Astell & Kern SP2000T

Wired and wireless connections.

Besides being a portable DAP, you can expand 2kT functionality as a transport to drive external DAC/amp, to use external AMP, or to turn the DAP into wired/wireless usb DAC.  And of course, you don’t have to be limited to wired headphones, and can take advantage of Wireless Bluetooth connection.

Wireless/Bluetooth.

I tested 2kT BT Tx with various headphones; it paired up within seconds and had the acknowledgement message on the screen to indicate which codec was in use.  I tested with Hiby WH2 TWS, confirmed operation within 20ft, LDAC pair up, and full remote control.  Also, tested with Sennheiser HD1 M2, confirmed operation within 20ft, aptX pair up, and full remote control.  20ft operation in open space was OK, though SP2k operates up to 30ft.

2kT also has Bluetooth Sink Mode (BT Receiver) to enable BT DAC “Rx” mode and to use 2kT as a wireless DAC.  Once turned on, I was able to find and pair up with 2kT from my Galaxy smartphone and set LDAC codec.

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USB Audio Out.

Tested with both Lotoo S2 and L&P W2 usb DAC/amp dongles without a problem.  In notification bar of 2kT have to be sure External USB is selected to enable USB Audio mode.  Volume on 2kT was fixed at 150, so I was able to adjust it from S2 and W2.  The sound characteristics was typical of S2 and W2 corresponding sound sig while using 2kT as a digital transport.

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USB DAC.

Recognized right away on my ThinkPad T480s (Win10Pro) laptop.  In notification bar of 2kT have to tap USB Mode to select DAC.  Volume can be adjusted from laptop or 2kT.  No need to install any additional drivers, and the sound was typical of 2kT output.  As a matter of fact, the sound is nearly the same playing locally from 2kT or from laptop using 2kT as USB DAC.

Optical Out.

Was using iFi micro iDSD for this testing, nothing needs to be selected or enabled, just connect to 3.5mm port and start playing.  Optical output was detected automatically, 2kT volume was set to max 150, and I was controlling the output from micro iDSD.  Btw, the same with Digital out when using with micro iDSD, using OTG usb cable, the connection was detected OK, volume set to 150 and I was able to control the volume from micro iDSD.

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Line Out.

Connected to Cayin C9, I had to select Line Out from notification bar and was able to control the volume from both external amp and 2kT.  In Settings of 2kT, you can adjust the volume level of LO.  If you need to color your sound with an external amplifier or need to drive more demanding headphones, access to LO is very convenient.

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WiFi Streaming.

With the unit I received, there are no issues playing local files in any of the Amp modes, even when I turn on wifi or BT.  But when streaming and only in either Tube or Hybrid modes, I get an intermittent short burst of buzzing which sounds like an EMI interference with a Tube.  I asked other users on Head-fi in SP2000T thread to share their experience, and some responded with no issues, while others experienced similar.  Switching to solid state output amp is one of the solutions when streaming if you are experiencing EMI and it bothers you.  You can also download and store your favorite tracks for off-line listening from some of the apps.

At the moment of writing this review, I was told that A&K is trying to understand the random nature of this problem.

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Conclusion.

While writing the review, in the back of my mind I was thinking why A&K decided to keep SP2000 base model number in this new original design.  And I kept coming back to the thought of SP2000T still being at the top of their SP flagship series, sharing the crown with SP2000 SS and Cu daps.  Perhaps, A&K didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with either a modular dac/amp design (SE180) or a dual solid state and NuTube output amp design (SP2000T), but they certainly managed to take both to the next level and in case of 2kT introduce a new hybrid twist while mixing both amp modes.

The implementation of dual amp design with a triple output mode is not a gimmick.  When you listen closely, you can hear the difference in bass performance and mids tonality, giving you a choice between the original (SP2000) solid state amp tonality and the NuTube tonality.  But despite the mode of the internal amplifier, we are still dealing with a solid build, quad ESS Sabre flagship DACs, natural detailed tonality, very polished user interface, semi-Parametric EQ, SE and BAL headphone output jacks, and capability to play not only local files but also to stream popular services.

Is SP2000T going to dethrone SP2000?  I don’t think so because one is not the upgrade of the other, and instead, they both coexist in a complementary way.  Actually, in the last two weeks of my SP2000T testing I end up reaching more for “T” instead of SP2000 SS because variation of amp modes was more fun when pairing up IEMs with different sound sigs.  I’m sure the next gen flagship is coming in a near future, but in a meantime, you don’t have to wait and can start enjoying a new current gen flagship from A&K.

8 thoughts on “Astell & Kern SP2000T

  1. Hi, thank you for a very thorough and detailed review for SP2000T. I am wondering if a DAP has reached a level like a stand alone DAC to play music files from computer for instance in the same level of Chord Hugo 2 or maybe Hugo TT2? I think SP2000T deserves to be compared to other DAC since it has 4 chips and NuTube and hybrid mode. Thank you again for your review!

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    1. I have a Hugo 2 and the SP2000. While the latter is really, really good, it is still not as good as the H2.

      Perhaps 85-90%, subjectively speaking.

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  2. Hi, Thank you for your very detailed review. Just struggling whether to upgrade my N6ii with R01 board or go for SP2000T. Ans recommendation and comparison to help?
    Thank you for your attention

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    1. Tbh, either one will be great. R01 will be cheaper as an upgrade vs buying a new SP2kT. Plus, N6ii is fully open Android without restrictions like closed system SP2kT. But at the same time, hybrid mode of SP2kT sounds so good. Tough decision.

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  3. I’ve been looking for this review all over the internet! Thank you, although it doesn’t help me decide whether to get this as my SR25 upgrade this summer or wait for the SP3000…

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    1. If you would have to make a decision right now on the spot, it is no brainer as an upgrade from SR25, unless you really want to keep that small form factor. SP3000 hasn’t ben even announced, not even speculation or rumors. So, who knows. But Head-fi’s CanJam NYC is coming back in Feb of next year, and a lot of manufacturers planning their big announcement around that time 😉

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