Nice Digital Audio Player For Clean, Refined and Relaxed Sound. Good For Long Listening Sessions: Astell&Kern A&norma SR15
I bought Astell&Kern SR15 digital audio player from Headphone Zone around 10 days back. I was expecting great sound quality reading especially What HiFi review. I was also expecting great sound because it has implemented dual Cirrus Logic MasterHIFI class DAC CS43198. When I used this Player, I found it has clean, refined and subtle presentation. Sound is not much punchy but a bit laid back and relaxed. This player doesn't sound bright, high frequencies are very much controlled. Bass is not too much but adequate, and it is rounded. What i really disappointed that sound is not open and enthusiastic but a bit boxy and clinical. Not only that, instruments are not well defined and lack detail for reputation of this player. Instruments do not feel enough clear and separate but slightly mixed and muddy. When i compare it with Chord Mojo which i also bought from Headphone Zone six months back from now, i feel Chord Mojo has more lively, open and spacious soundstage. Mojo has good punch and rhythm with detail instrument and voice separation, which was to some extent missing in SR15.
But on the positive side, SR15 has very smooth, clean and refined presentation. It is not bright and has adequate bass to make it extremely comfortable and relaxed listening for long period without much ear fatigue. Presentation is so subtle, refined and smooth that you won't feel anything is playing; you become in-sync with the audio. Had it had open and spacious soundstage, and not a bit boxy and clinical presentation, it would have been really a great player. Chord Mojo gives pretty lively, enjoyable, punchy and detailed performance, which SR15 lacks a bit. Probably Astell and Kern reserved the best performance for their more expensive models.
Overall, SR15 is a pretty good companion to enjoy music in a very subtle and refined way. It's a very comfortable and relaxed listening even for long periods with least ear fatigue, which is really an important thing for a personal audio play...