Astell & Kern Kann Alpha

I have had a Hiby R5 for 18 months which is a great value DAP, sounds pretty good but it’s not the best user experience as the UI and Touch screen are slow to respond , better than the iBasso DX160 I tried before I went with the Hiby it’s got 4.4mm out and it’s output is pretty damned loud even on low gain with all my headphones.

I am looking to cut down on home setups for Roon as I really have more than I need and want to declutter a bit. I currently have 2 headphone setups that get used a lot, my bedroom rig Pi SMSL SU9 and Schitt Heresy 3 Amp and my main head rig.composed off Pi, RME ADI 2 FS . As I have created a new office from our garage conversion I want to have a Roon setup out there. It got me thinking that I have just two many different setups and each does sound very different as well as the Hiby so want to move to a full truly mobile solution I can go from location to location with rather than have a dedicated system in each room . The Hiby whilst good is sadly like most Android DAPs, Roons stuck with resamping all down to base rate in my case 44.1/24 even when the device itself bypasses Android SRC. It’s a budget DAP as well and can’t compare sq wise to the RME and it’s a bit laggy to use and the touch screen isnt brilliant . So decided I wanted to try out an A&K as they have added full Roon Readiness to their higher end DAPS to possible replace all my current head gear. .

So I got the Kann Alpha delivered today , got a good deal on Amazon with nearly £100 off. It’s a chunky bugger. Solidly built and looks the part. It’s got balanced and unbalanced outs and is alleged to be powerful enough to run most big cans as well as good quality iems which is half the reason for trying it, also being Roon Ready. This side was flawless to setup and all seems to be working and love that the screen has a Roon like now playing screen like the official app. Jury is out if it’s worth the layout and does it get near the RME for SQ which I do love. It feels a little closed in from the off so perhaps needs some time to burn in. I am hearing some nice detail and it’s certainly up on the Hiby which I would hope given the price. But is it that much better for the extra £ ? It does have a similar signature to my SMSL DAC. Not surprising as it uses the same DAC chip I believe. The RME it’s not a patch on currently just feels slower and thicker hopefully this changes but then the RME is a bit special.

So I have some other reservations to. Finding it quite low output compared to the Hiby. I have to have it on high gain to get similar volume levels to the Hiby on low gain both via 3.5mm inputs for my Focal Elears and 4.4mm balanced for my Shure IEMs. Don’t want to use high gain as it drains the battery and they recommend having it charging whilst using it. It’s not too far of the RME for volume and output but way behind the SMSL and Schitt Combo.Will try balanced on the Elears tomorrow and compare again. One other thing is their is no different volumes per different output which is a godsend on the Hiby if I am switching from balanced to 3.5mm. On the Alpha it keeps the same value for all inputs which could be dangerous when switching. So will need to be carefull.

Also wireless is a bit crap, only 2.4g and doesn’t seem to register very high connection speed compared to other devices and it’s crap at roaming as I have several APs all with same SSID yet it locks on to the first one regardless of how crap the signal is and not use the nearer one. Switch wifi on/ff sorts it but really should not have to in 2022. Seems to cope with HiRes ok not had any dropouts so that’s something, but would expect a better WiFi implementation for such a premium device.

Bugger all extras other than a usb cable and adding apps is a pain but I won’t be using it for those only Roon most likely and will still use my Hiby for commuting and transfer sd cards if I want to take it on a road trip.

So far not blown away, time will see. I’ll give 7 days if doesn’t improve then it’s going back.

Ta ta for now.


I’ve pretty much given up on portable WiFi Roon endpoints. I was very happy with the A&K SP1000m as a travel DAP pre-COVID, but when finally A&K gave it Roon Ready, I was not able to get it to stream reliably over my home or vacation WiFi, even though both networks are quite overbuilt. But then, Chord Hugo2+2go does not do any better. Basically I think that RAAT and the inevitable occasional packet drops in 2.4G WiFi don’t mix.

TL;DR burn music into a microSD card for portable use, enjoy Roon over wired network.

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Phones just work whereas DAPs just almost work. I think their time has passed.

Don’t agree, my Hibys rock solid with great WiFi.

Streaming fine here and I have similar network to you with Unifi. Not had issues with WiFi on any Roon endpoints, they have always worked flawlessly no dropouts. This includes in constant use a Squeezebox Radio, Chromecast audio, 3 X pi’s , Hiby DAP, laptop, tablets. Nothing wrong with RAAT and WiFi here at all. This works as well it’s just showing as a slow connection and as you mentioned in another thread it doesn’t roam at all which is really annoying.

One other thing is the battery constantly looses over night not even in use, lost 10% overnight. Not sure it’s going to last as long as all the claims and reviews say.

One thing I have to change opinion on is its power output. I thought the volume topped at 100 as you would expect, but no it goes up to 150, so my comparisons to the Hiby output where wrong here on first impression. it goes fffing loud. Odd choice though perhaps related to the different amp gains?

Any way will give a serious go today and see how it goes and performs with various material.

I had in of the smaller Hiby devices, agree on the interface. I had to change my tidal email as it was too long for the field length in the UI.

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Sounding pretty sweet now actually after a few hours. Spoke to A&K support about battery life and they seem to think if it’s loosing power whilst not in use the battery has failed and said to get a replacement. So will be chasing that up after more testing and if I decide to keep it…I am warming to it , Roon works really well on it and I really like the solid feel of it.

Except that phone SQ and storage fall short. My SP1000m sounds great from local storage, and a 400Gb microSD can hold a lot of lossless music. When I used to travel pre-COVID, ability to get good-quality music anywhere, even airplanes and remote mountain lodges, could not be beat. Starting to plan trips for 2022 that will call upon it again.

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Agree you need to add dongles and DACs to phones it’s why I went for a dap as even with a DAC the phone experience was less than stellar as the playback software has too many problems. UAPP always lost DAC at end of album.

Decided whilst it does sound lovely it has too many other issues to warrant the price so I am returning it. My mobile solution and to reduce boxes is in tatters as there is nothing else other than a pi and battery, done that, not what I am after. So likely it will be Matrix Mini Pro as an all in one for the office and keep the rest in situation.

Hi, I have a question regarding this particular DAP. Could someone post a screenshot from the signal path when streaming to A&K Kann Alpha? Preferably with all DSP disabled. I would also like to know if it is possible to change sample rate and bit depth for this device under Device setup → Show advanced. My Fiio M11 Pro does not let me do that and automatically reports to Roon with 24bit/192kHz, even when streaming 16bit/44.1kHz CD rip files, leading to huge upsampling, which results in bandwidth issues during using hotel WiFi. I wonder if a Roon-ready DAP can do any better. Thanks!

Its fully Roon Ready it doesnt rely on the Roon android app so it will play bit perfect upto DSD. However it’s WiFi implementation is vey old and only 2.4ghz and can struggle with maintaining a decent connection. For me it just wasn’t worth the money as Roon Ready was a bit hit and miss it would just stop and had to reboot it to get it back, battery life was no where near what they advertise especially when Roon Ready was active and it’s poor WiFi reception.

Just get yourself an iPod Touch, a Mojo and two rubber bands and you’re sorted :slight_smile:

I found the Mojo to be the most overrated DAC I have listened to, really don’t get the fuss.

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It does not blow me away either and I can’t tell it apart from my Cobalt. It does however power pretty much any cans out there.

How about the iFi Gryphon?

I was the same and preferred the Cobalt when I had it. i gave up on Ifi after I got rid of my Nano BL not heard that one. I’m happy with my Hiby these days even with the Android Roon limitation I don’t use it with Roon a lot and it’s a surprisingly good sounding little DAP. The A&K Alpha wasn’t worth the £600+

Oh, that’s disappointing!

Anyway, I would like to fully understand what it means. Can’t I install the Roon app on it and use it to control playback then? Or can I but playback is just handled not by the app but by DAP itself?

As it is certified Roon Ready I would think that you would control playback from any Roon Remote, as with any other Roon Ready endpoint.

I am also interested in the Kann Alpha, but mostly to use it far away from my Roon infrastructure. Being able to use it as a Roon endpoint or even as a DAC when at home to me is just a desirable extra.

Roon Ready means it has Roons official code built in to allow it to be seen as as playback device and is the best implementation for playback and needs certifying by Roon. It’s how Roon is used on hardware streamers etc

The app won’t run on A&K devices as they only allow a few apps to be installed, it’s not a fully open Android OS it’s pretty locked down not play store or anything, you can only load apps via a computer. You have to control it from another Roon remote on your phone, tablet or PC.

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I am running the Kann alpha for Roon and it sounds great (esp through the 4.4 output). Am almost having great results using the Gryphon with an IPad/IPhone as a Roon endpoint- even the Gryphon blue tooth sounds great and very convenient.