GREAT DAP, compact, feature rich, open sound stage, very precise

A Review On: Astell&Kern AK100II High Resolution Single DAC Audio Player (Smoky Blue))

Astell&Kern AK100II High Resolution Single DAC Audio Player (Smoky Blue))

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Recent Pricing:
Review Details:
Audio Quality
Battery Life
Design
User Interface
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $1,199.00
CasperBxl
Posted · Updated · 2655 Views · 7 Comments

Pros: Great sound, Compact, Feature rich, great UI

Cons: Sync Software would be great

I recently got the AK 100 II after dabbling with a phone based stack.

 

Alternate setup:

    Samsung Galaxy S5

    FIIO E18

    + PowerAmp Pro (Cost: 2.99€) + iSyncr (Cost: 3.99€) + Stream to Media Devices, BubbleUPNP (Cost: 3.49€)

 

Sound Quality for this setup is GREAT. Love the E18 and its performance and great sound.

 

 

I had bought the E18 so I could combine good music and being on the go with 1 "device".

After a couple of weeks, I found that a phone based stack is a bit cumbersome and not very handy.

 

So, after snooping though the forums for ages, reading up on features, sound, etc I saw that Astell and Kern released the new AK100 II.

The AK100 II was announced with most of its primary parts as the AK240 has, but a single line (so no dual DAC and AMP and without the dedicated DSD processor)

It runs on a proprietary Android version, seems to have a nice UI.

 

As we do not have any shops in Belgium carrying them ... I decided and went for a bind purchase from a great shop in the UK (I live in Belgium).

(http://www.custom-cable.co.uk/) Within a few days my new AK100 II arrived, I unpacked carefully but in a hurry ... curious to see, hear what I had bought.

 

First Impressions

The package I got from the shop in the UK was a quite large cardboard brown box. On opening the box I found an nice AK branded black box. The AK packaging is a nice even black with only the AK logo on it.

 

[Some pictures]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UI [User Interface] is a smooth, easy to use. It has been made for non expert users, easy, few buttons, sleek.

 

Once I put some music on it I finally got to the listening part .... and what a PLEASURE that was.

Very clear sound, silence is silence, my library with a mix of classical -70%-, trance -15%-, bagpipe and jazz came to light.

Most of the tracks are in FLAC, in different levels of quality (16/44 up to 24/192).

 

I immediately tried my different headsets, BeyerDynamic DT880, AKG K551, Sennheiser Momentum, all performed great. The AK even pushed the BeyerDynamic DT880 250 Ohm very nicely.

The sound stage on the AK100 II is wide, pure and light. Never boring or flat.

 

I asked a colleague at work (a 'real' audiophile) to give it a listen.

He was using his shure 215's (he is the 'room' type audiophile, the shures are for at work).

During his listening he immediately noticed the very pure and open sound, more spacious. His comparison was the exact same audio file on his iPod to my AK 100 II.

(file used was: Buena Vista Social Club - 1997 from iTunes)

 

He was truly astonished that only the device could already make this big of a difference.

 

The software on the device comes with a great EQ for those who need it. Just draw the EQ line on the screen and the software matches the line you drew.

Again, simple and easy to use.

 

 

The only thing I would suggest Astell & Kern to add would be a good Sync Software so users can easily select what they want to Sync with their very nice AK devices.

I'm sure a collaboration with a good maker is doable ... why not with MediaMonkey of FooBar2000 community?

It would make our lives so much more practical.

 

You can of course just copy the files with Windows, but that is not hand and it is not really manageable.

Having Sync list 1 for weekends, Sync List 2 for work, etc could be very nice.

 

 

Small note: It work also great a DAC on my PC's!!!   :-)

 

 

UPDATE [3-Jul-2014]: The AK100 II also works as DAC on my Samsung Galaxy S5, but via a OTG cable and not via simple micro-usb to micro-usb, it MUST be an OTG cable.

                                 Otherwise just Plug and play!!!

 

 

 

Well, that is it for me.

 

VERY, very happy with my new player!!!!

 

     - Compact

     - Great battery life (2 to 3 days at work, and you could add an external battery pack to recharge ...)

     - Great Sound with a wide sound stage

     - Great detail in the music

     - Excellent UI (bit slow with over 2400 songs + Album art)

 

 

With Kind regards,

 

Casper

A very happy customer.

7 Comments:

whats "smoky blue"? in the name of the player?
I dont know .... It is how the product seems to be registred in the DB.
Anyhow ... you could say it has a bit a blueish tint to it.
What is the battery life (and with what files)? 
I can run around fro 2 to 3 working days. I use the player mostly at work.

Battery life is good to great (and you could always extend with a power pack, like with a mobile phone)
It is not really blue but dark grey instead...the battery is great 3,150mAh...excellent sound; worth the money and very similar to the AK120II; no reason to get that one unless you need more space and two DACs. 
AK120 has no more Wolfson DAC. Cirrus Logic is inferior.
WHY did A&K changed from  Wolfson  to Cirrus Logic  ??  Vinnie seems to say that the Cirrus Logic CS4398 is not as good sounding as the Wolfson WM8740. They could have go to the Wolfson WM8741 that Vinnie uses in its Mods and that supports also natively DSD ?  Any idea for this change of supplier ? 
Good question and pretty much answered above. The CS4398 is cheap and uses less current. The 8741 consumes too much power for most portable applications if you are going to have an amp in the same portable. The 4398 is not thought highly off with regards to higher end sound. Now put that into a 2400 dollars DAP and I wonder who had their hand in the implementation because I doubt they were going for the best sound. You find the CS4398 in much cheaper equipment, generally.