Review: Astell&Kern SP1000M – Magestic

SP1000M Lay-out

 

On the front you have the now smaller 4.1” screen and while smaller than the 5” screen of the SP1000, it’s still a really good size to work with. On the SP1000 the gorgeous volume wheel on the right side also was used as a power button as well as a screen on/off button but this isn’t the case in with this unit where it’s only a volume dial (just as in the SE1000).

As a result you now have an extra button on top (like on the AK70 and SE100) for turning the player and screen on/off. Left to that button on top you’ll find the 2.5mm balanced headphone output and the 3.5mm single ended output, both with a small plastic elevation to protect the casing and not make any unwanted contact . On the left side of the unit you have the three typical buttons for skipping tracks and for pausing playback. These buttons are now little rectangles and they are even more easy to push

The MicroUSB slot and the USB-C connector can be found on the bottom where they usually are. The SP1000M has all the needed buttons in just the right places and it can easily be controlled by one hand. Also, when the player is in your pocket, you won’t have any issues “handling” it. The buttons are a delight to touch and push, and as we’re used to from AK, everything always works flawlessly, it’s what we call “a lay-out well-done”. The only thing I can criticize here is that in the new leather case, these buttons are harder to feel (there are nu cut-outs) so I at home or at he office always end up using the SP1000M without the vegan leather case.

SP1000M Build Quality & Accessories

I don’t think anyone still has doubts about Astell&Kern’s perfect build quality. Sure you might not like the design or the sharper edges in that design, but the quality these units are built with is exemplary. And for the price everything should be perfect as well.

The SP1000M doesn’t come in the fancy wooden box the SP1000 or GOLD versions come in though, but he box itself is very nice. On the inside next to the player we find a USB-C cable, the leather case, extra screen savers and the warranty card.

It are the basics for any DAP in this price class. The SP1000M comes in a nice package and I’m sure none of the M buyers were or will be disappointed with it.

SP1000M Usability & Features

The SP1000M has the exact same features as the SP1000 and the SE100/SR15 for that matter so if you want to know all the detail about hose we strongly suggest reading the previous Astell&Kern reviews here on Headfonia. What’s “new” here compared to the time when we reviewed the SP1000 probably is that you can now side load applications using Astell’s Open APP SERVICE and that the AK player now officially support MQA.

Usability-wise the SP1000M is very easy and straightforward. If you have ever worked with an AK DAP before then you won’t have any problem finding your way around the SP1000M’s different menus. The M in fact is just like the SP1000 in terms of usage, and you can read all about that in our SP1000 review here and the SR15 review here, so I won’t go into detail about the options and the full menu structure. Working with the AK’s is easy and everything always works as you expect it would.

As we’re used to from Astell&Kern, the SP1000M can be used as DAP, DAC, Media source (OTG) and DAC/AMP. For your laptop you just need to download the correct driver for Windows and that’s it. For some reason however my latest laptop is not having any of it as the driver isn’t digitally signed and my company policy won’t allow me to turn of the driver’ signage. So this could be an issue for you too if you want to use it as a USB DAC.

Like its big brother the M comes with a USB-C port and it allows quick charging. The M takes about 2 hours to charge and you in theory get 10h of playtime. To manage that the SP1000M comes equipped with a 3,300mAh Battery. In reality I indeed gets 10 hours on the clock but that doesn’t come as a surprise as the AK units all score really well when it comes to “airtime”.

If the 128GB internal memory and the MicroSD slot (Max 400GB) aren’t enough for you then you can always stream music over Tidal or connect it to your NAS using DLNA and AK connect. It’s something I have been doing these last few years at home but I stopped using the AK players like this ever since I got Project-Audio’s awesome new network bridge called the Stream Box S2 Ultra.

Of course the SP1000M with the latest firmware also allows you to side load a limited number of APKs. This “Open Service feature” lets you load additional Android APK files on the internal memory from here: https://apkpure.com/. Then you take the downloaded file and copy it to the folder “Open Service” in the internal memory of the SP1000M. Once that’s on there you go to the Services section in the UI and install the files. After that you can use Spotify, Bandcamp, TIDAL and many other services. Unfortunately Roon Remote isn’t whitelisted by AK yet, though rumors are they’re working on it.

Linus installed TIDAL (for offline playback), Spotify, Bandcamp and Qobuz on his SR15. All worked very well and it’s a wonderful feature added. Here’s a short how-to install APK files from AK.

For me personally it’s mostly interesting for Tidal’s offline playback but I don’t really use any of the other apps. For you this might be completely different though and it does open the gate to even more customization in the future.

All-in-all the AK units always were and still are extremely versatile. The only option I’d like to see on them is the “auto download lyrics and album art” feature. It’s been used by Fiio and Hiby already and it works pretty well, so I’d love to see that in an upcoming update. When can hope, right?

SP1000M Sound – Part 1

Astell&Kern says they didn’t want to modify the sound signature with the M version of the SP1000, and so they used the exact same AK4497EQ dual DAC design. But in realty there is a difference in sound for sure and the SP1000 still is the better scoring reference player, especially when it comes to transparency, sound stage and all other technicalities.

Next to that we’ve already established that the SP1000M is a smaller high end DAP in size, but it actually also is in sound, and I mean that in the most positive way. To me the SP1000M is the second best Astell&Kern player of their line-up, and it actually might please a wider range of people than the SP1000 does. And I’m not only saying this because of the lower price, but also because the sound signature is easier to like. The SP1000 is exceptionally good in what it does but for some people it’s too analytic, light and neutral and that’s where the SP1000M comes into play.

The part on SOUND continues on page three of this article. Just click HERE or below

Review: Astell&Kern SP1000M – Magestic
4.3 (86.09%) 46 vote[s]

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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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