Astell&Kern KANN MAX DAP: A Second Listen


A second opinion isn’t a foul factor; particularly in relation to a product just like the Astell&Kern KANN MAX DAP that’s going for use with a variety of headphones and IEMs. Is there nonetheless market demand for digital audio gamers just like the KANN MAX that we reviewed only in the near past and located to be the most effective within the class?

We can perceive why shoppers wouldn’t wish to carry a secondary digital music participant after they have already invested a lot cash of their present sensible cellphone, however merchandise just like the A&Ok KANN MAX ship a really totally different stage of sonic efficiency and are designed to drive a a lot wider number of headphones and IEMs.

Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP

Your sensible cellphone could also be a good streaming supply but it surely lacks the ability and sonic chops to do higher headphones and IEMs justice.

One may definitely add a Dongle DAC to their cellphone and lift the bar on efficiency, however that doesn’t provide you with sufficient energy for particular headphones and provide you with any further storage in your music assortment. DAPs present each.

Both Will Jennings and I have been very lucky to have one of many first evaluate samples which was despatched to us instantly after its premiere on the 2022 Munich Audio Show and we each spent 3 weeks with the DAP earlier than sending it to the following fortunate reviewer.

During my time with it, I used all three output jacks (3.55mm SE, 2.5mm Balanced, 4.4mm Balanced) with a myriad of headphones and IEMs. This additionally enabled me to experiment with all 4 acquire settings.

Most of my digital playback includes utilizing the Shanling M6 Pro and Cayin N6ii MK2 DAPs with the E01 motherboard. Will and I even have very totally different headphone collections and it might be correct to state that his assortment consists of among the most tough fashions to drive; his tackle how the KANN MAX handled these could be present in his evaluate.

To actually take a look at the Astell&Kern KANN MAX in a method that may profit the widest swath of readers, I made a decision to make use of my new UE Live Custom IEMs (GUCraftsman 4.4mm balanced cables), Empire Ears Legend X IEMs (Eletech Socrates 4.4mm balanced cables), the Kennerton Magni (DHC Copper 4.4mm balanced cables) and the brand new Edifier Stax Spirit S3 Bluetooth Headphones to guage its wi-fi capabilities.

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Rather than repeat the entire technical specs and options, please comply with the hyperlink to our very complete evaluate that breaks all of it down; Will did a implausible job explaining each characteristic and it needs to be thought of obligatory studying.

It could be very onerous to put in writing a complete DAP evaluate until you should use it to drive as many headphones as potential as a result of the outcomes aren’t all the time the identical; we have been restricted to 100 hours of listening time over a interval of three weeks and over that interval, the OS was up to date with a firmware replace.

It was wishful pondering on my half that I may take the unit with me to a trip spot with lower than dependable Wi-Fi service and stream from TIDAL or Qobuz; that mistake restricted me to listening to the music that I had saved on my SD card and whereas no person ought to really feel any type of sympathy, it did restrict my capability to check the streaming capabilities.

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Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP Bottom

When I returned dwelling, I spent the rest of the evaluate interval listening to Qobuz and TIDAL Masters; there was one hiccup after the firmware replace the place I couldn’t get TIDAL to work. I wanted to reboot the KANN MAX twice earlier than the problem resolved itself. If you expertise an analogous concern — a reboot ought to repair the issue.

The Skinny

Compared to the Shanling and Cayin DAP’s, the KANN MAX is barely smaller in dimension and lighter as effectively. With its angular again, the slot in hand is excellent, and the instances designed for the A&Ok KANN ALPHA work quite effectively.

Do you want a case? When you’re spending virtually $1,300 on a DAP, it most likely makes some sense to guard the unit as a lot as potential.

The industrial design is quite attention-grabbing and there may be some substantial heft to the KANN MAX that makes it really feel like a solidly constructed product. A&Ok expenses a considerable amount of cash for its merchandise and the construct high quality definitely evokes confidence that it’ll final and show to be sturdy and dependable.

Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP Side Down

The positioning of the buttons and controls have been logical, and it didn’t take me very lengthy to determine how one can entry the entire options. The performance of the DAP is great however there are some quirks in regard to the UI that I’ll talk about under.

Battery efficiency on a tool like this may be spotty; particularly when you find yourself streaming giant information and driving tougher IEMs and headphones. We ran our ordinary checks 4 occasions to confirm Astell&Kern’s declare of roughly 13 hours of playtime.

We by no means achieved 13 hours on any of the checks however we hit 12 hours and quarter-hour and that gave the impression to be the common. That stage of efficiency remains to be exceptionally good between expenses.

Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP Front

The User Interface Experience

UI improvement is an costly and needed endeavor with the intention to make a product just like the KANN MAX work in the way in which a product of its caliber ought to. Consumers have turn out to be accustomed to slick interfaces with the previous few generations of iPhone and Android wi-fi units delivering quite outstanding entry and management of our total digital universe. A clunky or unhealthy UI can utterly wreck an important product.

The KANN MAX doesn’t have the quickest UI and it’s one thing that Astell&Kern must work on as a result of asking shoppers to simply accept that stage of velocity and accessibility on a $1,300 digital music participant appears like a foul technique to me.

Does it work?

Absolutely.

Should it supply Spotify, TIDAL, and Qobuz natively as widgets on the house display versus having to control the menu and discover them in a sidebar?

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Absolutely.

There are some shortcuts to hurry up the method, however we’re seeing dwelling display widgets for the streaming platforms on different DAPs and this actually must be a precedence on the following technology of the UI.

Once accessed, the menus for TIDAL and different streaming platforms operate very like they’d on one other DAP or your sensible cellphone. You may swipe down from the highest to entry the presently performed music possibility as effectively. Accessing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and different features is ok when you be taught your method across the dwelling display however the interface wants a refresh and fewer steps.

Adjusting the display brightness is achieved by means of the house display, and it’s potential to customise the house display and among the menus to make the options you utilize most continuously simpler to seek out. Minus entry to the entire streaming apps that you just wish to have at your fingertips.

Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP Playing Music

Sound

The totally different acquire settings are an enormous level of differentiation for the KANN MAX as a result of it actually does have the flexibility to drive the widest vary of headphones and IEMs round.

As I discussed earlier, Dongle DAPs can sound nice with the correct pair of headphones or IEMs, however there are limitations in regard to what they’ll drive and the way onerous.

The myriad of headphone jacks additionally makes the KANN MAX quite distinctive but additionally very helpful when you have a large headphone and IEM assortment which don’t use solely 3.5mm connections; the rising recognition of balanced headphone rigs has pressured producers to supply a lot of these output jacks.

Running the UE Live from each the three.5mm and 4.4mm jacks, I discovered that the medium acquire setting labored finest; something larger was an excessive amount of for the IEMs and the highest finish grew to become fairly strident and etched sounding. Running these very resolving IEMs at 40 (out of 150) was the correct stage and the place I used to be finest in a position to choose its tonality, decision, and element retrieval.

Listening to Kenny Burrell’s “Everdays,” revealed simply how resolving the KANN MAX could be delivering his guitar enjoying with a level of crispness and determination that I’ve solely heard earlier than from two-channel loudspeaker setups and a few quite costly vinyl playback programs.

Cymbals had greater than sufficient power and prime finish airiness; element retrieval is great by means of the KANN MAX and I used to be more and more impressed with the way it handles all genres of music in that regard.

Switching to the Empire Ears Legend X, the identical monitor was delivered with a wealth of element however with larger depth and richness; the recording is quite crisp and clear sounding with little or no added colour so it’s clear that the KANN MAX and Legend X have been the supply of the added physique and texture all through.

“Everyday I Have The Blues” demonstrated that the KANN MAX is great at instrument separation and creating a really broad stereo picture that extends effectively outdoors your headphones; the width and depth of the soundstage can also be very depending on the headphones on the opposite finish.

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Trumpets and different brass devices have been delivered with each a crispness and diploma of colour that basically made the music come alive. It was by no means too brash or metallic sounding with any of the headphones or IEMs and the imaging was very exact.

The Kennerton Magni have been a greater take a look at of the KANN MAX’s bass efficiency and it didn’t disappoint; bass notes have been each very resolute and fast, but additionally fairly textured. None of my IEMs have been able to delivering this type of bass response and it was quite clear that the A&Ok DAP is ready to drive a bigger, closed again headphone just like the Magni with out a lot issue.

I went backwards and forwards between the acquire settings and settled on “High” with the Magni and felt that it didn’t require pushing the quantity previous “80” (out of 150) to actually open up and hit its stride. The sound was crisp, detailed, and really clear.

Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” has plenty of low finish power, but additionally a quite clear sounding presentation and it was the proper monitor to run by means of the KANN MAX utilizing TIDAL because the streaming platform.

It did take virtually 3 seconds for the DAP and TIDAL to sync on this monitor which was lower than superb; different DAPs don’t appear to wrestle as a lot with TIDAL and there may be clearly one thing happening with the software program and the way the KANN MAX handles the info coming from the cloud.

The KANN MAX produced the bombastic Green Day monitor from American Idiot with wonderful readability, element, and a excessive stage of decision. Lord Armstrong got here throughout with greater than sufficient colour and vocals have been considerably ahead of the combination.

Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP Top Inputs

Bluetooth

My last expertise with the KANN MAX was a take a look at of its Bluetooth efficiency and the brand new Edifier Stax Spirit S3 Wireless Headphones. TIDAL supplied various playlists as I moved round the home, placing some vary between myself and the DAP.

My dwelling was inbuilt 1860 and the unique horsehair sheetrock remains to be In fine condition in most rooms. It can also be fairly good at blocking any Bluetooth sign so I used to be quite shocked that I managed to get a sign standing 20 toes away and separated from the KANN MAX by 3 inside partitions.

The most vary in any outside open area proved to be round 30 toes and I used to be in a position to safe a robust sign indoors so long as I used to be 20 toes away and in a comparatively open area.

The bass response with the Edifier Stax Wireless Headphones was surprisingly sturdy; though not fairly as sturdy because the KANN MAX driving the Kennerton Magni in a wired configuration.

Super Gain

The DAP affords a brilliant acquire setting which is primarily designed for actually onerous to drive On-Ear Headphones and it by no means struggled with something in my arsenal. With the DAP set to the tremendous acquire setting I by no means needed to increase the quantity previous 35 with the UE Live IEMs or 42 on the Legend X.

We have heard rumors that the KANN MAX can drive the HiFIMAN Susvara; with a sensitivity score of 83dB and impedance of 60 ohms, that looks as if a declare that must be verified earlier than we will say that it’s true — however none of that takes away from the truth that the A&Ok KANN MAX is a really highly effective DAP that may drive a quite in depth vary of high-end headphones.

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Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP Settings

Quirks

The Astell&Kern KANN MAX can be the most effective DAP in the marketplace if the UI was higher; the interface must be simpler to navigate and the music streaming apps have to be entrance and heart so that you just don’t need to look by means of the menus to seek out them. That shouldn’t be acceptable at this worth level.

Conclusion

After 3 weeks of listening to the Astell&Kern KANN MAX by means of a variety of headphones and utilizing it as my main digital supply with the Ampsandsound Kenzie Ovation Rev2, there is no such thing as a query in my thoughts that it is likely one of the prime 3 DAPs presently out there no matter worth.

Operational quirks apart, and they’re gadgets that should be addressed by Astell & Kern in relation to the UI, the KANN MAX is able to driving virtually something within the headphone and IEM classes and delivering a state-of-the-art listening expertise.

Where to purchase$1,299 at Crutchfield | Amazon.com | Audio46£1,199 at Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

Leather Cases are $149 at Audio46 individually or bundled for $1,448 at Amazon

Astell&Kern Kann Max DAP Flat Angle



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