The AK KANN us using a single AK4490 DAC chip which is the identical chip they are/were using in the AK300.
Focusing on a strong output and crystal-clear sound
The AK4490 DAC chip of course supports bit-to-bit playback up to 32-bit 384kHz. Amplifier wise you can set the amplification level to Normal and High and you for the very first time ever can modify the output level of the Line Out and set it to either 0,7V, 1V, 1,25V, 2V depending on what you’re using the KANN with.
Of course the AK KANN supports Bluetooth: V4.0 (A2DP, AVRCP, aptX™ HD). See the specs list for a full overview.
Accessory-wise the $999 KANN doesn’t come with a lot of toys. There is a pre-installed screen protector and in the box you’ll find a USB-C cable and a SD and micro-SD card slot protector. There’s no leather case included in the box and I myself use the MITER KANN case which is available on Amazon.com. For the price maybe AK could have at least supplied a nice leather case.
The nice thing is that KANN is now equipped with a line-out circuit designed to set the output values in 4 levels, depending on the user’s listening preference. It’s a significant step up from previous products, which did not provide output/volume control. With the selectable output function, you can fine-tune your sound to suit a home system, car audio, or any other listening environment.
Supporting the output of 7Vrms when connected via high-gain balanced output, the AK KANN not only drives high-impedance headphones without an additional amplifier, but also reliably reproduces high-quality sound with low-impedance speakers.
The KANN besides that is no different than the other AK models. If the huge internal memory doesn’t satisfy you, you can always use Tidal, groovers+ or MOOV, just like before. You can still connect your AK KANN to a music server as well (DLNA) using the AK Connect function. Don’t forget to download the new version of AK Connect on your phone or tablet. The new version is faster and a whole lot more stable. I use AK Connect at home a lot and if you do have a music server, do try so yourself.
Like with all the other latest AK DAPs, you can use the USB OTG function where you can use the player as DAC or as a media server to other units. Do note that the USB-C connection is only for power and data transmission and that the micro-USB is the one you need to use for OTG audio.
Beside the fact that the buttons or now on the front, nothing has really changed with the interface. I still think that the AK interface is one of the very best on the market. It’s easy to use, very clear and it always works perfectly. If you want to know more about the AK user interface, I suggest to read one of our earlier AK DAP reviews in which the menu structure, etc. has been explained in detail.
The KANN is one of those DAPs that are very easy to like seeing musicality comes first. It has a smooth and slightly slower delivery which some might even call “warmer”. It’s very different from their TOTL AK380 (which uses the same DAC chip but in a double configuration) and it’s nowhere near the level of that DAP, but the KANN only costs a fraction of their reference player as well.
The level of detail, precision, etc of the KANN is good, certainly at this price point but it logically isn’t the clearest, most precise or cleanest sounding DAP in their line-up. I’ll compare the KANN to some other AK models later but sound quality wise the KANN for me scores just under the AK70 (which won our 2016 award). I can’t really say the KANN excels in one specific thing as its performance in all different aspects simply is “good” but this isn’t the player you are looking for if clarity, precision, speed and dynamics are most important to you. The KANN is about emotion, musicality, “airtime” and power. I especially like using KANN’s balanced output as it sounds wider, deeper and more spacious. Sure it’s not as full bodied as the single ended output, but the SQ simply is higher. And just like in the AK70, the balanced output is very silent.
I’d say the bass and mids are fairly comparable but it’s mostly the treble that is on the softer and easy going side. This is very handy when listening to something like the RHA CL1 or the Etymotic ER4-SR but if you’re a fan of extended, detailed and precise treble, you might end up feeling somewhat let down. Because of this it does seem like the bass and mids are bigger in body but I can’t really say the bass is boosted that much.
One guy said he found the KANN to sound better than his Mojo, and while I don’t really agree to that, I do see what he means with it. If musicality is n°1 on your list, it’s very hard not to like KANN. Is isn’t the most technically strong, most detailed, fast or precise sounding DAP, but you will love its musicality and foot-tapping factor, even when playing bad quality MP3 files. On top of that, it headphone-wise drives as good as anything on the market and you can fly from Europe to San Francisco without having to charge/ plug your KANN to the USB port in front of you.
If the KANN is your first experience with higher end portable audio players its musicality and performance, bass and mids will probably blow your mind. If your ears have been spoiled already, you’ll notice that the KANN sounds really nice and very musical, but you’ll also find the KANN audiophile-wise isn’t the absolute best sounding player or AK DAP on the market. But there’s no shame in that as the KANN was developed to be and sound this way.
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