Picture Sunday – Astell&Kern SP1000M


The SP1000M is a new smaller version of the SP1000 from the South Korean Astell&Kern.

Disclaimer: The star of this weeks’ picture Sunday is the SP1000M. This post is a part of our Picture Sunday series and the SP1000M was sent to us for a full review including comparison to its big brother.


I’m not going to keep repeating who exactly A&K is, so let’s just copy/paste.

Astell&Kern is a South Korean high end brand for digital audio players (DAPs). Astell&Kern is a branch of Korea’s iRiver, which actually is the first company to ever build a portable audio player. Astell&Kern was launched with the mission to offer the absolute best where money is no object. Ever since their launch, they have redefined what is possible from portable devices. With the AK100 they introduced their first product in 2013 under the A&K brand.

Astell&Kern has pioneered a few things we know of today. They were the first to build a DAP with two DAC chips inside – AK120. AK was the first brand ever to introduce native DSD playback in a portable device – AK240. The AK380 was the first ever digital audio player that came with a Parametric Equalizer (via DSP).

AK also cooperates with many other industry leading brands. In partnership with brands like Beyerdynamic, Final Audio, Jerry Harvey Audio or Crystal Cable, Astell&kern has brought out many different products under their name. Together with JH Audio they have released a good number of different universal In Ear Monitors. Just recently we have reviewed one of said creations – the Billie Jean.

The SP1000 and SP1000M

The SP1000 still is Astell&Kern’s reference level DAP. It’s both Linus and my own favourite portable player and we have reviewed it already.

Now Astell&Kern found it was time to introduce a smaller version of that iconic SP1000, the M-Version. You can find out all about it right HERE.

What’s new/Different? We’ll tell you:

The SP1000M is smaller, so it now sports a smaller 4″ screen instead of the original 5″ screen. Smaller also means a smaller battery and it now is 3.3mAh compared to the 3.7 in the SP1000, and that means 2 hours less play time. Memory wise the new SP1000M has only half the internal memory, 128GB. Its body now is made from aluminum where the SP1000’s body is Stainless Steel/Copper.

The good thing is that AK is still using the really excellent double AKM AK4497EQ DAC chip and the Exynos 7420 Octa-Core CPU.

So basically the SP1000M is smaller in size but it’s also smaller in price and it goes for $2399USD (SP1000 is $3499USD).

First impressions

I’ve been listening for the SP1000M for only a few days now but he difference are already quite clear even though the overall signature is very much alike.

To me there fist of all is bigger bass and it hits harder with more impact. The detail is still great but it’s just “more”. The mids section for me is still very well detailed and layered but it’s a little less wide and spacious. The more intimate mids now are a bit smoother now though, more musical if I may call them that. And the treble section is more energetic, more forward.

The flagship SP1000 is wider, more spacious, more precise, more neutral, analytic and more balanced. The SP1000 is more musical and more easy to like but it’s not at the same technical high end level though it’s still really good.

Linus’ impressions:

I’ve had the SP1000M for over a month now, and the first thing that caught my eye, or ear, was that the M to me has a more airy midrange, which is also lighter in comparison to the SP1000. The M also doesn’t have the deep dark background of the SP1000, which makes it not as clean as the flagship. I also did notice that the M has a more neutralish treble, whereas the stainless steel SP1000 is richer and easier to listen to. One thing that the M does better to me than its big brother is the handling of hybrid IEMs. Monitors like the Legend X, Quatre, Fourté or Lola all seem better controlled on the SP1000M to me than on the SP1000.

Ever since I have received my SP1000M, I have almost exclusively listened to it. It especially is a better companion on the daily commute. The smaller form factor and weight are pure satisfaction. Does the M make the SP1000 obsolete? Hell no. Even though I might not use the SP1000 as much as before, it’s still the N°1 DAP out there.

By the way, I saw just a few days ago, that AK had a small launch party at their incredible STRADEUM (if you’ve ever been there, you know it’s one of the best places for audio in the world) in Seoul. They have shown a new SP1000M, which has a gold plated brass body and comes with 256GB storage. No word on pricing and limitation yet, but damn, that’s a looker!

So it’s clear that Linus and I for the moment haven’t found a consensus yet… A full review will follow in 2019 with comparisons to the SR15 and SP1000 and many other non AK DAPs.

4.4/5 - (85 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 February 8, 2019

    Steven Zore

    Any ETA on the review for this?

    • Reply February 11, 2019


      As soon as the gold version arrives. It’s the next DAP review

  • Reply February 20, 2019

    Antony Pu

    reviews onSP1000 MGOLD and the best headphones to go and where to buy it from INDIA

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