Today we’re looking at the KANN CUBE, the brand new DAP from Astell&Kern.
Disclaimer: This post is part of our Picture Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here.
No more introduction is needed here as we’ve covered their gear and the company plenty of times. As you could have read in The Munich High End Show Report Part 1, Astell&Kern was in Munich to introduce and launch four new products: The AK T9iE IEM, designed by JH, the SP2000 new reference portable player, the SP1000 AMP and the KANN CUBE. And it’s the last one we’re looking at today.
The CUBE is the evolution of the original KANN, and if you remember that one, you’ll probably know it was a mini brick. Well the KANN CUBE now is the largest, thickest DAP in the AK line-up but that’s perfectly OK and I’ll tell you why in a bit.
The CUBE’s dedicated web page can be found right here on AK’s website. There you will learn that the CUBE has an unprecedented power output and that it uses dual ESS Sabre ES9038PRO DAC chips. This player is designed to offer a very low noise floor, even with its massive power output.
The CUBE has 3 gain settings and the numbers are as follows:
Unbalance 6 Vrms
Balance 12 Vrms
(Condition No Load)
Unbalance 4 Vrms
Balance 8 Vrms
(Condition No Load)
Unbalance 2 Vrms
Balance 4 Vrms
(Condition No Load)
The CUBE is more than just a DAP – it’s a perfect source for at home in your desktop setup and to enforce that “goal”, AK has even added a low noise 5-pin mini XLR output to hook it up to your desktop gear.
Next to that the KANN can of course be used on the go as well, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing this last week. You use it as a DAP on the train and when you get to the office, you hook it up to your desktop amp for the best possible (sound) experience. That means the KANN also has the regular 3.5mm single ended output as well as the 2.5mm balanced output. AK and 4.4mm, will it ever happen?
If you’ve been following my reviews, then you know I really like the AK DAPs in both design, usage and sound. That also means that if you’ve read my KANN review, you know that it was/is my least favorite of their DAPs. And well, with the CUBE that is completely different.
Using the KANN is easy as it’s identical to the SP1000/SP2000 and we can all agree AK’s UI is one of the best. Sure it’s not as easy to work with because of its size, and you’ll probably need to hands and big pockets, but if you can look past that and just look at the sound quality, then the KANN CUBE will impress you. And actually, this DAP isn’t designed for the ones who want to only use it on the go, no, this DAP is used to use at home and if you’re crazy enough like me, to also use on the go. So if you keep saying or thinking the KANN CUBE is too big for you, well then it’s clear it’s not he product for you. You might want to look at another of their DAPs.
Sound-wise you can hear the KANN CUBE’s power in everything you connect to it, and the IEMs and headphones you’re used to listening to magically start sounding even better. Hook up the Empyrean or Utopia directly to the CUBE and you’ll be surprised of how excellent the CUBE makes them sound. You can be sure you’ve never heard them like that before from any other DAP. The KANN CUBE does something magical to your gear, and I for one love it.
The sound is full bodied, dynamic and powerful. It has plenty of detail with an excellent sound stage width and depth and the layering is top. The separation and spaciousness are at SP1000 levels and the ES9038PRO is simply doing a great job.
Bass is powerful and full bodied but it’s also tight and fast. Bass has a really good punch and the impact is just right. The mids are detailed, spacious and rich in details. The vocals are energetic yet seductive and the treble is extended and energetic, and never harsh. The AK engineers have really done an excellent job with the CUBE’s tuning and I can’t wait to spend more time with it next week.
The full review will be up in a couple of weeks but if you in the meantime have time to listen to a unit, certainly do. You’ll be surprised of its performance.