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What is it like to listen to music on the Astell&Kern SP3000?

Astell&Kern A&ultima SP3000 - luxury and innovation
Astell&Kern A&ultima SP3000 - luxury and innovation

The Astell&Kern company presented a new flagship model of the A&ultima Hi-Fi player . The new A&ultima SP3000 DAP delivers fantastic listening quality and complements it with a sleek new operating system in a beautiful, durable housing.

What’s new in A&ultima SP3000?

 

A&K is the first manufacturer to use AKM’s (Asahi Kasei Microdevices) brand new flagship DAC, the AK4499EX, with four in the SP3000, as well as two equally new AKM AK4191 delta-sigma modulators, which process the digital signal to digital-to-analog conversion inside the DAC) .

Why four DACs? One for the left channel and one for the right channel to power a pair of left/right amplifiers with balanced outputs, and a third and fourth DAC to power a discrete pair of amplifiers with unbalanced outputs. So you can listen to the SP3000 using either balanced headphones (with 2.5mm or 4mm jacks) or the more common type of unbalanced headphones with 3.5mm jacks. A&K claims that the combination of these components provides the A&Ultima SP3000 with complete separation of digital and analog signal processing and contributes to the SP3000 achieving an impressive signal-to-noise ratio of 130dB.

The SP3000 is equipped with an octa-core Snapdragon 6125 processor and 8 GB of DDR4 memory.

An impressive array of listening options

You will get built-in playback of high-resolution PCM audio files (up to 32-bit resolution at a sampling rate of up to 768 kHz) and support for DSD512 files (Direct Stream Digital files with a sampling rate 512 times higher than CD). Is it possible that someone will develop an even higher resolution rendering in the future? Sure, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to distinguish music at a higher resolution than what this device offers.

This player comes with 256GB of built-in memory and supports microSD cards up to 1TB, so you can download a huge library of even the largest Hi-Res music files and take them with you. You can use a USB cable to transfer files, but the SP3000 also supports Wi-Fi 5 (dual-band 2.4/5GHz).

 

If you have a DLNA server on your home network, the SP3000 can connect and stream files directly from the server, or you can connect it to a Mac or Windows computer with a USB cable and use it as an external DAC. Roon certification is still in process.

 

 

The SP3000 is compatible with a wide range of music services, including apps for Qobuz, Tidal, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer. It also supports some famous international services like Flo, Moov, KKBOX, AWA, Yandex, Bugs! and Melon.

If you want to use wireless headphones, the SP3000 has Bluetooth 5.0 and supports aptX HD and LDAC codecs for 24-bit audio. You can also use A&K’s BT Sink to wirelessly stream music from your music library stored on an external device such as a computer or smartphone.

A truly impressive build

 

The case is made of 904L stainless steel, the same grade that Rolex uses to give its watches shine and durability. The case has a monumental look and is available in silver or black.

 

 

To protect the device and continue the luxury theme, each SP3000 will come with a goatskin leather case made by the Alran tannery in the south of France.

Updated software

 

Astell&Kern has redesigned the Android-based software for listening convenience. The previous flagship A&ultima SP2000 had small problems with the smoothness of the user interface and the complexity of the navigation menu. In the new version, the reaction to swipes and taps is fast and smooth, access to streaming services and settings is easier.

The 5.46-inch touch screen with Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) is bright and informative.

What is it like to listen to music on the Astell&Kern SP3000?

 

There are many audiophile products that promise to make it possible to hear music as it was heard in the recording studio. Usually this is marketing hyperbole, but not in this case.

The SP3000 creates a sense of presence when playing back great recorded performances. If your tastes gravitate towards the underground rock of the 1970s and 80s, the often low-quality and amateurish recordings of some great music definitely won’t hold up under the SP3000’s microscope.

The same can be said of many recordings from the late 90s and early 2000s, an era when engineers were fascinated by the added ability to create heavily edited full performances from snippets of vocal or instrumental takes. The artificiality of these Frankenstein-esque designs tends to show through the SP3000’s excellent finish.

All of this is to say that the SP3000 shouldn’t be penalized for not improving the sound of every single piece of music. Some music may be better enjoyed on vinyl or even a lower-resolution digital stream, but there’s plenty of great music and great recordings that can be enhanced with a music player like this.

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