The TOTL DAP box was checked with the SP1000M: been there, done that and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth its price in sound for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing DAP but I had this nagging feeling that I preferred the sound signature of the previous Astell & Kern DAP I owned which was the A&norma SR15.
Unfortunately, the SR15 was too small as well as too slow. Although gorgeous, A&K’s recently released SA700 is also too heavy, looks as slow as the SR15 as well as features a very limited battery life.
The SR25 therefore seemed to check all the boxes of my new DAP wishlist: Astell & Kern’s music-centric UI and ability to use streaming apps, dead-quiet with sensitive IEMs, pocketable with a screen at or under 4” and a weight under 250g, excellent battery life and smooth overall operations — all of this for less than USD700.
Source: Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 / Firmware: 1.00 CM – EQ: none / Music app used: Stock & Spotify – Official site
Headphones & IEMS
Astell & Kern T5p 2nd Generation (Dekoni Audio Elite Sheepskin Replacement Ear Pads) with stock 2.5mm balanced cable and 3.5mm via stock adapter
Campfire Audio Andromeda Special Edition: Gold (silicone tips, medium) with stock Smoky Litz Cable, 3.5mm, Single-ended
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Never Going Back Again / Quality: 24-Bit 96.0 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
Iron Maiden, Fear Of The Dark, Fear Of The Dark / Quality: 24-Bit 44.1 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
Joni Mitchell, Blue, California / Quality: 24-Bit 192.0 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
Nina Simone, Pastel Blues, Sinnerman (Live In New York/1965) / Quality: 24-Bit 192.0 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here, Wish You Were Here / Quality: DSD / SACD
Plüm, You’re the one, You’re the one / Quality: 16 bit 44.1 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds Of Silence, Anji / Quality: 24-Bit 192.0 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
Stevie Wonder, Talking Book, Superstition (Album Version) / Quality: 24-Bit 192.0 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
Various Artists, Atlantic Jazz: Soul, Comin’ Home Baby (LP Version) / Quality: 16 bit 44.1 kHz – Stereo, FLAC
In one sentence, the SR25’s sound is balanced, neutral and full with good soundstage — most definitively my favourite sound signature out there.
Enough has been written about the SR15 and, although I can’t compare them side by side, the SR25 is said to be either similar and/or better. All I can say is that, coming from the SP1000M, I prefer the SR25, without hesitation. For more detailed comparisons I recommend you check out Twister6’s excellent review of the SR25.
I know this next comment might generate a stir but the SR25 is as fast, if not faster, than the SP1000M — no question about it (the new Android base of the SR25 might be the reason).
The screen resolution and size are just about perfect for a genuinely portable DAP. Although the SR25 still is small-ish, it isn’t as annoying/restrictive as the SR15. It’s overall build and design makes it the first DAP, together with the ZX300, which I want to use without a case just to feel the DAP for what it is: an exquisites piece of design and hardware.
A&K finally included matt screen protectors for the front and rear which are of good manufacture compared to the ones bundled with the SP1000M which were a disgrace. I also find the SR25 volume wheel to be better implemented than on the SP1000M. Last but not least, the wireless connections are nothing to write home about but they work well.
Something perhaps a bit less tangible: I like not to have to handle a DAP like it’s nitro-glycerine — with the SP1000M worth 2k… I kinda struggled with that.
The SR25 just knocked down a star off the SP1000M’s review. It’s that good. After going through seven DAPs, I finally found in the SR25 a DAP which I find to have reached a genuine maturity. For this, Astell & Kern deserves Campfire Audio’s tagline: nicely done 😃