Ibasso’s discontinued DX90 with Lurker firmware sounds clearer, cleaner, detailed and is more transparent. The AK70 has more body, bass and sounds more musical where the DX90 is a littler dryer sounding. Layering is about the same in both, of course the DX90 doesn’t have the 2.5mm balanced output as it’s a little older already. These DAPs just have two different sound signatures and I can appreciate both. The AK70’s user interface is a lot faster though, the DX90 – especially when listening to DSD files, is kind of slow on the touch. With sensitive ciems, the new DX80 has even more noise than the Cayin i5. Its user interface to me personally doesn’t come close to the other DAPs and certainly not to the AK70. The DX80 also takes a very long time to update the media library and well, I really don’t like this DAP that much. My fav iBasso still is the DX90 by far. The DX80 goes for around €334/$319 which is half the AK70 and that shows in both sound quality and user interface.
The AK70 doesn’t have the most power and when listening to full sized headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO, you will have to turn your volume almost all the way up. Seeing the general sound signature of the AK70 is on the warmer and smoother side with full body, I do recommend using IEMs and headphones that aren’t too warm. It just might become too warm and smooth.
At IFA I tested the ceramic two-driver RHA CL1 straight from the AK70 and it sounded clear, clear, detail, spacious and precise with a good amount of bass. Treble was dynamic and lively. The combination sounded really good and I hope RHA won’t change the CL1 too much anymore. From what they’ve told me though, the treble still might be retuned a little. The CL1 has an impedance of 150Ω but the AK easily got away with it. The AK70 also directly connected to the RHA Dacamp L1 as media source by using an OTG cable.
The Obravo EAMT-1A is a very expensive IEM (around €4000 Euro) that likes a good amplifier but the AK70 gets away with it. Because of the hardware used in the Obravo the treble section is very extended and present. I quite like that but the AK70 does help bringing it down a little. I myself prefer using it with a more neutral source like the AK380 though. I always connected the Polish CustomArt 8.2 ciem to the balanced output, using Effect audio’s Leonidas cable. The result is a wide and spacious sound with good layering and almost perfect bass body. The AK380 makes the 8.2 perform better at a technical level but the AK70 makes it sound more musical, engaging and fun.
The new Beyerdynamic Byron BT for some might be a little bass heavy when connected to the AK70 by BT. The Byron BT has big bass and big mids (bigger as most Beyers) and as a result you get very thick sound with bass that doesn’t always stay in the bass section but runs in to the mids as well. Treble on the BT + AK70 combo is very smooth and not that extended. The VE ZEN earbuds from Lee Wild measure an impressive 320Ω impedance but the AK doesn’t really have a problem driving them. The ZEN has a very balanced and detailed sound and the combination with the warmer, laid back signature of the AK70 simply works.
I love the DT1990 and the AK70 gives it enough for that little bit of extra bass body. The mids in the Beyer have more body than you expect and the treble of course is on the lively side, the AK70 soften the upper end a bit. The vocals in this combination or extremely good though. I wouldn’t call this my favorite source for the DT1990PRO but it certainly is more than “doable”. The easy to drive Hifiman Edition S plays perfectly fine with the AK70: good body, good bass, soft treble. Musicality over detail and precision. You can hear the AK70 is having a harder time driving the 300Ohm Sennheiser HD800 but the AK70 delivers just enough bass to make it enjoyable. It’s clear the HD800 needs an amp but there’s no shame in that. The Planar Magnetic Audeze LCD2 actually is easier to drive than most people think (although it scales up nicely) and the AK70 makes it sound very good. Good deep bass, layered mids and the typical LCD2 treble. I can listen to this combo for hours (if only the LCD2 was a little more comfortable) but I also have to admit everything sounds a whole lot better even when using an extra amplifier.
The AK70 is available for around $599/€649 and it is one of my all-time favorite DAPs for on the go. It’s small, pocketable, handles well, has a great UI and looks pretty. On top of that you get a very engaging smooth laid back sound signature combined with a good level of detail and clarity. The AK70s performance for its price is very correct.
Its sound is more fun and musical than it is detailed and analytical yet using the line- or USB out to another DAC and/or amp can easily change the sound signature. The AK70 doesn’t come close to the performance of its bigger brothers but it just does a whole lot of things right and there’s still room for improvement with a simple firmware update. Bluetooth is getting better and more popular each day and with the aptX on the AK70 you can be assured of good quality wireless sound.
Personally I fully recommend the AK70 in this price class but we all know Astell&Kern/iRiver likes releasing new DAPS, so a new one might be just around the corner. I wouldn’t wait though, just order the mini AK70 and enjoy your music. It’s that easy.