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

Full Specs

General Specifications

  • Model: KANN
  • Body Color: Astro Silver, Eos Blue
  • Body Material: Aluminum
  • Display: 4inch WVGA (480 x 800) Touchscreen
  • Supported Audio Formats: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE(Normal, High, Fast), AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF
  • Sample rate: PCM: 8kHz ~ 384kHz (8/16/24/32bits per Sample) / DSD Native: DSD64(1bit 2.8MHz), Stereo / DSD128(1bit 5.6MHz), Stereo / DSD256(1bit 11.2MHz), Stereo
  • Output Level: [Phone Out]Normal: Unbalance 2Vrms / Balance 2Vrms (Condition No Load)
    High: Unbalance 4Vrms/ Balance 7Vrms (Condition No Load)
    [Line Out] Unbalance 2Vrms / Balance 2Vrms (Condition No Load)
  • DAC: AKM AK4490 x1 (Single DAC)
  • Decoding: Support up to 32bit / 384kHz Bit to Bit Decoding
  • Input: USB Type-C input (for charging & data transfer (PC & MAC))
    / Connection Mode : MTP (Media Device)
  • Outputs: [Phone Out, Line Out]PHONES (3.5mm) / Balanced Out (2.5mm, only 4-pole supported)
    [USB Audio] micro USB Connection / PCM: Up to 32bit 384kHz / DSD 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz
  • Wi-Fi: 11 b/g/n (2.4GHz)
  • Bluetooth: 0 (A2DP, AVRCP, aptX™ HD)
  • Dimensions: 80 ”(71.23 mm) [W] x 4.56 ”(115.8 mm) [H] x 1.01 ”(25.6 mm) [D]
  • Weight: 83 oz (278.7 g)
  • Feature Enhancements: Firmware upgrades supported (OTA)

Audio Performance

  • Frequency Response
  • [Phone Out] ±0.067dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalance & Balance
    ±0.75dB (Condition: 20Hz~70kHz) Unbalance & Balance
    [Line Out] ±0.07dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalance & Balance
    ±0.75dB (Condition: 20Hz~70kHz) Unbalance & Balance
  • Signal to Noise Ratio
  • [Phone Out]110dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 109dB @ 1kHz, Balance
    [Line Out] 116dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 117dB @ 1kHz, Balance
  • Crosstalk
  • [Phone Out]-108dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / -130dB @ 1kHz, Balance
    [Line Out] -135dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / -135dB @ 1kHz, Balance
  • THD+N
  • [Phone Out]004% @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 0.0008% @ 1kHz, Balance
    [Line Out]0.0008% @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 0.0007% @ 1kHz, Balance
  • IMD SMPTE
  • [Phone Out]0008% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Unbalance / 0.0008% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Balance
    [Line Out]0.0006% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Unbalance / 0.0006% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Balance
  • Output Impedance
  • [Phone Out]PHONES 3.5mm (0.65ohm) / Balanced out 2.5mm (1.3ohm)
    [Line Out] PHONES 3.5mm (1.9ohm) / Balanced out 2.5mm (5ohm)

Clock source

  • Clock Jitter: 30ps(Typ)
  • Reference Clock Jitter: 200 Femto Seconds

Battery

  • Capacity: 6,200mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer Battery

Memory

  • Built-in Memory: 64GB [NAND]
  • External Memory: microSD (Max. 256GB) x1 / SD (Max. 512GB) x1

OS

  • Supported OS: Windows XP, Windows 7,8,10 (32/64bit), MAC OS X 10.7 and up
4.6/5 - (210 votes)

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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.

21 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

  • Reply November 20, 2017

    Lovely Apple

    I tried the Bluetooth connections for both AK70, AK70 M2 and Fiio X7 M2 and KANN is the winner in terms of clarity and almost no noise. The long distance is best in KANN as compared to younger two brothers and Fiio X7 M2 is the worse. You will love bluetooth connections specially if your headphone have aptx support, I tried BOSS highend bluetooth and Sony Hear 2 and I like Sony.

  • Reply November 24, 2017

    Kit

    I currently own a Kann and I spend most time on it after my dpx1 started making some bad noise.
    I find Kann working well with my ER4B at its high gain. It is probably the best sound I ever get for my ER4B with pocket portable device. I sincerely recommend it if you happen to have both at hand at any circumstance.
    The hissing of Kann is quite noticeable issue too. Of course almost every machine through ER4B is dead silence. Others don’t take it well. From my experience, at normal gain, hissing is lightly audible through IE800, bit more audible through Inear Prophile 8 (won’t be a problem as long as volume is above 20.), louder through QDC Gemini (still bearable for outdoor environment), and completely intolerable through Xelento (audible on a running train).
    I don’t get why balance output might reduce the hissing. Does not the balance output give more power than single-ended?

  • Reply May 21, 2019

    Patrick

    Thanks for this really nice review.
    Whats the best If I want to have the most of my HD 800 S directly plugged in my Kann?
    What kind of adapter I would need ? Take the balance out 2.5mm mini jack to XLR 4 pin?
    I do listen with the unbalance 3,5mm and it sound already good.
    If someone could help me to enrich my poor knowledge so I could later on enrich the sound of my music it would be realy nice.

    • Reply May 22, 2019

      Lieven

      yes, 2.5 to whatever your cable is

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