Disclaimer: the AK380 unit mentioned in this post is on loan from Astell & Kern Korea. It is to be returned tomorrow morning, stat.
My publish order is totally off. Yesterday, Headfonia published my review of the Astell&Kern AK380. The AK380 is a sometimes-awesome, sometime-awful DAP, chock full of hardware potential which is wrecked only by its painfully angular design, poor marketing copy, and comparatively poor lazy amp design.
Decent graphical interface. Working gapless. Good ID3 tag support. Optical output. Balanced output. Good mix of hardware and software UI controls. It packs 256GB of storage, and can spit voltage out the wazzoo.
But it is 3.500$ USD, and its rough edges are critical beyond mere subjective assessment.
Subject: Astell & Kern AK380
I don't blame you for not reading my 4.000 word review. Below is the summary.
Hardware and interface
1. too many, and too sharp corners
2. good feel to the volume pot
3. USB port points upward on the AK380, downward on the AK Jr. (lack of uniformity)
4. boot-up time much improved over 240
5. screen is good quality
6. Android File Transfer is worse than SARS
7. typical A&K shoddy marketing/copy for a 3500$ USD device
8. ain't going in a pocket, nor are those sharp angles going anywhere near my wiener
1. low amounts of hiss (great)
2. detailed, liquidy, and powerful
3. good performance when driving low-Ω earphones (not quite iPod nano 7G-levels of stability)
4. leading unloaded performance
The AK380 certainly is ostentatious. It certainly looks good in photos. It sounds good. And Astell&Kern are developing a great modular system around it. But as the evolutionary follow-up to The Ultimate, I don't see how A&K find room let in poor amplification, copy, bloody angles, etc. It is a design ejaculation of eagerness rather than a carefully studied, carefully developed product with a plan.
The following Rightmark Audio Analyzer tests were conducted through this equipment.
Source: Astell & Kern AK380
ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
Computer: 2012 27" iMac
Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.
NL - no load
SM2 - Earsonics SM2
ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600
IQ - Ultrasone IQ
DW335 - FitEar MH335DW
16-bit & 24-bit TARGETS and loads
24-bit balanced loads at volumes 150 and 100