Review: Astell&Kern AK KANN – Power to the People

Disclaimer: The Astell&Kern AK KANN was sent to us directly from South-Korea right after it launched. The unit is on loan and will be returned this week to AK.

 

Astell&Kern

Astell & Kern no longer needs an introduction. The iRiver owned company over the last years quickly became one of the top players on the DAP market and with this new KANN and the SP1000, they’re guaranteed to stay on top for another year.

Astell’s AK70 DAP won our 2016 DAP award and my personal favorite player still is the gorgeous AK380. I’ve been listening to the new SP1000 though and it looks like that one will take over that spot very soon.

The KANN: Inside, Looks and more

The new KANN DAP was launched in April already and we pretty much got one right away to play with.

Combining a high-quality audio player and a high-performance amplifier

In short, the KANN is an extra powerful and long lasting DAP. It has an amplifier integrated in the design so that it can drive the most difficult IEMs and headphones and with an extra performing battery, it gives you more  playtime than ever before.

 

 

Lay-out & feel

A lot has been said about the KANN design already but as usual, “liking” something or not is a very personal thing. It’s true that the player – because of integrating the amp and the special battery – is thick and heavy (9.83 oz (278.7 g), there simply is no denying that. I don’t really find it especially heavy myself (wait till you pick up the SS SP1000) but I do agree that it’s thick. Because of that it’s almost impossible to carry around with you in your pants’ pockets, and that’s a shame.

The AK KANN comes in two colors : Astro Silver’ and ‘Eos Blue. As usual AK used top quality materials and the build quality is really great but we don’t expect anything else from AK, or for the price they’re going for. The KANN itself has a beautifully ribbed/waved enclosure and it feels good in the hand.

One player to rule them all

Size wise the AK KANN measures 2.80 ”(71.23 mm) [W] x 4.56 ”(115.8 mm) [H] x 1.01 ”(25.6 mm) [D]. In the end, you – for now – just can’t have it all and AK clearly chose power and battery life over portability. That does make the KANN more transportable than portable and logically it’s a DAP that is easier to use at home. Others that have been using their AK DAP with the slide-on amplifier however are already used to carrying around a brick or using it at as a desktop setup, so at the same time there’s nothing new either.

What is new however is the layout and usability of the KANN, where you before had the buttons on the side of the AK DAPs, AK now put them on the front of the unit. When using the AK KANN on my desktop this doesn’t really bother me but on the go it somehow does. Where you before could control their DAPs with one hand, you now as good as always need 2 hands to switch to the next song while you’re walking around. On the other hand, when you do manage to put the KANN in your pocket, it now is easier pushing the buttons through your pants.

On the front you have the 4inch WVGA (480 x 800) touchscreen and right below that you have the previous, next, home and Play/pause button. On the right side of the ribbed player you’ll find the smooth volume control which fits perfectly into the ribbed design. On the top of the unit you from left to right will find four different outputs: 3.5mm headphone out / 2.5mm balanced headphone out / 3.5mm Line Out and 2.5mm Line Out. Next to that is the small on/off button. On the bottom of the unit you’ll find both the slots for the MicroSD and SD card, the USB-C connector for Data/charging and the Micro-USB connector for Audio.

Memory

The AK KANN has an internal memory of 64GB, but this can be easily and flexibly boosted via the unit’s dual memory card slots. KANN supports both standard SD cards and micro SD cards and the memory is expandable up to 768 GB, making it 832GB(!!) with the internal memory included.

If that still isn’t enough music for you than you can always connect to Tidal or connect to you NAS drive using AK Connect.

Battery

Battery wise the AK KANN also impresses. Yes, it does take rather long to completely charge the battery but you already get up to 6.5 hours of listening time with a single 1 hour charge through the fast charger. When fully charged, the 6,200mA large capacity battery offers 15 hours of continuous playback!

Using the KANN – battery wise – has been nothing but a pleasure compared to all my other DAPs. Where others run out of battery, the KANN keeps going and if the thickness of the player is the price we have to pay for battery life of this level, I just might be willing to accept that from now on.

It continues on Page two, after the click HERE or the jump below

Review: Astell&Kern AK KANN – Power to the People
4.8 (96.82%) 151 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

17 Comments

  • Reply June 28, 2017

    Beam

    Kann hiss a lot on my sensitive iem in single end. Does it hiss less in balance mode?

  • Reply June 28, 2017

    Nitish

    I have dunu 2000j 8ohms iem…. it’s dead silent with kann unbalanced port…

    • Reply June 28, 2017

      Lieven

      I’m sorry but I don’t get the comment. Did I somewhere say the KANN is noisy? 🙂

  • Reply June 28, 2017

    Martin Fuhs

    I sometimes really don’t know what you are talking about Lieven. You say “Sure it’s not as full bodied as the single ended output, but the SQ simply is higher”. Not as full bodied? The balanced output delivers more wattage, so what excactly does make the single ended output, that has less power, more full bodied? To be honest with you, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Then you say that the SQ is higher in a balanced operation? How is that? The player still uses the same DAC-Configuration like in a singled ended operation. It just has more power. +6dB to be specific. Do you hear more Details in balanced operation? Because I think that this is not possible. And how do you compare balanced vs single ended? From memory or do you actually switch between both modes? I am also pretty sure that you don’t match the volume when you compare those two modes, which basically makes every conclusion absolutely useless.

    • Reply June 28, 2017

      Lieven

      Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and it’s perfectly possible not everyone understands what the heck I am saying. But I do wonder if you have ever listened to and compared the balanced output to the SE output of any DAP?

      • Reply June 29, 2017

        Martin Fuhs

        I do have an background in listening to DAPs and other sources in a balanced configuration. And one thing they do have in common, is that they have more power. And more power or more volume is often times mentioned as sounding “clearer, more precise, more detailed” because there is a + of 6dB if you have not volume matched both sources.

        You know that this whole “balanced” topic is rooted in the recordingstudios and live-use for audio technicians. People who run several hundreds of meters of cables across a room. And with balanced connectors, they can bring the noise down a bit compared to a single-ended connection. But a 2m headphone cable that is running balanced, will only bring you the benefit of more power.

        And you don’t answered my question if you do compare these two modes via your memory and if those signals are volume matched.

    • Reply June 28, 2017

      Linus

      I can not speak for KANN’s balanced output, but on every other DAP I have heard the balanced output’s bass was tightened and better controlled, but it lost body… I have to agree with Lieven.
      Though the balanced output strongly relies on the implementation of used components. It can also go the other way and not improve sound.
      The best improvement I have heard from any hardware was the L3 Pro and CDM (not a DAP). Both really shine on balanced. You should hear them!

  • Reply June 30, 2017

    Arghavan

    How do you describe the sound compared to AK300 and also the Mojo?

    • Reply July 27, 2017

      Brandon

      I wish someone could answer your question on this because I would like to know how the sound on the AK300 is compared to the Kann.

  • Reply July 2, 2017

    OffRamp

    Ok off topic, Lieven you talk about the HD-650’s so much that I bought a smart copy I hope off Massdrop. They call them the HD-6XX. I own a Senn headphone from way back that I use with my Phase Linear set-up. I can’t wait to get it and stack it up against my portable phones.
    About this AK in the review I’m gonna pass because I have a CEntrance amp waiting for the AK with the digital output. They actually built it for me cause they were sold out and they promised it will drive my HE-560. I’m still leaning 240 because of the reviewed sound.

    Always in the background,always reading around.

  • Reply July 2, 2017

    Lieven

    Enjoy the HD-6XX, I have one too 🙂

  • Reply July 15, 2017

    CL

    i can’t help but wonder how sony manages a minimum of 24 hours in all their DAPs with certain models going up to 60 hours and remain so svelte compared to this.

    • Reply July 27, 2017

      Brandon

      I have had that thought in the back of my head for quite some time now, there’s nothing close to it and I dont get it haha.

  • Reply July 27, 2017

    macmarty

    Can anyone give a comment on the bluetooth connection of the kann? is it as poor as with the ak70? or can I expect this to be a lot better with the kann?

    • Reply July 27, 2017

      Lieven

      I sent the KANN back, sorry

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