By Michael Mercer
The DAP (digital audio player) segment has exploded in the past two years. Innovation is driving rapid product progression. What you bought two years ago will not be obsolete, exactly, but it will be a far cry from state-of-the-art, and while odds-are that the new products will only have a few more features than their predecessors, those few new features could change the whole product in many ways!
Take Astell&Kern, for example. Their “classic” AK100 & AK120 DAPs hit the scene like a wild fire two years ago. It’s an odd thing, referring to two year-old products as “classic”, but the company has already updated and expanded the entire product line in this time. Whoops.
I’m a big fan of the classic players. I own both, and paid for both. And now, here come the sexy new replacement players: the AK100II ($899, up from $699 for the older model) and AK120II ($1699, up from $1,299). They’ve also introduced their class-defining AK240 player, topping out at a whopping $2,499. And yes, having lived with the AK240, I can tell you it’s worth it.
Bottom-line? The price for entry into Astell&Kern DAPs has gone up. This is what happens when innovation is accelerating. However, as much as I love the AK240 (and believe me, I love the AK240), the replacement players for the AK100 and AK120 only impress me when it comes to their sharp looks and feature set; I still prefer the sound of the original AK120 to the new replacement players. That being said … if I could improve the sonic performance of my classic AK120, I might not even need an AK240!