Amazeballs: Astell & Kern’s AK 240

An Review

by Warren Chi & Michael Liang

Avid personal audio enthusiasts know that hearing a wide variety of gear can breed apathy, making us jaded, blasé and hard-to-please. As such, it is indeed a rare occasion when a new piece of gear resonates with us immediately, right from the very first listen.

Unfortunately for Astell & Kern, we went into this review having heard a lot of good gear lately.

Fortunately for Astell & Kern, their new AK240 sounds utterly and totally !@#%&$ amazeballs!

The AK240 features an unexpectedly neutral signature that is remarkably free of coloration. This stands in marked contrast to much of the gear we’ve auditioned lately – where certain portions of the spectrum are emphasized at the expense of others, as if to feign an intended signature in a thinly-veiled act of self-compromising defeatism. The AK240 makes no such excuses, it doesn’t need to. Its rendering of frequencies is balanced, with few flaws advanced or merits withheld. It simply doesn’t have an agenda.

This neutrality and balance helps ensure that the AK240 presents us with an accurate and faithful representation of the music we feed it – with the exception of lower bit rate compressed music, which the AK240 neither forgives nor abides. But with anything 16/44.1 or above, the AK240 is uncannily spot on — especially in tonality, where the AK240 renders piano accurately and consistently.

Despite having a flatter signature, which can often leave an impression of smoothness and refinement, detail retrieval is one of the AK240’s strong suits. Its even-keeled signature is devoid of significant spikes or peaks that would exaggerate macro-detail. As such, there are very few macro-detail distractions that would — left unchecked — mask or drown-out micro-detail.

And finally, the AK240’s soundstage and imaging is beyond reproach for a DAP. It is neither preternaturally expansive nor suffocatingly intimate. Instead, we are given all the air and dimensionality needed to present the music with multi-layered depth, as demonstrated by the AK240’s deft handling of orchestral and symphonic music.

These are the sonic qualities that stood out for us in audition after audition, through a multitude of personal reference headphones and IEMs, with files ranging from lossy MP3 to 2.8 MHz DSD. Time and time again, we were rewarded with a level of fidelity that we honestly did not expect from a DAP.

The full review can be found here at Check it out! And coming soon, a full follow-up on Part-Time Audiophile from Michael Mercer and Scot Hull. Stay tuned!

1 Comment

  1. I’m SO proud of the job Michael and Warren did here. You cut the intro! It’s funny, as Warren saw the future during our AK120 Roundtable last year at! And Mr. Hull was part of that Roundtable – a real blast. We’re living in interesting times for the fine audio hobby!!

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