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 1039 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.