Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Source Gear › The Astell & Kern AK120
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

The Astell & Kern AK120 - Page 224

post #3346 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by dj nellie View Post

Nevermind, I see that a straight swipe left across a song will bring up the delete menu.  But I'm noticing another issue:  A lot of my files are getting the "file not supported" error.  Some of my APE and FLAC (converted from SACD) files are giving this error.  I'll have to check exactly what the origin of these files is, but I guess my dream of having a true "put anything on it and it will play" DAP is being shattered...

 

It could be because you converted those files over from SACD as you said. Not so sure about APE I've never used it on my players as it takes a lot of resources to unzip them and that impacts battery life. I just compared a 24/88 FLAC conversion of Wham! "Make it Big" which originally came from the SACD to the original. The original SACD is noticeably more dynamic sounding and effortless. While I haven't tried using these files on the AK120 yet I did have issues with another format converted over to FLAC. I can play the files but I'll have to restart the AK120 after. It basically won't let me play other albums other than that album...

post #3347 of 6396

Why FLAC instead of wav when comparing bit rates vs DSD?

post #3348 of 6396

My thoughts on the sonics of the AK120 vs. the RWAK120-S  (long, feel free to skip the preamble or the whole thing for that matter).

 

 

Preamble:

 

Ok, after discussing the pros and cons of various aspects of the Red Wine Audio mods to the AK120 (ad nauseam), I’m finally ready to say a few words about the sonics from my perspective. I've had the unit since last Thursday and have been playing it pretty much non-stop.  

 

Disclaimer 1:  I’m relatively new to portable audio.  For 25 years, I’ve been pursuing digital audio in my home system which is based around a highly modified Wadia 270se transport, a dCS Purcell Upsampler and Delius DAC, TacT 2.0s room correction, a Placette dual mono active preamp, Innersound Monoblock Amps feeding modified Martin Logan CLS IIz speakers.  This is my personal reference.  Most of my serious listening is done at home, either through the speakers, or from the headphone outlet of the Placette dual mono preamp to Sennheiser HD600 phones with Cardas single-ended cable, of course with room correction bypassed.

 

About 6 months ago, I decided I to get my CD collection digitized, and at that time after a good bit of research, I decided on a sound server.  After hearing how good the sound was from the digital files on the sound server, I liked the idea of being able to take my music collection with me on the go.  More research and I ended up with the AK120.  For better or worse, and after discussion with Vinnie and Ray Samuels, I decided to go ahead and pursue Vinnie’s S-mod.  To my knowledge, this is one of the first units he did. 

 

On with the discussion:

 

Equipment:  RWAK120-S, Senn HD600 with Cardas single ended termination, Ray Samuels RS-71a amp.

 

Source Material Utilized:

(1)   16/44.1 Steely Dan Katy Lied:  a.  Doctor Wu,  b. Chained Lightning,  c. Any World

(2)   16/44.1 Diana Krall Only Trust Your Heart:  Only Trust Your Heart

(3)   DSD Troy Bunnell Troy Bunnell   Give Me One Good Reason to Stay

(4)   16/44.1 Hilary Hahn – Hilary Hahn/Barber & Meyer Violin Concertos Barber Violin Concerto

 

Disclaimer 2:  I don’t still own an AK120 for a direct comparison.  This is important. I very well might be biased! I’ve spent hard earned money on the upgrade and amp, so I may be primed to hear improvement regardless of what I’m actually hearing.  I’m a big believer in blind A-B testing.  I confirmed for myself that 32GB and 64GB microSD cards sound the same by listening blind to some of these tracks off of the different cards on the AK120.  Blind testing is the gold standard and I haven’t been able to do it.  If someone wants to send me his or her stock AK120 for a few days, I will be glad to do blind testing.  However, I am NOT going to buy a second unit for this purpose.  Having said that, I did listen to these very tracks over and over for about a solid month on the AK120.  My comparative comments will have to rely on my memory.

 

Ok, here we go:

 

(1)   The Steely Dan Tracks:  I’ve been using three tracks on the album Katy Lied to test audio equipment for nearly 30 years. Yes I am old.  I had several vinyl pressings and Japanese remastered CD’s of this album.  I will draw your attention to a few elements on each track which you might want to listen to yourself.  Doctor Wu -  I believe this is an extremely difficult track for even a decent system to get right.  The sounds I listen for are the chimes/tubular bells on the right at 0.16, Jeff Porcaro’s high hat cymbals and drum through the early parts of the track, and most importantly, Phil Woods incredible sax solo starting at 1:31.  This was dropped into the mix, and it is difficult to balance the sax with the smooth vocals.  Being one of my favorite tracks of all times, I listened to this dozens of times on the AK120 and now have listened dozens of times on the RWAK120-S.  It sounds quite good on both, but frankly, the RWAK120-S sounds notably and audibly better to me.  There is greater clarity and definition to the chimes; the image is wider and deeper with greater separation of instrumentation.   But there is a real difference in the sax solo.   On the stock AK120, the solo felt a bit like a studio take dubbed into the mix.   With the S mod, the vocals and sax blend into a very realistic mix…you can feel the musicians playing together.  My opinion is clear sonic superiority of the RWAK120-S here over the AK120.  Next, listen to Chained Lightening, one of the best Steely Dan tracks of all time, but not my favorite.   On this track, I listen for ambience and the snare drums.  The more resolved a system, the greater the ambience and the greater the differentiation in vocals.  There are a group of background singers.   Through the AK120, there was not the degree of ambience or the clarity or separation of the background singers behind Fagen that I’m hearing through the modded unit.  Did it sound good before?  Yes.  Is it better now?  Yes.  Finally, an incredible track that I can never get enough of is Any World.  I have used this track to assess dynamics of my system every single time I have changed a component.  There is great dynamic contrast in this song, and I believe the dynamic range of the modded unit takes advantage of this.  There are also some very subtle instrumentations that were much easier for me to hear on the modded unit.  I don’t care if you like Steely Dan or not, you can learn a lot about your home stereo, your portable setup, and your headphones by listening to these 3 tracks through various systems.  For me, they are my guiding light.

 

(2)   Let’s move on to the Diana Krall track.  I like the way this was recorded.  Right out of the gate you can hear some very telling subtleties such as the clarity of the piano, the pluck of the bass strings.  Then you actually can hear Diana’s vocal chords resonate in this track! On less resolved systems I can hear a touch of unwanted silibance and can’t hear the subtle brush drumsticks and delicate cymbals.  The S modded AK120 was hands down superior to the AK120.  I think the track really points to the brilliance of Diana Krall and the ability of the RWAK120-S to bring it out.

 

(3)   Here is one that I think is interesting for discussion.  I’m including it because it’s relatively new and fresh, there aren’t tons of reviews and discussion floating around that bias people and it’s also available for free download.  You can download it here:  http://audiogate.bluecoastrecords.com/audiogate-free-downloads or if that doesn’t work, I’ll put a copy in my dropbox folder here:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4991182/Troy%20Bunnell%20-%20Troy%20Bunnell%20-%2002%20-%20One%20Good%20Reason%20-%202-3.8MHz-DSF.dsf?dl=1  If you haven’t already downloaded this track, you should.  It’s a DSD track.  The clarity of the acoustic guitar, and the rasp and raw emotion in Troy Bunnell’s voice is stellar and very helpful in evaluating a setup.  I downloaded this track shortly after I got the AK120 and listened to it a ton.  I find the clarity and realism even better on the RWAK120-S.  You can hear very interesting detail particularly in his fingernails moving across the guitar strings. Listen to the last second of the track.  Remarkably recorded.  Also listen to the echo in his voice when he announces tracks, a detail I hear with greater clarity in the modded unit.

 

(4)   I’ll close with one of my favorite classical tracks.  Hilary Hahn is from Baltimore where I live and I’ve followed her since she was child prodigy playing with the Baltimore Symphony.   The first movt of the Barber Violin Concerto is one the most dynamic and complex pieces of music I have ever heard.  The balance between the solo violin and orchestra, the sound stage, the prominent use of clarinet and oboe which are very hard to resolve reed wind instruments, and the rapidly fluctuating dynamics make this piece of music a real challenge.  You can hear a resonance in the tympani that is quite striking.  Frankly, the modded AK120 unravels this piece of music in a way that, in my opinion, is strikingly better than the stock unit.

 

 

As you can tell from the review, I love the mod.  I can hear some of you saying,  “…. he’s biased…. he paid for it…. he lost the ultra portability, etc.”  Maybe, who knows.  All I can say is I’ve had lots of pieces of audio equipment modified through the years.  Some have been worth it, others not.  But this is truly a stellar and noteworthy improvement. 

 

I’m mostly focusing on sonics here, but I do notice the battery seems to be draining a touch faster.  I’m listening to a lot of DSD so that may be playing a role.  I plan to discuss it with Vinnie.

 

By the way, I have no affiliation with Vinnie, RWA, RSA, or anybody else. 

 

If I can answer any questions, I’d be glad to.


Edited by harryb - 8/19/13 at 6:46pm
post #3349 of 6396

.


Edited by seeteeyou - 11/4/14 at 11:08pm
post #3350 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by seeteeyou View Post

http://www.post76.com/wordpress/?p=43207

FYI - founder of A&K James Lee talked about the successor of AK120 with an even higher price tag plus a larger screen. No further details at the moment.

 Estimated HKD 12000 !!!! mean around 1500 to 1600 dollar....

look forward about the spec but hope it won't trigger me, if not my wallet will be disappear.

post #3351 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by harryb View Post

My thoughts on the sonics of the AK120 vs. the RWAK120-S  (long, feel free to skip the preamble or the whole thing for that matter).

 

 

Preamble:

 

Ok, after discussing the pros and cons of various aspects of the Red Wine Audio mods to the AK120 (ad nauseam), I’m finally ready to say a few words about the sonics from my perspective. I've had the unit since last Thursday and have been playing it pretty much non-stop.  

 

Disclaimer 1:  I’m relatively new to portable audio.  For 25 years, I’ve been pursuing digital audio in my home system which is based around a highly modified Wadia 270se transport, a dCS Purcell Upsampler and Delius DAC, TacT 2.0s room correction, a Placette dual mono active preamp, Innersound Monoblock Amps feeding modified Martin Logan CLS IIz speakers.  This is my personal reference.  Most of my serious listening is done at home, either through the speakers, or from the headphone outlet of the Placette dual mono preamp to Sennheiser HD600 phones with Cardas single-ended cable, of course with room correction bypassed.

 

About 6 months ago, I decided I to get my CD collection digitized, and at that time after a good bit of research, I decided on a sound server.  After hearing how good the sound was from the digital files on the sound server, I liked the idea of being able to take my music collection with me on the go.  More research and I ended up with the AK120.  For better or worse, and after discussion with Vinnie and Ray Samuels, I decided to go ahead and pursue Vinnie’s S-mod.  To my knowledge, this is one of the first units he did. 

 

On with the discussion:

 

Equipment:  RWAK120-S, Senn HD600 with Cardas single ended termination, Ray Samuels RS-71a amp.

 

Source Material Utilized:

(1)   16/44.1 Steely Dan Katy Lied:  a.  Doctor Wu,  b. Chained Lightning,  c. Any World

(2)   16/44.1 Diana Krall Only Trust Your Heart:  Only Trust Your Heart

(3)   DSD Troy Bunnell Troy Bunnell   Give Me One Good Reason to Stay

(4)   16/44.1 Hilary Hahn – Hilary Hahn/Barber & Meyer Violin Concertos Barber Violin Concerto

 

Disclaimer 2:  I don’t still own an AK120 for a direct comparison.  This is important. I very well might be biased! I’ve spent hard earned money on the upgrade and amp, so I may be primed to hear improvement regardless of what I’m actually hearing.  I’m a big believer in blind A-B testing.  I confirmed for myself that 32GB and 64GB microSD cards sound the same by listening blind to some of these tracks off of the different cards on the AK120.  Blind testing is the gold standard and I haven’t been able to do it.  If someone wants to send me his or her stock AK120 for a few days, I will be glad to do blind testing.  However, I am NOT going to buy a second unit for this purpose.  Having said that, I did listen to these very tracks over and over for about a solid month on the AK120.  My comparative comments will have to rely on my memory.

 

Ok, here we go:

 

(1)   The Steely Dan Tracks:  I’ve been using three tracks on the album Katy Lied to test audio equipment for nearly 30 years. Yes I am old.  I had several vinyl pressings and Japanese remastered CD’s of this album.  I will draw your attention to a few elements on each track which you might want to listen to yourself.  Doctor Wu -  I believe this is an extremely difficult track for even a decent system to get right.  The sounds I listen for are the chimes/tubular bells on the right at 0.16, Jeff Porcaro’s high hat cymbals and drum through the early parts of the track, and most importantly, Phil Woods incredible sax solo starting at 1:31.  This was dropped into the mix, and it is difficult to balance the sax with the smooth vocals.  Being one of my favorite tracks of all times, I listened to this dozens of times on the AK120 and now have listened dozens of times on the RWAK120-S.  It sounds quite good on both, but frankly, the RWAK120-S sounds notably and audibly better to me.  There is greater clarity and definition to the chimes; the image is wider and deeper with greater separation of instrumentation.   But there is a real difference in the sax solo.   On the stock AK120, the solo felt a bit like a studio take dubbed into the mix.   With the S mod, the vocals and sax blend into a very realistic mix…you can feel the musicians playing together.  My opinion is clear sonic superiority of the RWAK120-S here over the AK120.  Next, listen to Chained Lightening, one of the best Steely Dan tracks of all time, but not my favorite.   On this track, I listen for ambience and the snare drums.  The more resolved a system, the greater the ambience and the greater the differentiation in vocals.  There are a group of background singers.   Through the AK120, there was not the degree of ambience or the clarity or separation of the background singers behind Fagen that I’m hearing through the modded unit.  Did it sound good before?  Yes.  Is it better now?  Yes.  Finally, an incredible track that I can never get enough of is Any World.  I have used this track to assess dynamics of my system every single time I have changed a component.  There is great dynamic contrast in this song, and I believe the dynamic range of the modded unit takes advantage of this.  There are also some very subtle instrumentations that were much easier for me to hear on the modded unit.  I don’t care if you like Steely Dan or not, you can learn a lot about your home stereo, your portable setup, and your headphones by listening to these 3 tracks through various systems.  For me, they are my guiding light.

 

(2)   Let’s move on to the Diana Krall track.  I like the way this was recorded.  Right out of the gate you can hear some very telling subtleties such as the clarity of the piano, the pluck of the bass strings.  Then you actually can hear Diana’s vocal chords resonate in this track! On less resolved systems I can hear a touch of unwanted silibance and can’t hear the subtle brush drumsticks and delicate cymbals.  The S modded AK120 was hands down superior to the AK120.  I think the track really points to the brilliance of Diana Krall and the ability of the RWAK120-S to bring it out.

 

(3)   Here is one that I think is interesting for discussion.  I’m including it because it’s relatively new and fresh, there aren’t tons of reviews and discussion floating around that bias people and it’s also available for free download.  You can download it here:  http://audiogate.bluecoastrecords.com/audiogate-free-downloads or if that doesn’t work, I’ll put a copy in my dropbox folder here:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4991182/Troy%20Bunnell%20-%20Troy%20Bunnell%20-%2002%20-%20One%20Good%20Reason%20-%202-3.8MHz-DSF.dsf?dl=1  If you haven’t already downloaded this track, you should.  It’s a DSD track.  The clarity of the acoustic guitar, and the rasp and raw emotion in Troy Bunnell’s voice is stellar and very helpful in evaluating a setup.  I downloaded this track shortly after I got the AK120 and listened to it a ton.  I find the clarity and realism even better on the RWAK120-S.  You can hear very interesting detail particularly in his fingernails moving across the guitar strings. Listen to the last second of the track.  Remarkably recorded.  Also listen to the echo in his voice when he announces tracks, a detail I hear with greater clarity in the modded unit.

 

(4)   I’ll close with one of my favorite classical tracks.  Hilary Hahn is from Baltimore where I live and I’ve followed her since she was child prodigy playing with the Baltimore Symphony.   The first movt of the Barber Violin Concerto is one the most dynamic and complex pieces of music I have ever heard.  The balance between the solo violin and orchestra, the sound stage, the prominent use of clarinet and oboe which are very hard to resolve reed wind instruments, and the rapidly fluctuating dynamics make this piece of music a real challenge.  You can hear a resonance in the tympani that is quite striking.  Frankly, the modded AK120 unravels this piece of music in a way that, in my opinion, is strikingly better than the stock unit.

 

 

As you can tell from the review, I love the mod.  I can hear some of you saying,  “…. he’s biased…. he paid for it…. he lost the ultra portability, etc.”  Maybe, who knows.  All I can say is I’ve had lots of pieces of audio equipment modified through the years.  Some have been worth it, others not.  But this is truly a stellar and noteworthy improvement. 

 

I’m mostly focusing on sonics here, but I do notice the battery seems to be draining a touch faster.  I’m listening to a lot of DSD so that may be playing a role.  I plan to discuss it with Vinnie.

 

By the way, I have no affiliation with Vinnie, RWA, RSA, or anybody else. 

 

If I can answer any questions, I’d be glad to.

Are you still using the 334s and EQ?

post #3352 of 6396

Quote:
Originally Posted by lee730 View Post

 

It could be because you converted those files over from SACD as you said. Not so sure about APE I've never used it on my players as it takes a lot of resources to unzip them and that impacts battery life.

 

Yeah, files converted from 5.1 SACD to FLAC don't seem to play on the AK120, nor do some  SACD files that were converted to DST in one large .dff file.  Extra high compression APE files also don't play--that's obvious from the AK120's specs, but the fact that some of my APE files are extra high compression is not something I ever would've noticed.  JRiver plays all my files with no issues, but I guess the AK120 still comes a lot closer than any portable player so far to being able to play all the files that a good PC media player can.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by harryb View Post

My thoughts on the sonics of the AK120 vs. the RWAK120-S  (long, feel free to skip the preamble or the whole thing for that matter).

 

Very nice review, thanks for posting that.  Now that I see just how small the AK120 is, the 120-S mod definitely seems more tempting--adding an external amp wouldn't necessarily eliminate that much portability from such an already tiny unit.

post #3353 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by dj nellie View Post

 

Yeah, files converted from 5.1 SACD to FLAC don't seem to play on the AK120, nor do some  SACD files that were converted to DST in one large .dff file.  Extra high compression APE files also don't play--that's obvious from the AK120's specs, but the fact that some of my APE files are extra high compression is not something I ever would've noticed.  JRiver plays all my files with no issues, but I guess the AK120 still comes a lot closer than any portable player so far to being able to play all the files that a good PC media player can.

True - you must encode them as 2 channel stereo, then it works fine.

post #3354 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by Keenan View Post

 Estimated HKD 12000 !!!! mean around 1500 to 1600 dollar....
look forward about the spec but hope it won't trigger me, if not my wallet will be disappear.

Larger screen ! :-)))))). Very interested and this news might stop my plan of me buyin a Rwak120 for m'y TU-05 !
post #3355 of 6396

I am seeing Rwak120-s pulling me back to this thread....frown.gif

post #3356 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by seeteeyou View Post

http://www.post76.com/wordpress/?p=43207

FYI - founder of A&K James Lee talked about the successor of AK120 with an even higher price tag plus a larger screen. No further details at the moment.

 

Great!!!  I'm really looking forward to debating the merits of a larger vs. a smaller screen and whether it's worth the investment to get the larger screen.  What fun!!

post #3357 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by dj nellie View Post

 

Yeah, files converted from 5.1 SACD to FLAC don't seem to play on the AK120, nor do some  SACD files that were converted to DST in one large .dff file.  Extra high compression APE files also don't play--that's obvious from the AK120's specs, but the fact that some of my APE files are extra high compression is not something I ever would've noticed.  JRiver plays all my files with no issues, but I guess the AK120 still comes a lot closer than any portable player so far to being able to play all the files that a good PC media player can.

 

 

Very nice review, thanks for posting that.  Now that I see just how small the AK120 is, the 120-S mod definitely seems more tempting--adding an external amp wouldn't necessarily eliminate that much portability from such an already tiny unit.

Thanks.  The portability is a super big issue for some, but others (like me) have had no problem with an AK120 and small amp.  Maybe it's because i remember carrying around a Sony Walkman that was about twice the size of AK120 plus the SR-71a.  It's all relative.   For me, it's still quite portable.  

post #3358 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post

Are you still using the 334s and EQ?

 

No. I stopped using the EQ.  I've been using my HD600's at home (most of the time), and when I'm on the go, I'm using Senn IE800's.  I like the IE800's but I could see how they could be problematic for some in that they have some accentuation of both highs and lows.  The highs never bothered me.....perhaps I have some rolloff in my hearing about 14 or 15khz since I'm 56 years old!!  A friend who I consider to be an experienced audiophile tells me he hears some accentuation of highs.  The boomy bass is really well constrained by the RWAK120-s.  Bass sounds tight and appropriate to me.  

 

I'm also experimenting with some old Shure E5C's that I recently got reshelled.  The seal and fit is perfect, but they lack the detail of both of the other headphones.  Not bad though.

 

There is definitely a different sound signature between the HD600's (smooth and laid back) and the IE800 (aggressive).  My guess, without testing, is that the HD600 is more accurate and flatter across the audible spectrum.

 

My daughter who is an audiophile and classically trained pianist liked the IE800 more.  She thought the music sounded more alive and vibrant.  This led to an interesting discussion about realism vs. expressionism in painting, and color filters in digital photography.  Needless to say, what is most beautiful is not always what is most accurate.  Personal preference plays a big role.

 

Having said all of that, I'm currently trying to get my hands on some 1plus2's, LCD-3's, and SpiralEar 5's.  I'm trying not to change to many variables at once, including the balance in my bank account.

post #3359 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by harryb View Post

Thanks.  The portability is a super big issue for some, but others (like me) have had no problem with an AK120 and small amp.  Maybe it's because i remember carrying around a Sony Walkman that was about twice the size of AK120 plus the SR-71a.  It's all relative.   For me, it's still quite portable.  

That was always it for me as well, I am old enough to remember the dawn of portable audio, had the first Sony Walkman cassette player, then the first CD Walkman and my constant amongst those was the Walkman pro which to this day is still the portable bench mark sound for me.. Wish I had not got rid of mine rolleyes.gif
Any of the players now including my old Classic/CLASS/SR71-B combo was small in comparison especially when you consider having to carry a foot square box of tapes around or a hefty folder case of CD's which weighed a ton. Tapes would have equaled 16G of high-res files and the CD carrier about the same!

In fact, one of my concerns is this players small size, i found the 801 perfect in that respect, I am going to have to get my head around how small this is! biggrin.gif
post #3360 of 6396
Quote:
Originally Posted by tupac0306 View Post

I am seeing Rwak120-s pulling me back to this thread....frown.gif
I would rather wait for their new dap...if mentioned it, it means it will come out soon...what will it be...dual sabres and full balanced amp...forget about dx50 and x5...this is interesting. Not for my wallet though.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Portable Source Gear
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Source Gear › The Astell & Kern AK120