The key selling point of the AK10 is the claim that it will improve or enhance audio quality over simply plugging in your earphone or headphone to the PC onboard soundcard or straight out of the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy (Android). In short that is true, the AK10 does enhance the audio quality in all three equations but the kicker for me is that, well, so does the FiiO E18 and it is much cheaper. In short the difference is not quite enough for a $299 interface DAC/AMP in comparison to the E18 which for me does a whole lot more for a whole lot less.

I wont knock the tonality though of the AK10 which conveys all the tonal characteristics of the WM8740 being well implmented. The AK10 is warm, musical and and most certainly hiss free when selected with the right headphone. The AK10 for me presented a fairly convincing and natural tonality that kept things fairly lively and engaging and was far from being boring, neutral or cold and sterile. Using Merlin’s or some dual BA’s (Nocs I think) hanging around the house it kept pace pretty well with slightly better bass detail and texture than from the source DAC and amp as well as a more engaging and dynamic presentation. In short the Ak10 felt snappier and more lively butwithout feeling I was really being blown away like the Theorem or the E18 (for differing reasons).

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Certainly the AK10 is a step up on the Samsung S3 onboard DAC and amp but the difference, though noticeable, was diminished slightly on the iPhone 5 series which made the AK10 slightly less compelling than I hoped it would be. With the PC it was mostly the same experience but I honestly think if you are going for a PC setup this should not be your first choice since the FiiO E17 and E09k can be bought for the same price and that is a really powerhouse budget experience. The AK10 is much more at home driving IEM’s in a portable solution.

Overall the Ak10 will upgrade your experience from onboard sound cards and DAC/AMP’s on compatible mobile phones but not massively so. If your big thing is a hiss free IEM experience then most likely the AK10 is a really good fit but at $299 it faces stiff competition from the cheaper FiiO E18 and about $150 up the scale you have the very compelling -R Solo from Cypher Labs.

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16 Responses

  1. George Lai

    When I use my AK10, I always turn the volume wheel anti clockwise a few times before pressing play, a habit from old days Hi-Fi , so it’s less of a problem for me. I have a few DAC amps and the AK10 is perfect for not just hiss-free use for IEMs but the lower power means I don’t have to baby my volume control. And it is genuinely pocketable to boot. Let’s agree to disagree but the e18 is the ugly duckling. Thanks for a great review.

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Thanks George! IEM users will feel at home with the AK10 that is for sure but maybe the roaring success of their own DAP line somehow makes the AK10 a counter argument to their own DAP’s – hence the ugly duckling comment.

      I have yet to test the Beyer version, I think I read somewhere the audio playback is bit better but thats just second hand information.

      Reply
      • George Lai

        I guess since I’m an avowed iPod and iPhone user, AK’s DAPs don’t attract me. So with the AK10, I get to sample the AK hype whilst pairing it with the UI-can’t-be-beat iDevices. As for the Beyerdynamic version I read that it has a volume limiter. Boo.

      • headfonics

        Yeah but the limiter is for EU regulations where I think all audio devices have a similar setup – mind you I believe there is a button config you can press to deactivate the limiter on the AK10.

      • George Lai

        Yes I read about that button config somewhere too

      • George Lai

        I just discovered that for Mac users iRiver had issued a firmware update on Valentine’s Day where my files are now output as 96 bit KHz PCM when I use the Onkyo HF Player app on my iPhone 5S. Apparently it also works for the FLAC player app too.

      • George Lai

        I believe there is. I’m a Mac man. Check on iriver.com and not astellnkern.com

      • headfonics

        George did you try it from a tablet? What where your results?

      • headfonics

        I still think it is worth going the whole hog and using the Theorem

    • Gabriel

      The FiiO E18 stumps all over this over priced cheap looking thing…no contest!

      Reply
      • George Lai

        One shouldn’t really compare the two. The e18 works with Android, the AK10 with both Android and iPhone/iPad.

      • Gabriel

        Fixed it
        “If you have android, the FiiO E18 stumps all over this over priced cheap looking thing…no contest!”

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