Last year we were introduced to Astell & Kern’s ACRO CA1000. This new design combined a digital audio player with a high-class headphone amplifier. Now, they are looking to continue this series with a new follow-up to that model. The ACRO CA1000T is an upgrade from last year’s release. It’s like the SP2000 being followed up by the SP2000T. Like that unit, the CA1000T adds tube capabilities and a host of other new enhancements.
What You Get
- Acro CA1000T Headphone Amp
- USB Type C Cable
- Quick Start Guide
- Warranty Card
- Screen Protectors
The CA1000T has almost the same structure as its previous iteration, but with a sleek new black finish. If you’re a fan of A&K’s aesthetic and all of the sharp edges that entails, you’ll find the CA1000T to be a stylish device. The volume dial has a slight ridge to it this time around, and it helps make the wheel feel marginally more fun to turn up and down. There’s a satisfying click to it too. The front panel also adds a fifth button so you can easily access the tube amp interface, which is good because you’ll probably be using it a lot. For headphone connections, the CA1000T offers everything that isn’t 4-pin XLR, and the rear of the device adds a 4.4mm balanced input. You also now have a set of mini-XLR outputs in addition to your RCA outputs. There are no RCA inputs this time though.
With the CA1000T, A&K implement the first-ever ES9039MPRO Dual-DAC. Its amplifier utilizes four levels of gain, from low to super-high, powered by A&K’s Teraton Alpha technology. You can run this all while not having to use a power supply, making the CA1000T more versatile and user-friendly. The tubes used here are dual tubes adapted to a triple-amp system. This gives the CA1000T all of its gain options. Its built-in battery is capable of at least eleven hours of continuous playback.
There are a ton of different ways to listen to the CA1000T. The dual-vacuum tube amp should offer a different shade of sound no matter what headphones you put through it. With the ESS dual-DAC, you should also get some form of enhancement to the sound signature overall. As a DAP, the CA1000T will showcase a ton of ability for extended frequency retrieval and soundstage depth. If you’re using the CA1000T strictly as an amplifier, it will also satisfy you with a powerful output that can drive most headphones. I would also recommend putting the CA1000T in its Crossfeed mode, especially if you’re using open-back headphones, as the holographic experience is noticeably enhanced.
Certain headphones with lower resistances like the Meze Elite or the Yamaha YH 5000SE paired perfectly. Using the 4.4mm balanced connector for both headphones, I only needed to raise my volume well below the halfway mark on super-high gain. This brings out a ton of headroom to these headphones, and they are able to project more roominess as a result. This also goes for tube mode, where the sonic environment is respected and not artificially filled in with resistance.
I preferred its response to the 5000SE over the Elite though, as the overall timbre of the low-mids is brought out in a more expressive manner. Some of the smoothness on the Meze Elite is unveiled, which made it capable of more detail but increased piercing textures in the treble. I didn’t find this a consistent quality throughout my testing with the CA1000T though, only a minor quirk testing one set of headphones. However, the Elite did have a more ethereal appearance to its soundstage and imaging, expanding the height of the headspace to an even greater scale. Depth and resolve were the most consistent characteristics while listening to the CA1000T, and it treats the sound with a larger scope to its response to specific frequency dynamics.
Although the CA1000T is a pricy unit, my experience with it was highly enjoyable. While the original unit had a stellar performance, the CA1000T exclusively improves upon its every aspect and adds even more features to play around with. This is a phenomenal all-in-one device, able to support a wide selection of high-end headphones. If you enjoy a product like the 2000T, but wish to use it with a desktop amplifier, the CA1000T is a great choice. Anyone looking for a DAP to use exclusively at home should look no further. The sonic ability of A&K’s players is turned up to the max here, and it results in a phenomenal experience.
The Astell & Kern ACRO CA1000T is available at Audio46.