Is that an amp in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? When I walk around the city with my big DAC amp attached to my phone, I feel like a total dork. It’s the price I pay for being a non-recovering audiophile. But wait. What’s this cute new device from Astell&Kern? A tiny, low profile Bluetooth DAC amp combo that fits in the palm of my hand? But how can it possibly have any power? And does it really make a noticeable difference in sound? Let’s explore why this mini gadget is so incredible in this Astell&Kern AK XB10 Review.
I recently bought the FiiO Q5 for on the go use. I absolutely love it, especially because of the aptX Bluetooth feature. But after discovering the AK XB10, I was almost bummed. Why? Because this itsy bitsy thing provides just as much power and sounds almost as good as the Q5 for half the price. That being said, it’s missing some things that a bigger amp might have, such as bass boost, high gain and line out. Phew, I feel better.
BUT if your only priority is fantastic sound and ideal portability, look no further. Indeed, Astell&Kern knows what the market needs. The AK XB10 has a mic and accepts calls, a feature I haven’t seen in any other DAC amp of this quality. It allows you to control volume and skip tracks, and it even has a balanced input. Plus, it uses aptX Bluetooth technology, which reproduces sound up to 24 bit/192kHz. Okay. So, it only gives you 5 hours of playback. But c’mon, it’s minuscule. Made from plastic, the AK XB10 is extremely light too. Most important, it’s got a hook to attach to your shirt or pants. Who you callin’ a dork?
This adorable thing has a nice crisp character. Vocals and instruments are well defined. A very tight sound. It doesn’t really broaden the soundstage, but because of the great separation it creates, you do get that extra sense of spaciousness.
The other wonderful thing about the AK XB10 is its power. I connected a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 1990’s to see what it could do with a 250 Ohm headphone. And while the volume wasn’t quite sufficient for my blown out ears, it was just as powerful as bigger sized Bluetooth DAC amps (Poly excluded. But Jesus, have you seen how bulky that thing is?) So, it’s got enough oomf to drive something like the Sennheiser HD 660S. Wow.
I’m blown away. If you need something to walk around with that is exclusively designed as a Bluetooth device, I can confidently say that you won’t find anything smaller or better in quality than the AK XB10.