Picture Sunday: AK380 SS & Fiio X5iii

The star of this week’s Picture Sunday is the Astell & Kern AK380 & Amp SS. Check out other recent Picture Posts Here, and Here.

This picture was taken by a friend of mine in Singapore when he was visiting the Zeppelin & Co personal audio shop. I really think this is a great picture that captures the beauty of the Solid Steel version of the Astell&Kern AK380, docked in its amp on a classic wooden table.

So just to be clear, I do own the AK380 but not this setup and not even an amp to dock my demo version in. The SS version of this setup costs around $4999 and Astell&Kern was supposed to only build 200 units. Some say it sounds different because of the material used but I have to admit I’m pretty skeptic about it. If I ever do get a change to hear it, I’ll report back about it.

While I absolutely love my AK380, I can’t deny that it is a lof of money for a portable DAP/DAC. The great thing about this hobby though is that there are brands like Fiio who try to bring the best quality to the market for only a fraction of the price. Just a few days ago we looked at their new 3rd generation X5 DAP, and it as good as blows away the $500 competition. While the X5iii of course doesn’t perform at the same level as the AK380, it does get you as close as you can get for $399.


These are great times for personal audio enthousiasts: there are tons of companies / products on the market and there are awesome products to be found in each price class. You’ve got to love it.


4.2/5 - (23 votes)

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.


  • Reply March 5, 2017


    Ok, so you say the X5iii can’t quite compete with the AK. What is it that makes the AK better?

    • Reply March 6, 2017


      FW, UI responsiveness, detail, clarity, precision, sound stage, AK connect, silent 2.5, 2.5 line out, … Do I need to go on? 🙂

  • Reply March 6, 2017


    Would you take the x5iii over the AK70 for sound quality?

  • Reply March 8, 2017


    I heard the X5III with the new Fio amp they have and for a relatively inexpensive, and not too bulky stack, it sounded damn good with my Lyra. Maybe it does have an edge in some aspects, but really for the money and overall performance it’s heard to get better. In fact the more i hear from Sony and Fio and other brands, the less impressed I am with AK.

    I would really like to see the Sony NW-WM1Z in here against the AK380.

  • Reply June 11, 2017


    I really should like to offer me a AK380. Every paper I read is in the same way. The best!!!!
    My question is: For you, the best is to buy the “normal one”, the “copper” or the “Stainless”?
    You said you are a bit skeptik about difference of sound. Do you think it’s only communication?

    • Reply June 12, 2017


      Well, there are sonic changes for IEMs when using ss or copper. For DAPs, well it’s tougher…

  • Reply June 13, 2017


    Thank’s Lieven,
    So….. I only have to find the cheapest one !!!
    And what do you think about IEMs Earsonics? They have a new one called EM10
    In fact, might you tell me what you should buy to listen Jazz, Classic, technical music?

    • Reply June 13, 2017


      those are very different types of music: smooth jazz, precise classic and bass and treble happy techno.

      isine20, VE8, Samba, ER4-XR, Xelento, just to name a few

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