Astell & Kern A&norma A&K SR25

Sound Analysis.

The sound analysis of SR25 was done using 64 Audio U18t, playing a selection of the test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, Galantis “Hunter”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.

Similar to its predecessor, I found SR25 to have a neutral balanced signature with a more natural fuller body tonality, not only with U18t but other iems and headphones.

Overall, the sound has good dynamics (vertical expansion of peaks), never felt compressed or congested.  And I found SR25 to have a black hiss-free background even with some of the most sensitive IEMs, like Andromeda and Solaris.

The soundstage expansion is very spacious, wide, and with a good imaging resulting in a relatively accurate placement of instruments and vocals.  That is how it sounds from 2.5mm (BAL) output.  But when switching to 3.5mm (SE), the soundstage width shrinks.  Here are more differences between BAL and SE outputs as I hear it.

2.5mm vs 3.5mm

The difference in power output is definitely noticeable since while going from BAL to SE I had to raise the volume by 10 clicks to match it.  Another very noticeable difference is BAL output having a wider soundstage and blacker background.  Other than that, the sound signature and tonality are nearly the same.

Comparison.

In every comparison I used 64 Audio U18t IEMs, volume matched while listening to the same test track between DAPs.

SR25 vs SR15 – the tonality of these DAPs is nearly the same, both having a neutral balanced signature with a more natural fuller body tonality.  And that is where all similarities end because SR25 technically is by far superior in comparison to SR15.  SR25 soundstage is a little bit wider and has more depth, resulting in a better imaging and a more accurate positioning of instruments and vocals in space.  Also, the sound of SR25 is more layered, more separated, and with better vertical dynamics expansion, making SR15 sound flatter and more compressed in comparison.  This technical performance difference is what sets SR25 apart from SR15 entry level performance, elevating SR25 to a more solid mid-fi level.

SR25 vs SP1000 SS – believe it or not, the tonality here is not too far off.  I do hear SPK to have a wider soundstage, stretching further left/right, and SPK also has more sparkle in treble and a little more transparency in upper mids.  But overall tonality has a lot of similarities, being more neutral with a more natural body and great retrieval of details.  SPK has better technical abilities with more air between the layers of the sound, as expected from a flagship model.

SR25 vs Plenue R2 – a lot of similarities in this comparison, though some subtle differences as well. With soundstage, SR25 stretches a little bit wider, not by a whole lot, but noticeable.  Tonality is very similar as well, neutral, detailed, with a natural body.  But, R2 has a little more low end impact and a deeper sub-bass rumble.  From a technical perspective, especially with high res FLAC files, SR25 sound is more layered and with a little better vertical dynamics expansion.  Definitely not night’n’day difference.  I think in this comparison, those who enjoy sound tweaking and only care about local audio playback might consider R2.  But if you want access to streaming and more advanced Bluetooth with hi-res codec support, and better battery life, SR25 is the way to go.

SR25 vs Hiby R5 – more similarities in tonality between these two, but when it comes to technical performance, the gap is wider. R5 doesn’t have a wide soundstage to begin with, and it is noticeable in this comparison with SR25 expanding its staging wider.  Tonality is similar, being neutral and more natural.  But the layering of the sound and vertical dynamics expansion is quite different with SR25 having more air between layers and more dynamic peaks, while R5 sounding more compressed and flatter in comparison.  Both support hi-res Bluetooth codecs and have access to streaming apps, though with SR25 you have to side load it, while with R5 you just download it directly from Google play store.

SR25 vs iBasso DX160 – while in previous comparison there was more similarities in tonality and more differences in technical performance, here it is actually the opposite.  Both have a wide soundstage expansion, and actually DX160 sounds wider and more holographic.  They also have a very layered and dynamic sound.  You can hear how well instruments are layered and separated listening to both daps, and their vertical dynamics expansions is impressive.  But with a tonality, SR25 goes for a more natural fuller body sound, especially in mids, while DX160 has a more revealing and more transparent mids/vocals, making its tonality brighter.  It’s really up to a personal preference, or perhaps the pair up synergy with IEMs and their corresponding signature.  Both allow to side load apps, though DX160 doesn’t have any black list limitations.  Both have a similar BT performance, which is not as strong when it comes to coverage distance.

SR25 vs theBit Opus#1 – I thought some might find this comparison interesting as well due to the same DAC chipset.  There are quite a few differences here.  Starting with soundstage expansion, it’s probably one of the few things where they are similar, in both width and depth.  Also, both have a dynamic and layered sound.  But the tonality has a noticeable variation, with SR25 being more neutral and more natural, with a fuller body more organic mids/vocals, while Opus#1 has a thinner and brighter mids/vocals and splashier treble response.  That made Opus#1 tonality less natural in comparison.  And of course, Opus#1 is playback audio only device, not even a Bluetooth support while SR25 adds BT and wifi support to side-load apps for streaming.

SR25 vs FiiO M11 Pro – Pro version of M11 definitely improved the performance of the original M11, making it more suitable for this comparison.  Both have a wide soundstage expansion, actually very similar in width and depth.  Technically, they also have similarities in layering and separation of the sound and vertical dynamics expansion, something I wouldn’t be able to say about M11 but can report as Pro improvement which now can match SR25.  But tonality is different, and it is noticeable.  SR25 has more sub-bass rumble which goes deeper.  Also, SR25 upper mids/vocals and treble are more natural, smoother, while M11 Pro is brighter when it comes to vocals and also a little splashier in comparison with lower mids.  This is a difference where you will have to decide which one pairs up better with a signature of your preferred IEMs or headphones.  Both can side load streaming apps and support various high res BT codecs, though SR25 BT performance is a little weaker.

SR25 vs SR15

Page 5 – Pair up, Wired & wireless connections, and Conclusion.

37 thoughts on “Astell & Kern A&norma A&K SR25

  1. Nice review as always. Good work!
    I’m debating between Cayin Ni6II e02/t01 bundle and SR25. Currently own andromeda and ier-m9. My taste of music is pretty diverse, I listen to pretty much every genre. Would love to hear your thoughts on these two DAPs. Since you have tried both, which one would you prefer? Looking forward to your reply. Best.

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    1. these are in a totally different categories, your typical apples/oranges 😉 SR25 is a nice little compact dap for IEMs, BT pair up, and streaming of a handful of popular app. N6ii is a full android modular design dap (2x the price, and more if you add dac/amp cards) where you have full access to Google Play to install anything like on a phone, and also the cards are more powerful to drive demanding headphones (E02 is Class AB amp). For Andro and M9, SR25 will be plenty, and AK daps are very quiet with sensitive iems, while N6ii will have some hissing and might be an overkill for you. So, as long as you are not planning to get some high impedance Senns cans or current-hungry planar magnetic headphones, you are OK with SR25 🙂

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      1. Thanks a lot! I will order for SR25 then. Really appreciate your insights.

        Take care and stay safe 🙂

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    1. You will be surprised, considering every week I’m flooded with questions from people asking me which $2k-$3k earphone they should get and then which $1k-$2k earphone cable they should complement it with.

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  2. Bought a Sr25 a, couple of weeks ago and really disappointed with the WiFi. I use Tidal a lot and the WiFi drops out when 3 meters from my router.
    Also major issue with Bluetooth, hard to connect to devices and suffers also from drop outs.
    Sent back to supplier and waiting for their feedback.
    PJA

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    1. Sounds like something is off with your device. Usually, A&K daps have one of the best wifi performance. SR25 Bluetooth signal is not as powerful, I mentioned that in my review. And I think it is due to battery life, they extended it to 22+ hrs (something gotta give). But worth a shot if your replacement will work better.

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  3. I bought one, and am happy with it except for one glaring issue, one that doesn’t seem to come up in any reviews I’ve read so far and its a borderline dealbreaker.
    If you have a MacBook Pro, you have to download Android File Transfer in order to move your music on to the device. This is my first Android device so I’ve never used AFT. It’s buggy, and crashes / disconnects during transfers, to the point it’s unusable. I’ve seen this issue mentioned many times in forums, but not in any reviews. I’m guessing no one reviewing it is using a Mac, so just a caveat to think twice about buying one if you’re using a Mac. Cheers.

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    1. Sorry, I don’t use Mac, Android/Win only, but I heard from many of my readers they use *only* Commander One for MAC to manage their android based devices. It’s a more advance and mature program. Try it.

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    1. In terms of the sound quality they are close when it comes to iems or any easy to drive headphones, but with harder to drive headphones and some iems with EST drivers dtr1 will have an advantage. And of course, in terms of usability, these are night and day.

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  4. Hi

    I just got the SR25 today and I’m having issues with the GUI. Whenever it’s turned on it scans the media which results in lag and when I try to browse music it jumps in and out of the menu and to the main screen. Have you experienced similar issues?

    Regards
    Casper.

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    1. (since your comment got posted 3 times, I only keeping one ;)). No, I haven’t experienced this issue. Did you copy your files to internal storage or micro SD? If micro SD, could be an issue with reading a card? Is your screen wiped clean, just make sure no oil fingerprints causing “ghost” touch screen effects where GUI does random thing. Doing factory reset and also verifying to make sure you have the latest fw – always a good idea. And after you update the fw, do another fw reset. If everything else fails, post this question on Head-fi, A&K rep (Jason) is always there.

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      1. I’m sorry it got posted three times! Haven’t used this WordPress thing before 🙂

        I took my microSD card from my iBasso DX120 and put it in the SR25. It has always worked on the iBasso.

        I have tried to clean the screen and I even took off the protective thingy and it the issue is still there.

        I’ve downloaded the latest fw and I did a factory reset when I encountered the problem first but it still jumps in and out of the menus.

        I’ll try Head-fi, thanks for the answer!

        Regards

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      2. I just put in my 256 GB card and the issues seem to be gone. I’ll try to format the 512 GB card,

        Thanks.

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  5. Thanks for the review.
    And now I’m making decision between SR25 and Lotoo PAW6K.
    I use streaming often but I think the BT DAC will work for me.
    My IEM is 64audio Trio and I prefer a relax sound with wider stage, any advice of the choice? Or any other DAPs to recommend?

    Thanks.

    Like

    1. Paw6k will have more relaxed sound, and overall more refined technical performance. But you are paying 2x for it. SR25 is a better value due to its outstanding battery performance and streaming support.

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      1. Thank you for the quick yet useful reply.

        Here in Chinese market, brand new P6K will “only” cost about 1.5x SR25. Anyway, SR25 seems to be a decent choice. A rarely used one will cost even less.

        If I extend the choice to PGT and SP1000M, do you think the combination can produce the so called “holographic soundstage expansion” with the Trio?

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      2. I just tested side by side trio with PAW6k and SR25, just to refresh my mind. SR25 soundstage is wider and more holographic from 3.5mm output vs 3.5mm PAW6k output (I’m using stock 64audio cable). If you go to balanced, it will be even wider. So, my suggestion to you, go with SR25 and update Trio cable to balanced termination.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. any DAP that supports MQA hardware decoding and has android to run Tidal app. All the latest A&K DAPs (SR, SE, SP) support that. And you also got Hiby and iBasso daps and some Cayin daps (N6ii doesn’t support yet, but N8 does).

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      1. different, not better. In terms of tonality, N6ii with T01 will be closer to SR25. E02 has a more natural analog tonality with a punchier bass, and its Class AB amplifier can drive some very demanding headphones and earphones.

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      2. Ahh… thank you SO much. Just got the MEST and LeonidesII today, and I’m blown away! Using it with SR-25 and loving it, and just wondering if I should take advantage of Musiktek’s 4th of July sale on the N6 w/EO2 MB…

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