Review: Astell&Kern SP1000M – Magestic

The SP1000M is one of Astell&Kern’s higher end players from their A&Ultima product line, the top level.

 

Disclaimer: The SP1000M  was sent to us on loan by Astell&Kern directly to get his review review. The SP1000M unit is being returned to AK as usual.

Astell&Kern

The South-Korean Astell&Kern by iRiver does no longer need an introduction anymore as they quickly have become one of the world’s most famous DAP makers. It’s a given fact that they aren’t the cheapest – though a lot of brands charge these prices right now – but you can’t deny the sublime design and top quality sound their unites have.

In today’s review we’re looking at the SP1000M, which is a new unit and by it’s name it’s obvious it related to the TOTL SP1000 DAP.

SP1000M DAP

The SP1000M is part of Astell&Kern’s A&Ultima (SP1000, SP1000M, SP1000M Gold) product-line. The other product lines are the A&Futura product line (SE100, reviewed here) and A&Norma (SR15, reviewed here). The reason this SP1000M is late is because we were waiting for the GOLD version to wrap everything up in one single article, but AK keeps having stock issues and we couldn’t keep waiting.

You can find the SP1000M’s dedicated product page right here. According to Astell&Kern, the A&Ultima is a premium line of players delivering the ultimate Astell&Kern technology.

Two of the complaints you keep seeing when it comes to using the SP1000 is how expensive it is and how large it is to use on the go. And so this was the main reason for AK to build a smaller, cheaper version of their flagship DAP. The challenge for them was in not compromising the sound quality while putting everything in a smaller package, and they seem to have managed just that. The new M model measures 67,9mm x 117mm x 16,9MM and weighs only 203g (the SP1000 weighs 387,9g) so that’s remarkably smaller than the SP1000, something which is clearly visible looking at he pictures as well.

The lightweight and portability of the SP1000M enables the user to enjoy original sound playback anytime and anywhere. The A&Ultima SP1000M achieves greater portability, without sacrificing the level of performance found in the original SP1000.

The SP1000M still uses the same Octa-Core CPU and AK4497EQ Dual DAC but the screen has been reduced to a 4.1 Inch HD Display (720 x 1,280). Of course you still get the same top quality materials (durable aluminium body) and perfect build quality, all in an outstanding design. Of course you now also have the Open APP service which we will get back to later and the SP1000M uses the same User Interface as the top model. The latest AK devices now also support MQA. Battery wise the SP1000M now sports a smaller 3,3mAh battery which according to AK still delivers 10h of playtime.

The “M” in SP1000M doesn’t really stand for anything specific according to Astell&Kern, but I think I know what it stands for…. The SP1000M is available for $2399, making it cheaper than the SP1000 which is still selling for $3499. There now also is a Gold version of the SP1000M on the market ant he price for this luxury version is $2999. The main difference with the regular M being the brass body (the gold plating and the brass have about 99.7% purity)

One thing I really like is the fact that the new SP1000M leather case is now made from premium vegetable leather. No it doesn’t look as fancy as the SP1000’s real leather case, but any company offering a “vegan” option deserves thumbs up in my opinion.

VS SP1000

Because the SP1000M is the SP1000’s mini version and because they’re exactly the same in so many ways, it’s important to first read up on the SP1000 if you haven’t so already, as we won’t be covering everything again (think UI, menus, versatility). You can find the full SP1000 review right here:

https://www.headfonia.com/review-astell-kern-sp1000-impressive/

One of the first things you want to know about the Mini SP1000 is how different, or how much the same it tis compared to the SP1000, and so AK have created a very clear overview:

 

The most important differences are that the body is now in aluminium where the regular SP1000 is in solid steel. Then there is the 128GB internal memory instead of 256GB and the smaller battery. The M is a little less powerful in single ended mode but it puts out 4,2Vrms in balanced mode compared to its big brother which has 3.9Vrms. The SP1000M number-wise is also a bit more noisy compared to the flagship.

SP1000M Design

According to Astell&Kern the inspiration for the design of the SP1000M comes from irregularly patterned natural stones combined with Lapis Lazuli, one of the oldest of all gems, with a specific blue color. The SP1000M’s vivid blue represents youth, enthusiasm and power. The darker blue highlights appear at different angles to add elegance to the A&Ultima product.

On a first glance you would say the M has an identical design as that of the SP1000 but there are some differences looking at the detail. The front and the right side look more or less the same though the M version has even more edges. The crown to control the volume on the SP1000M is a little bigger but it now only serves as a volume control and it no longer is a button you can push. The left side now features different looking buttons and again a little more edges. The back side has the unique carbon like finish.

All-in-all a very stylish and beautiful design, one that for SP1000 users will feel and look very familiar.

The review continues on page two and you can get there by clicking here or by using the jump below

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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.

17 Comments

  • Reply February 21, 2019

    Steven Zore

    I love my 1000M! I use it with the AndromedaSS earphones, and I’ve listened to them every single day since I’ve bought them, I’m constantly marvelling at how wonderful they sound! I tried the 1000M gold at NYC Canjam last weekend, and I prefer the blue; the gold’s sound had a thicker, ‘brassier’ note and a little less air between the layers. The 1000 stainless steel had a wider sound stage, and for me the copper had the best sound of all; the warmth and musicality of the blue, and the sound stage of the steel. Great review!

  • Reply February 22, 2019

    Steve

    When is the comparison between the Meze Empyrean, The Utopia, LCD4z and so on coming.

    So looking forward to it after reading the Empyrean review in december. = )

    • Reply February 22, 2019

      Lieven

      Hi Steve

      Mea Culpa. I’ll try getting that one out in March but it’s tough with only 2 articles/writer/month. So often the normal product reviews get priority

      Lieven.

  • Reply February 22, 2019

    Nick

    Great review!
    Can we expect the Rai Penta review in the near future? 🙂

  • Reply February 22, 2019

    Timothy Lee

    Hey Lieven,

    How would you compare this to the Colorful U8? Is it similar in terms of tonality?

  • Reply February 23, 2019

    Jason Kang

    Have a A12 & Zeus XR. Definitely felt separation was a bit wanting and sound stage could be wider. I mainly pair with EA’s Hercules, though at times I’ve swapped to Mars and even pure silver/copper hybrid depending. I do agree notes are thick, and some of my albums that aren’t so well mastered don’t resolve well especially when paired with Hercules. Of course this could be all in my head…

    • Reply February 23, 2019

      Jason Kang

      Heracles**

  • Reply February 27, 2019

    Spie

    What is the best universal for very small ears and ear canals that you would recommend to pair with this? Andromeda are too large for me for example in size.

    Currently using westone ES30 but I find the detail retrieval a bit on the small side at times I feel like? Especially compared to my Etymotic er4sr.

    Thanks in advance

  • Reply February 28, 2019

    Steven Zore

    Try Xelento!

  • Reply February 28, 2019

    ILKER ONIER

    Xelento is the most comfortable by far. You forget it’s there with the silicones. I would like to try Meze Rai Penta though.

  • Reply March 9, 2019

    koinmove

    Hi, may i ask in sound quality wise only, is dx200+amp8 can be better than SP1000m?

    Thank you.

  • Reply April 3, 2019

    Chris

    Hi, I’m currently using my old faithful NW-ZX2 paired with Shure SE846 IEM’s. The ZX2 is getting increasingly clunky when using Tidal, which is not going to get better knowing Sony!
    Sound wise, how much better is the SP1000M and do you think this would pair well with the 846 IEM’s?

  • Reply May 3, 2019

    Steven Zore

    “SP1000 is exceptionally good in what it does but for some people it’s too analytic, light and neutral…”

    Is this true for the 1000 copper as well?

  • Reply May 27, 2019

    Reklov

    I just received my AK SP1000M together with Denon AH-D9200 for total EUR 2575(!) and can’t believe my ears. What a majestic look and sound. Thank you for your detailed review that encouraged me to buy the SPKM. I love my AK240 but need Tidal offline. And thanks to your description and link installation under windows was easy. Happy, happy, happy.

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