’t new, but AK wanted us to review a full consumer version with consumer packaging. As they had stock issues we had to wait a few months.

 

 

Disclaimer: This post is part of our new First Look Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here.

About Astell&Kern

The Korean DAP manufacturer Astell&Kern has been around since 2014 and has been since then 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 SP2000

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 a number of cables, headphones and In Ear Monitors with these three brands, and continue to do so.

About SP2000

The “new” SP2000 DAP is part of the A&Ultima series together with the SP1000 and SP1000M. That means it’s the third player released in this series and it’s also the new flagship model.

The SP2000 as a flagship player isn’t cheap and it’s selling for $3,499 USD. There are three different versions of the SP1000: Copper, Stainless Steel (our version) and Onyx Black. You can find out all about it on its dedicated web page here: https://www.astellnkern.com/eng/content/shop/features.asp?mcg=CG110000&mpos=0&scg=CG210180&spos=0&tcg=&tpos=0&gcode=SC35590

The SP2000 sports dual DAC AK4499EQ chips from AKM and it’s capable of 32bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512 native playback, without compression or loss. The SP2000 is the first Astell&Kern model to support 32 bit/768 kHz and DSD512 (22.4MHz).

Astell&Kern SP2000

Connection-wise the SP2000 now offers dual band 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi, and the internal storage has been doubled to 512Gb. Next to that you also have 1 microSD slot which accepts sdcards up to 1TB. That means you have a whole lot of internal storage to store your favorite songs on.

Of course the Astell&Kern SP2000 includes MQA technology, which enables you to play back MQA audio files and streams, delivering the sound of the original master recording. It’s always funny to read that.

Vs SP1000

Straight from the beginning I have been a big fan of the SP1000 and it for me always was my reference level DAP. My SP1000 has been through a lot and it’s completely worn out and even dented, but it still works like a charm. Before hearing the SP2000 it seemed difficult to improve the sound quality of the TOTL flagship even more, but Astell&Kern has managed to do just that. In fact, there are quite a bit of differences between both players, such as DAC chips, output level, SNR, etc.

Astell&Kern SP2000

The old SP1000 with leather case weighs 418g, the new SP2000 weighs 458g, though it feels a lot heavier for some reason.

This preview continues on page two. Click here or use the jump 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.

5 Comments

  • Reply January 5, 2020

    Steven Zore

    This thing is in my destiny…

  • Reply January 6, 2020

    Craig Sands

    The thing every reviewer fail to mention is the lack of software support and empty promises from Astell and Kern for software updates. While i agree Astell and Kern makes a great player there support is horrid and their track record for promising software for the likes of Roon support is well documented as totally lacking across the web. What good is a $3000 player with poor support.

    • Reply January 7, 2020

      Linus

      Hi Craig,

      while I fully agree with you that the Roon Ready (I suppose that’s what they’re working on) implementation is long overdue, especially since they said it should have been done last year. I must say, it’s incredibly tricky to implement the RAAT protocol and everything that goes with it into your own firmware. I speak from experience as I worked on that myself in the past. The Roon team accepts only perfection for their partner program, which is absolutely great and just like it should be, but it can cause for delays. Although I’m surprised myself that AK’s coders haven’t made it possible just yet. To be fair, it would be the first Android DAP that would support it to my knowledge, so there might be some difficulties that don’t come up with other custom coded firmwares.

      I’m not trying to defend AK here, I’m waiting for the Roon implementation just like you, but it really is more complicated than just throwing some code-lines into your programming…

      Anyway, let’s hope it arrives sometime soon.

    • Reply January 17, 2020

      Al F

      There is nothing wrong with AK’s support of their players other than the slowness of Roon implementation. The AK players are always updated with new FW to fix issues or to introduce new features. I’m impressed with my SP2K and as a matter of fact a new FW was just released mid-January 2020.

  • Reply January 8, 2020

    Sam

    Looking forward to comparisons with your favorite Sony WM1Z!

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