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REVIEW: Astell & Kern AK240 - Page 7

post #91 of 106

Has anyone been able to contact Iriver in Los Angeles in the last week

I've been trying to reach them by phone for the last 10 days  at all hours with no success

They are the contact for North American warranty for all the AK productsso they should be reachable

post #92 of 106
Nope, haven't tried
post #93 of 106
Yeah, my bad. ALO was with the IE-800's, picked mine up before Christmas, from some outfit in Japan. $750. Great deal.
post #94 of 106

Sorry for duplicating my feedback on AK240 vs Hugo. There are 3 different AK240 threads here on Head-Fi so I replicated my short review from the other thread here below for the benefit of some who are not following the other thread: 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zachchen1996 View Post
 

 

Is there going to be a showdown between the ak240 and hugo? (guessing the hugo will win) :biggrin:

 

I was at the Jaben Singapore "Meet the maker of Hugo" session. Brought my AK240 and 1plus2 along to do a side-by-side comparison. Since Jaben has lots of TOTL cans for demo testing, I manage to also get some first hand experience comparing AK240 to Hugo using Sennheiser HD800 and Fostex TH900. I was there for around 45 mins so I try my best to test out as much as possible. I don't have golden ears and not an expert in the listening arts, so what I can hear I try to put into words here as best I can. Here's some photos of the test setup: 

 

 

 

It's a pity I do not have a high-grade optical toslink cable to connect my AK240 line-out to Hugo, so I was given by Jaben/Chord the default toslink cable that comes with the Hugo which can only support up to 24-bit/96-kHz. Hence, I was mainly testing my redbook CD flac/wav up to 24/96 flac files on my AK240.

 

Setup: 

AK240 -> 1plus2

AK240 -> optical toslink LO -> Hugo -> 1plus2

AK240 -> TH900

AK240 -> optical toslink LO -> Hugo -> TH900

AK240 -> HD800

AK240 -> optical toslink LO -> Hugo -> HD800

 

Round 1 (16-bit/44.1-kHz redbook flac/wav): 

I threw modern pop songs like Hotel California, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, KPops SNSD/IU, Indigo Girls, Lindsey Stirling, Anime JPops, some heavy rock/metal/trance from Tiesto - Elements of Life and CPops at both. I also tried redbook quality classical tracks from Anne Akiko Meyers violin collection and pieces like Bach - Toccata in D minor. AK240 performs on par with Hugo on all redbook tracks. I couldn't hear much difference between them via 1plus2 and my amateur ears cannot detect SQ difference between AK240 and Hugo. Both sound just as good on my 1plus2 with similar quality in bass/mids/treble, decay, soundstage, instrument separation.

Next I put on TH900 to see if AK240's SE out can handle a TOTL closed-back cans as well as Hugo's amp. As expected from the easily driven low impedance of the Fostex cans, AK240 sounds just as good as Hugo to TH900. I detect obviously better depth/3D soundstage, fuller/meaty bass and softer highs on TH900 compared to 1plus2 on both AK240 SE out and Hugo out. SQ of AK240 and Hugo is similar with Hugo maybe having a slight almost insignificant edge over AK240 in terms of depth. I'm not entirely sure if it is my biased placebo effect here since I started off already thinking Hugo should sound better, but I just did not hear as much difference between them as I have anticipated. So kudos to AK240 having such a nice pairing with TH900.

Finally I put on HD800 and I immediately detected a difference in SQ. AK240 sounded a little hollow and lacking body with HD800 across all spectrum compared to Hugo. Again I have expected this because HD800 is really difficult to drive and it is impossible for such a tiny DAP like AK240 to be able to drive it as well as Hugo.

 

Round 2 (24-bit/96-kHz flac): 

Now this is the more interesting part of the test. Since I only happen to have loaded only one 24/96 flac (Ola Gjeilo: North Country II Ola Gjeilo) from 2L website on my AK240 (I have quite a few DSD and 24/192 but playing them on AK240 does not register on Hugo due to the toslink issue), I switched to it and try to see if there is a difference.

I immediately hear a difference on HD800 between them. The piano notes sound almost similar on both but when the Saxophone comes in the sound lacks body and feels like it went off-tuned towards the highs on AK240 -> HD800. AK240 -> LO -> Hugo -> HD800 sounded perfect on reproducing the Saxophone sound.

To narrow down if this is also a problem also on TH900 and 1plus2, I switched over to them. On AK240 -> 1plus2, I hear the same off-tuned weak sound of the Saxophone blowing. Here is the interesting part. It sounds just as bad from AK240 -> LO -> Hugo -> 1plus2. However when I switched over to test TH900, the weak-sounding off-tuned Saxophone issue is gone from both. AK240 manages to reproduce the Saxophone as well as the Hugo when listening through TH900.

So after hearing this, I conclude that the issue first arises because AK240 cannot drive HD800 well from its SE out. Secondly, 1plus2's quality cannot match that of cans and suffers in that area (albeit other instruments sound fine and very clear on 1plus2; somehow only Saxophone has a problem. Maybe Gavin can address this for us). Thirdly, once AK240 pairs with a TOTL cans like TH900 which it can drive well it can pretty much match Hugo's SQ IMO.

 

Conclusion: 

I do not have time to test other IEMs within the 45 mins I was there since I was too busy testing the 2 TOTL cans against various tracks on my AK240. My main take away is that both seem on par when listening through IEM (in the case of 1plus2) to my ears. Gavin may be able to give us a better comparison since he is having 1 entire week to listen to both of them at his leisure and he can probably test out DSD tracks for us too. Even cans like TH900 sounds just as good on both AK240 and Hugo. The main edge of Hugo over AK240 is when they are called to drive high impedance cans like HD800. That is when Hugo has the upper hand over AK240. Maybe the 2.5mm TRRS balanced out on AK240 can close this gap for us. We will see when I can get my hands on a 2.5mm balanced cable.

post #95 of 106
Thanks bluebear for your impressions. My personal experience is somewhat different. While AK240 sounds excellent on all front, I find Chord Hugo makes AK240 sounds fuller and gives a better Soundstage even on very efficient headphone like Final Audio Pandora Hope VI and IEMs like FAD Heaven VI and JH Roxanne. All three are very easily driven by any DAP. The only regret is I can't hear all my DSD tracks through Hugo.
post #96 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluebear View Post
 

So after hearing this, I conclude that the issue first arises because AK240 cannot drive HD800 well from its SE out.

 

I'm not sure it is that, but the tuning of the AK240. If you put a typical HD-800 tuned aftermarket cable on, which is intentionally designed to give the HD-800 a bit more warmth in the bass, the issue disappears. When switching between balanced HD-800 cables on the AK240, this was readily apparent.

 

In my experience, when an amp does not do a good job of driving a pair of high-impedance headphones, you get a narrow soundstage where it should be wide. When it has trouble with low-impedance (and especially low sensitivity) planars, you get soundstage collapse with complex passages in the music.

 

Thanks for writing your impressions though. :beerchug:

post #97 of 106

Speaking of driving the HD800's, just got my 2.5mm TRRS adaptor from ALO (for use with my ALO Green Line cables).  I'm very surprised how well the 800's sound driven by the AK240 in balanced mode.  And it's not simply a volume thing. Switching back to single ended, the volume is actually about equal to balanced at the same volume setting.  However, running balanced results in better sound.  Very nice surprise.  As I suspected, the value in the AK240 over my RWAK120 may be the balanced capability. I'd love to hear my favorite IEM's in balance mode.


Edited by frankrondaniel - 4/5/14 at 11:39am
post #98 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by frankrondaniel View Post

Speaking of driving the HD800's, just got my 2.5mm TRRS adaptor from ALO (for use with my ALO Green Line cables).  I'm very surprised how well the 800's sound driven by the AK240 in balanced mode.  And it's not simply a volume thing. Switching back to single ended, the volume is actually about equal to balanced at the same volume setting.  However, running balanced results in better sound.  Very nice surprise.  As I suspected, the value in the AK240 over my RWAK120 may be the balanced capability. I'd love to hear my favorite IEM's in balance mode.

This probably confirms that AK240 can drive almost anything, with or without an external amp.
post #99 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

 

I'm not sure it is that, but the tuning of the AK240. If you put a typical HD-800 tuned aftermarket cable on, which is intentionally designed to give the HD-800 a bit more warmth in the bass, the issue disappears. When switching between balanced HD-800 cables on the AK240, this was readily apparent.

In my experience, when an amp does not do a good job of driving a pair of high-impedance headphones, you get a narrow soundstage where it should be wide. When it has trouble with low-impedance (and especially low sensitivity) planars, you get soundstage collapse with complex passages in the music.

Thanks for writing your impressions though. beerchug.gif

But the problem is I find the issue most pronounced especially for the higher pitch sounds of the Saxophone blowing, less so on the low end/bassy part of the Saxophone sound. I don't really feel it is an issue with a lack of warm on the AK240's part causing this phenomenon.

And the issue is also detected playing it digitally to Hugo->1plus2, but not the cans. Could be just the IEM.
Edited by Bluebear - 4/6/14 at 4:59pm
post #100 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluebear View Post
 
But the problem is I find the issue most pronounced especially for the higher pitch sounds of the Saxophone blowing, less so on the low end/bassy part of the Saxophone sound. I don't really feel it is an issue with a lack of warm on the AK240's part causing this phenomenon.

 

Have you tried a damping mod on the HD-800s, out of interest?

post #101 of 106
Thread Starter 

Anyone still looking for comparative impressions vs an HM-901, ZX-1 and Fiio X5?  http://www.head-fi.org/t/714374/dap-off-astell-kern-ak240-hifiman-hm-901-sony-zx-1-fiio-x5

post #102 of 106
Thread Starter 

:smile:  LOL, in case any of you would prefer to read the review in Russian, here ya go!  http://hq-audio.ru/audiopleeryi/astell-kern-ak240/

post #103 of 106
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluebear View Post

Sorry for duplicating my feedback on AK240 vs Hugo. There are 3 different AK240 threads here on Head-Fi so I replicated my short review from the other thread here below for the benefit of some who are not following the other thread: 


 

I was at the Jaben Singapore "Meet the maker of Hugo" session. Brought my AK240 and 1plus2 along to do a side-by-side comparison. Since Jaben has lots of TOTL cans for demo testing, I manage to also get some first hand experience comparing AK240 to Hugo using Sennheiser HD800 and Fostex TH900. I was there for around 45 mins so I try my best to test out as much as possible. I don't have golden ears and not an expert in the listening arts, so what I can hear I try to put into words here as best I can. Here's some photos of the test setup: 



It's a pity I do not have a high-grade optical toslink cable to connect my AK240 line-out to Hugo, so I was given by Jaben/Chord the default toslink cable that comes with the Hugo which can only support up to 24-bit/96-kHz. Hence, I was mainly testing my redbook CD flac/wav up to 24/96 flac files on my AK240.

Setup: 
AK240 -> 1plus2
AK240 -> optical toslink LO -> Hugo -> 1plus2
AK240 -> TH900
AK240 -> optical toslink LO -> Hugo -> TH900
AK240 -> HD800
AK240 -> optical toslink LO -> Hugo -> HD800

Round 1 (16-bit/44.1-kHz redbook flac/wav): 
I threw modern pop songs like Hotel California, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, KPops SNSD/IU, Indigo Girls, Lindsey Stirling, Anime JPops, some heavy rock/metal/trance from Tiesto - Elements of Life and CPops at both. I also tried redbook quality classical tracks from Anne Akiko Meyers violin collection and pieces like Bach - Toccata in D minor. AK240 performs on par with Hugo on all redbook tracks. I couldn't hear much difference between them via 1plus2 and my amateur ears cannot detect SQ difference between AK240 and Hugo. Both sound just as good on my 1plus2 with similar quality in bass/mids/treble, decay, soundstage, instrument separation.
Next I put on TH900 to see if AK240's SE out can handle a TOTL closed-back cans as well as Hugo's amp. As expected from the easily driven low impedance of the Fostex cans, AK240 sounds just as good as Hugo to TH900. I detect obviously better depth/3D soundstage, fuller/meaty bass and softer highs on TH900 compared to 1plus2 on both AK240 SE out and Hugo out. SQ of AK240 and Hugo is similar with Hugo maybe having a slight almost insignificant edge over AK240 in terms of depth. I'm not entirely sure if it is my biased placebo effect here since I started off already thinking Hugo should sound better, but I just did not hear as much difference between them as I have anticipated. So kudos to AK240 having such a nice pairing with TH900.
Finally I put on HD800 and I immediately detected a difference in SQ. AK240 sounded a little hollow and lacking body with HD800 across all spectrum compared to Hugo. Again I have expected this because HD800 is really difficult to drive and it is impossible for such a tiny DAP like AK240 to be able to drive it as well as Hugo.

Round 2 (24-bit/96-kHz flac): 
Now this is the more interesting part of the test. Since I only happen to have loaded only one 24/96 flac (Ola Gjeilo: North Country II Ola Gjeilo) from 2L website on my AK240 (I have quite a few DSD and 24/192 but playing them on AK240 does not register on Hugo due to the toslink issue), I switched to it and try to see if there is a difference.
I immediately hear a difference on HD800 between them. The piano notes sound almost similar on both but when the Saxophone comes in the sound lacks body and feels like it went off-tuned towards the highs on AK240 -> HD800. AK240 -> LO -> Hugo -> HD800 sounded perfect on reproducing the Saxophone sound.
To narrow down if this is also a problem also on TH900 and 1plus2, I switched over to them. On AK240 -> 1plus2, I hear the same off-tuned weak sound of the Saxophone blowing. Here is the interesting part. It sounds just as bad from AK240 -> LO -> Hugo -> 1plus2. However when I switched over to test TH900, the weak-sounding off-tuned Saxophone issue is gone from both. AK240 manages to reproduce the Saxophone as well as the Hugo when listening through TH900.
So after hearing this, I conclude that the issue first arises because AK240 cannot drive HD800 well from its SE out. Secondly, 1plus2's quality cannot match that of cans and suffers in that area (albeit other instruments sound fine and very clear on 1plus2; somehow only Saxophone has a problem. Maybe Gavin can address this for us). Thirdly, once AK240 pairs with a TOTL cans like TH900 which it can drive well it can pretty much match Hugo's SQ IMO.

Conclusion: 
I do not have time to test other IEMs within the 45 mins I was there since I was too busy testing the 2 TOTL cans against various tracks on my AK240. My main take away is that both seem on par when listening through IEM (in the case of 1plus2) to my ears. Gavin may be able to give us a better comparison since he is having 1 entire week to listen to both of them at his leisure and he can probably test out DSD tracks for us too. Even cans like TH900 sounds just as good on both AK240 and Hugo. The main edge of Hugo over AK240 is when they are called to drive high impedance cans like HD800. That is when Hugo has the upper hand over AK240. Maybe the 2.5mm TRRS balanced out on AK240 can close this gap for us. We will see when I can get my hands on a 2.5mm balanced cable.

Amazing i had exactly heard the very same things hugo vs ak240,mine was done using fitear parterre,on iem hugo doesnt out-perform ak240 but high pitch saxophone sound more completed,more refine on hugo

This afternoon ,me and my friends did a critical listening between : hugo(thru laptop>stock usb) vs ak240 gold
Using mainly fitear parterre,abit of lcd X






the result was quite shocking (as i expected hugo to out-perform ak240 to be honest)

this is my very own thought about these device :

ak240 (alone dap) :i will just point out some of its most amazed characters

1 The best thing i was amazed by this device that it was so smooth sounding at the same time detail,very detail
2 It was very neutral,balanced all the way from high to low at the same time very musical,intimate
3 Very 3d with excellent layering

hugo (using stock usb) :
1 the surrounding details(aka ambience) are more prominent compared to ak240 (doesnt mean more detail at all,they are both on the same level of details)
2 its sound is abit more edgy/sharp.........make hugo less smooth but give more of a "wow" factor
3 slightly wider soundstage width,same on ss depth
4 3d and layering is beautifully as ak240
5 I FEEL hugo is abit better in clarity vs ak240

they are pretty much on par in sound quality (surprise me),but different in presentation:

hugo pull the midrange slightly back to push surrounding details out more to strike for attentions
ak240 keep everything treble,mid,low on the same volume to create a smooth,coherence flow
to note that they both sound very details and balanced

this was done mainly based on iem,i dont think 1 is better than other AT ALL ,it will come down to ur taste.

i also tried ak240>optical>hugo : hugo become more spacious(clearly),saxophone was more straight to my chest (feeling),the rest wasnt much different (or my ears cant hear it clearly)
sorry about my term of describing sound as english is my second language frown.gif

plz share ur thought about these 2 device as i only have hugo for a week,and was the 1st time i listen to ak240
Edited by hotfever - 7/23/14 at 6:35pm
post #104 of 106
Thread Starter 

BTW guys, for anyone that prefers the signature of the AK120, it turns out that there are not as many of those left as we'd like to think:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/718321/brand-spanking-new-a-k-ak120ii-and-ak100ii/930#post_10733349

post #105 of 106

Best portable audio player i ever listen to, shocking price though. The sound quality is better than sony pcm-d50, at a cost 5 times more. Sony PCM-D50 is much better than AK100 and AK120. It is sad, that D50 not even a mp3 player, and sony made it in 2007 at $500. Why sony does not rule the portable MP3 player world, they show they can do it in D50. They let the korean and chinese rule the high end portable market. I love the bass, the resolution of Ak240, everything except the price. If you listen to $500 recorder sound next to $2500 AK240, you will shake your head too. Sony could rule it all, but wasted everything.

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