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Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal [Updated with FW 2.01], May 28, 2013
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This review is from: Astell&Kern AK100 Mastering Quality Sound (MQS) Portable System (Electronics)
## Update as of 07/10/2013
It has been a while since I updated AK100 with the latest official firmware 2.01. iriver has done its homework, and it gets "A" grade from me for the following improvements:
1. UI is very simple, and its 'home' screen is shortcut based, and it saves lots of time - this is quite helpful when you are walking
2. UI is much faster
3. 'Booster' function adds slight punch just like the 'Loudness' function found on some of pre-amps
4. Added 'Gapless' function, of course, is very good. I initially didn't care too much about lack of it in previous firmware, but this, indeed, made listening to live album feel more like listening to the live session
5. I had a chance to try out the latest so-called Russian firmware which brought some clarity and sharpness, however, I prefer the official 2.01 as I found it more comfortable to listen for extended period of time - to my humble opinion, the official version sounds more neutral than the other

Just to sum up my experience with AK100: This is awesome product, well an initiative. Accessibility to music in pure form has been progressively difficult over period of time. I never liked the idea of a phone that does all with carelessly produced MP3s. Back in the days, if you want something decent, you had to pay for the quality, then you would get one. But overly successful smartphones and music stores killed the sales of manufactures producing high quality products that are good at only one thing - playing great music. Sadly, they also adapted. Some players are forced to run Android, so it also plays good music, but also multi-task some apps that are built with no passion. Through AK project, I saw the new hope that there still are manufactures that care for the demanding consumers although they do not represent the majority of the market, but share the very same passion towards to great music.

-------------------

Since my colleague first sent me the link to a head-fi posting about iriver AK100 back in October 2012, I have done my homework by reading up all the rumors, discussions, initial impressions, initial reviews, in-depth reviews, user reviews, and spending perhaps 20 lunch breaks with my colleague talking more about it. (Last time I checked head-fi, there were about 5.2K posts over 352 pages - I stopped reading it after 200 something pages.)

After months of lust over AK100, I actually had chance to spend quality time to actually listen and process my impression/feeling on the product at an audio show at NYC in April 2013. After spending about 20 minutes doing back-to-back comparison with my other player, I was well convinced that AK100 was the REAL deal - the product on demo had Stevie Wonder and Stan Getz tracks in 24 bit format which I have listened over two decades in tapes, CD's and FLAC. I was lucky to have few of the same tracks on my device which allowed me good back-to-back.

In two weeks, I got my very first AK which came in classy package that was pleasing complement to excellent built quality - the finish and feel of the product reminded me of Sony's domestic versions of top-end compact disc players built in 90's which is very rare now days and good thing. It actually had the protective film applied on the screen and the back of the product which was very logically pleasing.

It is not practical to describe my impression on AK100, as I am not a professional in translating my subjective listening into various words with varying grades. Trying to make sure that we all are on the same pages would be very difficult. However, after spending more days and nights with it, I can say without any hesitation that AK takes couple steps closer to the music at its best possible quality.

Many audiophiles spend the amount that may seem impractical to others for getting a half or one step closer to the quality they expect. Spending some time with few of them trying out AK100, many of them were pleasantly surprised by its performance over the price.

There are also few areas that iriver could improve upon: a) user interface could be optimized and reorganized for faster and more intuitive usage, and b) volume knob should have been better secured - the upper class model, AK120 seems to address this issue well. I hope to see a) being improve in subsequent firmware updates.

Hope you get a chance to try it out!
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 29, 2013, 6:28:02 AM PDT
Sky Blue says:
Check out the famous Russian Firmware Update that practically installs AK120 firmware on AK100. You will see the link in Head-fi. See the photo I posted above for the UI of this firmware. It also increases the volume by 4-5 decibel while maintaining black background and makes operation nifty. If you don't like it, you can always go back to the "official" firmware, 1.33.

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2013, 9:49:15 AM PDT
duke says:
Thanks for the heads-up. I was debating myself over the long weekend whether to do it or not. Although it is very very tempting, I decided to wait until the company releases the official version for few reasons: a) back-to-back among three different firmwares at one sitting: old firmware, russian firmware, new official firmware, b) some reported shorter batter life and clipping at higher volume, and c) the real reason: to spend more time with sonic provided by the current version, and then be wow-ed significantly when it finally comes out :)

I see the 'Russian Firmware' as a very positive thing. As you mentioned in your review, I hope the iriver cult introduces many more homebrew modifications just like many people did with VW Golf. Meanwhile, everyday until the official release of the next firmware would feel like 48hr day.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2013, 12:52:08 AM PDT
Sky Blue says:
You may be pleased to find there are far better options for UI and sound through different firmwares for AK100 now. Go to http://www.head-fi.org/t/630288/the-new-iriver-ak100-a-high-end-dap/5745 and look for post #5747. You basically have 4 version choices and 1.33 is the worst. Try Listrid 2.0.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2013, 6:42:11 AM PDT
duke says:
I am actually running the 2 Beta version. I quite like what they have done with UI which made very good logical sense. While I loved Gapless feature, I have not tried the volume gain option as I thought it was somewhat 'unnatural.' Even though, the Russian firm ware is constantly evolving, some I know love version 1's sound over version 2's while the others prefer version 2 for it sounding 'settled.' I have not yet to try them yet, as I am more inclined to think that 'Pro EQ' is processed sound - well, these players all process the data into analog sound signals, but I think it would be adding more color to it.
So far, I am holding my breath for the iriver's official firmware version 2 - if it includes 'Pro EQ' then I might give it a shot to compare among Russian firmwares.
Now I wish to find if there are any AK100 users around NYC area for meet up and discussion. Are you in Germany, Sky Blue - as your profile says?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2013, 5:57:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 10, 2013, 6:13:44 PM PDT
Sky Blue says:
I live in Munich most of the time of the year, and spend summers elsewhere - either in California or South East Asia. You could share most of the AK100 information online these days. I read from a Russian source that Pro-EQ on the first Russian patch is just a straight taking from what was meant to be a processed sound for AK120; however, Pro-EQ on the second Russian one (ie Listrid 2.0 - note this is not a patch on 1.33; it is a full firmware) is actually raw, unprocessed sound with tuner disabled! Hence, Pro-EQ on Listrid 2.0 has such power and life-like feel to sound, although it may be tad bit tiring at times. That is why I am saying you must experience this if you are a fan of natural sound. I have personally tested at least 20 headphones on the Listrid 2.0, and my current favorite is UE Triple-fi 10 Pro. It is truly a match made in heaven, and from my hearing surpasses in sound (although not in comfort) much more expensive AKG K3003. If you get a chance, I would recommend you test Triple-fi 10 Pro - Listrid 2.0 - Pro-EQ activated combination. With this combination, there is no need for an external amp as the sound is just so powerful with completely dark background. Furthermore, Listrid 2.0 is a lot more stable on AK100 than Beta 2.0.

Posted on Jan 5, 2016, 5:31:28 AM PST
User01 says:
Where can I get Listrid 2.0? All the links I see are dead. Also, is Listrid 2.0 really better at randomizing playback? I'm using AK FW 2.42
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