Check out our review of the Astell & Kern AK240 audio player.
Since first debuting its portable HD audio device at CES last year, the AK 100, Astell&Kern has been very busy. The company updated its software heavily from the snail-paced version that was initially release. It also created several more devices, culminating with its flagship AK240 high-end audio player, announced at CES 2014. If you thought the AK100 was crazy (aka “the $700 iPod”), wait’ll you get a load of this thing.
The AK240 has oodles of upgrades, including an entirely new operating system which is, interestingly enough, based on Android, as opposed to the Linux systems running the rest of the lineup. The new OS is claimed to allow the device to more easily integrate with online services, and the 240 is the first in the AK family to include Wi-Fi. The eventual plan is to allow for the download of high-quality music files, up to 192kHz and 24-bit resolution, directly from partner sites when it launches in March.
Apart from that, the 240 is packed with a massive amount of serious hardware upgrades that take it far beyond a mere mortal portable music player, even in comparison with AK’s regal lineup. For starters, the 240 swaps the acclaimed Wolfson 8740 digital audio converter (DAC), for a pair of Cirrus Logic 4398s – one for each stereo channel. It can also convert digital audio straight to analog using the Sony developed DSD format, which has been making a comeback in the HQ audio scene lately.
Other features for the AK240 include 256GB of storage and a micro SD slot for an extra 128GB, both balanced and unbalanced 3.5mm outputs, and just for giggles, an active matrix OLED screen. Not to mention the 240’s badass metal/carbon fiber casing carved into a slanted, neo-futuristic form factor. While we don’t know what the AK240 will cost yet, the second-tier AK120 Titan will run you $1,500. So there’s that. Still, this device is more than just a portable player; it’s designed to be the centerpiece of a serious hi-fi system.
If the AK240 is too rich for your blood – and if it’s not, congratulations – there’s also the AK100 MK II, an update from the original AK100. The unit has a lower output impedance than the original AK100, rated at 3 ohms for compatibility with more headphones, as well as 32GB of internal storage, and dual micro SD slots that max out at 32GB.
Other wild tech AK is working on includes the $1,400 AKR02 in-ear monitors, which uses balanced armatures specifically tuned for AK products, all packed into a gorgeous stainless steel housing with removable oxygen-free copper cables. There’s also the company’s new home theater lineup, which includes the blow-your-mind beautiful tube amplifier pictured in the gallery above, and some ultra high-end speakers. The AKR02 comes out in February, while the home theater lineup will be available at the end of 2014.
We got a very short ears-on with the new AK240 paired with the AKR02, and even with mere CD quality audio tracks, the level of audio fidelity is exceptional. While Astell&Kern products aren’t for the timid or the casual listener, the company is creating some of the most innovative and impressive high-quality portable audio products in the world. Just don’t forget to bring your credit card.
[This article has been updated to reflect an error in storage space for the AK240 SD slot and pricing for the AK120]