Astell&Kern. A&Ultima. SP1000M – smaller, lighter (at 203g) flagship DAP with 4.1″ screen, 3.5mm single-ended / 2.5mm balanced headphone outputs, USB-C DAC functionality and aptX HD Bluetooth support. Battery life is rated at 10 hours.
Inside a Lapis Blue aluminium body, an Octa-core CPU attends to the SP1000M’s GUI fluidity and file playback; CD rips and downloads stored on its 128Gb internal memory or a microSD card (max 512Gb) inserted into its side. Two AK4497EQ DAC chips, one per channel, clocked by VXCO, give us PCM playback up to 32bit/384kHz and native Quad-rate DSD.
Back on terra firma with streaming, the new model, like every other Astell&Kern DAP before it, is a skinny affair. Hooked into a WiFi network, the SP1000M can run as a DLNA endpoint and offers territory-dependent support for Tidal (minus offline playback!), MOOV (Hong Kong) and Groovers (South Korea) but no Spotify, no Qobuz, no Apple Music, no Pandora, no Amazon Music and no Deezer. If the SP-1000M were a network streamer and only a network streamer, it’d be dead in the water.
So why cover it?
Via the SP1000M’s over-the-air software update system, Astell&Kern will eventually (date TBC) introduce Android OpenAPK support to their (co-)flagship DAP that will permit drag-and-drop installation of Android-compatible streaming service apps. “What’s up, Amazon Music?”, “Hallå, Spotify!” or “Bonjour, Deezer and Qobuz”.
Furthermore, OpenAPK support won’t begin and end with the SP1000M. Astell&Kern plans to introduce it to a handful of other models in their now extensive range. The company’s South Korean marketing department has put together an unofficial Q&A:
Q. Which models can use the OpenAPK service?
A. OpenAPK will be available to SP1000, SE100 and SP1000M.
Q. How about the SR15?
A. Due to a limited hardware specification, the OpenAPK service is not available for the SR15 at this time. We are trying to figure it out but cannot guarantee anything right now.
Q. How about KANN, AK70Mk2, AK3XX and AK240 (and 2nd generation models)?
A. OpenAPK service will not be available for those models due to their (earlier) version of Android OS that cannot run the OpenAPK service.
Q. Does OpenAPK support Apple Music?
A. No, Apple Music is not supported by the OpenAPK service.
Q. When will the OpenAPK firmware be released?
A. The SP1000M already has OpenAPK functionality installed and it will be available in October. Firmwares for the SP1000 and SE100 are scheduled to be released mid-October (subject to change).
Q. Can we install any app with OpenAPK?
A. No only selected apps because not every app is possible to run in AK and allowed in the OpenAPK service. So we will verify each app and will allow only available apps. We will get the feedback from the market and will expand available apps continuously. AK only verify and allow music streaming apps – we do not guarantee service and policy.
Q. Which apps will be available in the first stage?
A- It is not 100% confirmed yet but we anticipate Amazon Music, Pandora, SoundCloud, Spotify, Tidal, AWA, KK Box, Melon, Bug, Music Mate etc.
Q. Does that mean offline mode is available for Tidal now?
Q. How about Spotify and other apps’ offline mode.
A. If the app has offline mode, it is also possible from AK. But as we cannot check and test every App, this can change without notice.
Q. Can we save offline mode files to external memory (cards)?
A. That depends on the policy of each app. For example, the Tidal app has no option to choose a destination folder for offline mode files – they are hidden in the internal memory. So we cannot even see where the Tidal offline files sit in the system.
The mainstream is going, going, gone to music streaming. Downloads are for Dads. Astell&Kern is moving with the times to see their second A&Ultima player join the skinny list of DAPs that do streaming.
When it begins shipping in October, the SP1000M will retail for US$2399.
Further information: Astell&Kern
All photos reproduced with the generous and explicit permission of Astell&Kern’s marketing man Alex An.