Astell&Kern, that fabulous company with the fabulous digital audio players, were here at CanJam and “at it”, again. This time, they were showing off the ultra-fab AK380 ($3500), a new DAP that has the latest thinking about portable audio technology that I am aware of. 32bit/384kHz PCM, Native DSD (up to 5.6 MHz), 20-band (with 0.1dB precision adjustments) Parametric EQ, a 200 Femto Second VCXO Reference Clock, a touch-screen and scalable with an external amp and CD-ripper, the AK380 is about as state-of-the-art as personal audio gets. Well, today. It’s also pretty damn sexy in the hand.
I spent some time, spinning the dials and listening to it through A&K’s latest co-branded venture, this time with Beyerdynamic, the AKT1P. This new semi-closed headphone includes cables to use with the 2.5mm balanced output from the AK lineup, and also features a new driver tech and a correspondingly lower impedance (down to 32Ω from 600Ω in the “regular” T1). Pricing is set for $1199. I haven’t spent enough time with the T1 to compare mental notes, but I did recognize the “Beyer Sound”. Maybe John will get the opportunity to play here, and share from his mental notes.
There were two other Beyerdynamic co-ventures, too — including the T5P ($1399), which also includes a special setting in the AK series players to optimize their output, and also a 2.5mm adapter to use with the balanced output. The other was the T8iE ($999) an in-ear. I hope to get to try both of these in the near future.
What I will offer is that the AK380 seems to be voiced much more fully than my best-in-class, if more linear (and almost analytical) AK240, which is interesting. Again, I almost hate to defer (I’m looking to get one of these in the near future, God willing and the creek don’t rise), but if my brief listening here (and at Munich) are any indication, that $3500 gets the owner an enormous helping of sonic excellence. I’m psyched.