Disclaimer: The AK70 was sent to us free of charge by Astell&Kern directly in exchange for this review. The AK units are long term samples and just like the AK120II and AK240 they will one day be returned to AK.
The Korean Astell &Kern no longer needs an introduction. Ever since Iriver launched the brand a couple of years ago, each single AK unit has been positively received by the audiophile community. While AK recently has been replacing the AK120II and AK240 with the AK3XX line and a new design, they did release the AK70 which isn’t anything like the 3-series in looks. It’s kind of the AK Jr replacement and it now is Astell&Kern’s entry product in their expansive line-up. The AK120II has been my favorite for a long time but when the AK380 arrived, it quickly took over as it just performs even better. The AK70 also quickly became my favorite and it today is the unit I use as daily DAP while I use the AK380 at home .
We haven’t seen the latest yet of Astell&Kern and from what I read and hear we should be seeing a new top of the line player (AK380 successor) during Q1 of 2017. I’m sure Nathan will have a blast again with AK’s marketing machine and their slogans.
AK70 Specs & Looks & More
The first thing you’ll notice when opening the AK box is the size of the AK70. Handling the AK70 is easy as it’s small and perfectly fits in your hand. The button layout pretty much is the same as with the other AK units and so getting used to the AK70 was extremely easy. The color of the AK70 is described as “Misty Mint” color and I absolutely love it. Depending on how you hold it in sunlight, the AK70 will look grey, green or blue-ish. It’s gorgeous. The only downside is that AK’s entry product comes delivered without a leather case; something all other DAP makers in this price class always include in the package.
Size-wise it doesn’t only handle well, it also is very easy to put in your pocket, I guess the “Music friend in my pocket” the marketing team came up with this time actually makes sense. The AK70 also fits perfectly in the Pelican 1010 hard case and there’s even room to spare for two sets of monitors. I myself have been carrying it around with the CustomArt 8.2 on the Effect Leonidas cable and the Obravo EAMT-1A. All that in a little box, it couldn’t be more portable and safe in my bag. I’ve used the AK70 a lot at the office as well as a DAC with my laptop (no driver install needed) and it looks very great on my Distilunion Stanley stand. The AK70 measures 2.37 ”(60.3 mm) [W] x 3.81 ”(96.8 mm) [H] x 0.51 ”(13 mm) [D] and weighs only 4.66 oz (132 g).
As usual the build quality of the unit (and the packaging) is right up there with the best. Sure some might say (I’m looking at Nathan) it still has a sharper edge here or there but it feels solid and doesn’t bother me one bit. In fact, I’ll even call the AK70 “sexy”.
Spec wise the AK70 uses a single CS4398 DAC chip from Cirrus. The AK70 plays back 24bit 192kHz signals into bit-to-bit type. 32bit audio is down sampled using a sample-rate converter. In addition, DSD 64/128 can be played back through conversion to PCM. DSD 64/128 is converted via DSD-to-PCM to PCM 24bit, 176kHz for playback.
The outputs on the AK70 are the standard 3.5mm single out, the AK 2.5mm balanced out and recently Astell&Kern added the USB-out function which allows using your AK70 as a media source or as DAC for other sources. Then there’s also the AK ripper and AK connect which turns your AK70 into a streaming device. If you’re not into streaming you can just use the 64gb internal memory or your MicroSD card. BlueTooth wise the AK70 has the so called V4.0 (A2DP, AVRCP, aptX). The AK70 firmware is upgradable Over The Air.
The battery inside the AK70 is a 2200mAh 3.7 Li-Polymer one and it, depending on the type of files you use of course, will get you around 8h of play. The only minor thing I don’t like about the AK70 screen is the brightness of the 3.3inch (480 x 800) TFT LCD screen. Compared to the AK380 it only lights up very little. I always use the AK380 on minimum brightness, but the AK70’s goes all the way up.
The User Interface is the typical one from AK and I love it. Compared to other brands this is the easiest, most complete and most stable one out there. Getting used to the AK70’s UI takes two minutes and I won’t go into detail again about all the different screens. The only thing I think they missed is the fact that you can’t change the volume without unlocking the AK70 when it’s being used in DAC mode. When connected as DAC to your laptop or another AK, the AK70 doesn’t show the sample rate it’s receiving, the AK380 however does display that. When you’re in shuffle or any other mode with the screen blacked out, it for a microsecond will display the wrong song when you turn the screen back on. That also is something a lot of players have issues with, to me it’s not a big deal as the AK70 for the rest is very responsive.
Curious how the AK70 sounds? It’s all on Page two after the click HERE or below
First AK player I am kind of looking forward to. If they could add Tidal on top it could be a phenomenal player. How’s the battery life Lieven?
Pretty decent really, between 8 and 10 hours depending on the sample rate and the screen brightness, headphones used, etc. They’re working on Tidal…
Hi, how does AK70 compare with Fiio X5(iii) purely on sound quality?
Thanks but I am curious to know how X5iii directly competes with AK70. I mean which between the two has more detail, soundstage and better instrument separation?
Very nice review. Could you also compare the AK70 to Opus#1?
How compared with Fiio x3ii + CL Picollo?
Check out the Picollo review : http://www.headfonia.com/cypherlabs-algorhytm-picollo-old-school-analog/
Hi great review
I own the dx90 and it feels dry very true.
Do you think i should get the ak70 for a change or the ak300 ?
I use the arcam irdac at home. Do you think its a good change if i get the ak daps
Thanks for this great review. You compared it to the Cayin i5, are you planning a full review on the i5?
How compared with ak jr sound?
Better in most ways, but it hisses a bit more. It is also not quite as warm sounding. Its output is stronger.
Great review as always from both you and Nathan. Very interested in this DAP as an OTG.
I’ve got an AK120 right now, and I’ve been sitting on getting one of the various mods (RWA, MST, MS) out there for quite a while, but how would you compare those to this new AK70? Both in terms of raw performance and also price/performance ratio since obviously the price points here run a wide range.
Thanks in advance
Lieven, does the AK70 work as a USB source for the Theorem 720? Thanks.
I’ll try as soon as I find time
Is it worth getting the AK Jr at 300 USD now or waiting for the AK 70 to have a price drop?
Nice. I have just purchases a AK 70. Disappointed with the battery life. For this reason a power dock maybe useful?
The one thing I would love would be an internet radio option. These days I can stream high quality music on my iPhone from Qobuz and Tidal, I have access to nearly every song ever recorded via Apple Music and I can listen to the news via internet radio.
Whilst the AK 70 looks beautiful and I like the volume idea, battery life is a let down and it’s missing an internet radio option.
The AK70 does have TIDAL
Can you please tell me if the AK70 would be good pairing with Kaiser 10s? And would it be better to use the Balanced or SE output with these?
How does it compare to the SONY ZX-2?
Was the VE Zen that you mentioned in your review the original/first Zen or the Zen 2.0? Will it pair nicely with the Zen 2.0?
It’s the ZEN 2.0 🙂
Any plans on writing a review for the Zen 2.0?
Can I charge it when connected to another external DAC?
Not directly no seeing the USB port is in use. The AK KANN has separate ports for charging and for audio. The SP1000 has optical. But Ak70. Nope
Luis André Ferreira
Does anybody feels that the SE headphone out has more clarity and punch than the balanced one? I was A/B testing both with an adaptor, since my cable is terminated in 2.5mm and felt that: 1. the sound level on SE is higher, 2. the SE is brighter and more live.
Does someone have an opinion in this!
Thanks Lieven for the great review. I got my AK70 after reading it!
SE should be fuller but more intimate compared to the wider balanced output (probably what you call punch)£. I wouldn’t say SE has more clarity though. SE has more punch but SE is where you get the best technical result.
Luis André Ferreira
Thank you Lieven!
In you last sentence you mean say “SE” is where you get the best technical result but you wanted to say “Balanced”, right?
Same for me and with Shure SE846 + Fiio balanced cable. Balanced exit is very bassy (boomy) and less detailed, more “closed sound” (and also a much lower volume) than SE exit.
Could it depend on Shure? In this review the balanced output is described in a very different way from the one that appears to me.