I don’t know how it happened, but still related to the products Astell&Kern, I did not write, although a long time are happy AK320 user. But sometimes Santa Claus comes early, so I got him two gifts. The one that easier — AK70 Mk II, I’ve taken the time and talk about it this time. A top-end model from Astella and its other Core that will stay with me for a long time, still wait their turn.
A&K has long and firmly staked “luxury” segment of the market, releasing the very successful the sound of AK240 and model AK320 (and also a little less successful for my taste, but no less popular model AK380), competition on this couple can be just a few models from other manufacturers. But some “tops” will not be full, and any manufacturer need to occupy the lower segments, and with this A&K was so-so. AK Jr — clearly looked and sounded like an adopted son in the family company, AK100 and AK120 all audits by the sound did not reach his price tag, but quite successful and well received by customers AK70 — required updating. The developers decided to reduce the model range, deleting the “hundredths” and Jr, and concentrated on 70-ke by adding a second DAC and reworking the amplification circuit. Along the way, A&K made an attempt to capture another market segment, releasing KANN, not like anything else. But it, like the new top A&ultima, another time, this review focuses on 70-ke.
Despite the improvement in the circuitry, the tag decided to leave the old, buy AK70 Mk II (called bother) for the same $ 700 that the first model (plus-minus fees and taxes of individual countries).
- DAC: 2 × CS4398
- Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz (±0.09 dB), 10 Hz – 70 kHz (±0.5 dB)
- The ratio signal/noise: 119 dB
- Channel separation: 138 dB
- Total harmonic distortion+noise: 0.0005% of
- Output impedance: 1,5 Ω regular output, 3Ω — balanced
- Output level: 2Vrms regular output, 4Vrms — balanced
- Formats supported: FLAC, WMA, WAV, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF
- Maximum resolution: up to 192 kHz/24 bit, files of higher resolution are supported downsampling)
- Support for DSD: converting PCM to DSD128
- USB DAC: up to 96kHz/24-bit
- Wireless technology: Wi-Fi 802.11 n, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX HD
- Screen: TFT, 3.3 V”, 480 × 800
- Built-in memory: 64 GB
- Memory card: MicroSD, up to 256 GB
- Battery: 2500 mAh
- Dimensions: 63 mm × 97 mm × 15 mm
- Weight: 150 g
Packing and delivery
Product designers have tried to do everything to distance the model from the rest, even the simplest box there, made of black cardboard with minimal printing. Inside is the player itself, USB cable and two sets of protective films for the screen and the back panel. The case for a new “semidesert” sold separately, but, perhaps, to buy it still stands.
Design and management
That appearance is what we love products A&K. of Course, the 70-ka is made very simple in the model range of the company, but that for some “the easiest player”, for others it is an unattainable peak design. I would say that the developers of the players now split into three camps: aspiring to A&K with its own design and no design as such… However, is a subject for another conversation, back to the new 70-ke. Naturally, the player is made from aluminum, I feel sorry that the company refused an unusual mint green color of previous versions, but, of course, the current black looks more universal and more severe.
With the exception of the bevel on the right side, the player is made in the form of an almost perfect parallelepiped, perhaps, he might even be able to star in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Controls in stellovsky not much. On the left side are the navigation buttons and the play/pause button, then placed the MicroSD card slot. Pleased that the manufacturer did not skimp on it and equipped the player with 64 GB of internal memory. The top face has two headphone outputs, normal and balanced, as well as the power button. Right, beveled edge contains the volume control, as usual, it is done with the encoder, and the senses — as not saved: the rotation smooth, clear clicks, the adjustment is correct. The regulator handle even the backlash is less than the wheel in my AK320. On the bottom side has a MicroUSB connector, its purpose traditionally: charging, file access, USB DAC and digital output for external DACs. Fashionable USB-C and USB OTG function, apparently, decided to leave for future models.
The rear panel of the player is covered with plastic with interesting dark blue pattern, not carbon, of course, but still looks impressive. Most of the front panel is touch screen, it is very good for all parameters: color reproduction, viewing angles, resolution, and even the margin of brightness allows the display to completely go blind in the sun. Under the screen, as usual with A&K, is touch return button back.
The player is very tight and well shot down, fits comfortably in your hand and easily managed. Thanks to its compact size and weight it fits well in pockets, not pulling them. Of course, in a compact housing a larger battery to fit, but A&K had increased the volume of the built-in battery to 2500 mAh, however, all of this growth, “ate” amplifier and the second DAC. While working Mark II in my standard test (FLAC 44.1/16, MeeAudio P1 in the role of load, volume at a comfortable level, unbalanced output) is 6 hours and 50 minutes. Indicator, of course, not a record, but for a small player — as expected, the physics while nobody canceled.
“Soft” AK70 Mk II, of course, is based on the experience of the older models. For “Ultima”, by the way, was developed by a completely different firmware, but to the more affordable segment, it has not yet reached.
After loading we are presented with a screen on the media library, there are traditional options browse by folders, genres, artists, and albums. There are also items with play lists and full list of all the tracks. The menu item responsible for online services in localization, has become a “Save” (the translator who decided to translate “Store”, it is necessary to drive the head stud). Most of these services are traditionally two: TIDAL and Groovers+. File scanning is very fast, the player is good friends with a non-Latin alphabet, not naughty in a choice of formats — in General, behaves as expected of a noble device.
Settings a little, and almost all of them switched from the drop down above “blinds”: besprovodnye interfaces, functions, inputs/outputs, brightness and so on. There is also a button that opens the advanced settings which, however, not much more. Player on a par with the older brothers got WiFi 802.11 n support functions AK Connect, Bluetooth aptX HD audio codec, wireless updates, and even support for external “repalce” discs that A&K sell for 300 or something, dollars. Not that it was a useful opportunity (aptX HD is much more useful), but the feature is always better to have than not have.
The playback screen is also quite thoughtful, there is all the necessary information, including detailed information about the track and the ability to display lyrics, sewn in tags.
In General, the firmware here is just exactly what needs to be a top producer, stability, convenience and pour balm on the soul of the user, weary of the Chinese programmers.
Perhaps no other developer is not defined so clearly by the signature sound of their devices, as the A&K. don’t know how they achieve their “iridescent mid,” but this is the main reason to buy their players. The main thing — to another device this is not overdone as it was, for example, in AK380. Or Vice versa, did not deprive the player of this effect, as, for example, in the AK Jr. Fortunately, AK70 Mk II it’s all good. Engineers are well able to solve the basic problems of the first generation of the device — increased sensitivity to the quality of records and insufficient for tight headphone power. The hero of today’s review — a clear representative signature sound, albeit slightly inferior to the elder models.
Resolution files “stabbed” up to 192 kHz/24 bit tracks with a higher resolution are downsampling, reproduced through DSD conversion to PCM, but I wouldn’t call it a problem, as still don’t see much sense in superhigh resolutions in portable players.
The player can see the difference between outputs, balanced closer to neutral, and the “normal” a bit more low end, but I recommend the 2,5 mm output and a description of the sound below is made for him. I think headphone makers increasingly will support the connector as the winner in the “format war”.
The bass player has a increased appearance, this is naturally achieved without the help of rise in frequency response, just the player focuses a little “weight” WOOFER. The bass here is not superglide and not dry, but when necessary, he acts out elastically and dynamically. The resolution is very good, textures are transmitted very effectively with a decent resolution.
Mid-range, of course, made not for fans to listen to micronance, the player has a monitor feed, due to the above-described coloring characteristic of all devices, sound AK70 Mk II is very “inclusive”, with accentuated emotion and personality instruments. A good player builds an imaginary scene, she a little more average in width and depth, and with balanced output volume of the sound even a little higher. The separation of plans is not sharp, but it fits the overall presentation technique of the player, the distance between the tools and their own sizes are transmitted reliably.
Treble lacks a bit of resolution, but it is good kompensiruet study attacks and attenuation, allowing the “top” to sound effectively. The upper frequencies do not cut the ear, not “pouring” and do not strain, though not lost on the “General background”.
Of course, it is necessary to make comparisons, but this time, I will confine myself to just a couple models, how to conduct endless sessions of comparing different players I, unfortunately, can’t.
FiiO X7 Mk II. Close in price model from FiiO offers a more neutral supply with better resolution (especially on HF), but devoid of the very “characteristic” charm of Ustalov. Think FiiO have already started to think about “his” sound, the same X5-3 this is clearly suggested. It is also impossible to write off the difference in size and usability, especially the stability of the firmware. That’s one of the strengths of A&K, what is possible and to overpay a little.
iBasso DX200. The difference in price between these players is also small, but the iBasso device offers a more technically sound with the best micro and microcontrast. However, the main problem for me is the two-hundredth its size, it has never pocket player, so I would not compare it with a small devices too they have different scope.
Astell&Kern AK320. Served me a very long time faithfully “best of AK” now, however, sent in his resignation (ruthless logic upgrades). AK320 seems discontinued and in some places is sold at a discount, so if you have a chance to “zanedorogo” grab it — I recommend to do it. The sound is still worthy of the flagship title of the player, offering a natural, natural and very musical flow in combination with a proprietary design and usability. New 70 on the background sounds simpler, the difference is particularly noticeable in the separation plans of the LF and the HF. I think that soon the company will introduce the second generation of this player, although the price tag will probably be back in the district “about $ 2000”.
Even the first generation AK70 was quite adequate power for most portable headphones, and Mk II balanced output is almost 2 times increased voltage that, subject to recabling 2.5 mm plug, will help to shake even a fairly small model (of course, without fanaticism). With sensitive headphones semidesyati also behaves quite well, in the most “gentle” models of the noise can be heard, but these headphones not much.
Stylistically versatile player, although corporate filing midrange is particularly effective with live voices of the performers distinctive and instrumental things in a good recording. The quality of the record player moderately tolerant, somewhere in the 6 to 10-point scale.
According to tradition, a few tracks as examples.
Ozzy Osbourne — Crazy Train. Here I do not know how anyone, but I voice the “king of metal” is a little bent up, especially on old records and sources with a monitor-neutral flow. Fortunately, top albums often remastered (the link is the remaster), and for everything else there’s the Astell&Kern. Branded midrange player slightly brighten scriptcast the voice of the singer, however, carefully emphasizing emotion and excellent guitar solo, allowing you to enjoy “the best parties” unconditional hit.
Nemanja Radulović — Csárdás. Of course, the Czardas is a Hungarian folk music, but in a boiling cauldron of the 20th century the nation and the people were so many that the brilliant Serbian violinist Nemau Radulovic also can be considered “his” for this music. The more that he did this number with a truly Balkan enthusiasm and energy. If we add a good player in the face AK70 Mk II, effectively feeding the nuances of live music (listen, for example, the last seconds of this track), to sit still is hard. By the way, in General I can recommend the whole album “Journey East” from which I took this recording is a wonderful example of boring violin music.
Stacey Kent — To Say Goodbye. Overall 2017 was very rich in great jazz releases, sometimes falling into my collection, but the impending winter and the holidays evoke a certain mood, so I chose this track. Warm, lost in time (like it came originally from the 60’s), lyrical melody performed by AK70 gets an additional bonus in the spectacular and, like a glass of mulled wine that warms from the inside.
If we take into account only the sound, then AK70 Mk II, even among the leaders, but is not a clear winner. If to this we add dimensions, firmware and user friendliness, it is “the sum of” counterparts semidesyatye I don’t know. This is the player for those who appreciate design and convenience and willing pay a little extra, but the sound obviously does not strike in a dirt the person. And personally, I’m glad that finally the time has come when I may well recommend players Astell&Kern.
PS If you like music and/or actively interested in the topic of portable audio — subscribe to my channel @PortaFi Telegram, where I am able to announce the reviews, sometimes I share news, thoughts and good music.