Astell & Kern is arguably the most luxurious DAP brand in the market. They make some of the most eye-catching designs and are the brand to beat in the high-end market. We have tried various models such as the Astell & Kern AK70 Mk2, Astell & Kern AK380 + Amp, and the Astell & Kern SP2000 and they have all been amazing products.
However, one thing that most of their products lack is a 4.4mm balanced output. But, this should not be a point of concern.
If you are using an older generation Astell & Kern product or a current-generation model that does not have a 4.4mm balanced output, then the best way to use your 4.4mm IEMs or headphones is by utilizing an adapter.
In this article, we will be talking about our preferred adapters to use with Astell & Kern DAPs. Our preferred models are the ddHiFi DJ44B, DJ35AG, and ddHiFi DJ44K. Keep on reading our guide to learn more about these models.
How to Connect 4.4mm Balanced Output to Astell & Kern
4.4mm to 2.5mm/3.5mm Adapters for AK Devices
There are several ways to use 4.4mm balanced cables on your Astell & Kern DAP. The first method is to convert the 4.4mm cable to either 3.5mm or 2.5mm. The products that we have tested that work best with this kind of scenario are the ddHiFi DJ44B and DJ35AG.
We highly recommend using your 2.5mm balanced output instead of the 3.5mm SE output. Most Astell & Kern DAPs have a great sounding SE output. However, in most of the devices that we tested, the 2.5mm balanced output sounds much better.
Of course, if you are using an older generation product such as the original AK100 or AK120, then your only choice is to convert your cables into 3.5mm SE.
One issue that we have with standard converters is that they are not very secure with the device. The ddHiFi DJ44B that we tested was usually spinning around and not very secure. If you do not like this, we highly recommend going for an adapter that is made specifically for Astell & Kern players.
The adapter that we have tested is the ddHiFi DJ44K. This adapter utilizes both the 3,5mm SE and 2.5mm balanced connector of your DAP. This not only gives you more stability but also makes sure that the fidelity of the 4.4mm connection is maintained.
Is There Any Loss in Audio Quality?
There is generally no noticeable loss when using adapters as long as the materials used are high-quality. There are, however, lower-quality adapters that can introduce noise.
We highly recommend purchasing adapters from reputable brands or purchasing adapters that use quality materials. We have personally used and evaluated ddHiFi’s products. If you want to learn more about them, check out our ddHiFi adapter reviews.
Why Don’t Astell & Kern DAPs have a 4.4mm Output?
During the early days of DAPs, balanced outputs did not exist. Most manufacturers, including Astell & Kern, utilized the tried and tested 3.5mm single-ended output. However, when AK launched the second generation of their products (AK100ii, AK120ii, and AK 240), they introduced the concept of balanced outputs.
In a nutshell, balanced outputs introduced a new and more efficient way of powering headphones and IEMs. Additionally, you get a cleaner sounding output and in some cases, a more refined sound. They chose the 2.5mm termination in order to prevent users from accidentally connecting unbalanced cables to the balanced headphone output.
Since then, the 2.5mm balanced output has been a staple of not only Astell & Kern’s products but also other DAP manufacturers. But in recent years, the market has been changing.
A new balanced cable was introduced, the 4.4mm pentaconn cable. Some manufacturers such as Sony quickly implemented this new connection in their products. However, Astell & Kern has refused to add a 4.4mm balanced output in their products.
However, this might change in the near future. As of 2021, Astell & Kern has released two products that have balanced outputs. These are the Astell & Kern Kann Alpha and the SE180. It is still unclear, however, if Astell & Kern’s new flagship will feature a 4.4mm balanced output.
Why Use 4.4mm Balanced Cables Instead of 2.5mm
If both 4.4mm cables and 2.5mm cables accomplish the same thing, then why do you need to go through all the trouble just to make 4.4mm cables work in your AK DAP? There are two answers to this question. The first one is stability and the second one is availability.
2.5mm cables are pretty fragile. And while we have not encountered any issues with our balanced cables, some users have reported that their 2.5mm balanced cable snapped. 4.4mm cables, in comparison, are larger, thicker, and more durable than 2.5mm cables.
For this reason alone, many audiophiles believe that it is worth investing in sturdier connectors. After all, the last thing that you would want is to have your 2.5mm cables stuck in your balanced 2.5mm balanced output.
The next reason is availability. Since most users are now shifting to 4.4mm cables, manufacturers also tend to choose 4.4mm cables over 2.5mm cables.
The Sennheiser HD660S and Harmonicdyne Zeus that we reviewed both come with a 4.4mm balanced stock cable.
So given how widely used balanced cables are, it makes no sense to convert your cables to 2.5mm cables just to use them with your Astell & Kern DAP.
Aubrey has been a longtime fan of music. She plays arcade music games such as Pump It Up and Dance Dance Revolution. She also loves different genres such as KPOP. Ever since she discovered IEMs and Headphones, her love and appreciation for music have been taken to the next level. And as a writer, she wishes to share her audiophile journey with you.
Favorite IEM: Moondrop SSP, KBear Believe, Noble Katana