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2013 Head-Fi Winter Gift Guide (Portable Amps, DACs, & DAPs)
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The Astell & Kern AK120 - Page 260
Gear mentioned in this thread:
Nah the only newbie mistake is you've never tried it after I've recommended it to you ;).
This would be compared to the RWA AK100 which is supposedly better than the AK100. The Studio has more air to the sound and even more extension on the treble end. Yet is not as fatiguing. The sound is smoother overall in its extension in comparison. Particularly concerning the upper mid-range and lower treble region which was a problem for me on the RWA unit. Bass is also noticeably more controlled while the RWA sounded bloated. Vocals on the Studio are my favorite aspect of this player. Personally the Studio is the best portable player I've heard in regards to vocals. The Studio has a lot more dynamics to it sound and in turn leads to much better contrast. The Studios note weight is overall lighter than the RWA unit. I think the lighter note weight really goes hand in hand with a lot of modern day music which is inherently loud and lacking in dynamic range. The Studio for some strange reason breaths new life into such tracks and makes them sound noticeably more spacious. It helps to balances out many of these tracks. Keep in mind pairing/synergy is key.
I always felt the RWA amp section was a weak point to the unit. While an external amp definitely did help things it still didn't completely solve that problem IMO. Due to this the presentation could get congested, particularly on busy tracks. Also since the amp section on the RWA wasn't sufficient I'd find myself turning up the volume because I was not satisfied with lower volumes in general. This is dangerous IMO. With long term use I could see this causing problems. With the Studio I can listen at low volumes yet still be satisfied. It's really hard to explain that phenomena but the Studio has always been very good for me in this regards (low level detail). You can get all the detail at lower volumes and yet not feel you are missing a lot having to pump it up a bunch. Keep in mind various firmwares have been released since I sold my RWA unit so that possibly could have helped the sound somewhat. Others have confirmed there to be sound signature changes with various firmwares and I can confirm such thing on the DX100 and AK120.
What I liked about the RWA unit was the darker background. Although this wasn't very useful across the board as it only benefited a limited number of tracks. But on those tracks and at low volume, personally it could be quite nice. Also regarding UI it's a no contest. The AK series is simply better is most respects. The Studio has a very basic UI. The AK series has dual SD slots vs the single SD slot on the 3rd ANV. The build quality and finish on the AK is quite nice. Although the Studio also has a very good build and even more sturdier than the AK series. If I was to drop the AK100 or 120 I'd be worried about breaking the unit. If I was to drop the Studio I'd be worried about my foot... :P Of course it's also a beautiful player so I wouldn't want to scratch it up either. But I think you catch my drift :).
Now if we are talking about the AK120 which this thread is about :P. I give the nod to the AK120 overall. Particularly paired with the 1Plus2 and amping it with DSD files it really sets the bar quite high for portable gear. Still I don't think the unit is worth $1,300. I'm not sure if the price will ever come down or not. But to be truthful it should be in the $800 range and $900 max to be competitive with the DX100 and Hifiman 901.
Edited by lee730 - 9/17/13 at 12:24am
For me it's variable. Depends on what track I'm listening to. But I generally leave the T1 amp at about 90 volume and adjust the AK120s volume pot accordingly. With the SE5 I tend to stay around volume 33 and slightly upwards for softer or more dynamic tracks.
I just got the SR-71B but still waiting for the ALO interconnect cable so for the time being I am using a cheapo interconnect cable.
Would you be able to tell me how much different would I get when using the ALO coper 22 interconnect cable?
In my experience, not a lot! Honestly with their copper cables I found very little difference sonically between them and something you can buy at your local electrical store. Better built though I will give them that but sonically I heard very little to no difference.
Now, a $32 Audioquest Evergreen cable was a different matter! That was an improvement on clarity and detail to my ears!
As for volume with my amp I have the 120 set at maximum as I have found it best with the amp I use but that is just based on volume not quality. I found no difference in quality wherever the volume on the 120 was set.
Edited by ianmedium - 9/17/13 at 7:31am
I found an appreciable difference between the Fiio LOD and the Tralucent. Both are copper LODs but the Tralucent sounded overall better. The Fiio sounded a bit duller and not quite as focused. It was enough of a difference for me not to like what I was hearing on the Fiio in comparison. I actually like this LOD even over my pure silver cable LOD. With the pure silver cable it made the upper mid-range and lower treble region too emphasized and fatiguing on short listening sessions. It also takes the mids slightly more back and makes the sound staging bigger. Bass is a bit more controlled. Overall a brighter and airier sound. I still haven't found a good pairing with this particular LOD but I've kept it just in case. Keep in mind the pure silver cable is much more expensive than the Tralucent LOD which came with my T1 amp.
Edited by lee730 - 9/17/13 at 2:37pm
Does any one have a link to a downloadable copy?? (I had a scan through old posts but cant see anything!!)
Finally was able to get my hi-def files into my AK120 thanks to the PS3. Last night, spent some time listening to Kind of Blue and heard some elements I've never heard before, even on my home system. After difficulties with a first PS3 unit which overheated, it was a total breeze......much easier than expected. I've already heard from some of you, but If anyone needs help getting one set up let me know.
I'm actually quite interested in the S mod for the AK120. Won't have it done for quite some time though but from what I heard its even comparable to desktop rigs which is simply amazing considering its size.
Hard to quantify price vs performance but the AK120 is just an excellent player. I also have an Anv 3 which I still love and use from time to time but the AK120s sound and capabilities are higher. I just took my Studio on holiday instead of the AK and still enjoyed it very much.
- The Astell & Kern AK120
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