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Brand Spanking New A&K AK120II and AK100II - Page 37

post #541 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by likearake View Post

The AK website mentions the 120ii inherits from the 240 but no 240 reference in the 100ii blurb. Just wondering if we are assuming wrong that the 100ii will be so good.

Two different things that we are discussing.

 

1/ You were looking for answer on circuitry to which only dismantling two machines would be the only way to find out.  Don't think anyone would do it at this time.

 

2/ Without looking at the circuitry, from the spec you may compare it as published.

post #542 of 6527
But I mean that we don't really know for sure that the models share similar amp sections, for example. It may not be just a single DAC version of the higher models is what I am getting at.

Or do we know more?
post #543 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by likearake View Post

But I mean that we don't really know for sure that the models share similar amp sections, for example. It may not be just a single DAC version of the higher models is what I am getting at.

Or do we know more?

 

The only way to know more is if we have someone who is familiar with AKs take a look at it (no names mentioned but we all know we're thinking). Having said that, some logical guess work can be made that it'll probably too expensive to have a ground-up design for the AK100 II and would make more sense to have the AK100 II be based on a simplified AK120 II.

 

As to "how good" the AK100 II (and AK120 II) will be, let's wait till the reviews start pouring in. I, for one, am very keen on seeing Mike Mercer's report on Warren's new AK loaners.

post #544 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by flymetothemoon View Post

Same cable model with balanced and single ended?
Different brand audiohile silver cable. To my ears, there is so little difference that i would not terminate to balance if i had an ak240.
post #545 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by CosmicHolyGhost View Post


Different brand audiohile silver cable. To my ears, there is so little difference that i would not terminate to balance if i had an ak240.

Hmmm.  The variation of different brand cables would create huge variation and not able to provide you a fair comparison [between single ended/balanced].  

 

The good thing to keep single-ended is your cable can be used with your other DAP/DAC equipments but not confined to the 240.

post #546 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by flymetothemoon View Post
 

Hmmm.  The variation of different brand cables would create huge variation and not able to provide you a fair comparison [between single ended/balanced].  

 

The good thing to keep single-ended is your cable can be used with your other DAP/DAC equipments but not confined to the 240.


In my experience of balance output for portable gear, I could immediately detect differences between balance and single-ended for

 

- RSA Intruder

- ibasso DB2

- HM-901 balance card (with single/balance switch)

 

In comparison, the balance out difference is quite "subtle" on the AK240.

post #547 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by CosmicHolyGhost View Post
 


In my experience of balance output for portable gear, I could immediately detect differences between balance and single-ended for

 

- RSA Intruder

- ibasso DB2

- HM-901 balance card (with single/balance switch)

 

In comparison, the balance out difference is quite "subtle" on the AK240.

IC

post #548 of 6527
CHG, Sorry if I missed this but what what cans?
post #549 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnakChan View Post

CHG, Sorry if I missed this but what what cans?

Do you mean earphones used? I used 1p2 without changing vol.
post #550 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by CosmicHolyGhost View Post


Do you mean earphones used? I used 1p2 without changing vol.

 

Got it. Cheers.

The reason I was asking 'cos at least in my limited experience, I found most BA IEMs don't seem to benefit from balancing as much as, say DD's. And even more so for headphones. But the 1Plus2's are hybrids.

post #551 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnakChan View Post
 

 

Got it. Cheers.

The reason I was asking 'cos at least in my limited experience, I found most BA IEMs don't seem to benefit from balancing as much as, say DD's. And even more so for headphones. But the 1Plus2's are hybrids.

 

To be fair I noticed a fairly significant difference when reterminating my Toxic silver widow cable from single ended to Kobiconn, in conjunction with my Heir 8a IEMs

post #552 of 6527
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnakChan View Post

Got it. Cheers.


The reason I was asking 'cos at least in my limited experience, I found most BA IEMs don't seem to benefit from balancing as much as, say DD's. And even more so for headphones. But the 1Plus2's are hybrids.

Based on my experience, when i reterminated fitear for Intruder i could immediately hear a more spacious presentation and the instrument are separated more clearly. When i turn on or off the balance switch on HM-901 , i could hear the bass is extended deeper with balance and it cannot be achieved by turning the vol up in single ended mode. For aK240, i do not hear such clear characteristic and can only conclude that it sounds as excellent using single ended mode.
post #553 of 6527

To my untrained ears and only IE8 in hands, I tried AK240 and the new AK120 II today in a shop. Given the limitation of the IEM I was still able to hear differences between the two. I only listened to female vocals but the AK240 did sound smoother and better (IMHO) than AK120 II consistently.

post #554 of 6527

First off: I'm honored to be a part of this community - Everyday.

And I'm grateful to Owen and Jimmy at A&K for letting us goto TOWN on the new players!

and, HERE WE GO

 

OK, so to kick this off on my end - this is the order, in terms of overall sonic integrity/performance/musicality to me (from top-bottom):

 

AK240

AK120

AK120II

AK100II

AK100

 

240 is KING ALL AROUND

Why is this? Frankly, I'/m still finding out. I was the first to hear it in our Audio360 crew at CES - and as an A&K devotee, I went BAT SH__.

W/ my Audeze LCD-XCs wired w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon - the combo sounded like, literally, what the evolution of portable fidelity was to be in my head!

I was completely LOST init'. I could've listened ALL DAY ALL NIGHT. I rocked Radiohead's "Everything in it's Right Place" (one of my all-time audible acid test trax) first - and the sheer dynamic range, coupled with the dimensionality, the space between the instruments and sound, the impact, the overall gestalt of the music got me so deeply  - well, NO KIDDING: I love Owen and Jimmy, great guys, but I didn't have enough money on me to offer to buy one then, so for a split second I thought about taking the player on a walk with me outside...  Probably not the best idea, at least without asking! 

 

But I needed to wrap my head around this. I mean my portable rigs are not slouches (A&Ks - 100 & 120, Sony PHA-1, CEntrance HiFi-M8, Ray Samuels The Intruder) and I had my favorite one with me:

AK100 w/ ALO International.  The AK240 made me feel like I did when I first got my promotion at The Absolute Sound to Harry Pearson's set-up and acquisitions Manager - and heard his BIG system for the first time. That sound, almost life-like, was then unknown to me. I had to sit and listen for three weeks to get a handle on what that system did - in terms of being utterly holographic sonically (Genesis 1s, Conrad Johnson Premier mono-blocks, etc...) and the sound was so deep and wide! Listening to my LCD-XCs and the AK240 was like that experience. Then I got even deeper when I played The Haxon Cloak's "Excavation" - a track that I've leveled big Hi-fi systems with (BIG bass, all sorts of noise and different sounds colliding and meshing and blending) as the player and cans together didn't distort at all to my ears, at levels that I don't normally listen at - and as Warren will tell you: I LIKE HEADROOM. So the AK240 was something I had to have because it drew me so far into the emotive power of the music I was listening to, as well as provide the sonic goods! And - we haven't purchased our Audio360 team unit yet, but I'm going to sell some gear to buy this thing...

Nuff there for NOW...

 

For the Impression Process:

 

I approached this like any review/impression - I did not consider price while listening to the music through any of these brand new players.

Of course I knew the price of my own A&K DAPs (120 & 100) but we're still not entirely sure of the prices of the new models anyway! So that worked out, as I was taught by Harry Pearson: I never ask for the price until I've heard it. So that intel wasn't a factor at all.

 

I know it's important to factor in price vs. performance when it comes to these things, especially updated versions of products that haven't been on the market for too long! This was an interesting sonic adventure because I love my AK100 (and 120, but the AK100 holds a special place in my heart, especially after the impedance update). I use it often with my JH-13 Freqphase out in the world when I'm on the run, which is too much! So I'm coming strictly from a performance-based experience here. Very simple:

 

Which drew me deeper into the music in relation to the others - and whether that be through more gain, cleaner mids, or crispy highs - the essence of my search was to find out which ones I would choose, and for what reasons. Also: even though one may have sounded "cleaner" or "tighter" than another - did the liquidity of the non-linear player draw me closer to the music? If it did, so be it...

 

I really wanted to know: Were the AK100II and AK120II that much better sonically than my originals? I've come to not only love both original players, but I use both original players weekly (daily - just depends on which one) - and so I'd gladly shell out, after saving, more money for a more engaging musical experience if in fact the new players did something CLOSE to the AK240!

 

That said - I'm going to give my early impressions in the order of my preference and give you a glimpse of my feelings about each player in relation to the OG A&K DAPs:

 

AK240

AK120

AK120II

AK100II

AK100

 

So I got into the 240 a little bit already - and MUCH more to come on that, as Warren and Michael did the review for us at Audio360 - and I just got the player from Warren this weekend.

I'm also doing a Part II to their review of the player.. So I'll share that ASAP when it's done rest assured!

 

The AK120:

Now this was a surprise! But to my ears, the OG 120 has greater lower midrange clarity and more naturally extended highs than the120II. Hi-hats decayed more organically, and the texture in the lower midrange and the highs just felt more "real" - I got a quicker, clearer image in my head while listening to certain instruments on the OG 120 vs. the AK120II (second guitars, keys, some drums, tablas, as well as the female voice for examples) - as I strayed from my MAIN TEST PLAYLIST now and then, but always played the same thing on both players, if I strayed, to be sure of what I was experiencing! 

But here's the thing: The AK120II has greater overall dynamic range than the 120: It's beefier from bottom to top - but like I said, there are areas where the OG 120 still out-shine it in detail retrieval, especially in the micro and macro-dynamics in the lower mids and highs. The 120II has greater ooomph in the dynamic impact - but lacks some of the transparency of the OG 120. I was very surprised by this: So much so that I went back-n-forth between these players, after we got em as closed to level-matched as we could, more-so than all the others! I kept doing it, because I wanted to be SURE I wasn't just psychologically sentimental about my 120!  

 

So, I would personally stick with my 120 if I was looking at the II. Also: This is where the new CEntrance/Glove Audio (new side-line of Michael Goodmans brand) A1 DAC/Amp for the AK100 and AK120 comes in! I think, at $599 (projected cost I believe) that the A1 with my 100 (as it just becomes a storage box with the Glove) out-performs the new 120II! I got to live with the Glove Audio A1 on set-up night in Newport with my Audeze LCD-X and JH-13 Freqphase - more on that ASAP - but unfortunately we couldn't get one RIGHT NOW for this work.

Bottom line - for me, it's the 120 over the 120II musically. If you want greater bang, thumps, and more gain, then the 120II is for you. Me? I look to get as close to the music as possible - no matter what the vehicle! 

 

The AK120II:

I think my thoughts on this are pretty much covered above - but I would like to expand a bit. In terms of how stout it feels in your hand, the craftsmanship, the screen, and the wi-fi capability, it does have more features that could please a user who likes those things (I do, but the music ALWAYS comes first) so I'm in no way hating on the unit. If I didn't own and know my OG 120 so well sonically, and heard the AK120II - I'd be impressed. So I think that should be said. Is it worth it? IMO: Not if you already love your 120...

 

The AK100II:

The AK100II seemed to have more everything, with regard to the entire frequency spectrum than the 100. It's like the OG 100 on audible steroids. Everything feels bigger, wider, deeper, and the timbre was also wonderfully natural-sounding. Piano/keys and strings in the Elbow tracks were fantastically rendered, as were the vocals and the speciousness was wonderfully present. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed with my JH-13 Freqphase (wired w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon IEM cable as well) - as we all know they had to do an impedance update for the AK100 - which I have.

There was certainly more bass weight and velocity, midrange warmth and texture. Put it this way: If you own an AK100 and you love it (I love it, but I usually amp it w/ my ALO International):

Then the AK100II is a no-brainer IMO. It just does everything with more grace, finesse, and it's got far more power under the hood! Plus factor in the new form-factor, feature set, and IF you can afford it, I'd say go for it! I had a ton of fun listening to my test tracks on this player - and even ended up playing all sorts of other stuff, from The Shins to Joy Division, Phonat (recent 360 review HERE) and Tori Amos. I had a blast with this unit! It was like hearing the AK100 for the very first time with the ALO International (which is how I first experienced it at CES years ago when it came out - Alex Rosson had the rig and I got to hear it with my LCD-3s, broken-in my way). I bought one right then and there after hunting Jimmy Moon down!

 

The AK100 - unfortunately goes to the bottom of the new pack now - because of e everything I said above!

But, AGAIN: Once we have a CEntrance/Glove Audio A1 A&K DAC/Amp we'll do a proper follow-up and comparisons.

 

Look fellas, I sincerely hope all this listening gives you a glimpse into what's happening .

I'd spend even more time, but I'm still in SoCal and we gotta leave this hotel before I go broke!!

 

So, I'll be on the road for many hours, and then spending time w/ my wifey for a bit,

but I'd be pleased to answer ANY questions anybody has!

 

It's been a sincere pleasure - and, admittedly, at times, a real biiiiatch to get all this in with the time we had!

But Warren and I took this very seriously.

 

 

Yours in Sound,

 

MikeMercer

 

 

and STAY TUNED for @warrenpchi's impressions after mine!

 

 

post #555 of 6527

Mini Astell&Kern DAP Shoot-Out

As a lot of you might know, @mikemercer and I organized T.H.E. Headphonium this year.  So a lot of our time was spent just making sure everything was running smoothly.

 

We got to see the Astell&Kern booth get set up the day before, but the players weren't there until Friday.  And once T.H.E. Headphonium started, it was clear that a quiet environment simply wasn't going to happen.  Luckily, we got a chance to explain to Owen, James and Jimmy about our situation, and they kindly loaned us one of each unit for after hours impressions.  We supplied our own AK100 Mk2 and AK120 players.  And had the Audio360 AK240 review unit on hand.

 

As it turned out, both Saturday and Sunday evening were chock full of industry get-togethers, so we had very limited time on those nights.  But once T.H.E. Headphonium was over, we spent a considerable portion of the next three days listening and comparing.

 

Here's what happened.

 



Equipment & Resources

 

DAPs Compared

 

  • AK100 Mk2
  • AK120
  • AK100II
  • AK120II
  • AK240

 

Tracks Used:

 

  • Steel Dragon - We All Die Young - MP3 - 320 Kbps
  • Taylor Eigsti - Get Your Hopes Up - FLAC - 16/44.1
  • Sarah Jarosz - Ring Them Bells - FLAC - 16/44.1
  • Trashcan Sinatras w/Carly Simon - Should I Pray? - FLAC - 16/44.1
  • Claire Martin - Embraceable You - FLAC - 24/96
  • Vivaldi - Concerto in D Minor (opus 4 no 8) Allegro - DSD (DFF)

 

Output Devices:

 

  • Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor (UERM)

 

I chose the UERM because it's my neutral reference.  Plus, it offered me better isolation than any headphone I've got.  And finally, I felt it better simulated our intended usage - as a portable rig - which is why I didn't start listening to the DAPs as sources (e.g. through a LAu and LCD-X or HD 800 rig).

 

Please note that while I do have a balanced cable for the UERM, I did not test balanced output at all.  Since it's not an output mode that all of the DAPs can support, I felt it best to run single-ended the whole way through.  And honestly, the introduction of any changes in headphones or cables would have resulted in another permutation (i.e. a lot more work).

 


 

Methodology

 

Step 1:  Volume/Level Matching

 

This actually took MUCH longer than I anticipated.  It seems simple, but you'd be amazed how long it can take to subjectively match levels between five devices using 6 different tracks of varying genres and file qualities.

 

I began by going through all of the test tracks above to find a comfortable volume level on the AK120 - the device that I am most familiar with.  It had to be loud enough that I felt confident in hearing the most intricate of details, but not loud enough that I would be subjected to too much discomfort.

 

Once I settled on a comfortable volume level with the AK120, I then went back and matched each of the other devices to that volume level.  Here is how they matched up:

 

AK100 Mk2 AK120 AK100II AK120II AK240
41.75 38.5 36.5 36.5 35.5

 

* Yes, I am aware that there is no such volume setting as 41.75 on the AK100 Mk2.  There were times when the AK100 Mk2 seemed to match the AK120 exactly at 41.5.  But there were other times when 42 seemed like a better match between the two.  So, I'm simply using 41.75 here as an average of all cases.

 

Step 2:  Absolute Impressions

 

For each track, I listened to every single DAP and jotted down observations about frequency response, detail, separation, staging and imaging.  These impressions were then aggregated into a set of common characteristics that were audible for all tracks.  This allowed me to arrange and/or group DAPs by similarity.

 

Step 3:  Comparative Impressions

 

The sound signature that I was most familiar with was that of the AK120.  The sound signature that I was least familiar with was that of the AK100 Mk2.  But after ABing the AK100 Mk2 against the AK120, I was able to quickly pin down its signature, as both are from the same general family, even if they are rather different.

 

Having been one of the first to review the AK240 in-depth, I was also very familiar with its signature as well.  And while the AK100II and AK120II are relatively new, they retain enough similarity to the AK240 such that I was able to get a pretty good handle on their signatures relatively quickly.  Unfortunately, they were/are similar enough that it took a lot more listening to get a solid bead on the differences between them.

 

Step 4:  Final Impressions

 

Finally, I went through a final track-by-track A/B/C/D/E session to verify, correct or refine any previous impressions.  This last step was pretty easy because the first two sets of impressions were fairly consistent throughout all tracks and DAPs.

 


 

Findings

 

As one would expect (and as many of us know) the AK100 Mk2, AK120 and AK240 sound very different from each other.  Here is what I've heard both previously and in gathering these impressions.

 

Warm Warm-Neutral Neutral to Neutral-Bright
AK100 Mk2 AK120 AK240

Very warm and boosted low end, most noticeably in the mid bass, which can get woolly on certain tracks.  The mids are slightly recessed, but quite veiled especially in tracks that are sweet and not very bright to begin with.  Highs are distant from upper mids on, and prematurely rolled off.  Detail resolution is moderately good, but separation could be a lot better.  The soundstage is fairly intimate.


*versus the AK120:  Moar bass, lower detail resolution, definitely inferior separation, closer staging.

Prominent low end that is north of neutral.  This contributes to a warmer tilt overall, without overdoing it.  The mids are slightly pulled back but not veiled in any way.  The upper mids are never fatiguing, but by the same token they can be soft and splashy (indistinct) during complex percussion.  The highs are reasonably well extended with a very easy-going roll-off.


* versus the AK100 Mk2:  Much more balanced, far more detail, more expansive soundstage, and a smoother and more refined signature overall.
* versus the AK240:  Warmer sub-bass through lower mids, not necessarily recessed mids but definitely less-forward mids, less extended in the highs, somewhat less detailed but noticeably lesser in separation (especially in the mids).

Balanced and neutral signature throughout, with: tight, accurate and fast bass characteristics; fairly forward mids especially in the human vocal range; slightly elevated highs that are very airy; and good extension in all three axes.  Detail and separation are top-notch, contributing to the outstanding transparency.  Staging is very expansive and holographic.  All of this is tied together with a sense of refinement that I have not encountered in other DAPs.


* versus the AK120:  Flatter response, far better detail and separation, more expansive staging, very noticeable boost in transparency and refinement.

 

Once the new AK100II and AK120II were factored in, I was amazed that all of the DAPs sounded different, albeit to varying degrees.  I definitely didn't expect this, as I believed that both the AK100II and AK120II would sound nearly identical - if not identical - to the AK240.  Well, surprise, they didn't!   However, this is not to say that there were huge differences between all of the new units (AK100II/AK120II/AK240), only consistently noticeable ones.  Here's how the new players fit in to scheme of things signature-wise.

 

Warm Warm-Neutral Neutral to Neutral-Bright
AK100 Mk2 AK120

AK100II

AK120II

AK240

 

Now let's zoom in on the new generation of players to get a look at the finer points of their SQ and presentations.

 

AK100II AK120II AK240

In terms of frequency response, the AK100II is very, very close to the AK120 (and the AK120II for that matter).  What it lacks - in minute but consistently noticeable amounts - versus the AK240 are: (a) the uber clarity and coherency found in the AK240 - especially from the mids through the highs; (b) a bit of the AK240's separation prowess; (c) the amazingly holographic soundstage of the AK240; and (d) overall sense of refinement that makes the AK240 "the ultimate."

The AK120II gets even closer to the AK240, but continues to hit shy of the mark.  Like the AK100II, it shares the same basic frequency response as that of the AK240.  It addresses some of the AK100II's shortcomings by offering improved clarity and coherency - especially in the lower mids, as well as better separation throughout.  However, it still doesn't match the AK240 in staging, and still seems to lack the AK240's overall refinement.

From above:  Balanced and neutral signature throughout, with: tight, accurate and fast bass characteristics; fairly forward mids especially in the human vocal range; slightly elevated highs that are very airy; and good extension in all three axes.  Detail and separation are top-notch, contributing to the outstanding transparency.  Staging is very expansive and holographic.  All of this is tied together with a sense of refinement that I have not encountered in other DAPs.

 

To my ears, the AK240 is easily the best.

 

 


 

Personal Preferences


For me, I prefer the units above in the following order:

 

  1. AK240
  2. AK120
  3. AK120II
  4. AK100II
  5. AK100

 

That's right, I've put the AK120 ahead of the two new players.

 

You would think that I'd favor the AK120II and AK100II ahead of the AK120 - especially since they carry the same basic signature as that of the AK240, which I consider the best of the bunch - but in this case, I simply can't.

 

For me, all of this has to do with what I think each DAP was trying to be.

 

I think the AK240 sets out to be a neutral, transparent and detailed player - and it absolutely nails it.  But the new players sound lesser and diminished from that.  Both the AK120II and AK100II have a less expansive soundstage than the AK240.  And the AK100II's coherency and separation further falls behind that of the AK120II.  In short, they sound like AK240 wanna-bes.  Good wanna-bes, but wanna-bes nonetheless.

 

At the same time, I think the AK120 wanted to carry a warmer and sweeter signature.  And even though its not as balanced or detailed as the newer players, it does hit the target it sets for itself.  It wanted to be a warmer, sweeter and more musical player... and ended up hitting the mark spot on.  Basically...

 

Unit Tries to Be Result
AK240 Neutral/Transparent/Detailed/Spacious Nailed it!
AK120II Neutral/Transparent/Detailed/Spacious Almost, but not quite
AK100II Neutral/Transparent/Detailed/Spacious Still a little ways to go
AK120 Warm/Neutral/Smooth Nailed it!
AK100 I honestly don't know... Um, I guess...

 

 

 



Next Steps

 

 

First of all, we'd like to thank Astell&Kern for the loaner units they provided on short notice.  Thanks guys!  :smile:

 

While we've spent quite a bit of time gathering our initial impressions so far, we'd like to spend even more time with them to bring you a full review.  A three-day stretch is enough to get a good bead on the players for initial impressions... but an adequate review period (at least for Audio360) it is not.  We hope Astell&Kern doesn't need these units back right away so that we can bring you some detailed coverage (including balanced output).  Keep your fingers crossed.  :o

 

I'm also curious about Glove Audio's DAC/amp offering for the AK100/AK120.  Personally, I prefer a single low profile unit, which is the entire reason why someone would opt for an uber audiophile DAP.  But I'll admit, I am curious as to what it sounds like.  We'll be seeing if we can get one of those in the house for review as well.  :confused:


Edited by warrenpchi - 6/5/14 at 1:19pm


Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

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