Best DAP? Astell&Kern Kann Alpha or Fiio M15
Nov 17, 2020 at 10:43 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 38

kelliegator

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Hello. I've been thinking of getting a new DAP when I have money in the near future, but I'm kinda stuck on which one to get, but my main interests are Astell&Kern Kann Alpha or the Fiio M15.

I'm mostly asking because it's been a bit hard to find a lot of reviews for the Kann Alpha. I've heard a lot of good things about the M15, and it technically has bigger numbers when it comes to sample rates and DSD playback, and it might have a longer battery life, but is it necessarily better?

There are a lot of factors on what makes a DAP good or bad so I hope I can cover what I'm looking for. The first priority for me is the audio quality itself, but I also carry around my current DAP a lot so I'm not sure which one is better for that (I have a carrying case where I also keep my headphones, so pocket size isn't strictly necessary), but I think both of these are around the same weight. As for what kind of headphones I'm using, I'm currently using a pair of Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i that I use for public transportation, but I've also considered getting better headphones like Sennheiser HD 560S (120 ohm) or maybe a pair of 250 ohm Beyerdynamic cans for home listening.

I wanna be able to use Tidal offline, which I think is possible if you download an .apk file of the app on the Kann Alpha. I'm less sure about the Fiio.

I'm kind of new to the world of DAPs, so there are a lot of things I don't know yet, so I hope I can get some help in making sure I make a purchase I don't regret, considering that I kind of regret buying the DAP I have now (Sony Walkman ZX-507). Thanks!
 
Nov 17, 2020 at 11:36 AM Post #2 of 38

HiFiHawaii808

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Both of those DAPs run the Android operating system. Doesn't that mean you can run the native Android Tidal App which allows music downloading for offline storage and playback? I am assuming so because this feature has me researching DAPs for high quality Tidal use which includes offline storage which I cannot do with my Mojo/Poly. I can use Airplay over wifi, but the quality sucks in comparison.
 
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Nov 17, 2020 at 11:45 AM Post #3 of 38

kelliegator

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Both of those DAPs run the Android operating system. Doesn't that mean you can run the native Android Tidal App which allows music downloading for offline storage and playback? I am assuming so because this feature has me researching DAPs for high quality Tidal use which includes offline storage which I cannot do with my Mojo/Poly. I can use Airplay over wifi, but the quality sucks in comparison.
I'm not sure. I've heard that both use restrited or old versions of Android where you can't access the google play store, but there may have been firmware updates and if anyone wants to correct me, go ahead. Either way, the fact that both of these have support for Tidal in some fashion means I won't have to worry about that aspect, I guess. Doesn't make it easier to decide which one to buy, though...
 
Nov 17, 2020 at 11:58 AM Post #4 of 38

HiFiHawaii808

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I'm not sure. I've heard that both use restrited or old versions of Android where you can't access the google play store, but there may have been firmware updates and if anyone wants to correct me, go ahead. Either way, the fact that both of these have support for Tidal in some fashion means I won't have to worry about that aspect, I guess. Doesn't make it easier to decide which one to buy, though...
I just look for their ads and see the Tidal App on the DAP desktop and I assume that it works the same as the app on an Android smartphone.

Just need to listen to them with your headphones/IEMs and see which one you like better. That's really the only good way to know for sure.
 
Dec 29, 2020 at 9:48 PM Post #5 of 38

pkcpga

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Hello. I've been thinking of getting a new DAP when I have money in the near future, but I'm kinda stuck on which one to get, but my main interests are Astell&Kern Kann Alpha or the Fiio M15.

I'm mostly asking because it's been a bit hard to find a lot of reviews for the Kann Alpha. I've heard a lot of good things about the M15, and it technically has bigger numbers when it comes to sample rates and DSD playback, and it might have a longer battery life, but is it necessarily better?

There are a lot of factors on what makes a DAP good or bad so I hope I can cover what I'm looking for. The first priority for me is the audio quality itself, but I also carry around my current DAP a lot so I'm not sure which one is better for that (I have a carrying case where I also keep my headphones, so pocket size isn't strictly necessary), but I think both of these are around the same weight. As for what kind of headphones I'm using, I'm currently using a pair of Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i that I use for public transportation, but I've also considered getting better headphones like Sennheiser HD 560S (120 ohm) or maybe a pair of 250 ohm Beyerdynamic cans for home listening.

I wanna be able to use Tidal offline, which I think is possible if you download an .apk file of the app on the Kann Alpha. I'm less sure about the Fiio.

I'm kind of new to the world of DAPs, so there are a lot of things I don't know yet, so I hope I can get some help in making sure I make a purchase I don't regret, considering that I kind of regret buying the DAP I have now (Sony Walkman ZX-507). Thanks!

I was asking the same question, I know for a fact that my current A&K se700 allows me to download the tidal app from play store and save playlists to the app for offline play in master or mqa. While I’ve emailed Fiio and there only response was they are looking into it and will get back to me that was a month ago. I’ve heard so many mixed things about the m15 and tidal along with possibly only doing two unfolds instead of the eight the A&K will do. But like you I need a more powerful player so I’m considering both the kann alpha and m15, I know the kann alpha will do everything I need but at essentially the same price the dac on the m15 is much better. So I’d also love to know for sure if tidal works properly with the m15 since it’s running an old android 7 with not full access to the play store and fiio seems to limit its dac’s ability when not through its player based on some comments which unfortunately I don’t know what to believe. Let me know if you have found the answer, thanks Peter.
 
Dec 30, 2020 at 4:54 AM Post #6 of 38

kelliegator

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I was asking the same question, I know for a fact that my current A&K se700 allows me to download the tidal app from play store and save playlists to the app for offline play in master or mqa. While I’ve emailed Fiio and there only response was they are looking into it and will get back to me that was a month ago. I’ve heard so many mixed things about the m15 and tidal along with possibly only doing two unfolds instead of the eight the A&K will do. But like you I need a more powerful player so I’m considering both the kann alpha and m15, I know the kann alpha will do everything I need but at essentially the same price the dac on the m15 is much better. So I’d also love to know for sure if tidal works properly with the m15 since it’s running an old android 7 with not full access to the play store and fiio seems to limit its dac’s ability when not through its player based on some comments which unfortunately I don’t know what to believe. Let me know if you have found the answer, thanks Peter.
I'm afraid I can't offer much of an answer but I decided to go with the Kann Alpha 'cause it was a bit cheaper and when comparing what people said about the M15 compared to the Kann Alpha, it just seemed more people were satisfied with the latter, unless I misunderstand. Hard to know if you can't try it. I ordered my Alpha yesterday, so it'll take a while until I actually get my hands on it. That and I've used Fiio's music app and I can't say I like their UI much. I don't know if this answers any questions for you but there you go.
 
Jan 9, 2021 at 4:34 PM Post #7 of 38

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any news on your alpha?
 
Jan 10, 2021 at 8:13 AM Post #9 of 38

pkcpga

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any news on your alpha?
I received my Fiio M15 earlier this week and I’d really have to agree the m15 needs plenty of break in time. Coming from the A&K 380 when I first turned on and started listening to the m15 it sounded lack luster and had poor control of bass and treble. A few days later and the amount of difference in sound is unbelievable, it now has a very nice wide sound with great detail separation and a responsive low end. Definitely beating out the older 380 and nicely powering full size headphones without needing the heavy large add on amp that the 380 needed to do that. I tried the newer A&K Kann Alpha, for some reason A&K stopped making powerful daps in their upper tier line and the kann alpha dacs do not give you the usual A&K sound they are very V shaped and closed in sounding. This was very disappointing having had A&K for a while now, but the AKM dacs really have great smooth details without the harsh edge or booming base and AKM have lovely full detailed mids without the recess the Kann Alpha has. Surprising choice for A&K they usually have a very detailed sound signature, I heard the 1000m and it sounded amazing but couldn’t power my full sized headphones like the m15, unfortunately the store was sold out of the 2000. While the Kann can power but not with the A&K sound signature I’m used to. The M15 is much closer in sound signature to the 1000m then the new Kann Alpha. If you are looking for a detailed more harmon curve sound signature I’d go with the m15, if you like a traditional V sound signature then the Kann Alpha would be better. The Kann Alpha has details in the highs and hard hitting lows that are detailed but recesses the mids a little compared to my old A&K 380 which is a deal breaker for me. I wish A&K put an AKM dac in this dap and just charged $500 more for it. It definitely has the sound signature of its dac over A&K usual sound signature. Both Kann alpha and m15 had no problem powering full sized headphones to a dynamic sound.
 
Jan 15, 2021 at 7:25 PM Post #10 of 38

Blasterinn

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I received my Fiio M15 earlier this week and I’d really have to agree the m15 needs plenty of break in time. Coming from the A&K 380 when I first turned on and started listening to the m15 it sounded lack luster and had poor control of bass and treble. A few days later and the amount of difference in sound is unbelievable, it now has a very nice wide sound with great detail separation and a responsive low end. Definitely beating out the older 380 and nicely powering full size headphones without needing the heavy large add on amp that the 380 needed to do that. I tried the newer A&K Kann Alpha, for some reason A&K stopped making powerful daps in their upper tier line and the kann alpha dacs do not give you the usual A&K sound they are very V shaped and closed in sounding. This was very disappointing having had A&K for a while now, but the AKM dacs really have great smooth details without the harsh edge or booming base and AKM have lovely full detailed mids without the recess the Kann Alpha has. Surprising choice for A&K they usually have a very detailed sound signature, I heard the 1000m and it sounded amazing but couldn’t power my full sized headphones like the m15, unfortunately the store was sold out of the 2000. While the Kann can power but not with the A&K sound signature I’m used to. The M15 is much closer in sound signature to the 1000m then the new Kann Alpha. If you are looking for a detailed more harmon curve sound signature I’d go with the m15, if you like a traditional V sound signature then the Kann Alpha would be better. The Kann Alpha has details in the highs and hard hitting lows that are detailed but recesses the mids a little compared to my old A&K 380 which is a deal breaker for me. I wish A&K put an AKM dac in this dap and just charged $500 more for it. It definitely has the sound signature of its dac over A&K usual sound signature. Both Kann alpha and m15 had no problem powering full sized headphones to a dynamic sound.
Thank you for your insights pkcpga. I am looking for a dap that is suitable for high ohm full size headphones as well as driving iem's.
The new ibasso dx300, m15 and m11pro along with a few others are contenders to me.
The biggest hinderence to this search is the fact that I am in Iceland and there aren't many, or any stores really that i can go to for testing purposes.
So thank you again, so now i need a few more reviews on the dx300. It is a very good looking dap they have there.
 
Jan 15, 2021 at 8:20 PM Post #11 of 38

pkcpga

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Thank you for your insights pkcpga. I am looking for a dap that is suitable for high ohm full size headphones as well as driving iem's.
The new ibasso dx300, m15 and m11pro along with a few others are contenders to me.
The biggest hinderence to this search is the fact that I am in Iceland and there aren't many, or any stores really that i can go to for testing purposes.
So thank you again, so now i need a few more reviews on the dx300. It is a very good looking dap they have there.
No problem, the iBasso dx300 unfortunately has a weird amp, lots of power at low ohms 1240mW at 32 ohms but only 160mW at 300 ohms so might be problematic for high ohm headphones. The m15 has 280mW at 300 ohms and 800mW at 32 ohms. The HiBy R8 has the little more power at 320 mW at 300 ohms and 1,000mW at 32 ohms. I’m guess iBasso must have a very inefficient layout with its amp that power drops that much at 300 ohms. But my Verite closed 300 ohms, 98 db/mW, manufacturer, Zach, suggests a minimum of 150 mW at 300 ohms and more dynamic sound with 300mW at 300 ohms. So not sure how well the iBasso would power a 300 ohm headphone. The lower the efficiency number db/mW the more power your headphone will require at whichever ohms output it runs. So unless it’s over 100 db/mW at 300 ohms I’d doubt the iBasso will power it to a good dynamic sound.
 
Jan 15, 2021 at 8:56 PM Post #12 of 38

Blasterinn

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No problem, the iBasso dx300 unfortunately has a weird amp, lots of power at low ohms 1240mW at 32 ohms but only 160mW at 300 ohms so might be problematic for high ohm headphones. The m15 has 280mW at 300 ohms and 800mW at 32 ohms. The HiBy R8 has the little more power at 320 mW at 300 ohms and 1,000mW at 32 ohms. I’m guess iBasso must have a very inefficient layout with its amp that power drops that much at 300 ohms. But my Verite closed 300 ohms, 98 db/mW, manufacturer, Zach, suggests a minimum of 150 mW at 300 ohms and more dynamic sound with 300mW at 300 ohms. So not sure how well the iBasso would power a 300 ohm headphone. The lower the efficiency number db/mW the more power your headphone will require at whichever ohms output it runs. So unless it’s over 100 db/mW at 300 ohms I’d doubt the iBasso will power it to a good dynamic sound.
Excellent info there! I do have the 250 ohm 1990pro and it might be difficult to drive as it is not using the balanced out. Then it is the elegia and i will be adding more iems in the near future. Oh well i do have the idsd micro black if i really need to travel with the 1990's . I am liking what i read about fh7 from fiio, have you tried them?
 
Jan 15, 2021 at 9:02 PM Post #13 of 38

pkcpga

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Excellent info there! I do have the 250 ohm 1990pro and it might be difficult to drive as it is not using the balanced out. Then it is the elegia and i will be adding more iems in the near future. Oh well i do have the idsd micro black if i really need to travel with the 1990's . I am liking what i read about fh7 from fiio, have you tried them?
Unfortunately no, I like listening to headphones more and occasionally my custom iems for comfort reason.
 
Jan 15, 2021 at 9:07 PM Post #14 of 38

Blasterinn

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Unfortunately no, I like listening to headphones more and occasionally my custom iems for comfort reason.
Well, when it comes to the operating part of things, ui reliability and updates and such. Would i benefit more by getting the more modern ibasso? Or are there no real concerns with the other players?
 
Jan 15, 2021 at 9:25 PM Post #15 of 38

pkcpga

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Well, when it comes to the operating part of things, ui reliability and updates and such. Would i benefit more by getting the more modern ibasso? Or are there no real concerns with the other players?
True the iBasso and Hiby are both on Android 9 so should get more updates, although Fiio and A&K have always updated and provided work arounds for music apps. As long as iBasso continues to update it definitely is running the more current Android. I personally am an AKM dac fan so iBasso’s cheaper dac (same as the old cheaper A&K sr15) plus the weird amp power at higher ohms made it a no go for myself but it’s definitely one of the nicest looking.
 

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