Astell&Kern SP3000 Review: Best Digital Audio Player
With Astell&Kern SP3000, can Astell&Kern create one thing that each improves on the sound and overcomes the constraints of their earlier fashions to ship the efficiency customers crave?
It’s been over three years since the SP2000 was launched, and for its successor, Astell&Kern wasn’t content material with a gradual replacement.
They constructed a brand new OS, redesigned the UI, upgraded the efficiency, and launched the new model flagship, AK4499EX DAC chip, to construct one of the best DAPs on the planet.
Astell&Kern SP3000 Price Comparison
Build and Design
In phrases of visual design, Astell&Kern is thought to create DAPs, which can be as many murals as they’re an audio participant. SP3000 continues this custom with a tastefully angular design and a clean, mirrored end.
It doesn’t simply look nice, everything from the end to the buttons and knobs feels premium, and the gadget has a considerable heft in your hand. SP3000 options 3.5mm, 2.5mm, and 4.4mm outputs, and you may use Bluetooth and USB for audio output.
The dimensions are bigger than earlier flagship Astell&Kern DAPs, and it’s pretty heavy as properly, so the SP3000 won’t be your first choice as an extremely pocketable participant to tackle a stroll. We obtained a demo unit without the whole retail package deal.
Features of Astell&Kern SP3000
However, you’ll be able to anticipate an Astell&Kern A&ultima degree unboxing expertise and a beneficiant accent package deal together with a premium Alran leather-based case made by one of the oldest leather-based outlets in France.
SP3000 isn’t only a fairly face. It has a great under-the-hood improvement over earlier fashions. The interface is improved with a new, more intuitive design. However, the true star listed here is the pace and efficiency enhancements from the Snapdragon 665 processor.
SP3000 is the quickest, most responsive DAP that Astell&Kern has ever made and gives a few of the finest efficiency in the marketplace proper now, rivalling iBasso DX320 when it comes to the pace of loading apps and the responsiveness of in-app operations.
The 5.46" 1080p display can also improve, combining with the remainder of the upgrades to offer an enormous leap ahead in Astell&Kern’s first new flagship DAP of the last decade.
For apps, Astell&Kern is sticking with the walled backyard strategy, which implies that you can instantly set up a collection of streaming and music apps onto the gadget or manually set up accredited apps through side-loading. However, there’s no conventional app retailer.
Between the efficiency enhancements and the brand new UI, it looks like Astell&Kern has become extra welcoming to customers, primarily utilizing streaming providers and never a big pre-existing music assortment.
However, the modifications to assortment administration and playback are properly thought out and supply some clear enhancements to the consumer expertise for customers utilizing their current music collections as properly.
Not content material to easily replace the seems and the UI, SP3000 options an all-new 4X AKM AK4499EX DAC structure tuned to make listening to music with SP3000 an immersive expertise. The sound evokes basic Astell&Kern DAPs with unimaginable ranges of the element delivered in a subtly euphonic presentation.
Outside of their signature tunings, which tow the road between reference and romantic, one of many key elements of Astell&Kern’s DAPs has been their low noise ground. SP3000 follows.
They go well with a pitch-black background and lifeless silent operation. Of probably the most delicate IEMs we might conjure up — together with the A&Okay + Campfire Audio Pathfinder at 6-ohm impedance — none generated any hiss.
In phrases of the overall tuning traits, there’s some enhancement of the midbass, and a bit of heat within the midrange, together with highs that someway present unimaginable extension, air, and definition, whereas dancing around any probably fatiguing frequencies.
All of that is very delicate, the place the SP3000 presents as impartial if you take heed to it in isolation. However, compared with different reference sources, it leaves you saying, “the bass feels more alive” or “the vocal timbre is richer.”
Where SP3000 goes past expectations and represents a leap ahead is the imaging. SP3000 gives an enormous but pure-sounding, three-dimensional soundstage, irrespective of which headphones I use. The soundstage felt enhanced without feeling synthetic or exaggerated.
The imaging is vivid and lifelike and resulted in a few of the most immersive listening experiences I’ve ever had with headphones. It’s exhausting to quantify the excellence of SP3000’s imaging, as listening doesn’t make you consider positioning, weight, or separation. It makes you feel like you’re in the room with the performers.
I listened to several different IEMs and headphones with SP3000 and wished to focus on just a few that stood out. Probably one of the best synergies I heard was with the Pathfinder mentioned above. The presentation of the stereo picture and the sense of realism to devices and voices was second to none.
Pathfinder and SP3000, working collectively, offer you entrance row seats to personal live performances. The IEM that felt probably the most spectacular in technical efficiency was the Noble Viking Ragnar. It didn’t have the identical intense, immersive feeling as Pathfinder.
However, it demonstrated an especially large stage and robust separation, together with the glorious, however non-fatiguing high-end extension. With the brand new Focal Utopia, you bought an unimaginable combo for the stability of incredible accuracy and sheer listening enjoyment.
Acoustic devices have a pure timbre. Vocals are intimate and private. The soundstage is immense, and the imaging is exact, with a realistic three-dimensionality.
The bass is correct, with a pure feeling, impression, depth, and texture. Meze Elite offered unimaginable heat and private vocals. There’s also a delicate bass emphasis that’s deep and exhausting hitting and also tight and detailed.
With the most energy output of 6.3Vrms from the balanced outputs, SP3000 isn’t your first choice for exhausting to-drive headphones. However, as you will have surmised from the earlier paragraphs, it does play properly with an excellent variety of reasonably delicate over-ear headphones.
While some will do properly from the single-ended output (I discovered Utopia to be fairly good at round 105–120 quantity from SP3000’s 3.5mm jack), you’ll do the finest to make use of balanced output each time potential.
SP3000 contains a crossfeed characteristic which, in case you’re unaware of crossfeed, feeds a few of the left channels into the best and a few of the proper channels into the left. I discovered that the characteristic added an extra “speaker-like” dimension to the soundstage.
However, it eradicated a few of the holographic feelings within the imaging. SP3000 additionally provides a new characteristic with Digital Audio Remastering (DAR). DAR is a form of upscaling that gives a normal enhancement within the sound throughout the board.
The impact felt very delicate with excessive-res tracks. However, it added an extra notable feeling of the stronger decision in tracks that have been CD high quality and beneath.
Comparison among: IBASSO DX320, ASTELL&KERN SP2000T
Before we even get to the comparability, I’m going to supply a spoiler: SP3000 is one of the best DAPs I’ve ever heard. Everything about it’s an improvement over earlier Astell&Kern fashions and demonstrates some benefit over the competitors. That stated, there are nonetheless smaller particulars and preferential elements to work out.
Maybe you don’t like the marginally euphonic elements of the SP3000’s tuning, or perhaps, to you, the soundstage sounds artificially exaggerated. So it’s the price to see if another DAP matches your wants higher.
DX320 is a unique tuning goal instance, and SP3000 is noticeably heated compared to the iBasso DX320.
SP3000’s stage feels wider and extra three-dimensional. Whereas DX320 has glorious imaging, it doesn’t have an identical degree of vivid immersion. There’s a bit of edge to the treble in DX320 and a bit extra readability — notably after I listened with the Noble Viking Ragnar — making it feel extra intelligent, but also a stronger tendency for the DX320 to create fatigue from the treble.
DX320’s bass didn’t feel as full or robust. However, with some extra bass-heavy IEMs, I heard a bit of a different bass texture over the SP3000. SP2000T captures related prolonged, however non-fatiguing highs as SP3000 and has related very robust separation.
What’s odd is that SP2000T — all of a sudden — feels extra scientific than SP3000 — even with the tube mode — but in addition, much less detailed. SP3000 improves the high-quality’s general sound while exhibiting a barely smoother, extra relaxed sound.
SP2000T hits within the sonic house between SP3000 and DX320, with one thing ending up sounding like AK’s tackle an extra reference sound. DX320 has a few softer, smoother supplies of SP3000 in some locations but continues to be extra intelligent in others.
DX320 affords the three’s most impartial general sound signature, with the least noticeable enhancement to the bass and probably the easiest treble.
This collection of DAPs additionally helps exhibit how large of a step up SP3000’s UI and efficiency is for Astell&Kern. Comparing the UI efficiency of DX320 and SP2000T, SP2000T efficiency feels years behind the lightning-quick DX320.
Like Also as Similar
SP3000 comes out of the gate, simply as quick and clean as DX320, with an up-to-date participant UI as properly. While DX320 nonetheless has the benefit of the openness of the OS, SP3000 closes the hole. It makes a robust case for Astell&Kern’s digital audio participant usability strategy.
Even as elements of its UI and efficiency aged, the Astell&Kern SP2000 remained among the many highest-sounding DAPs on the planet three years after its launch. SP3000 exceeds SP2000’s efficiency in each approach, improving the gadget efficiency, UI, options, and general sound high quality.
Suppose you’ve been hesitant to purchase a brand new flagship DAP until you see one demonstrating a transparent leap ahead in expertise and efficiency. In that case, the SP3000 is the leap ahead that you’ve been ready for.