Guest from the future: audio player Astell&Kern Ultima SP1000

Guest from the future: audio player Astell&Kern Ultima SP1000


If you had a portable player in the early 2000s, with devices from iRiver, you know firsthand: it players rushed to market when the iPod about still no one spoke, but the manufacturer was able to make audiophiles happy the purchase money for an impressive 128-MB models “AA” batteries. However, the iRiver players for most was available that can not be said about the devices of its premium brand, Astell&Kern.

The device Astell&Kern for a long time cause have fans of the sound of both admiration and bewilderment. A close uncompromising approach to portable audio, others can’t understand what caused such a high price (a player for 250 thousand rubles — how is that possible?). However, players Astell&Kern and have not positioned themselves as “health for all”: first of all they are valued for their uniqueness and superiority over any counterparts, and those who pay attention to these qualities, as a rule, can afford to spend on quality sound a lot of money.

But today not about it, because we in edition were a real flagship Astell&Kern — portable audio player Ultima SP1000. And know to be skeptical of Hi-End audio devices, considering them irrational waste of money, but this player is one of those devices that justify the existence of the segment as a whole.


  • DAC: AKM 2 AK4497EQ
  • Sampling rate: 384 kHz
  • Outputs: balanced, unbalanced
  • The ratio signal/noise: unbalanced – 120 dB (1 kHz), balanced – 122 dB (1 kHz)
  • THD + noise: unbalanced – of 0.0005 (1 kHz), balanced – 0,0008 (1 kHz)
  • Playable formats: MP3, AIFF, AAC, WAV, WMA, OGG, DSD, ALAC, FLAC, APE, DSF
  • Output voltage (no load): unbalanced – 2.3 V rms balanced to 3.9 V rms
  • Recommended headphone impedance: 40 Ohm
  • Built-in memory: 256 GB
  • Screen: 5 inch 720 x 1280
  • Wireless interfaces: WI-FI, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions (W x d x h): 132 x 75,8 x 16.2 mm
  • Weight: 387,9 g


This is the case when the box of the player you want to talk, because under the stylish black cardboard “wrapper” hiding wood case with the logo of Astell&Kern. Moreover, it can be used to store player — listened and removed, for example, small children can not take it for a smartphone.

In addition, the kit put the USB cable for charging, documentation, several protective films on the screen and the case. It is made of genuine leather and looks very cool — so much so that the case does not interrupt their appearance, the beauty of the player.

All done qualitatively, access to key elements is not difficult, but if a player suddenly drops, the case of protection from mechanical damage (but better to avoid it).

That is to say, the equipment really flagship, but rather to watch the box, but the most important is inside.

Design and ergonomics

Ultima SP1000 features a 5-inch screen with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels, which boldly challenges the assertion that a portable player can’t be high quality pictures. The display occupies the entire front panel, and really want to watch.

Traditionally, on the right there is a multifunctional wheel that is already familiar to us from other audio player from Astell&Kern. It is both a tool to adjust the volume, and a button to control the device, as it allows, for example, enable it.

The playback controls located on the side panel — in size though they are small, but allow you to use the player “on touch”.

The Cabinet is made of steel and has a high resistance to wear and tear (for fans of Golden hues Ultima SP1000 is in copper). Body lines are rough, sharp, aggressive — but it is these players Astell&Kern can be distinguished from all others even from a distance. Some have compared this player with gold ingot — thoroughbred, elegant and “seemed not of this world” (in a good way), and this assessment could not agree more. Although more relevant, perhaps, the analogy with a precious stone jewelry with meticulous cut.

Player comfortable to hold in hand, despite the rather unusual geometric form, the control is intuitive and largely similar to those in Android smartphones, but all functions are concentrated on the sound. It was convenient integration with the telephone with which the device can notify the user of calls and messages via Bluetooth.

The experience of using the past players Astell&Kern like AK320 and AK380 not to mention that the buttons, connectors and the functional wheel have very good endurance. The manufacturer understands that if you buy a player for such money, it is not going to change it in 2-3 years, and this reliability is to some extent justifies the price.

The sound and features

Sound Ultima SP1000 meet two AKM DAC AK4497EQ — they give sound such a high resolution that even the ears of many audiophiles is not good enough for him (that moment when the possibility of the player beyond the limits of human hearing). “Ceiling” resolution records to 32 bit/384 kHz, a DSD player supports sampling rates up to 11.2 MHz, for those who professionally work with music is important.

In its flagship Astell&Kern used a fairly powerful amplifier, so the player has no trouble with headphones with a resistance of 35 Ohms and above, while stock volume is impressive, and the amplifier does not distort the reproduction, as is often the case in budget devices. 25 Ohm Fostex TH-900, which we tested the device opened up a whole other side. And, of course, not without the support of the codec aptX HD capable audio Hi-Res Bluetooth. The codec reduces the ratio of signal to noise and distortion, due to which for wireless sound start to look very different.

Paired with the Fostex TH-900 was listened to a few songs.

David Bowie — Suffragette City. Surprisingly, even the track of 1972, with the imprint of the recording technology of the time sounds with this pair of incredibly ornate. If most of the players this composition demonstrates crisp high frequencies and not the strongest bass, Ultima SP1000 in an interesting way makes the sound balanced — like vocals and MIDs, while minimizing the loss of HF.

Pink — Whatever you Want. Modern pop music sounds like sitting in a chair in front of the computer, and are at the concert, and in the dance area. Imaginary scene worked out on a solid five, and slightly accented low frequencies add a “feature”, so essential to the compositions, most of which is bass.

Queen — Bohemian Rhapsody. If about the first two in the edition are still having some debates, the legendary Queen did not leave anyone indifferent. Clean vocals complemented by crystal clear mid and high frequencies, and small inserts NCH’re looking forward to.

In General, a player not only looks, but sounds aggressive. And aggression is not expressed in the submission, and that it leaves no compromise to other devices — say, there is such sound, and another not looking. So the first two days are overwhelmed with emotions — time to just wait, and when finished charging.

During the performance meets the 8-core processor, and its capabilities, I must say, enough to make the player instantly processed tasks. The performance is indeed impressive, and even if you completely fill the player with music to 256 GB of internal memory, it does not hurt. Moreover, you can still insert a microSD card of up to 256 GB. The battery capacity of 3400 mAh player fully charge for two hours, and lasts 12 hours of continuous listening. Is impressive — a transatlantic flight with Ultima SP1000 can survive, yet enough reserve charge to transfer to the hotel.

Guest from the future

The player can, without a doubt, is not only the flagship of the Astell&Kern, but all that offers a modern Hi-End segment as a whole. It not only gives a perfect sound — it shows that the other simply does not exist. Yes, casual listeners and even music lover can do without a purchase, but discerning audiophiles and those for whom this thing can become a sign of status, must pay attention. And remember, if you listen with Ultima SP1000 to your favourite tracks with a different sound, you already do not accept.