Astell & Kern launch SP1000M

Astell & Kern are at it again, the company seems intent on rolling out new tech in 2018 at a breakneck pace and the new A&ultima SP1000M is the latest in a series of new players the company has debuted in the past couple months , this time in a smaller chassis to round out their flagship line.

The brand new SP1000M is based on their CES Best Of Innovations Award-winning SP1000 player. The new unit will make its official debut at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest on October 5th with an MSRP of $2,399 USD.

Featuring 128GB of internal memory, a micro-SD card slot, a redesigned “music-centric” GUI, 10 hours of playback, a 4.1-inch HD screen and a chassis almost half the sized of the current SP1000, it is also equipped with the company’s Octa-Core CPU along with two AK4497EQ DACs, one for each stereo channel, USB Type-C 3.0 and an all-aluminum body.

Supported native playback is 32-bit/384kHz high-resolution PCM audio and native playback of DSD audio, up to and including Quad-rate (DSD256). Listed specs are “4.2Vrms Balanced output, a Parametric EQ (PEQ), VCXO Reference Clock (Femto Clock) for minimal jitter, Wi-Fi connectivity, support for the AK Connect app, USB DAC function, DLNA networking support, OTA software updates, digital audio output via USB, apt X HD Bluetooth, and support for high-resolution music streaming services including TIDAL, MOOV and Groovers+ (support for streaming services varies by country)."

The company also said that there will be a firmware update available for Android APK support which means users will have the opportunity of adding “additional music streaming services to their player by simply copying and installing the corresponding APK file for the music service they wish to add.”

I caught up with A&K President Owen Kwon on Friday with a couple questions, here’s his replies:

Rafe Arnott: Talk about the decision to pack all the tech into a smaller chassis, and if consumers can expect to see more of the larger designs getting similar treatment in the future.  

Owen Kwon: We have had a great response from people since the launch of the A&ultima SP1000 at High-End Munich in 2017.  We are proud of all that we accomplished with the SP1000 – Not only a luxury, flagship product, but practical and feature-packed as well. We use the copper and stainless steel body, which are some of the best conducting materials, to ground the player, which produces less interference and a lower noise floor.  We debuted a new, music-centric UI that is easier to navigate and smoother response than previous players.  We added USB-C for fast data transfers and quick charge support that allows the SP1000 to charge in half the time as previous AK Players.  The SP1000 was also our first player to feature a high-res display.”  

“We launched the SP1000M to provide those same great features in a smaller package that is easier to take with you on the go.  By producing the SP1000M, we are giving users more choice in how they want to listen to high-resolution music.  As for other players such as the SE100 to see a smaller version, that would depend on feedback from the community.  If there is interest, we will explore the option.”

Rafe Arnott: Are you able to briefly (just a of couple sentences) talk about anything that's in the pipeline?  

Owen Kwon: Along with the launch of the SP1000M, we also announced a new firmware update that will provide an Open APK service to Astell&Kern players. This new feature is the direct result of feedback from our users who have requested more streaming music options.  We will share additional information on the new firmware, features and what players will support the new features in the next few weeks.  We will demo the new software and SP1000 at our booth at CanJam at RMAF.”

Stay tuned, as I’ll be attending Rocky Mountain and have a chance to check out the new player in person.

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

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Hello Rafe and Team Innerfidelity,

Based on the postings over the past few months, it appears that Innerfidelity is evolving into a site whos primary focus is not necessarily headphones (although they are part of it) but rather audio gear that is "high end". By "high end" i mean products in the upper tiers of company offerings, typically > $1000. Additionally the articles seem to be less focused on providing comprehensive reviews/comparisons/ratings, and more focus on product introductions, overviews, etc. If thats the new mission statement, understood and best wishes team.

However, if things are still in a state of evolution. Then as you head to Rocky Mountain, I'd like to offer a suggestion or two:

* Headphones: This site is built on headphone reviews. This comment is not about Tyll or his style, but about site content in general. By all means having the site content grow/expand into other audio areas is a good thing (I would actually say that the previous lack of articles on Amps and DACs was a weakness before). However the headphone postings were both regular AND across cost profiles and provided comprehensive reviews. Keep your eye out at Rocky Mountain for new offerings across cost profiles and design profiles. Obviously you wont have the time or setting to do detailed reviews, but report out on items of interest and ones you hope to get hands on time with in the future. Try not to just post on the newest $3000 offering but maybe establish some mid range ($250-$600) of even lower range headphones of interest. Give details on a few key attributes that will help site readers seek out more info (ie: open/closed, impedance, cost, etc).

* Spend time with the gear you have: try to listen to the gear you did receive from the Wall of Fame to start understanding which headphones you like and dont. That will help you either praise or criticize new offerings.

* Offer thoughts on how you plan to quantify gear going said it wouldnt be a Wall of Fame but rather a different option more aligned with search-engine-optimization. Thats fine, but what do you think that will be and when?

* Reviews: get more gear in hand, reviewed, and commented upon. Be positive. Be critical. But above all, be a content creator. The high level introductions for high end products are fine..but they arent the "meat" of this site that helped delineate it from others.

All the best to team Innerfidelity.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

Three Toes of Fury

John Grandberg's picture

I can't speak for the overall long-term trajectory of the site, but I can tell you that Rafe has not done anything to discourage my wandering around the high and low priced audio landscape in search of review gear. I just submitted my write-up for the $499 Cayin N5iiS portable player, and next up is the high-value-but-not-cheap RME ADI-2 DAC ($999, so technically below your $1000 remark). Both of these represent a very strong value if not the lowest possible pricing for a product in their respective segments.

Where do I go from there? We'll see. It might be a massive $4,000 tube headphone amp one month and a diminutive $109 portable player the next. Both have equal appear in my view, with obviously different target markets. As long as Rafe lets me keep doing what I do, you'll always see a good mixture of affordable gear along with statement pieces and everything in between.

Rafe Arnott's picture
There will be a lot more "meat and potatoes" headphone reviews coming down the pipeline shortly at multiple price points, getting the gear in house was the biggest stumbling block, but it's here now.

Things are evolving at InnerFidelity, but it's not happening overnight. I've been at the helm full time for less than three months and you don't implement any effective change in such a short amount of time, also the whole measurements process is still being finalized, which to be honest is something I'm hoping can be sorted very soon.

As for RMAF, I'll be there and meeting with manufacturers and distributors, checking out as much new and upcoming equipment as I am able.

Thanks for the feedback and continuing support!

Three Toes of Fury's picture

John and Rafe,

Thank you both for your feedback!

I fully expect and understand that there are many situations where site visitors interests/requests will either align or diverge from the new directions. That being said, its quite refreshing to see your positive feedback and openness to input. And, personally, its great to get additional insight into your approach and thoughts for the future. I dig it!

Thanks again, Innerfidelity is hands-down my favorite audio gear site and Im excited for whats to come.

Rafe: have a great trip to RMAF. Take lots of pictures! Some of us that cant get there reallly like to read as much as we can about it.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo


(PS: John, maybe i should be careful for what i ask for, your upcoming Cayin review sounds very intriguing. I may be spending money soon. he he he).

Franc's picture

I have some ideas and hopefully Rafe will read this. The shear amount of headphones on the market makes it difficult to review given the long form review innerfidelity uses. What about a quick review basically just giving points out of ten for different headphone characteristics like sound stage, bass, top end and an overall score out of ten. My second idea is reviewing headsets, not just audio quality but mic quality. Gamers make up millions of people including me. Many thanks and keep up the great work.

Rafe Arnott's picture
of reviews to come now that the gear is arriving. Thanks for the suggestions, I sincerely appreciate the feedback.