I would still label the SP1000M as a player that has a neutral tuning, but because of its typical body and notes it doesn’t sound as neutral as the SP1000. You from bass to treble get bigger body and thicker notes and for many people that will make the M sound warmer and more pleasing to their ears. Sound stage wise the SP1000M scores good, but it feels more intimate than the TOTL model which has better separation and spaciousness. Depth and layering obviously are very good at this level as well as the micro detail and the dynamics. Like with the SP1000, I love the left-right balance, positioning and excellent layering. Both the decay and attack are still top level, as well as the speed the SP1000M displays. It’s a high end level and performance, it’s that simple.
It’s very clear these DAPs are using the same chips so it’s only normal the SP1000M scores as good as its big brother in a lot of ways, the SP1000 just is even more balanced, transparent, neutral and analytic sounding, where the M versions brings more life and emotion to the party by adding more weight and thicker notes.
To me there first of all is bigger bass (more quantity) and it hits harder with more impact. The detail is still great, it’s just “more”. The mids section for me is still very well detailed and layered but it’s a little less wide and spacious feeling because of the added thickness. The more “intimate” mids now are a bit smoother as well maybe, or more musical if I may call them that. The treble section is more energetic, more forward or the M is at least giving that impression because of (again) the thicker notes.
With this tuning I’m absolutely convinced more people will “like” this AK’s sound signature. It just sounds easier and more engaging with popular music or music where the recording aren’t the best. You get a less dry/analytic sound which is more engaging and expressively musical, while maintaining a whole lot of the big brother’s top qualities.
As we’re used to from Astell&Kern, the noise levels are very low. With the most sensitive gear however you hear just a tad more noise than compared to with the SP1000 but it isn’t audible at all when playing music, not even at very low volumes.
Vs The Family & Competitors– Part 2
The popular SE100 has left the HFN HQ already but from what I remember it is warmer and smoother sounding and it even had bigger body than the SP1000M. It also doesn’t play at the same level when it comes to precision, transparency, detail, speed and basically everything else. The SE100 is using a Sabre ES9038 Pro 8-channel DAC (the M, the AK4497EQ) so no wonder they’re so very different sounding.
The Cayin N8 (AK4497EQ) isn’t with us either anymore but the SP1000M does remind me a lot of the N8’s single ended solid state output, especially when taking into account the bigger body, thicker delivery and energetic treble. The SP1000M is less noisy than the N8 is, but of course the Cayin has that 3.5mm tube output…. At the same time it’s no surprise they have a similar sound signature as they’re also using the exact same DAC chips.
And then there is the SP1000 to which we’ve been referring to in this review since the beginning. The flagship SP1000 is wider, more spacious, more precise, more neutral, analytic and more balanced from top to bottom. The SP1000M is more musical and more easy to like but it’s not at the same technical high end level even though it’s still incredibly good. Both Linus and myself are lucky to have both these DAPs in our collection and even though we both agree the SP1000 is the best of the two, we both most of the time end up using and taking the SP1000M out for on the go. It’s less expensive should you break it, it’s smaller, it’s musically more addictive and technically almost as good.
Last week or so I reviewed the HiBy R6 Pro and this to me is a player with a big potential. Make it sound as or at least perform at the level of the SP1000M and you’ll have one of the best sounding, easiest to use and most versatile Android DAPs. As is, the R6 PRO (ES9028Q2M DAC ) sounds thicker with even more body and it isn’t as refined as the AK. Technically the SP1000M performs at a whole other level, but it certainly is a level where I would like to see HiBy go to.
And then finally there is the SR15 from AK’s A&Norma line. Obviously the SP1000M is leagues ahead. Not just in terms of features with double the internal storage, USB C or the bigger screen. The SP1000M also has a more advanced sound. It creates a cleaner signal, brings out more details on a darker background and stretches a bigger venue. The SR15 has more emphasis on warmth, whereas the M is more neutral, though still warmer. The treble section of the M is more agile and the bass has higher dynamics. The SP1000M is the more exciting sounding unit that keeps on wowing on a more constant note, while the SR15 is a highly enjoyable and relaxed.
There’s more on “Sound” in Part 3 on the last page of the article, right HERE