Newport 2014: Astell&Kern and the impossible room


hiresnewportlogoforwebThe Sunset Lounge at the Atrium hotel is a great space, big, roundish, with high ceilings … with a wall of curving glass. Lots of light, with plenty of room to do whatever. Acoustically … challenging. Turning this room into a successful audio showcase might not be a candidate for Mission Impossible, but let’s say that it probably wasn’t high on the list for in-demand demo rooms. The fact that Astell&Kern actually looked forward to tackling it says more than a few things.

It’s kind of unfair for a personal-audio company to “tackle” room acoustics with headphone displays — that’s just cheating. So, on display was a fully “traditional” system that even had loudspeakers. Sure, there was a big display of the new digital audio players, including the new AK100 II and AK120 II, with a rainbow of leather cases for them, but that wasn’t front-and-center. 

In the middle of the room was a rather curious structure — the new 500N Network Music Player. It’s modular, and customers will be able to go à la carte. At it’s core is a Wi-Fi enabled digital player. There’s a DAC, with a dual-mono implementation of a pair of Cirrus Logic 4398 chips (same as found in the AK240 DAP) that supports up to double-DSD sample rates, a CD-ripper that also can play back SACDs, 1 TB of SSD-based on-box storage, a Micro-SD card and USB 3 connectors, and a 7″ IPS LCD screen. An optional amplifier module and an optional storage module capable of adding up to 8 TB of SSD or HDD storage can also be added to the sculpted tower. That little triangle off to the side? A remote.

Attached to this was a Cube-One, a $13k integrated amp good for 30wpc in ultra linear output. I’m pretty sure those were 300b tubes. Balanced and single-ended connections are available.

The speakers, the $27k/pair stand-mount Castors (stands are included), are stunning. A duralumin chassis with 6-layer carbon-fiber side panels, these speakers also carry a set of Accuton drivers, including a diamond tweeter and ceramic mid/woofer.

The sound coming out of this system presented envious detail and layered imagery, even at low-levels, and the immersive sound was something I was aware of as I came up the stairs, or browsed the side tables. Very impressive sound, especially given the room.













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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.