Astell&Kern (A&Ultima) - SP2000 Digital Audio Player - Official Thread

I would think so, but ask Astell&Kern.

I just posted the link as an example of the type of connection you needed, since I’m not even sure A&K actually still sell that adapter (or the other, more expensive, ones).

I made my own, which doesn’t have the solid block (it terminates with two separate cables), and so far works with every A&K player that has both outputs.

i’am very grateful for this precious advice, i will try to contact A&K for more information, thank you very much

Hi everyone, I currently use the Chord Mojo with my iPhone with an Audioquest Diamond (all silver USB). I love the sound signature of Mojo, but I am tiring of the stacking. I was wondering if strictly looking on audio quality, how does the SP2000 or other DAPs compare to the Mojo? Thank you so much! Btw, using 64audio U12t, and Nios.

Hi everyone,

I just received my SP2000 and it is beautiful, and using my Nio via 3.5mm unbalanced with it.

Streaming Tidal MASTER quality via WiFI, and it is all beautiful…minus the bass. It comes out all distorted on bass heavy songs, and compared to Mojo/Cobalt…the quality is horrible in this area. All the other frequencies are immaculate though. Volume I’m using is 111 or so.

Appreciate any advice…I want to love this unit, it’s stunning! Thank you!

Cc @Torq (sent you message, but in case you reply to forum it could help others that may be experiencing this). Thank you!

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Short version … I’m not getting any distortion on bass heavy songs from TIDAL on the SP2000, using “Master” quality (unless it’s actually part of the recording; see below).

Longer version …

On the test tracks you mentioned in your PM:

  • Halsey, “You Should be Sad” - it’s clean as a whistle at 0:46 (the reference point in your PM). However, at 1:46 the bass drop is distorted momentarily. But that’s part of the recording - it is clearly audible using other devices (RME, Hugo TT 2, DAVE, etc.) and transducers.

  • Tiesto, “BOOM” - is the same story … no special issues when the bass drop hits that aren’t present when listening via other devices.


Are you using the latest TIDAL client or the one that comes pre-installed on the unit? I never use the pre-installed version, and am testing on TIDAL version 2.29.1 (installed via the OpenAPP service*) and SP2000 firmware version 1.25.


Note that I do not have the 64Audio Nio to test with.

It is possible things would be different with that unit, since it’s already a bass-boosted IEM, has lower-than-most impedance, and I would think playback at 111 would be louder than I could tolerate (I can’t get to that level with the IEMs I have that are similar sensitivity).


As for other settings … unless you’ve changed the EQ or DAC filter setting (I tested on “Default”), there’s nothing I can think of you can change to affect the sound.


*Some of the external apps the A&K players support are now only provided by their respective companies in XAPK format - see here for more information.

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Hi @Torq, thank you again for yet a very thorough and helpful reply! Apologies for the delay, was only able to get to testing this night.

Went through all your suggestions and had similar thoughts. I tried both built in Tidal and the APK latest version. Similar sounds, but APK is a tiny bit better.

I notice essentially I receive distortion on the any of my IEMs when going above 100. I wonder does the SP2000 0-100 is natural volume , and 101-150 doing some kind of amplification that causes the distortion?

I realize also I am listening louder than most maybe? I don’t believe I’m deaf lol, but I like to feel the music. The Chord Mojo handles it beautifully and rounds out all the bass distortion even at what feels louder than SP2000 can do.

I want to love and use the unit, but this is a bummer and hard to ignore. It’s just so rough.

Btw, does the DAC filter have any impact on Tidal? I tried all variations, no difference I could tell. Enabling the EQ did help since it lowered the volume and I could adjust the bass a bit, but definitely enjoy without any EQ more, minus the distortion.

The unit is beautiful in non bass at all volumes, but definitely distorts above the 100 there. Most of my IEMs are sensitive too. I’m waiting on Odin, to see how that goes.

I’ll try to ping AK support as well to see what they say?

I also just wonder why Mojo can handle INSANELY loud volume without any distortion in the bass…

Thank you again for the advice and digging in so thoroughly!

Btw, on sidenote…I have the AQ Cobalt, and it also sounds good, like the Mojo (but not as detailed). Funny quirk when using with Nio or U12t, the Cobalt crashes when putting volume above 70% or so. AQ support says it is because the impedance of 64audio is too low for the Cobalt specs. Just thought I’d share in case gives more insight or you’ve encountered it. Thank you!

No, not really.

I can go way over 100 volume, even on balanced output, with other headphones (i.e. not IEMs) and not get any audible distortion from doing so. So I very much doubt that’s a factor.

I don’t have either of the IEMs you list to test with, but I can tell you that if I switch, say, the EE Odin to the single-ended output, then on the tracks you listed I can’t get anywhere near 100, let alone 111 on the volume setting.

If you do, and you’re not deaf yet, you very soon will be … or will at least just be a few seconds away from permanent hearing damage. Obviously that will be potentially different with other IEMs.

Yes, it affects all audio output.

But filter differences are very small, unless you know what you’re listening for, and even then you generally do have to listen specifically and in a focused manner. And, of course, the material you’re using has to have content that can expose the differences (telling a super-slow vs. super fast roll-off filter apart audibly requires material with significant higher frequency energy/content, where as telling linear vs. minimum phase filters apart is much easier … if still not obvious until you’ve had the ability to listen properly to both in controlled conditions).

Probably the best way to go. Sounds to me like your unit has issues with its output stage. Though I’d try a full factory reset before doing that, just in case.

And you only mention this via TIDAL. Is it happening with local lossless content too, i.e. off the internal storage or a microSD card?

The SP2000 can too … I can’t reproduce what you’re finding, so unless it’s some odd interaction with the IEMs you have (which I highly doubt), I suspect you have an issue with your unit.

Oh, I ran into all kinds of issues with the Cobalt. Run off iOS devices it would usually get disconnected (“This accessory is drawing too much power.”) before it would crash - but sometimes it’d manage to crash before iOS stomped it.

Very easy to reproduce, with headphones I would not have expected it to also. Never had that with the Red version.

The Odin with the Cobalt should be a laugh, as it’s half the impedance of the Nio …

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Hey @Torq,

Ok you hit all my points and thoughts yet again…thank you!

So went through everything, and after seeing my FLAC files also distort, I decided to do a full reset. I’m embarrassed because I am very techie…but didn’t believe it would help since the unit was obviously brand new, with a blank image. I ran the firmware update over wifi, rebooted countless times.

But…reset COMPLETELY changed the unit. I am finally able to enjoy it. My god, it’s beautiful. I was starting to think that maybe my novice ear is so different from yours since you like more reference sounds and I prefer Mojo/Arche. The unit right now is flawless and it far exceeds the Mojo. No distortion at all.

I have never seen a phone or any android device need a reset to fix the audio output stage. This is my first official audiophile DAP though. Do you think this could be a lemon and still contact A&K? Or do these things sometimes happen in the software? I just mainly worry that this thing doesn’t have a hardware flaw that I somehow covered up with the reset. (I imagine this is all software, but would feel better hearing your thoughts). Any way to run diagnostics on it?

From your view, do you feel the detail in the Mojo and SP2000 are equal, just different tuning (warmth)? Or is the SP2000 truly superior?

And thank you for confirming my frustrations with the Cobalt, I was going crazy swapping adapters and phones,…same issue. It’s unbelievable how flaky it is. Because my Red was also solid as a rock. I tried multiple Cobalts, same issue. AQ just hold their stance the IEMs I’m using are too low impedance and no plans to address. Which is a shame…I appreciate the form factor and sound in a pinch.

Taron and Resolve mentioned they are liking Odin over U12t. How are you feeling about it? Would it replace your U12t? Or does U12t still serve a purpose?

Thank you again for all your help…you really saved me from giving up on the SP2000. I was almost certain it just wasn’t a fit for me. Listening to it as we speak and it is jaw dropping. Thank you so much!!

Do you have your current setup / collection of DACs/Amps/IEMs/Headphones posted somewhere? I thought I saw it in some forum posts before. Would love to see and learn where to go next.

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I have.

And I’ve seen weirder stuff than that, as well.

With the SP2000 specifically, I initially had an issue where it was taking forever to index/scan media, the UX started getting wonky and playing music at that point resulted in sour, sharp, sounding mess (see here).

That was fixed simply by reformatting the media card in the SP2000 (even though it had come from an SP1000M) and reloading my music. It’s been perfect ever since.

I suspect you’re fine now.

Not that I know of.

On technical performance, I’d put the Mojo closer to the SR15/SR25 than the SP1000 or SP2000, which compete with the Hugo 2 more than they do the Mojo.

I don’t have the U12t. Never have; just a period with them on loan, alongside the tia Fourté, tia Trió and U18t … so I’m familiar with them.

I’d definitely put the Odin ahead of the U12t. It might just be the best overall IEM I’ve heard.

I put posts for my “Top 10” in various categories in my “I’m Sailing Away” thread, so you might have seen that, or it could be that you’re referring to my entries in the “Reviewer’s References & Disclaimers” thread.

Neither is really what you’re asking for, as neither catalogs all of my gear, just either my favorites (which I definitely don’t own all of) or just that I use in reviews (which is a subset of my total collection).

Normally I keep my profile updated with my current gear list, but I need to update that as a lot has changed in the last few months.

Ahead of me doing that, however, my portable/transportable setup looks like this:

  • DAPs/Portable DAC/Amps

    • A&K SP2000
    • Cayin N8 (BB)
    • Chord Hugo 2 + 2Go
  • IEMs

    • Empire Ears Odin
    • 64Audio tia Fourté
    • AAW Canary
    • Unique Melody MEST
    • Etymotic ER4-XR

(And then probably a couple of dozen IEMs I bought to play with, resulting form the “Cheap IEM” thread, from things like $18 KZ pieces, to the RTA20i and BGVP DMG, that I don’t remember when I last used).

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“BB” referring to brass black? I initially thought Burr Brown and got excited, thought that you had some kit I wasnt aware of.

Yep, “Brass Black”.

The N8 uses dual AKM 4497.

I think the only way to get “Burr Brown” converters in a Cayin DAP is to go with the N6ii DAP and T01 module (which will get you dual PCM1792A).

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Got it…thank you so much for replying to everything, and sharing!

Interesting on the card formatting experience…I read your thread last week on that too, I was planning to follow your advice once I load my card. These android OS have some quirks for sure.

Why do you feed your Hugo 2 with the SP2000? Sounds even better?

Your Cayin N8 BB comments caught my eye too because of the tube sound. Such a shame no all in one device for all needs still. Would you say it compares to Mojo warmth? Sucks to have 2 DAPs, and N8 can’t do Tidal right? So only FLAC files?

Any 3rd party portable to create that Tube sound with the SP2000?

Apologies for throwing so many questions all at once and thank you for answering everything!! If you ever need any tech IT help, please reach out…that’s my area of expertise. Networking, PCs, mobiles, etc…

Have a great weekend!

Henry

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I don’t, as a rule.

The Hugo 2 either gets driven directly via USB (from a laptop) or from the network via 2Go (90% of the time that’d be via Roon, the remainder from it’s SD card slots).

In tube mode it’s warmer than the Mojo. It is also sweeter and richer. And again, is closer to the Hugo 2 in performance than the Mojo.

But, no, the N8 can’t run apps and there’s no native streaming client for it. So you’re limited to what’s on its internal storage and microSD cards and/or using it as a USB DAC. So I tend to use the N8 when I’m also taking a laptop somewhere, since I can stream from there. And on the deck if I want some tube-flavor more than I need to stream content.

Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse, but it’s pretty big compared to the SP2000. Maybe the old ALO Audio Continental Dual Mono, if you can find one (I think it’s discontinued).

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Hi Ian,

Excellent…thank you again for all the information! Very kind of you to share all your experience…saving me so much trial and error.

Take care,

Henry

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Hi all. i just got the sp2000 and i was trying to see if anyone else had experience with the amazon music app. i am able to download and stream music but when checking the streaming info on the app it says that this device is limited to 24/48 capability even if the song is downloaded at 24/192. i’m not sure if there’s another way to see what the device is actually outputting. i can’t even find what folder these offline files are in to possible check against a program.

any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

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Hi @Toma32, welcome to the forum. I hope someone here can chime in and help you.

I’m afraid I can’t help you directly. But you might consider looking at the thread for your DAP on head-fi and seeing if your problem is a common one. I don’t usually recommend head-fi as a place to get valuable or quick answers to questions but one of the AK representatives (JasonNYC) is very active on the relevant AK threads, and he’s good at replying to queries.

I realize it’s a bit odd to be recommending that you visit another forum when you’ve just joined this one, but I hope this suggestion helps. Do please let us know how you get along with your sp2000, it’d be great to read your impressions. Again, welcome!

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thank you so much i’ll check there

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EFFECT AUDIO - AKA BALANCE ADAPTER POUR DAP ASTELL&KERN

hello TORQ, have you seen this article for sp2000,
do you think it will bring out the potential of the sp2000?

It, and adapters like it (there are at least half a dozen of them) are really only beneficial in two situations:

  1. You’re driving an external balanced amplifier.
  2. You want a slightly more physically robust connection for balanced IEMs/headphones than the rather flimsy 2.5mm TRRS.

It won’t make ANY positive difference to the sound vs. just using a 2.5mm TRRS connection for balanced IEMs/headphones as only 4 of the 5 connections that adapter provides will be used.

The 5th is a proper ground, which is sometimes useful for external balanced amplifiers and is the “proper” way to connection them to an A&K player with 2.5mm and 3.5mm sockets.

thanks for the excellent detailed explanation, this leads me to think about an external balanced amplifier