Latest DAP flagship from Astell&Kern rocks three amps and four DACs
Last year, high-end audio hardware brand Astell&Kern launched the first digital audio player (DAP) to incorporate three digital-to-analog converters, with the SE200. Now the company has gone one better with the upcoming A&ultima SP2000T, while also debuting a triple amp design.
The basic job of a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is to convert digital file data into analog audio signals, and different designs come with different characteristics.
Where the SE200 employed DACs from two manufacturers, which gave listeners the opportunity to tap into those differences while also taking advantage of manufacturer-specific filters to further tweak the sound, A&K has opted to stick with just ESS for the quad-DAC SP2000T.
This latest addition to the company's flagship line features four Sabre ES9068AS DAC chips with built-in MQA hardware rendering, each supporting up to 32-bit/384-kHz PCM and DSD1024 audio for the promise of "a more balanced, detailed sound signature." MQA (or Master Quality Authenticated) audio technology was developed to deliver the sound quality of an original master recording in a file format small enough for streaming, with Tidal being one such platform that uses the technology.
The SP2000T also debuts the company's next-gen amplifier technology in the shape of the Triple Amp System. Users can plug headphones into the 2.5-mm, 3.5-mm or 4.4-mm ports and choose between a tube-amp mode, an op-amp mode brought over from the player's SP2000 stablemate, and a new hybrid-amp mode that combines the two.
A new feature called Replay Gain will automatically adjust playback volume to ensure a consistent level for various tracks, and the player also rocks A&K's Teraton Alpha sound technology, which "effectively removes power noise and provides efficient power consumption and amplification right through to the audio output interface stage where the digital-to-analog signal conversion takes place."
Other given specs include a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution touchscreen for playback control and display of album artwork, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity with support for LDAC and apt-HD codecs. More detailed information is expected to be released closer to the player's October launch, when pricing will also be announced.
Update August 27: In the end, we didn't have to wait long for more information and pricing to be released.
The tube-amp mode in the new DAP is powered by a dual-triode Korg Nutube 6P1 component, which features "an anode grid filament structure that operates the same as a triode vacuum tube, this smaller component, consumes far less power, yet delivers the same audio with rich overtones."
The 10.89-z (309-g) player boasts quad-core processing brains, and has 256 GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded up to 1 TB via microSD. It offers up to 32-bit/384-kHz bit-to-bit PCM audio playback, as well as native DSD512, has a signal-to-noise ratio for unbalanced connections of 121 dB, while balanced comes in at 123 dB, and total harmonic distortion is 0.0003 percent over both unbalanced and balanced ports. Output impedance for the 3.5-mm unbalanced jack is 10 ohms, and it's 1.5 ohms for both balanced ports.
Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi are included, with the promise of easy wireless file transfer over the latter from a PC or smartphone via A&K's File Drop feature. And the 4,200-mAh Li-Po battery is reckoned good for around nine hours of continuous playback, and fast charging is supported.
Finally, the A&ultima SP2000T player is priced at US$2,499 and is up for pre-order now, with shipping still penciled in for October.
Product page: A&ultima SP2000T