RMAF 2018: Astell & Kern rollout new players, firmware upgrades imminent

Astell & Kern seem like a company hell bent on introducing new models that are feature-packed based on feedback from both existing customers and those they are courting to embrace the brand.

I say this because they continue to add specific features and new, updated hardware/software not only for their latest off the production line models, but with continuing support of legacy or existing models with an array of cutting-edge re-ups via firmware updates.

The company was showing off their new SP1000 and SP1000M portable players along with their T5P second-generation Beyerdynamics headphones at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, so I gave both a spin and also discussed what was happening with the Android APK (Android PacKage is the package file format used by the Android operating system for distribution and installation of mobile apps and middleware) rollout. I previously posted detailed specs on the SP1000 and SP1000M on InnerFidelity HERE, so I’m not getting into that now. I also touched on how the company was planning firmware implementation and support while I was at CANJAM.

First up, let me say that the second generation T5P is specially tuned for A&K players, features a 2.5MM balanced connector, and 3.5 mm unbalanced connector, a lowered impedance (32 Ohms from 600 Ohms) and new detachable cables. MSRP is expected to be $1,199 USD and will be limited to 1,000 units worldwide. I find these limited -edition rollouts reminiscent of sneakers/kicks in their exclusivity and collectibility. In case you were wondering, the first generation of the T5P is no longer in production.

Cranking up a 24/176 FLAC file off the SP1000 of Bach Solo Cello Suites by Janos Starker presented an incredibly black background between the SP1000 and the T5P with the deep, resonant notes off Starker’s Cello standing out like a slash of red against the monochromatic starkness of the dark abyss of silence in the practically non-existent noise floor. Every nuance of his resined bow on the strings came across with startling resolution and clarity without becoming analytical, retaining a strong emotional engagement with the music. I listened to the cut through both players and the realistic spatial sound field reproduction from the 1000 and 1000M hyper-focused my mind on how accurately the players/headphones seemed to be able to portray the recorded space. The sudden intake of his breath at times during his playing made Starker seem holographically in front of me.

According to A&K the SP1000 and SE100 would be getting a full firmware upgrade in short order with MQA support most likely included for the SP1000 as it’s the only player already MQA certified. Other, older A&K models would also be receiving their firmware updates as soon as possible once further MQA certification for the updates was completed and as an added (and much needed bonus) ROON support is planned within the next few months.

Check back for continuing RMAF coverage.

Astell & Kern
19600 Fairchild Road, Suite 125, Irvine, CA 92612
1 (949) 336-4540/4541

geoffalter11's picture

Hi there... I love this website. I am also extremely excited by your inclusion as I have been reading your reviews on audiostream for awhile. However, there almost no reviews coming into innerfidelity. They are all updates, almost no actual reviews. Generally the end of the blurb says review in a couple weeks, but it doesn't seem those are taking place. When will we start seeing more detailed content? Or will it remain updates and blurbs? Is the wall of fame done? What is the plan for content? Maybe I am alone in thinking this way, but curious as to what's to come. I know the assimilation into a new position is always difficult and time consuming.

Rafe Arnott's picture
I appreciate your understanding that taking over a website and implementing change is a time consuming endeavour. As soon as we finalize the measurement tool (which is being handled in the UK) and the proper way for its new format to be implemented into the webpages, full reviews will be forthcoming.

We're very close and I have an excellent selection of new gear here to write about.