Virtually extremely, the Astell & Kern A&ultima SP3000 will get this shut to justifying the asking worth. For many who demand (and may afford) the perfect merchandise round, you gained’t have a lot to weigh up right here.
- Thrillingly full audio high quality
- A luxurious accent as a lot as a music participant
- Brilliantly over-the-top specification
- Not what you’d name ‘inexpensive’
- ‘Moveable’ is a relative time period, too
- Not altogether appropriate for vegetarians
DACQuad AKM4499EX DACs
Audio help32-bit/784kHz and DSD512 native decision
CPUSnapdragon octa-core CPU
Astell & Kern is not any stranger to an eye-popping price-tag – however with the SP3000 digital audio participant it’s outdone itself. You thought the value of the SP2000T I reviewed in direction of the tip of 2021 was optimistic? This new SP3000 range-topper is sort of twice as costly.
What precisely does £3799 put Astell & Kern’s means get you, then? Only a digital audio participant? Absolutely there’s extra to it than that?
The Astell & Kern A&ultima SP3000 (to offer it its full and borderline-incoherent identify) is on sale now, and in the UK it prices a fearsome £3799. In america you’ll need to half with an solely barely extra palatable $3699 to safe one, whereas in Australia you’re taking a look at AU$5499.
There’s a Copper color model of the speaker retailing on the identical costs, out there at stockists akin to Selfridges and Astell Kern’s personal website.
It relatively goes with out saying that that is very huge cash certainly for one thing that, on the face of it, doesn’t do something your smartphone can’t. So why precisely would you cough up the value of a pleasant clear second-hand automotive for a conveyable music participant?
- 904L stainless-steel chassis
- 1080 x 1920 touchscreen
- Goat-skin case
First issues first: what do you consider if you hear the phrase ‘transportable’? As a result of though the SP3000 is clearly transportable – it may be picked up in a single hand and simply moved from place to put – it might not suit your thought of the phrase.
At 493g and 139 x 82 x 18mm (HxWxD), it’s definitely not going to slide right into a jacket pocket, and its pointy steel corners aren’t any pal to clothes both. Sure, it’s provided with a tactile (and probably pricey) protecting case provided by French tanners ALRA, which helps a bit – however it’s manufactured from goatskin, which isn’t going to excite any vegetarian audiophiles considering of spending cash with Astell & Kern.
The primary physique of the chassis is barely mildly angular by A&Ok’s requirements, and it’s constructed from 904L stainless-steel. Not solely is the fabric heroically immune to corrosion, it additionally accepts a particularly excessive polish – which is why it’s favoured by the likes of Rolex. The entrance and rear faces of the SP3000 are glass, and on the entrance it constitutes a 5.4in 1080 x 1920 touch-screen. A particularly responsive touch-screen, what’s extra, thanks largely to A&Ok specifying a Snapdragon octa-core CPU.
The higher right-hand fringe of the body incorporates a push/flip ‘crown’ management wheel. It operates with luxuriously damped precision, and sits above a round mild that glows in several colors to point the dimensions of the digital audio file that’s enjoying. On the alternative edge there are three small management buttons- they’re equally effectively carried out however nothing like as thrilling to make use of.
The underside edge is the place you’ll discover a USB-C socket for recharging the battery – a full cost from empty takes round 3.5 hours, and the battery itself is nice for about 10 hours of playback (when you’re listening to mid-res recordsdata at middling quantity). There’s additionally a micro-SD card slot right here, which may settle for playing cards of as much as 1TB to bolster the participant’s built-in 256GB of reminiscence.
The highest of the SP3000 is the place you’ll discover headphones sockets. There are three right here: a 3.5mm unbalanced output, and two balanced options – one is 2.5mm and works solely with four-pole connections, whereas the opposite is 4.4mm and helps solely five-pole connections.
- Solely separate balanced and unbalanced audio circuits
- Native 32bit/784kHz and DSD512 playback
- Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD and LDAC compatibility
Astell & Kern says the A&ultima SP3000 is ‘the top of audio gamers’, which is clearly debatable. It additionally says it’s ‘the world’s first DAP with unbiased twin audio circuitry’, which is relatively harder to take difficulty with.
The unbiased twin audio circuitry, which retains the sign path for balanced and unbalanced outputs fully separate, additionally contains utterly unbiased digital and analogue sign processing. The SP3000 marks the primary look of AKM’s new ‘assertion’ AK4499EX DAC – or, relatively, 4 of them.
Along with a pair of the identical firm’s AK4191EQs, they type what A&Ok is asking HEXA-Audio circuitry. Different technical highlights – and there are a lot – embrace a single system-on-chip dealing with CPU, reminiscence and wi-fi communication duties, and Teraton X. Teraton X, explains A&Ok, is a processor that retains power-derived and DAC-derived noise to a minimal whereas offering clear, environment friendly amplification. A&Ok suggests, with out obvious hyperbole, it’s the ‘final sound resolution’.
The SP3000 helps all the apparent audio codecs like FLAC, MP3, MQA and WAV, in addition to fairly a couple of of the extra esoteric options. Pattern charges of as much as 32-bit/784kHz and DSD512 may be dealt with natively, and the participant is Roon Prepared too. Wi-fi connectivity is by way of Bluetooth 5.0, and there’s help for SBC, AAC, aptX HD and LDAC codecs.
What else? Effectively, there are half-a-dozen DAC filters to experiment with. There’s DAR (digital audio remaster), which can – if you would like – upsample the pattern fee of the file you’re listening to in an effort to ship superior sound. And with Crossfeed, A&Ok intends the SP3000 to create the impact of listening to loudspeakers if you’re listening to headphones by mixing a part of the sign from one channel into the opposite, with a time-adjustment to centre the audio picture.
Intensive appears an affordable phrase to make use of when discussing the A&ultima SP3000’s feature-set.
Sound High quality
- Convincing, lifelike sound
- Pretty easy-going about partnering headphones
- Doesn’t insist on the best of hi-res audio recordsdata
There’s no two methods about it: the larger and extra information-rich the digital audio file you play, the higher the SP3000 likes it. However it’s equally truthful to say this Astell & Kern participant is not any snob – relatively than exposing the constraints of lower-resolution content material, it merely does what it could to make the perfect of it.
It’s equally laid-back the place the standard of your headphones is anxious, too (though it’s secure to say you ought to be spending huge cash on headphones if you wish to hear precisely the place the massive cash you spent on this participant went). It’s an admirable trait, and never one which’s all that frequent in high-end audio gear of any sort.
So whether or not it’s a bog-standard 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV file of Shoplifting by The Slits or a DSD64 copy of Stevie Marvel’s Massive Brother, the SP3000 is a fascinating, entertaining hear with an inventory of sonic skills so long as your arm.
Element ranges are excessive sufficient to impress vertigo. Management is absolute – the assault and decay of particular person sounds is judged fantastically, and so the place the decrease frequencies are involved there’s actual momentum to associate with virtually implausible weight. Info relating to tone and texture is dished up in lavish trend. Dynamic headroom is prodigious the place the massive shifts are involved, and the lower-key dynamic variations in a solo instrument are made completely evident too.
The SP3000 ties everything of the frequency vary collectively seamlessly – from the deep, substantial backside finish to the clear, crisp high, the A&Ok is clean and convincing. It creates a plausible, well-defined and straightforward to comply with soundstage, and manages the by-no-means easy job of permitting every factor of a recording the house it wants to precise itself whereas integrating it effortlessly into the general efficiency. Which implies that timing – that sense of unity and commonality – is about pretty much as good because it will get.
Fidgeting with the DAC filters could make little, relatively fussy, variations to the way in which the SP3000 goes about delivering music – however in all honesty, the basics of its efficiency stay unchanged. It’s exact and correct, however not analytical for the sake of it. It’s punchy and substantial, however it’s not muscle-bound. It’s wide-open, however it’s tightly unified.
It’s at about this level of a overview that I love to do the ‘yeah, however…’ factor to try to add a bit salt to the menu. However in all honesty, in purely sonic phrases the Astell & Kern A&ultima SP3000 simply doesn’t put a foot improper. It’s a pleasure to hearken to, to the purpose that the 10-hour battery life begins to appear insufficient.
Must you purchase it?
You need the best-sounding digital audio participant out there: Right here it’s… get your credit-card out.
You don’t imagine in diminishing returns: That is the best-sounding DAP round, no query – however it’s not twice pretty much as good as one thing costing half as a lot.
In all honesty I used to be able to dislike the SP3000. Ridiculous worth, not as transportable because it thinks it’s… after which I spent a couple of days listening to it. That it’s not for everybody is fairly apparent – however those that demand (and may afford) the perfect merchandise of their sort round don’t have a lot to weigh up right here.
How we take a look at
We take a look at each transportable music participant we overview totally over an prolonged time frame. We use trade commonplace checks to check options correctly. We’ll at all times inform you what we discover. We by no means, ever, settle for cash to overview a product.
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Examined with actual world use
The SP3000 can help microSD playing cards as much as 1TB.
Display screen Measurement
USB DAC Mode
Contact Display screen
Astell and Kern Aultima SP3000
Astell & Kern
Sure, as much as 1TB
82.4 x 18.3 x 139.8 MM
AKM AK4191 x2(Twin Modulator) & AK4499EX x4 (Twin + Twin DAC)
Unbalanced Out (3.5mm), Optical Out (3.5mm) Balanced Out (2.5mm, solely 4-pole supported | 4.4m, solely 5-pole supported)
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
Black and Silver, Copper
WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF, MQA
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LDAC is an audio expertise from Sony that enables for larger high quality audio streaming over a Bluetooth connection, with bit-rates of as much as 990kbps
Hello-Res audio is known as a typical in addition to a advertising and marketing time period that describes digital audio recordsdata of better-than-CD high quality (16-bit/44.1kHz).