Astell & Kern is a company well known in the audiophile community for producing great DAPs, home audio equipments and just recently premium IEMs in collaboration with JH Audio. Today I am going to review their KANN model that isn’t one of the newest release, but still is an interesting product thanks to its integrated amplifier and features. “ Astell&Kern has introduced a new product design that cleverly incorporates a high-performance amplifier into a player for a perfect merger of two independent devices. Supporting the output of 7Vrms when connected via high-gain balanced output, the KANN not only drives high-impedance headphones without an additional amplifier, but also reliably reproduces high-quality sound with low-impedance speakers”.
KANN not only claims great driving output, but has a lot of features: first of all is equipped with a line-out circuit that supports 2.5-mm 4-pole balanced outputs too ( I played a bit with these features and I liked so much connected to my audio car system). With the latest update that was released 1 week ago, you are able to adjust volume level of line out. Line out is really good and noticed an airier and less congested sound with zero noise floor ( but is really hard to say if is a brain trick).
This model has an internal memory of 64GB, but thanks to both standard SD cards and micro SD can be expanded up to 832 GB with the internal memory included. Thanks to this will not have any problem to fill it with heavy flac files; consider you can stream from Tidal or NAS too thanks to AK Connect.
KANN mounts a 6.200mA battery that offers 15 hours of continuous playback.( all depends on the volume and if the screen is turned on. In my days with this DAP using it in high gain mode, I have never had any problems concerning durability).
To increase flexibility of use, you can connect additional USB Audio to KANN via the micro USB port. KANN allows output conversion according to the specifications of the external USB Audio that supports DoP (DSD over PCM) or PCM, and provides continuous music playback with charging via the Type-C USB port while connected to the external USB Audio.
Plus it can be connected to the PC for use as USB DAC.
I just used it connected to my Windows PC and never had any driver or configuration problems( you can find all drivers link on their official site. At the first time was quite amazed on how KANN improved sound quality of my PC: dynamic is very good and what you will notice soon is the air you can hear and feel between every instrument and great dynamic and musicality.
Overall KANN is not a simple DAP, it is a full optional audio gear that will easily adapt to your audio needs.
The unit was sent me for the purpose of this review, I am not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions will be only my own. Would like to thanks Alex and AK team for sending me this unit giving me the opportunity to test this musical and “full optional” music player.
PRICE: 999 USD
LINK TO THE OFFICIAL SHOP: https://www.astellnkern.com/eng/content/main/
LINK TO THE OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/astellnkern/
This is my first AK digital player I review, so was really interested in the sound signature of this company. When I received it, I plugged in my SD card and tried to understand its sound signature before the burn-in. Don’t know why, but imagined the sound of KANN on the warm side, so was quite surprised to noticed that was natural and airy with only hint of coloration: a more quantity bass that helped the dynamic and a “liquid” voice reproduction. The three week before KANN arrival, was reviewing new Opus1s, so was quite used to its more organic and full-body sound. AK dap on the other side seemed to have a more clean approach to the music with less body, but a bit of more definition. What impressed me at the first song is the capability of KANN to reproduce great air and space between instruments and voices, this thing really helped my multi balanced IEMs to sound less congested. First impressions were quite good, but preferred to wait 200 hours of burn-in before writing this review.
PACKAGING: packaging is quite simple and elegant and surely gives you a premium feeling, as all the other AK products, the package hasn’t a lot of accessories. For this price range a leather case in the box wouldn’t have been a bad thing. In the box you can find KANN, warranty card and a type-c cable charging.(KANN features a fast charging mode, but you will not find both normal or fast charger in the box). Usually don’t like to talk much about packaging and other staff cause my main focus is on the sound quality, but overall the unboxing experience of this DAP surely will not disappoint you.
BUILD QUALITY/UI/USER INTERFACE:
Build quality is excellent, and surely has a premium quality. First time was thinking KANN was a bit heavy, but after 3 hours get used to. I know this DAP isn’t the most portable and lightweight of AK models in catalogue, but you have to consider the integrated amp and the other features.
On the right corner you can find a rounded grill to control volume, that is quite comfortable and intuitive. On the upper side you can find single ended and balanced output and single ended and balanced line out output, plus a button to turn on/off the audio device. At the bottom you can find two slots for SD cards, a type-c connection for charging and transfer files and a micro-USB connection to use KANN as a USB DAC.
KANN is available in 2 colors, namely astro silver and eos blue.
Screen is quite good, but not one of the brightest with a good touch response, but not excellent ( consider KANN isn’t last release from this company). On the screen you can find physical buttons that can be very useful to go head/behind with tracks or play/pause functions.
Interface is quite easy and never had problem of navigation. KANN is able to stream Tidal and this thing is very helpful to manage million of tracks in HiFi, but really hope AK will integrate new streaming apps like Qobuz and Deezer in the future firmware upgrades.
In order to use Tidal, you must be connected to a wireless line and can’t download tracks. KANN supports wireless networking DLNA (Ver. 1.0), which makes it easy to work with PC/NAS on the same AP network and through the AK Connect app supporting smartphone/tablet computer interfaces.
This model can use Bluetooth connection APTX, using with my Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless was quite impressed by the clarity and detailed sound and with almost no noise. All these features makes this product a complete all-around portable high-res digital player and thanks to its high driving power can be a great “audio friend” for both common people and audiophiles.
KANN integrates an AK4490 DAC chip capable to convert up to 32-bit 384kHz.
Audio impressions have been taken after 150 hours of burn-in testing with different premium IEMs and headphones: Heir 10.0 ,Rhapsodio Infinity, Unique Melody Me.1, Aroma Audio Yao, Custom Art Fibae 2, Rhapsodio Saturn, iBasso IT01, Periodic Audio Mg,Be,Ti, Meze 99 Neo/Classics and Mitchell and Johnson Mj2.
Describing the sound of this product alone is not a simple thing, for this usually tend to test with different IEMs and headphones. Overall KANN will perfect for you if you are looking for musicality, but at the same time good details and definition. This DAP will not amaze you for its technical capabilities or resolution and don’t think was created for this, but surely will do for its great tempo and rhythm. I find KANN to have neutral-revealing sound signature, but with certain IEMs his musicality can bring you to consider it more on the warm side. It’s sound signature is quite smooth in the top end, this thing will help to have a relaxed sound, but at the same time with good details.
This DAP doesn’t want to bring out micro details and resolution, but want you to enjoy your music and with high gain mode I was truly amazed on how good and dynamic my multi-balanced IEMs sounded.
BASS: bass on this player has more quantity than impact, this thing will help a lot increasing the dynamic. I would say bass response is quite neutral, with a good decay and definition. It doesn’t cover other frequencies and has quite a good speed. All depends on pairing, for this I will focus more on its different sound response with many IEMs and headphones.
MIDS: voices are clean and have good details and definition, but for are not organic; I would say they sound more in a “liquid” way. For this female voices are very well portrayed with the good amount of clearness. They are neither too much in face or behind, but they are well placed in the centre of the scene.
HIGHS: : I could say that treble are a bit smooth, but never lacking details or extension. Simply will not give you too much sparkles, for this I found a great synergy with treble-ish headphones like my Grado MS1. Treble clarity will help a lot in providing a very airy sound with good instrumental separation. KANN is able to produce good details in this spectrum without any harshness or sibilance isssues.
SOUNDSTAGE: soundstage is very impressive both in width and eight and good in depth. KANN never sound congested with great instrument separation and in certain tracks you can feel the space and air between voices and instruments. This DAP is capable to provide a quite realistic and holographic space around you( obviously this thing will depend on the headphones you will be using). Channel separation is quite good and in certain tracks you can easily perceive instruments sounding on the right or left channel.
HEIR 10 WITH AK KANN: this DAP usually makes a good job with multi-balanced IEMs and so have a good synergy with HEIR 10. 10.0 benefits of better dynamism and overall a bigger soundstage. KANN gives a good clarity and definition and never found any hiss problems using it in high gain mode.I was quite surprised by this KANN: in high gain never percevied any noise or hiss problems with low impedance IEMs.
AROMA AUDIO YAO WITH AK KANN: KANN enhances what I loved of this IEM: voices reproduction and dynamic. Bass improves a lot, portraying a more rounded and fuller bass response, this is a very good thing, since this IEM lacks a bit in bass quantity. Voices are less organic, but more liquid with an incredible life-like feeling. Highs are clear and well detailed, but with not too much sparkles. If you love sparkles and highs in evidence this combo will not be a good choice for you. KANN drives very well this IEM in low gain and never found any needs of more power.
UNIQUE MELODY ME.1 WITH AK KANN: this is one of the best pairing: this DAP drives quite well this planar IEM in high gain. Dynamic and transient response is excellent with good and fast bass response. Soundstage is airier and wider with great instrument separation. Voices are very clean and detailed, with greate performance for female voices.
RHAPSODIO INFINITY WITH AK KANN: INFINITY benefits a lot with KANN. I was able to drive this IEM in low gain without any hiss problems and noise. With this combo instrument separation is very good with a lot of air between voices and instruments. Bass is very fast and controlled. With wood cable soundstage is a bit wider. Infinity alone has thin voices, so KANN helps to bring out more liquid and fuller voices.
CUSTOM ART FIBAE 2 WITH AK KANN: for me FIBAE 2 needs more sparkle to really shine and KANN has smooth treble response. So I found better synergy with other sources, but overall treble has good definition and details. Dynamic is very good with a great tempo and rhythm. Soundstage is quite good with a good left/right channel separation and articulate and fast bass response.
RHAPSODIO SATURN WITH AK KANN: bass is too much with this AK KANN. Saturn is like a crazy boy, i would suggest a more natural and less dynamic source for this IEM(obviously if you like bass and not natural sound signature could be a good choice for you). Soundstage is quite big and holographic with more accurate and better instrument separation.
DUNU FALCON-C WITH AK KANN: bass is very good: fast and very articulate and perfect decay( sub-bass reproduction of this IEM is a joy for audiophiles). Soundstage improves a bit, in particular width and height. AK KANN smoothen up arsh treble of this IEM.
IBASSO IT01 WITH AK KANN: great sinergy: this IEM shows a vshaped sound sig. With KANN dynamic is stille exellent, but bass frequencies are more controlled and refined with better definition and decay. Voices improves a bit: just a bit less recessed. Soundstage is quite wide with good instrument separation.
GRADO MS1 WITH AK KANN: this is a great setup. MS1 has low impedance, but really shine with a good amp. Dynamic and transient response is excellent with great definition and instrument separation. Smooth treble of KANN really helps this headphone to not sound harsh and fatiguing. This is open headphones, but portayes a more intimate soundstag; with KANN you can feel more air and a bit wider and more holographic soundstage around you.
MEZE 99 NEO/CLASSIC: KANN can drive quite easily Meze headphones in low gain. Soundstage improves a lot with good clarity and definition. Bass is very tight and controlled. Maybe meze headphones shine better with a more organic sound like iFi Nan that brings out fuller voices.
Mitchell and Johnson MJ2 with AK KANN: treble response is excellent: very detailed and extended without any harshness or sibilance. Voices are very clear( female voices with this combo are excellent).
MJ2 is bass-shy, for this benefits a lot with the dynamism of AK kann.Voices are very accurate and detailed ( i would say MJ2 and KANN are a great combo for audiophiles looking for superb and exellent treble response without arshness and sibilant and very refined voices reproduction( in particular with female ones).
AK kann is not a perfect DAP: is not one of the most portable device and best looking one, but if you are looking for power on the go and a lot of features this will be a great choice for you. KANN is not only a simple DAP; is a media center that can fit every audiophile and common people needs. With this “little” boy you will be able to drive most of the IEMs and headphones on the market; plus you have a lot of memory and possibility to stream Tidal. Talking of sound, KANN is capable to reproduce music in a really engaging and musical way with good details and great clarity; so if pure resolution and micro-details are not your prerogatives KANN will be a great audio-friend for you.
This DAP was created to bring out the joy to listen to music: dynamic, musicality, tempo and rhythm all together will surely amaze you from the first listening.
AIRY SOUND WITH GOOD SOUNDSTAGE
NOT ONE OF THE MOST PORTABLE AK DAP( it’s not too big and heavy considering features and integrated amp)
LAGS WHEN USING TIDAL ON STREAMING
• Single AKM AK4490 DAC
• Native DSD playback up to DSD256 (11.2mHz)
• PCM audio playback up to 32bit/382kHz
• Built-in amp with normal/high gain switch: drive the most demanding headphones with ease!
• Lowest output impedance of any our portable high-res audio players: Single-ended 3.5mm: 0.65Ω / Balanced out 2.5mm: 1.3Ω
• USB Type-C support (charging & data transfer)
• Micro USB for USB audio out & USB DAC
• Dedicated Line Out (2.5mm balanced & 3.5mm single-ended)
• 64GB internal flash memory
• Micro SD card support up to 256GB
• Full size SD card support up to 512GB
• aptX HD Bluetooth codec support
• 4″ WVGA 800 x 480 LCD touch screen
• Long battery life: 6,200mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer Battery (up to 15 hours)
4 thoughts on “REVIEW ASTELL & KERN KANN: A FULL OPTION DAP”
How compare KANN to AK Sp1000?
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Don’t know, but from what i know Sp is best AK DAP in their catalogue right now
Prodotto interessante. In italia chi è il distributore per AK?
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