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Astell & Kern AK120 Reviews

Positive Reviews


Top overall performance for a [truly] portable digital audio player (DAP)


Pros: Small size, total memory capacity, user interface, charging via USB, battery life

Cons: Sound quality is bested by other (larger) DAPs

The AK120 is a portable player that is truly an ideal player for a traveler or those that prefer simplicity over complexity and the small annoyances that often come with top performing portable audio devices.  Sound quality is very good with more refinement than the lower end players, but lags behind other high-end players such as the DX100 and 901, but those players do have a disadvantage in battery life, UI, and size.     The AK120 may be for you if: - Portability and usability are two of the top qualities you are looking for in a DAP. - You have a large music collection that you want to take with you, especially if that music is in a high bitrate. - You want to...
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The most musical thing in your pocket - despite a few glitches


Pros: SQ is just about perfect, build feel solid, paired with a good amp the sound is probably unbeatable.

Cons: sealed in battery, firmware is a little flaky.

I am not going to talk about the build quality, the size, shape, etc.  Most things have been talked about to death by others.  So, all I am going to do is add my own observations which would be best read in context with what other information is available out there.   You can plug a good set of cans into an AK120 and get an excellent clean signal.  It sounds great.  I then tried it with an Alo Audio RX amp and it sounded significantly better.  Then I tried it with an RSA SR-71a and my jaw dropped.  It suddenly went from being an excellent reproduction of an audio signal to being real music.  Music as it should be.  I close my eyes and am...
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Negative Reviews


8/10 Sound. Love / Hate Relationship. Frustrating User Experience.


Pros: Looks good, feels good, sounds good.

Cons: Software an afterthought that leads to lots of wasted time (on the device and on your pc/mac) & unresponsive customer service (until they read this).

I bought this player because I wanted “the best” portable DAP money could buy. Even though I now have a portable experience that rivals or might even surpass my desktop setup, it has not left me without considerable headaches and occasional feelings of buyer’s remorse.   Let’s remember that this is a $1300 product and when you include Canadian duties and taxes I’m in ~$1600! I knew this would definitely warrant a review. For this, I would expect to get some customer service and online documentation that would prevent from hours of troubleshooting.   I bought this directly from iRiver because of a free MQS album promotion they were running during July 2013. I wish I had...
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Beethoven Lover

Over-rated, Over-Priced, Misleading memory claims


Pros: Excellent SOund

Cons: Only uses 64GB of the claimed 192GB of memory. Indexes songs alphabetically.

Do not buy an Astell & Kern 120.  It claims 192Gb memory, but it indexes and uses only the internal memory - 64gb. The external SD cards carry files but do not show up on the device.   Money spent on the two mini SD cards is totally wasted - the files for all intents and purposes do not exist.  The software index the tracks alphabetically so you must listen to your music in random order.  When using iRiver Plus4 the software does NOT rollover automatically from one memory unit to the next, so you have to monitor your usage constantly - takes forever to load the device with music.  Buy a 5.5G iPod which has the Wolfson DAC already in it.  Have Rapid Repair...
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More Reviews


Fantastic Sound


Pros: Sound quality better, louder more dynamic than than AK100, same great build quality, better interface , better volume knob than AK100, case included

Cons: Brown leather case not my thing, bigger than AK100 - only bought the AK100 a few months ago!

The first bars of the 24bit version of Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy - I got my wallet out.  More detail, soundstage, bass, more finesse, more power and dynamics (I listen to the AK100 in isolation at around 47-50, currently listening to the AK120 at 39 - whether it's exactly the same scale, I don't know of course)  However, I don't need to strap it to the Vorzugge Pure to get the extra punch that combination offers.  The software has a grid interface which feels like progress, and it seems to be more responsive in use.  Retina doesn't apply though.   So, I'm delighted - again.     Is it perfect?  No; the volume knob feels much more...
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Astonishing sound, just a couple of glitches that could be ironed out.


Pros: Incredible sound quality. Massive storage potential. Optical in/out. 2 micro SD card slots. Quality DAC. Build quality

Cons: Some EMI. Larger music libraries are hard to browse. Some glitches with ALAC files. Some glitches with metadata on some tracks.

I picked up a second hand AK120 off ebay and have not regretted shelling out around 15 times what I paid for my last DAP, a Sansa Clip Zip. The difference is astonishing to say the least. I really enjoyed the Sansa, a nice sound, good detail, pretty neutral sounding with the potential to beef up the sound through Rockbox, but the AK120 wipes the floor with it.   The best word I can use to describe the difference is texture. There is an improvement in detail, soundstage and the overall oomph of the player, but the most striking thing for me is the texture of the sounds produced. Put simply I've never experienced this with a portable player before this, or even through my laptop via...
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Overpriced, but still the best TRUE portable player


Pros: Size, functionality, UI

Cons: Price, usage with CIEMs

  Please make sure to click that Like button at the bottom of the page, also drop a comment and feel free to ask questions if you have them!   AK120   I feel like there is an epidemic looming over the heads of most Hi-Fi audio music player designers.  Most just can't seem to get it right and so few end up with a solid performer, yet something actually portable.  You know...not a distant relative to that cinder block that has been sitting outside of my house for years?  I won't bore you with specification details in the beginning of this review, so I will start off with the conclusion first.  That is just how I roll.   The End...
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Art inTampa

Great sound, adequate power even for HiFiman HE-500


Pros: Great SQ, Lots of storage capacity with 64GB already on board, very usable UI, Drives the HE-500!!

Cons: It is expensive

INTRODUCTION:   I have owned the AK120 since September and listen to it every day, several hours a day. I use a variety of headphones depending upon where I am. When I'm home, I prefer my HiFiMan HE-500 Orthodynamic cans or my JH Audio 16 Pro and when I'm out I generally use my closed back Shure SRH-940, UE 5 Pro or my custom fit ER4 MicroPro. I have used it with a variety of amplifiers though it really doesn't need external amplification to drive any of the headphones I listed to a reasonable volume level. I was in fact surprised to discover just how good it sounded with the power hungry HE-500's and with all the other headphones, it could drive them way beyond my listening...
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The best DAP I ever heard in this size.


Pros: Great sound quality, nice UI, battery life is ok.

Cons: Price is a bit expensive. Should be similar as the hm901. Also there are rooms for the firmware to be improved.

I have heard it couple times from my friend. It impressed me very well. In the next couple days I received my HM901 but it has too many problem and the battery was end up broken, so I send it back and ask for an exchange to the AK120. The sound is very balance. Bass/mid/tre sounds just alright, not too much and not less. Soundstage not as wise as HM901 but still great, depends on which headphones you use. So far I feel that the 901 with minibox card sounds a little bit better than the AK120 but definitely not day and night difference and in fact the sound quality of them are very close. Really depend on the sound signature people prefer. With low impedance IEM I have to say it drive...
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AK120 Micro Sd card issues


Pros: Sound quality, interface and battery life

Cons: Firmware 1.32 partially fixed MSD card issue

System - Windows 7 32 bit, USB 2.0   I think there is a serious issue with AK120's latest firmware when reading both micro sd card slots.   1) When i use two micro sd cards(Sandisk extreme 64GB) formatted with exFAT file system, AK120 is able to read and detect only one msd slot and not both. Wierd because when i play any song, it shows two msd card icons at top left corner but recognize only one.   2) Since it is trying to read both at the same time but could only scan songs from one, AK120 system hangs or slows down. when i use only single MSD card, it works fine.   I think firmware 1.32 partially fixed micro sd card detect issue, i have already...
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Beautifully made and phenomenal sound


Pros: Full 24 bit support, dual dac's, aesthetic appeal

Cons: Convuluted menus, cost

I first listened to the AK100 at the London meet as Axell Grell - Chief sound engineer at Sennheiser had been raving about them and after a listen I was sold. So when the AK120 was released, I knew I'd have to get one. Absolutely beautiful little player. It's just a gorgeous chunk of tech that feels good to hold. For me personally tech has to have form as well as function and the AK120 doesn't disappoint on either front. SQ is the best that I've heard and I'd rate it higher than the DX100. Spending 1k plus on a high end DAP is going to be a big decision for anyone including me, however I'm more than happy with my decision. With 64GB on board storage and the option to expand this via 2 x...
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