In addition to their table downstairs in Can Jam, Astell & Kern were also hosting a veritable garden of delights in their room in the Atrium. There was apparently just too much shiny to fit in one place. I ponied up for the nickel tour.
The AK500N, A&K’s non-portable music server, has been the object of much speculation and excitement for quite some time now, so it’s a pleasure to share that it is currently slated to be released in November. The bells and whistles are strong with this one. It features a 1TB solid state hard drive, with an option to expand. DSD? It does single, double, and quad, as well as 24 bit PCM, and all of the more plebeian formats. It will rip and up-sample CDs. It has wireless. It has a real purty touchscreen. And, although I did not get to experiment with it, there will be an app for iOS and Android. The pricing for this unit is still officially to be determined, but it sounds like it will hover in the range of $10,000. This is a bit of a tough proposition with a number of other user-friendly music servers appearing on the market, but the 500N’s DSD capabilities, sound, and versatility may end up putting it at the head of the pack.
Also eagerly anticipated are AK’s first foray into loudspeakers: the bewitchingly designed Castor bookshelf speakers. These will run $25,000 for the pair, or $27,000 with stands. They feature Accuton drivers and aluminum boxes with six layers of carbon fiber in the side panels. I will admit that I spent a lot more time talking and playing with things in this room than I did sitting and listening, so my impressions of the speakers sound are quite limited. They remain, however, remarkably good-looking.
A range of AK’s various players were available for the fondling, but the one that really drew my lust was the limited Blue Note Edition of the AK240 ($6,000). Produced in celebration of 75 years of Blue Note Records, this player will come loaded with 75 Blue Note albums in studio master quality. Lest you have concerns about being limited to your player, the albums also come loaded onto 75 microSD cards in special cases with a fancy display stand. The player itself is Blue Note blue, a fact which I’m afraid may not be clearly expressed in the photos I captured that day. A one hundred page book rounds things out and gives you something to do while you’re listening to all that great music. These are limited to a run of only 1,000.