Astell & Kern A&ultima A&K SP2000


A&K new SP2k flagship has a very similar exterior design and size when compared to its SPK predecessor.  With dimensions of 76.3mm x 132mm x 15.7mm, on par with some of the large screen smartphones and a few of my other big size DAPs, I still consider it to be portable, but it might not be as pocket friendly for everyone due to its 411g (Stainless Steel) or 433g (Copper) weight.  This is just part of a tradeoff for having a large 5” high definition touch screen and additional weight associated with either SS or CU chassis.

The focus of the design is still around the large 5″ touch screen occupying the front view, with a touch home button below the visible display area – a great feature to get back to the main Playback screen from any other screen.  The front view of the DAP is slightly asymmetric due to uneven sculptured bevel sides, and a crown-patterned volume wheel on the right which also functions as a power button when you press it.  As a power button it has a typical functionality of short press to turn the screen on/off or a long press to turn the power on/off, with confirmation to shutdown which requires touch screen acknowledgement.

The volume wheel is easy to turn using one finger, though it’s not loose and has some resistance with a click action felt with every rotation turn of 150 volume steps.  You don’t have to take your hand/finger off the volume wheel after the adjustment if you want to turn on/off the display.  The design of the volume wheel has a detailed crown pattern, typical of a wrist watch.  It certainly adds to the appeal of the DAP, since even inside of a leather case the wheel is still visible.  The design pattern of the SP2k wheel is slightly different from SPK model, but there are still many other similarities.


On the left side you have Play/Pause and Skip controls, three identical rectangular buttons located in the upper part of the left side.  They do have a nice tactile response and spaced evenly with enough room in between to avoid pressing an adjacent button by mistake.  Since majority of users will have SP2k in a leather case anyway, buttons will be covered, and stock leather case has their imprinted functionality label for easier ID.  And as many would expect, Dignis already released some aftermarket leather cases if you would like to upgrade.

The top of the DAP has fully open access to 3.5mm headphone port which also used for Line Out and Optical out, and 2.5mm balanced headphone port.  The only thing, top also has a black glass cover which blends in with headphones ports, and I had to look closer before inserting the plug.  In SPK, the top had corresponding color chassis material, so it was easier to see black headphone ports.  Also, unlike SPK, you will not find micro SD card slot at the top of SP2k.

The micro SD port (spring loaded) is now on the bottom, to the right of USB-C port which is used for charging (including Fast Charging), data transfer, USB DAC connection, and USB OTG external device connection.  If you are using stock leather case, as already mentioned, you will have to remove it to access micro SD card.  The back of the DAP has an asymmetric design with chassis material (SS in my case) and a carbon fiber inlay triangle at the top.  If you wondering where are the pins for a docking AMP module (like in SPK), it is no longer there since SP2k doesn’t support this option anymore.


Under the hood.

While we do know that it’s not the chipset but how you implement it that makes a difference, similar to SPK being one of the first to use AK4497 DAC, SP2k moves forward with introduction of AKM latest AK4499 flagship DAC.  SP2k has 2 of these DACs, using them separately in each independent audio channel between the Unbalanced and Balanced outputs.  A&K didn’t share any further details about the design and the components of the internal headphone amp section, but from the spec the output power was increased with Unbalanced 3Vrms (up from previous 2.2Vrms) and Balanced 6Vrms (up from previous 3.9Vrms).  Also, SNR spec was improved by at least 3dB, with Unbalanced 124dB (up from previous 120dB) and Balanced 125dB (up from previous 122dB).  These number don’t just improve on paper, but you can hear a more powerful dynamic output with blacker background when comparing SP2k to SPK.

The touch display is the same responsive 5” high definition (720 x 1280 resolution) screen.  By smartphone standards this resolution is average, but considering this is audio only playback device, it’s more than adequate.  The interface is relatively fast, thanks to octa-core CPU.  I didn’t notice any lag when navigating or browsing, though there is always a small delay when you press Play.  Looks like SP2k has plenty of processing power to do flawless audio decoding while supporting all the popular lossy and lossless formats, such as WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, and DSF, with PCM rates up to 32bit/786kHz and DSD rates up to 22.58MHz (DSD512).  And MQA playback support was added, covering Tidal Masters, Local files, External USB, and MQA-CD (ripped).


And for high resolution files you have plenty of storage with internal 512GB of NAND flash storage and microSD external memory expansion up to the latest largest capacity card (A&K tested with 1TB).  Furthermore, USB-C OTG supports external hard drive storage or usb stick expansion.  The battery life is OK, but with new DACs and higher output power, even increase in battery capacity to 3,700mAh (up from previous 3,400), the playback time drops from 12hrs (SPK) to 8hrs (SP2k), FLAC loop playback with display off.  Going to DSD, it will be reduced even further just like with any other DAP.  Also, SP2k still supports Fast Charging which takes about 2.5hrs from empty to 100%.  You can either use a regular 5V/2A charger or a Fast 9V/1.67A charger.

To support fast charging and to speed up data transfer, SP2k also features USB 3.0 Type-C interface for charging, data transfer, and USB DAC functionality.  WiFi was updated to dual band now, supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.  Along with that you have OTA firmware update support and of course streaming of many popular apps.  Furthermore, Bluetooth v4.1 Wireless supporting A2DP and AVRCP profiles, and aptX and aptX HD protocols.  Also, in addition to 2.5mm BAL output, 3.5mm SE port is multifunctional for headphone out, line out, and optical digital out.


Page 3 – GUI overview, and Open APP Service.
Page 4 – Sound Analysis and Comparison to other DAPs.
Page 5 – Pair up with IEMs and Full-size headphones.
Page 6 – Wired and wireless Connections, and Conclusion.


6 thoughts on “Astell & Kern A&ultima A&K SP2000

  1. I listen exclusively via my Nagra main setup ..The holografic wide bandspread is hardening but romantic ..very pleased . I have a sp1000M to compare ..
    Fantastic ..


  2. Thanks for the informative write up. Was a proud owner SP1K ss and in the midst of deciding whether to buy the SP1K amp or SP2k instead. Wondering if u have tried and compares them both. I have tried SP2k in my local headphone store and your writeup accurately described my listening experience (the higher power output delivered a better dynamic + a touch wider soundstage) which is a pleasant surprise. But unfortunately they dint carry the amp thus was uncertain if they improved the sp1k ss SQ. Sorry for the long writeup and question. Bt ur kind answer will be deeply appreciated


    1. Sorry, I didn’t have a chance to try SPK amp. But that is a very good question. I have read comments from other people who found SPK + amp to drive demanding headphones better than sp2k. But adding amp to SPK makes it very heavy and bulky. Perhaps, SPK + amp is a good option if you have harder to drive full size headphones. But if you have many iems and want a high res portable setup, sp2k will be a better solution.


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