On the aspect of DAC chips, the AK team chose to retain the CS43198 Master Hi-Fi level DAC chips from Cirrus Logic and developed a new Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design aimed at processing high-speed signals where required, resulting in audio path lengths that are in-sync, allowing for high-resolution audio output without latency. The engineers also designed new Ultra-Low-Noise Filters which are applied separately to each channel to ensure distortion-free signal transmission and provides noise rejection, resulting in the conveyance of the sound signature that the team intended.
With the faster Quad-Core CPU, the SR25 now delivers native support for 32-bit / 384 kHz and DSD256 up from 24 bit / 192 kHz and DSD 128 on the SR15, what this means the SR25 should be able to handle almost any digital audio media thrown at it.
Sonically, it is fair to say that the SR25 has picked up where the SR15 left off, it will sound familiar to users of its predecessor with significant improvement in tonality, coupled with an increase in details which adds an element of clarity and balance which was not evident previously, not forgetting a much wider soundstage to the neutral-sounding sound signature.
One of the tracks I particularly enjoyed on the SR25 is Speak Softly Love by Yao Si Ting. The DAP’s dual DAC performed beautifully in the separation of the guitar and the violin. Yao’s mesmerising voice came through without any hisses in the pauses, not even with highly-sensitive multiple Balanced Armature In-Ear Monitors (IEMs). A cover of the song, also known as “Love Theme from The Godfather” by Andy Williams when introduced in the 1972 film The Godfather, Yao’s version is soulful and adds an air of calmness and engagement. A beautifully recorded piece to showcase the sonic ability of the DAP.
Listening to my future by Billie Eilish on TIDAL Masters, the SR25 was able to demonstrate its exceptionally spacious sound stage and musicality through its transparency. Eilish’s soulful and layered vocals came through with the atmospheric keyboards showing off the DAP’s ability to handle dynamics. Neutral sounding, the SR25 handles whatever genre of music that comes its way with authority and ease. With the 3.5 mm single-ended and the 2.5 mm balanced output rated at 2.0 Vrms and 4.0 Vrms, respectively, the DAP should handle most regular IEMs or headphones with ease, except for those that are less efficient and would require a separate headphone amplifier.
I prefer the balanced output, given that it exhibits a wider sound-stage, a blacker background. Apart from those two attributes, both outputs have similar sound signatures.