May 6, 2021

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AK small tail out of the spring, AK small tail dominated the game!

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Starting from the first player AK100, the design, pricing, and concepts of Astell & Kern products have profoundly influenced the market and have gradually accumulated a solid market foundation. However, it may be the inherent field’s status that made AK a lot slower in launching the “little tail” form of mobile phone decoding earphone. After all, the “little tail” has revolutionized the momentum of low-end players. No one is willing to do anything like handing a knife to the enemy.

However, consumption habits and market trends cannot tolerate manufacturers going against the current. As the saying goes, “join if you can’t beat them,” and finally, we have waited for the first tail of AK: PEE51.

I don’t think this name is strange. All AK products have a three-letter and two-digit model name, similar to the SM-G9980 model of the National Bank’s Samsung Galaxy S21Ultra. And the reason why AK did not give PEE51 a separate product name, I guess, is because AK did not include it in the player product sequence, and its classification on the AK official website belongs to “Cable”-so it is not difficult to understand, After all, AK’s wire products were all direct-call models before. However, for products that are positioned relatively more publicly, such as the little tail, the lack of a product name with recognition and communication power will eventually suffer a bit.

Of course, even if it is not called SR/SE/SP and so on, you can easily recognize that this is an AK product. PEE51 has AK’s most iconic and classic aspect design appearance. You can find the same elements in SP2000, AK T9iE, original CD-RIPPER, and AK500N products. In terms of material, PEE51 uses zinc alloy to make the shell (including the plug shell) and only has an opening on one end surface for installing the device. With the delicate gun-colored surface, this is undoubtedly the most refined and the best quality. It has helped me understand the fineness of zinc alloy products.

It seems that it is a matter of “face.” AK is really not willing to give competitive products any chance to challenge themselves.

For the connection line between the plug and the main body, AK chose a four-core copper silver-plated wire for PEE51, with a pure copper shield on the outer layer. It is a pity that this cable cannot be replaced, which means that the PEE51 cannot adapt to the Lightning interface by changing the cord like the Leto PAW S1 or Lebi W1/W2. iPhone users also have to prepare an adapter cable. Of course, there are benefits. The cable itself is of high quality, and it is designed to be non-replaceableto avoid the impact of different third-party cables on the sound quality. This is also the consideration of AK-but I guess the after-sales department is not very happy.

By the way, Android phone users shouldn’t be too happy. The size of the plug shell of PEE51 is slightly larger than that of a standard charging cable plug. If you don’t want it to be stuck by the phone shell, you’d better prepare a phone shell with larger opening size.

Perhaps because of the design’s simplicity and neatness, there are no screens or buttons on the PEE51, which means that you can only adjust the volume through the front end. There are no EQ options at the moment without independent app support, and there is not much to talk about.  Besides, PEE51 only retains a 3.5mm single-ended output and does not provide a 2.5mm balanced output-but considering that AK has even added a 4.4mm balanced output to the KANN ALPHA, it is not too strange. Maybe this just indicates a subtle change in AK’s attitude towards 2.5mm balanced port.

In terms of DAC, PEE51 uses two CS43198, which is undoubtedly the top lineup in today’s small tail. The only competing product with dual CS43198 is the Lebi W2, and the price reaches $280. Let alone the tiny tail, the dual CS43198 is only used in the player at least for mid-range price products (such as AK’s SR25). After all, the CS43198 itself is a flagship DAC.

In terms of DAC, PEE51 uses two CS43198, which is undoubtedly the top lineup in today’s small tail. The only competing product with dual CS43198 is the Lebi W2, and the price reaches $280. Let alone the tiny tail, the dual CS43198 is only used in the player at least for mid-range price products (such as AK’s SR25). After all, the CS43198 itself is a flagship DAC.

However, experienced players all know that the machine’s sound is good when it is hot (the origin of the word “enthusiast” can be traced back to this matter). As a matter of fact, the voice of PEE51 is also powerful, which is reflected in two aspects: one is the driving force, the other is the voice.

Although the nominal output level of PEE51 is just 2 Vrms, I only need one-third of the volume when driving Softears Turii. At this time, the sound pressure is almost equivalent to the SR25 single-ended three-fifths volume. The softers RS10, which is recognized as hard to drive, only needs half the volume on the PEE51, while the SP2000 single-ended drive RS10 requires two-thirds of the volume to achieve the same sound pressure. At this point, I no longer complain that it does not have abalanced output. The single-ended output is already like this, and it is indeed not necessary to add a balanced interface to increase the volume.

This point of PEE51 is compelling, but it also brings about an experience problem: adding one level of volume is too noisy, and reducing one level of volume is too low. Since PEE51 does not have a volume adjustment function, it is necessary to fine-tune the phone volume to solve this problem, which adds a minor inconvenience to daily use.

In addition to the exaggerated volume supply, the sound of PEE51 is also mightily “strive for miracles.” RS10 is a headset that is difficult to achieve rich dynamics on mid-range portable players, but PEE51 can drive it to be quite dynamic, and the sound field can fully support an enormous enough sense of scale. And after switching to Turii, a headset that is inherently powerful and not difficult to drive, I even feel that it is a bit too strong and tough, and it has a tune of “everybody with me hi hi hi.”

So in 2021, will anyone still think that the sound of the AK machine is soft? PEE51 is the most “hard” sound among the current small tail products, and there is no one.

If AK player products on sale are listed to describe the sound style of PEE51, KANN CUBE is undoubtedly the one with the closest appearance. They all have solid density, surging dynamics, sharp and clear lines, and a sense of strength. Even I think PEE51 is a bit tougher and more aggressive than KANN CUBE. Didn’t AK give it a separate name? I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling it “KANN CUBE mini.”

But let’s be honest, if the sound of PEE51 were more stable, I would like it better. “Large” is sometimes accompanied by “thick sound”. The dynamics and density of the SR25 equipped with two CS43198 chips are not as good as that of PEE51. I can even imagine that after PEE51 is officially launched, there will be “Sling SR25”. The violent argument-but the sound of the SR25 is really much more delicate than it. From my personal preference, I hope that AK will allow users to reduce the gain of PEE51 through the app in the follow-up so that its style will be more convergent, and it will also improve the difficulty of volume selection and high heat generation.

Of course, I also fully understand the intention of AK to adjust it in this way. The rugged quality of PEE51 undoubtedly has the first-class level among similar products; coupled with this “significant quality” sound style, it is cost-effective and extremely lethal for the main consumer groups of Little Tail products, namely entry-level to mid-level players . The combination of true quality and quality flow allows PEE51 to constitute a significant advantage over competing products when performing rock, metal, electronic music and even symphony.

“I mean all of you here…”

When I first got the PEE51 prototype, with its sound quality level and Astell & Kern’s traditional pricing style, I guess the final price might be close to $300  or even higher. After all, the small domestic tail that also carries two CS43198 has been sold for almost $300. Understandably, AK’s products are more expensive, and there is no shortage of people who pay the bill. I did not expect that the industry “rolled” to AK’s end and played a cost-effective card. The high-end little tail is about the price/performance ratio. Players who can play PEE51 have not yet been born.

So the PEE51 product is not perfect in my eyes. To be precise, many problems make me complain. But for the price of $149, this is not a problem-a wonderful price can narrow the frame, and of course, it can also reduce the heat.

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