RMAF 2013: Astell&Kern


Astell&Kern makes some damn fine “digital audio players”, aka DAPs. This is a weird little corner-case of a market niche, in a way, what with the dominance of Apple’s iDevices pretty much blotting out the history — and the competition — in this segment. But for those of us audiophools interested in toting around our high-res digital files when we’re a go-go, Apple has pretty much left us high and dry. 

So the Astell&Kern team has provided us an option — something that’s completely portable, eminently satisfying, and actually usable. Just add headphones — and your audio library — and start your walkin’.

The AK100 ($600) is their entry-level DAP. I’ve spent quite some time with one and found it usable but not particularly life-changing. The AK120 ($1,300) is a dual mono version and also supports DSD64 playback — and is a clear step up on audio quality. Add some high-quality in-ear monitors, and you can have a near-reference playback system that will fit in your pocket. For what it’s worth, the AK120 is the best-sounding DAP I’ve had the pleasure to use. Want to read a bit more on the AK120? Check out the roundtable over at Audio360!

The AK10 ($300) is their newest, and continues in the trend of micro-sized devices. This one, however, is not stand-alone — it’s designed to be an external DAC for your iDevices. Looking forward to fiddling with that when that’s available.

Shown here with a suite of headphones from Final Audio Design and some fancy bits from Castor Audio (not playing while I was in the room).

Brian Hunter and I fumbled (okay, the fumbling was mine, but hey, I need to blame others for my failures or else my over-inflated ego may pop with a sickly hollow-sound and that wouldn’t make anyone happy) our way through a video of this room. Enjoy.

Astell&Kern AK10













About Scot Hull 1029 Articles
Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.