Review: Astell&Kern SP1000M – Magestic

Synergy – Part 3

Because of its sonic characteristics, the SP1000M easily matches up with any type of earphone and no matter the tuning. The SP1000M has more than enough power to drive any IEM and it gives lighter sounding gear that bit of oompf you want from it, but without altering the sound signature too much. If you want the M to make your IEMs bass heavy, forget about it.

The M performs best with higher end IEMs that can show the player’s real potential, and so we’ve chose 3 completely different IEMs for this test: The Shozy & AAW Pola with the electrostat tweeter, the Obravo Ra C Cu with the AMT and huge dynamic driver and the Meze Audio Rai Penta (Dynamic and BA drivers)

Every single time I go back to the $10K Ra C Cu, my ears need a song or two to adjust to the typical sound of Ra. The volume on the M has to go up all the way to 75 to reach my normal listening volume with these IEMS, but the SP1000M drives it without issue. The sound stage is impressive both in width as in depth. The layering from bass to treble as well as the detail retrieval and  separation are excellent. Voices are natural and have so much emotion and while treble is soft and easy, it’s still extended and clear. The Ra C Cu isn’t always easy to pair up with but this combo is extremely good. Sure, you can buy a small car for the same money, but it does sound impressive.

Pola, the Shozy/AAW collaboration result is one of the 2019 highlights for me already. With the SP1000M you get good body, a great sound stage, perfect voices, sublime treble, great layering and impressive depth. It’s a very clear and energetic combo which stays musical all the time. The SP1000M is the kind of DAP that easily does it all, and as a result this Pola & M combo just sounds really good. Try The Dark Side (alternative reality version) from Muse on it and you’ll be blown away.

Another IEM that will make audiophile’s jaws drop is the Meze Audio Rai Penta. It’s not officially out yet in the EU and US but we’ve been so lucky to have a set right here for a while already. The Rai Penta has the typical audiophile tuning: lighter in presence, great detail and transparency, a wide and deep sound stage and perfect tightness and speed. The M manages to make every quality of the Rai Penta shine: bass is tight but goes deep with excellent layering. Mids are spacious, soft and have excellent vocals and Treble is extended, energetic and precise. M gives Rai Penta just enough kick and body to keep everything musical. In fact the M and Rai Penta share the same USP: High-end sound with a musical delivery. How can we not like this?


With the SP1000M Astell&Kern has built another great top level portable player. The M sound-wise is different enough from the SP1000 for AK to “have” two flagships in the product line-up. Not many people will own both as you’ll normally prefer one signature over the other, but at the same time both of the top DAPs are compatible.

The M obviously stands for Musical. And Mini. And maybe also Magestic, cause that’s how it sounds. For many the SP1000M will be their end level high end DAP, and that’s exactly what it is.

The SP1000M is easy to use in the sense that it pairs perfectly with anything you hook up to it in both single ended or balanced mode, though we feel the balanced AK outputs always to be the best of both.

The SP1000M has made its entry to the recommended DAP list, and I wonder what unit will ever kick it out. For the moment, not a single one. It’s nice.

Full Specs



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.


  • 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


    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


      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


  • Reply February 22, 2019


    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


  • Reply February 27, 2019


    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


    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


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

    Thank you.

    • Reply December 12, 2019


      Seriously doubt it, sp1000m is whole nother level!

  • Reply April 3, 2019


    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


    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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