If you are at all enveloped in the world of DAPs, then there’s a high chance you are familiar with Astell & Kern. Their DAPs are known to be some of the best the market has to offer, granting you high-fidelity sound with a sleek and modern touch-screen interface. Their flagship player has been the SP2000 for many years, with the SP2000T being its latest update. Now A&K has finally launched the full follow-up to their flagship DAP, the SP3000. Can it possibly live up to the excellence of its predecessor?
What You Get
- A&ultima SP3000 Device x 1
- Leather Case, Green x 1
- USB Type-C Cable x 1
- Quick Start Guide x 1
- Warranty Card x 1
- microSD card slot cover x 2
- Protective Film (Front x 2, Back x 2, Top x 2)
- Suede Cloth x 1
- Postcard x 1
This is the first DAP to implement stainless steel 904L material, and it makes the SP3000 both look and feel special. I used the silver version for this review, and its appearance takes on a mirrored finish that feels like it is as premium as a DAP can get. When you hold it in your hand, there is a significant amount of weight to it. You get the same angular design that nearly all A&K players share, but this time there is a stylish glint to its aesthetic.
Sometimes it feels like you’re holding the audio player version of a diamond. The volume dial even looks like one, and it helps that it is extremely responsive and easy to use. Without a case, the SP3000 is actually quite sharp on its edges, so putting one on is highly recommended. For headphones, you get 3.5mm, 4.4mm, and 2.5mm sockets. The SP3000 uses USB-Type C for charging.
For its interiors, A&K lines up the SP3000 to be a beast of a system sporting an AK4499EX Quad-DAC. This is the first time this chipset has been implemented, along with the innovative HEXA-Audio Circuitry structure and TERATON ALPHA’s sound solution. These various pieces of circuitry working together aim to deliver the absolute highest purity signal possible. On the OS front, the SP3000 is powered by a Snapdragon Octa-Core CPU with 8GB of DDR4 memory. Using the interface is fast and user-friendly. It operates like most A&K DAPs in that it is first, and only a music player. Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, and Apple Music can all be used with the SP3000, and more customization options have been offered. However, if you’re looking for the full Android experience, that is not what these players do.
I am always psyched to listen to a new device packed with an AKM chipset. You can infer a lot about how it may perform in terms of resolution and fidelity. It is a no-brainer that A&K’s new flagship DAP would already feature a sort of premium response, but is it the best? If it turned out that the SP3000 was anything less than its predecessors, there would be some disappointment. Thankfully, the sound matches the money. The SP3000 feels like it reveals everything about the mixes effortlessly. Not since the SP2000 have I heard a DAP use every inch of space to its most total effect.
Immediately pairing the SP3000 with a pair of Meze 109s I knew it was going to live up to its potential. Here, the output of the SP3000 is at its most lush and dimensional. Everything about it transcends a traditional stereo image, as the SP3000 instills the 109 with more separation and highly intricate layering ability. Instruments and sound effects appear all around you, and their greatest enhancement is their height. Everything that goes through the SP3000 sounds so much taller than you initially perceive through other devices. Activating crossfeed grants you even more spaciousness and airiness, which gave the 109 a whole new sonic environment to explore.
Although open-back headphones will strongly benefit the SP3000’s soundstage performance, IEMs will also deliver similar immersive quality. The Kinera Nanna also has a wonderful presentation on the SP3000, just with less air and closer sound elements. Stronger intimacy and warmth can be noted here, with easily controlled resonance and clarity. Throughout everything I tested with the SP3000, you always get a sense of a pure and natural reproduction of sound.
Simply put, the SP3000 sounds spectacular. There are a lot of great-sounding DAPs, but the SP3000 showcases why it is at the top of the market. With that being said, I think that even though A&K has done a lot to make its UI more modern, I would personally prefer a more familiar Android style. However, if sound quality is the only thing you’re looking for, it’ll be hard to find anything that compares.
The Astell & Kern SP3000 is available at Audio46.