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