Review: Astell&Kern AK70ii – One up.

Disclaimer: The AK70ii 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 AK70 it will be returned to AK.

 

Astell&Kern

The South-Korean Astell&Kern does no longer need an introduction anymore as they quickly have become one of the world’s most famous DAP makers. Sure you might not like their marketing campaigns or price setting but you can’t deny the sublime design and top quality sound their unites have.

In today’s review we’re looking at the mid-fi AK70ii, which is the Astell&Kern’s AK70 successor. The original AK70 won a double award here on Headfonia when it was released and so we have really high hopes for the 2nd revision of this DAP.

AK70ii DAP

The AK70ii is very much like the original AK70, therefore it’s a good idea to read about the AK70 first, as we won’t go into all the same details all over again. You can find the AK70’s reviews here:

https://headfonia.com/review-astell-kern-ak70-aks-best-yet/

https://headfonia.com/review-astellkern-ak70-geniality/

The main difference with the original AK70 everyone talks about, is of course the use of a double DAC. The Dual DAC separates the left and right audio channels from input to output and according to AK, you as a result of that get a higher quality audio output with the same refined sound. The AK70ii actually is the first model from Astell&Kern to be equipped with a dual DAC for under a thousand dollars. Its separated channel circuit design offers less noise and interference, yet adds more fidelity and audio output power, to create a bigger sound stage with clearer imaging when paired with your favorite cans or speakers.

The AK70ii sports a double Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC-chip and it allows the AK70ii to play any resolution of digital files up to 24-bit/192 kHz, bit-for-bit. 32-bit audio and single or double rate DSD can also be played, but it will be converted to PCM or down sampled.

Of course the AK70ii comes with the 3.5mm single ended output as well as AK’s typical 2.5mm Balanced output. For those who prefer wireless, AK has incorporated Bluetooth V4.0 (A2DP, AVRCP, aptXtm HD) in the unit.

The full specs of the unit can be consulted on the last page of the review. The price of the new AK70ii is set at $699 USD.

AK70II Looks & Design

The black anodized body shimmers like the sea at night and the aqua colored volume knob accent produces a calming wave pattern. In perfect contrast, the rear glass case is an extension of the volume knob’s aesthetic aqua color.

I like the design of the original AK70ii with its mint color and the AK70ii’s design isn’t all that different, so it’s only logic I really like the new design too. The AK70ii is available in blue and black (our version) The new AK70ii is a tad thicker and wider in size but if you have them them next to each other, you wouldn’t even know. At only 15.2 mm (0.59 in) thick and a 150 grams (5.3 oz), the new AK70ii is still a small and very pocketable portable player. The AK70ii fits just right in your hand or pocket when you are on the go.

This time round, the new AK70ii’s body color is Noir Black and it of course still has an aluminum body. The AK70ii features a 3.3inch WVGA (480 x 800) TFT LCD. Lay-out and functionality-wise the new AK70ii is as good as the same as the original and all the buttons and connectors are in the same place as well.

A nice touch is that the AK70ii has a new volume wheel design and I have to say I think the blue detail in the button is just gorgeous. The AK70ii yet again is a well-designed, perfectly built and gorgeous little DAP.

AK70ii Usability & Features

There’s no change in functionalities compared to the original AK70 and that’s perfectly fine as it already was a very versatile DAP. UI-wise there also isn’t any real change and getting to know the DAP menu structure and using it is a piece of cake.

The outputs on the AK70ii are the standard 3.5mm single out, the AK 2.5mm balanced out and the USB-out function which allows using your AK70ii as a media source or as DAC for other sources. Then there’s also the AK ripper and AK connect (big fan) which turns your AK70ii into a streaming device (DLNA). Of course there’s the Tidal integration but if you’re not into streaming you can just use the 64gb internal memory or your MicroSD card. The AK70 firmware is up-gradable Over The Air.

The 2,500mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer battery inside the AK70ii is 300mAh bigger in capacity compared to the original but in practice I don’t really see any difference in usage. Depending on the type of files you use and the screen usage/intensity, you will get between 8h to 10h of air time.

The User Interface is the typical one from AK and I love it. Compared to other brands this is the easiest, most complete, fastest and most stable one out there. Getting used to the AK70ii’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.

I’m not an avid user of BlueTooth and I’ve only tested the BT-connectivity with the Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless at my office. It works perfectly find there but I’ll leave it up to the BT experts to analyze this feature.

The AK70ii has a compact size for easy carrying and one-handed operation but also on your desktop the AK70ii will stand its man. A simple USB connection allows the AK70 MKii to be used as a digital music storage device and/or pre-amp to output digital audio through USB.

The review continues on page 2, after the click HERE or the jump below

Review: Astell&Kern AK70ii – One up.
4 (80.95%) 42 vote[s]

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.

32 Comments

  • Reply February 15, 2018

    Amigoz

    How it is compared with Hiby R6 – sound signature, weight of body?

  • Reply February 15, 2018

    Barun C

    It was a nice review, but I don’t agree with the following.

    “The AK70ii’s sound stage wide and depth is good and very correct at the price it is going for.”

    This is almost like the RE2000 comment made by Fang, where cost is justified by the sound quality. A general co-relation of pricing exists with every commercially sold product, but this is a very generalised objective statement, which doesn’t exist in audio, everything is supposed to be subjective.

    • Reply February 15, 2018

      Lieven

      Hey Barun. long time no seen 🙂
      I see your point but when you are so lucky as I am to listen to so much gear, you clearly start to see and experience “levels” at different price points. Like <100 / 100-300 / 300-500 / 500 - 800 etc. It's in that regard that I regularly comment about a product being "on par" with the price level.

  • Reply February 15, 2018

    Barun C

    You guys should get the QP2R or even the QP1R, cause that might be a contender which will mess up the price/sq theory. Just my 2 cents.

  • Reply February 15, 2018

    OLEG

    Thanks for the interesting review. Could you also compare AK 70ii to Sony ZX300 (soundwise only)? And by the way, we’re all waiting for the ZX300 review 🙂

    • Reply February 16, 2018

      Booker

      Second this – eagerly awaiting the ZX300 review! 🙂

  • Reply February 16, 2018

    timmy

    Probably not a good comparison, but what do you think about the AK70ii vs the Shanling M3s?

    I’ve always wanted the AK70 as my first entry into AK, and the AK70ii now makes it almost perfect. But I’m so tempted by the M3s after reading your review here, not to mention it’s almost half the price and smaller in size.

    I have the Shanling M1 so I know I’m definitely gonna love the M3s. So I guess my question is, do I want another Shanling or is it worth it to pay double to get what I always wanted?

  • Reply February 16, 2018

    Bots

    Would the AK70 MkII be a comparable device to the Opus#1, given they both have the same DAC setup (dual Cirrus Logic CS4398)?

  • Reply February 16, 2018

    Heuggen

    Great review!
    I’m about to purchase my first DAP and I’m between these because I’ve read very good comments from many sources and they’re not very far in price(550-699). Which would be your choice?

    Fiio X7 Mark2
    HiBy R6
    AK70ii.

    I will use it with AKG K712pro and Meze 99 Classics, streaming from TIDAL and using ALAC files.

    • Reply February 16, 2018

      Amigoz

      HEUGGEN, I will get my Hiby R6 soon and will test it wit Meze 99C, do not expect here that reviewers will give you reply how it is compared one to another DAP, i asked for it few times, just silence from their side as they somehow can not just do simple comparison and tell at least which DAP they prefer by some reasons, maybe other DAP suppliers pay money for it…
      I also was between X7 II, AK70II, but bought R6 from indiegogo as price was attractive, due also limitations to hear live in my country these DAP’s this is such reality that you must count on reviews… But as soon as i get i will write honest comment if do not ir will like hiby R6 with Meze 99C. One reviewer wrote that with meze 99C it may be better tweaked sound to your liking on R6 than X7MARK II

  • Reply February 16, 2018

    Heuggen

    Thank you AMIGOZ! it’s a shame we can’t know which would they prefer, anyway, I would appreciate your thoughts on this Combo R6/99C. I’m also thinking about the R6 because the price but the other two are a little more experienced brands so it’s a really hard decision. Good luck with your R6!!!

    • Reply February 23, 2018

      Amigo Z

      Hi short test, R6 is too analitical for me with Meze99C , but you can tweak sound if play flac file, I stream from Tidal most of time, so my old fiio e17k with w4s USB recovery pkaays smoother, but.. I put in my main system avoiding my DAC directly to tube amp and it is really nice, shortly it is not amazing experience, but it is not bad, my score 8/10. Nobody will play with 8bals on every song, for me it is too sharp with meze99c I think other caps should work better, my feeling is for canyon i5 or n5ii!!!

  • Reply February 18, 2018

    Ken

    Head scratcher to me that they have not enabled some sort of browser so the user can log into hotel wifi servers. My biggest frustration with my AK70. No Tidal away from home.

  • Reply February 22, 2018

    Luis André Ferreira

    Are the bluetooth specs exact the same as in the old AK70? Thanks!

  • Reply February 23, 2018

    Amigo Z

    Hi short test, R6 is too analitical for me with Meze99C , but you can tweak sound if play flac file, I stream from Tidal most of time, so my old fiio e17k with w4s USB recovery pkaays smoother, but.. I put in my main system avoiding my DAC directly to tube amp and it is really nice, shortly it is not amazing experience, but it is not bad, my score 8/10. Nobody will play with 8bals on every song, for me it is too sharp with meze99c I think other caps should work better, my feeling is for caiyn i5 or n5ii!!!

  • Reply February 24, 2018

    Amigo Z

    OK, just managed, when you make from dop to pcm 8bals working, now it is great 🙂 but streaming from tidal not allows you to equalize it, so it is good player, but not how I want or maybe I do not know something how to mange 8 bald with Tidal! It is really good DAP!

  • Reply February 24, 2018

    Don Vittorio Sierra

    It may be a stupid question but anyway here goes lol… How does the sound from the single ended jack compare with that of an ipad pro 10.5 inch for example? Power and sonically…

  • Reply February 24, 2018

    Albert C

    is there any lag in the sound when used as a day for a desktop setup?

  • Reply February 25, 2018

    Chaturanga

    I did not find Cayin N5ii as a clear winner over even Fiio X5 iii, but you are saying N5ii is closer to AK70 MKii, that was very interesting to hear 🙂

    I agree that N5ii is more open sounding but is that enough to sound better? AK70 MKii is warmer and darker yes, but also AK70 MKii is smoother, has excellent resolution, more controlled presentation (in positive way) and giving a tasty complete musical experience with almost every genre.

    N5ii looses control time to time in that open presentation. When I listened N5ii I was thinking something was not finished yet and DAP was not a final version.

    Anyway, I will try to listen both to make AB test later again.

  • Reply March 2, 2018

    Malcolm Daw

    I recently made a blind purchase, an excellent product overall.
    My only gripe is the fact, whilst Tidal compatible, there is no way to down load even with my Tidal Hi-Fi account from Tidal to the internal storage,something that even my wife’s crummy LG smartphone allows.I would have preferd to pay more(Tidal licence fee) for this product with this feature included.

    • Reply March 5, 2018

      Lieven

      That is a bummer to many indeed

  • Reply March 23, 2018

    Fredrik Parapat

    i checked on amazon, AK70 MK2 vs AK300 price almost identical. if using only for DAP without additional amp, which one would you recommended?

  • Reply March 24, 2018

    Seanwee

    “The Cayin is more energetic and it sounds more clear and less warm. The AK70ii’s bass and mids are somewhat thicker and the Cayin has better extension, especially in the higher mids and treble.”

    Thanks for the comparison, now I’m sure that I have no regrets. The N5ii simply punches way above its price range. I have yet to try the Opus 1s but it bests similarly priced DAPs (FiiO X5iii, Hidizs AP200, Opus 1)

  • Reply April 22, 2018

    Darren Cotter

    I know it’s been mentioned above, but how does the FiiO X7ii compare with the AK70ii?

    • Reply April 23, 2018

      Lieven

      The Fiio X7ii is much cleaner sounding. While it depends on the AM module used, the Fiio is never as warm and smooth sounding as the AK is. It has a more neutral tuning with better clarity.

  • Reply April 29, 2018

    Adam

    zx300 vs ak70mkII?

  • Reply May 2, 2018

    XiaXueYi

    AK70ii and Grado RS1e. Smooth pairing, some of the sweetest mids I’ve heard. You guys should try it!

    Also I’m personally using AK70ii > UE18+, excellent details and imaging with coherency throughout the spectrum.

  • Reply May 19, 2018

    Ajay

    How does this compare with the AK100II?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.