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Astell kern ak70 player

Specs:

• Output Impedance: 2Ω (3.5mm) / 1Ω (Balanced)
• Frequency response: 20 Hz~20 kHz (+/-0.075dB)

• SNR: 116 dB @ 1kHz

• THD+N: 0.0008% @ 1kHz Unbalanced / 0.0007% @ 1kHz Balanced

• Crosstalk:130 dB (1 kHz)

• Lossless formats supported: APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DSD64, DSD128 (All DSD converted to PCM)

 

Packaging 

Whilst the AK70’s packaging doesn’t really scream “premium!” at me, It does look above average nonetheless. I actually appreciate the fact that A&K created the packaging to mimic the angled design of the AK70.

  AK70 Unboxing Video

What’s in the box? 

  • AK70
  • 2x Screen protectors (front and back) USB cable
  • Warranty card
  • Quick start guide

Accessories 

The only accessories included in the box are the screen protectors. This seems quite “skimpy” to me seeing as cheaper DAPs at least come with a silicon or hard clear plastic protective case. Given the cost of the AK70, protecting the device seems rather important, and silicon cases really don’t cost very much, which is why I’m not sure as to the reason for A&K not bothering to include one in the box.

Astell kern ak70 player accessoriesDesign:
Body and layout 

I must admit that I’m quite a big fan of A&K’s DAP designs. The higher tier models just look so damn cool. The metallic textures, the use of glass and carbon fiber, the angles and sharp lines…it reminds me of a Lamborghini Aventador. The AK70 isn’t quite as striking, but still exhibits a genuinely pretty exterior. The metal has, what A&K call, a “Misty Mint” colour finish, which is a sort of very light aqua. To me it is a rather feminine colour, but not quite as in-you-face as full on aqua., and actually contrasts really well with the black of the screen area.

I quite like the analogue volume knob, but I am a bit disappointed with how it feels. I can feel some play in all directions, and it’s not a stiff as I had anticipated. I’m not sure why, but I expected it to have a smooth but slightly stiff turn. However, it is quite loose, and has some “clicks” rather than being smooth.

Astell kern ak70 player boxThe skip and play/pause buttons found on the left side are quite small, but at least they don’t sit flush with the body. Also on the left side is the microSD card slot. It seems a little strange that A&K have opted for only a single card slot, though.

Along the top of the device we find the 3.5mm headphone jack and 2.5mm balanced jack. I’m not sure if I would’ve perhaps preferred the jacks to be at the bottom rather.

On the bottom is the micro USB slot, which is used for charging, data transfer, as well as a digital output for external DACs.

Design Screen 

The AK70’s screen is of very decent quality. Unfortunately it isn’t the same AMOLED type that you would find on A&K’s more expensive models, but it is still very nice nonetheless. Colours seems accurate and you really have to look extremely closely to notice any signs of pixilation.

User Interface 

The AK70’s UI was probably the biggest surprise to me. Everything is just so fluid and responsive. I’m talking flagship smartphone levels of responsiveness. The only thing I’d recommend A&K to change would be the animation timings. Due to the time it takes for the animations to occur, it can sometimes seem like the UI is ever so slightly sluggish. But in fact there is near zero delay, and it’s just the animations that slow things down ever so slightly. The AK70 runs a heavily customised and slimmed down version of Android, but unfortunately there isn’t a way for the user to change the animation scale as you would find in the developer options on other Android devices.

Astell kern ak70 player 02I did notice a few bugs, though. Firstly, sometimes when pausing the music, the duration bar would still keep moving as though the music was still playing. This isn’t really a big deal, as it doesn’t negatively impact the sound or the overall functionality of the device per se, but it just seemed a little strange. The other problem I noticed was, whilst I was swapping my IEMs between the AK70 and my DX80, every time I plugged the IEMs back into the AK70 and pressed play, there would be this strange digital noise sound for a few split seconds before the music continued as normal. I found that it’s best to plug the headphones in, wait a second or so, and then proceed to press play.

ٍRead more: FiiO X7 high res player Review.

Sound 

The AK70 is equipped with the popular and well regarded CIRRUS CS4398 DAC chip. This gives it a wonderfully natural, quite well balanced, albeit a slightly warm sound signature. It reveals plenty of details and quite good instrument separation. For the purpose of the review I will compare the AK70’s sound with that of the iBasso DX80 purely because they have the same DAC chip, although the DX80 employs 2 of them. Compared to the DX80, the AK70 has a narrower soundstage, and detail retrieval is ever so slightly veiled. The details are still there, but they didn’t seem quite as present and defined. This gives it a bit of a warmer sound signature, and the highs tend to be less sparkly. The DX80 has a wonderful decay to the notes especially with instruments like cymbals. The AK70, however, tends to have more of an abrupt decay. Bass response, on the other hand, seems to be a bit more powerful with the AK70. Overall, I’d say that it has more of an intimate presentation, as though you are sitting closer to the artist/band.

Astell kern ak70 player and mee audio pinnacle p1Pairing the AK70 with the Pinnacle P1 IEMs was a wonderful experience. But it is because of this pairing that I wouldn’t recommend pairing the AK70 with a warmer set of headphones or IEMs…not if you’re looking for a neutral sound signature anyways. The Pinnacle P1 is rather flat and neutral, which may come across as rather bright to those who have not become accustomed to a neutral, highly detailed sounding pair of IEMs or headphones. Luckily the AK70 had enough weight to power the 50-ohm Pinnacle P1 with a fair amount of volume steps to spare.

The AK70 also features Bluetooth connectivity which includes AptX. Whilst I wasn’t able to test the AptX sound quality (due to a lack of AptX enabled devices) I was able to connect it to my JBL Charge 2 portable speaker. Whilst the sound quality was acceptable, the range was mediocre at best. If I stood anything more than 3m away from the speaker the sound would start cutting out.

Will it improve my audio experience? 

Whilst the AK70 is a great sounding player, whether or not it will improve your audio experience depends entirely on what setup you’re rocking with at the moment. If you have a DAP that is equipped with the same DAC (or 2 of them, as in the case of the DX80), or perhaps even something with an ESS Sabre DAC, it is very unlikely that you will notice any improvement in the audio playback quality. However, if you are currently still using your mobile phone or perhaps even an iPod, and you’re looking for a great sounding, exquisitely crafted device, the AK70 might very well be the device you’re looking for.

 

Value 

There’s no getting around it, all of Astell & Kern’s players are premium products. Not neccisarily in terms of sound, but definitely in the looks and price department. As such, the AK70 is quite pricy relative to the sound quality. That’s not to say that it sounds bad, not even in the slightest. But you can get equally good, if not better, for considerably cheaper. The iBasso DX80, for example, uses the same DAC model, but has 2 of them (1 per channel), and can be found online at or around half the price of the AK70. Fiio’s 2nd generation X3 also uses the same DAC chip, and can be found for a quarter of the price (although, the X3ii doesn’t sound as good). The AK70 does, however, feature a balanced output, which may very well push the sound quality to a level which is perfectly acceptable in this price range. But, the majority of people, heck even the majority of “audiophiles”, do not own balanced headphones, and as such I feel to judge the AK70 mostly on its regular 3.5mm output is perfectly fair and justified. Other advantages of the AK70 comes in the form of extras such as Bluetooth functionality (which unfortunately has mediocre functionality at best), WiFi connectivity, over-the-air updates, and last but not least genuinely beautiful craftsmanship.

Astell And kern Ak70 Side viewPros&Cons 

Pros 

Great sound
Great build quality Touch screen
Easy to navigate UI Balanced output

Cons 

Minor UI bugs Rather pricy

Rating 

The rating system is based on 2 premises; the 1st
is an attempt to take every aspect of the device into account.
The 2nd is a 50-point rating which focuses solely on the device as a portable HiFi music player, disregarding all the (essentially) unnecessary bells and whistles such as packaging, accessories, and wireless connectivity, for example.

Packaging 

Look and feel: 4.5 / 5

Total: 4.5 / 5 

Included Accessories 

Screen protector: YES Protective case: NO Cables: YES
Total: 2 / 3 

is a 100-point rating of the device as a whole. This

Build 

Metal body: YES
Use of glass: YES
Comfortable to hold: YES Comfortable button layout: YES Premium look and feel: YES Excellent quality control: – Screen Quality: 9.5 / 10
Touch screen: YES
Multiple colour options: – Total: 15.5 / 18 

Sound 

Plays lossless audio: YES Plays 24bit resolution: YES Sound Quality: 9 / 10 Total: 11 / 12 

Portability 

Small size: 9 / 10
Relatively low weight: 8 / 10
Battery life more than 10 hours: –
Has ultra-low power consumption mode: – Total: 17 / 22 

Connectivity 

Bluetooth: YES
Apt-X: YES
WiFi: YES
Can be controlled via headphone remote: – Can be controlled wirelessly: –

Can be controlled wirelessly while connected to other wireless device: – Lineout: YES
Digital output: YES
Balanced output: YES

USB DAC functionality: YES
Universally accepted PC connection: YES Accepts microSD card: YES
Multi Gain: –
Total: 9 / 13 

User Interface 

Easy to use: 5 / 5 Intuitive: 4 / 5 Responsive: YES Interesting design: – Multiple themes: – Total: 10 / 13 

Value 

Competitive price-point: – Relative value: 7 / 10 Total: 7 / 11 

Manufacturer 

Has good reputation: YES
Sells useful optional accessories for the device: YES Provides software updates for the device: YES Total: 3 / 3 

Overall Rating: 7.9 / 10 

Portable Hi-Fi Rating 

Sound 

Plays lossless audio: YES Plays 24bit resolution: YES Sound Quality: 9 / 10 Total: 11 / 12 

Portability 

Small size: 9 / 10
Relatively low weight: 8 / 10
Battery life more than 10 hours: –
Has ultra-low power consumption mode: – Total: 17 / 22 

Connectivity 

Lineout: YES
Digital output: YES Balanced output: YES Accepts microSD card: YES Multi Gain: –
Total: 4 / 5 

Value 

Competitive price-point: – Relative value: 7 / 10 Total: 7 / 11 

Overall Rating: 7.8 / 10 

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