Astell & Kern A&ultima A&K SP2000

Wired and wireless connections.

Besides being a portable DAP, you can expand SP2k functionality as a transport to drive external DAC/amp, to use external AMP, or to turn the DAP into usb DAC.  And of course, you don’t have to be limited to wired headphones, and can take advantage of Wireless Bluetooth connection.  And, while you have plenty of internal storage and micro SD expansion, you can also connect other external storage or use A&K own Connect server app to stream from your computer.  Let’s take a closer look at some of these options.

Wireless/Bluetooth.

Bluetooth Wireless with B&W P7 Wireless – SP2k paired up with P7W within seconds and had the acknowledgement message on the screen that it was connected using aptX codec.  I was able to change volume from SP2k and from P7W, as well as control the playback and skip tracks remotely.  Wireless connection worked about 55ft away from SP2k in open area.  The sound was typical of P7W with L-shaped signature where bass is dominating the sound while you can still hear clearly mids and treble.  I also compared it to pair up with my Galaxy S9, and surprisingly under the same aptX codec the sound had a little stronger bass that was a bit overwhelming.  This always makes me wonder since in theory digital wireless protocol should be the same, but I still find some variations in sound, maybe due to different BT chipsets.  Either way, the bass was strong in both pair ups (SP2k and S9), but I found it more tolerable with SP2k.

 

Line Out.

Connected to FiiO E12A, I had to select Line Out from notification bar and was able to control the volume from both external amp and SP2k.  The sound was a little more on a warmer/smoother side and soundstage was not as wide as the original output of SP2k, suggesting how much SP2k internal amp contributes to its sound quality.  Taking the opportunity to compare SP2k vs SPK line out (DAC outputs), with the same E12A external neutral amp and the same pair of IEMs, I found SP2k to have a slightly wider soundstage and the tonality to be a little warmer with a fuller body while SPK was a little thinner and more transparent.

 

USB Audio Out.

Connected to micro iDSD BL using USB-C OTG adapter cable.  In notification bar of SP2k have to tap on External USB to select USB Audio mode.  Volume was fixed on SP2k at 150, and I can adjust it from iDSD.  Very clean and transparent sound based on sound characteristics of iDSD BL DAC/amp while using SP2k as a digital transport.

 

Optical Out.

Everything worked as is once I connected iDSD BL optical SPDIF input to SP2k 3.5mm port output using optical cable.  SP2k was set to a fixed max volume (150) and I was able to control output from iDSD BL. The sound was a little richer in tonality when compared to SP2k/iDSD connection using USB Audio out.

 

USB DAC.

Recognized right away by my ThinkPad T480s (Win10Pro).  In notification bar of SP2k have to tap USB Mode to select DAC.  Volume can be adjusted from Laptop or SP2k.  Playing the same song directly from SP2k or using it as USB DAC connected to my laptop, the sound was nearly identical, perhaps with a touch more warmth using it connected to laptop.  But the difference was very minor.

 

Conclusion.

Without a second thought, the latest SP2000 flagship is A&K best DAP to date.  And why wouldn’t it be?  They finetuned and perfected the sound and updated some of the features from their previous flagship which was already at the top of its game.  The internal storage is doubled to 512GB, the support of lossless hi-res formats went up to 32bit/786kHz and DSD512, more streaming apps supported, new flagship AK4499 DAC is implemented, the output power is increased, and even the SNR performance is improved.  So, when it comes to choosing between SP1000 and SP2000, it’s a no-brainer which one to get, especially since the price is the same.  And, you can’t complain anymore about A&K being the most expensive DAP because in the last few years a number of other flagship releases from competitors caught up and even surpassed A&K in price.

But I think a question still remains if you should upgrade from SP1000.  When I received SP2k and posted a few teaser shots on Head-fi and FB, the #1 question I received was from the current SPK users who are trying to decide if they should sell it and upgrade to a new model.  It’s not an easy question to answer because everybody has different requirements.  For example, some might want to stick with SPK if they need more power and want to use docking AMP module (which no longer supported in SP2k), or if you prefer a longer battery life.   The sound has improved, but more on a level of refinement.  But overall, if you are diehard A&K fan and would like their latest and greatest, SP2000 with its holographic soundstage expansion and layered resolving sound will be the way to go!

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

  1. I listen exclusively via my Nagra main setup ..The holografic wide bandspread is Obvious..no hardening but romantic ..very pleased . I have a sp1000M to compare ..
    Fantastic ..

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  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

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    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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