Home » Reviews » Sources » The Wisdom of Experience – A Review of the Astell&Kern KANN

The Wisdom of Experience – A Review of the Astell&Kern KANN

Astell&Kern provided KANN on loan for the purpose of this review, for good or ill.

KANN sells for $999.00 MSRP.
KANN on Amazon


Ah Astell&Kern… you sexy beast, you. The first time I spent more than $200 on a music player, it was to buy the Astell&Kern AK120II second-hand for $1,040. My first taste of the top. And oh what a taste it was. Once you reach that level of performance, nothing else satisfies. I joined a few tours and tried a smattering of other devices later, but nothing had that level of refinement, that level of rightness.

Not being a wealthy man, pursuing a traditional upgrade, such as the AK380, was always out of the question. I eventually did move off the AK120II when I got the Opus#2. It is a bit better at this or that, but mostly I was just ready for something new. If KANN had come out earlier this year, I would never have given Opus a try, and simply gone right for the new AK. Such is my love for this brand. Their devices speak to me: the aesthetics, the build, the software, and oh yes, that sound!

Honestly, I’m glad KANN didn’t release in January. It gave me the opportunity to discover just how amazing the Opus#2 is. It’s so strong, in fact, KANN now has its work cut out for it. That’s the comparison which will determine whether or not you should spend your hard earned money on Astell&Kern’s latest creation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about KANN first. That is, after all, what this review is all about.

The Astell&Kern KANN is a brick. It’s heavy like a brick, and thick as f**k. Yet give the thing one glance and you’re captivated by its beauty. AK is famous for taking weird geometries and making something fabulous out of them. KANN may not be the strangest-looking AK DAP, but it’s no less unique, or luxurious.

I haven’t yet decided if I like the physical buttons beneath the screen. Though… you know what? I kinda do. Is it better or worse than any other design? I guess that’s for you to figure out for yourself.

KANN breaks all the molds by incorporating not only a microSD slot, but a motherf**king full-size SD slot as well. And let us not forget the 64GB internal storage to boot, making this one of, if not THE largest potential storage found in a DAP. Then, in the fever of their hubris, they added two USB connections. A Micro and a Type-C. Why? Because they can, I guess. It seems a bit ridiculous, but whatever.

The Volume wheel is weird, and pretty sweet. I’ll not bother finding words to describe it. Just behold, and remember: Astell&Kern.

Bluetooth Apt-X works great. My Bang&Olufsen H9 paired with ease. I could use a bit more volume, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen. The range you get is one of the best. You won’t be able to cross a large room and keep solid signal transfer, but a good fifteen feet at least. That’s better than some DAPs, which break up at half that distance.


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Pinky Powers

Pinky Powers

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.


5 Responses

  1. Folks,

    I’m new to the KANN world and looking for a specific thread about pairing it with headphones. The only decent IEM I currently have are Sennheiser IE800 and wondering how good they are when paired with KANN…

    I have heard a lot about KANN’s musicality and sometimes wam-ish signature so also wondering what headphones I should buy to get max out it (within 1k eur budget). The synergy I’m looking for is to get a detailed and clear sound with macro and micro details and wide and deep sound-stage allowing me to have fun while listening to the music but also being balanced enough and analytical sounding so I can enjoy all the complex layers and sound textures. I want headphones to sound naturally balanced without exaggerating lows and high end, headphones that sound fully bodied but naturally without mid-bass oooomph. Headphones I want to buy would also ideally have balanced cables either included in the box or commonly available on the IE/UK market.

    Can anyone please suggest a thread with opinions and experience on pairing or alternatively advise if such a thread can be added/initiated somewhere?

    Thanks in advance!!

  2. I just demoed the AK120ii mentioned in this article and was favorably impressed. I am considering buying it even if it’s 3 years old now. However, I’m concerned that it doesn’t play dsd natively.

    Now I see your review for the KANN and think that could work too. Unfortunately I have not been able to demo it. Do you think that the KANN is the better of the two by some degree? How similar are they with the KANN lacking the dual dacs? Where I am the AK120ii is sold at $750 vs the KANN at $1000 so price is a factor.

  3. The Calyx M DAP has a full size SD slot as well as a microSD slot since the year 2014!!
    With new FW update the SD slot takes a 500 GB SD card and the micro SD slot takes 256 GB, and there´s also 64 GB internal. You should definitely check this “exotic” and wonderfully musical (as well as affordable) DAP once you have the opportunity.

  4. Enjoying KANN with Hidition New Tears 6 and Whiplash TWag V3 and TWcu V3 Hybrid cable from balanced output and high gain myself. What Hidition missing KANN delivers. Awesome combo!

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