Every audiophile wants access to their high-quality music files while on the go, and Astell&Kern has just released a suite of new gear to help fulfill that need. Priced at $700, the AK70 MK II is the first sub-$1000 dual-DAC portable audio player from Astell&Kern. Also new from Astell&Kern are the AK CD-Ripper MK II, and the Michelle Limited in-ear monitor.
The AK70 MK II features two independent Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chipsets, one for the left channel and one for the right. The player supports high-resolution audio in nearly every format, including 32-bit/384kHz PCM and 5.6MHz DSD (though DSD files will be converted to PCM), and is DLNA 1.0 compatible. It also packs 64GB of internal storage with an additional 256GB of storage space possible via MicroSD card. Users will be able to connect both 3.5mm unbalanced and 2.5mm balanced headphone cables for listening. Those specs are impressive, especially considering this unit is priced just above the AK Jr. portable player’s original price, but is much more powerful.
The AK70 MK II also supports Wi-Fi, enabling users to stream music from other devices connected to the same wireless network, while also delivering firmware updates wirelessly.
While those features alone are promising, Astell&Kern have added in a number of other handy features, such as the ability to use the AK70 MK II as a USB DAC bypass for playing music files off your PC or Mac, which circumvents the computer’s internal sound card and allows for hi-resolution, high quality audio playback. The AK Connect App for iOS and Android is also supported.
The other notable feature is that it is compatible with Astell&Kern’s AK CD-Ripper MK II — an external CD ripper/optical drive that will be available in October alongside the AK70 MK II.
The entire process of ripping and transferring high-res audio can be a pain — especially if, like most computers these days, yours lacks an optical drive. And even if you do have one, many drives lack the proper support to prevent skips or read errors. Thankfully, the AK CD-Ripper MK II is specifically built and engineered to manage and reduce vibrations, supposedly preventing read errors while ripping CDs. Music can be saved as FLAC or Wave formats at various speeds. Simply connecting the AK70 MK II or other Astell&Kern portable music players with the included USB-C or micro-USB cables, and rip and save the files directly to the player — no PC needed.
Once the music has been ripped, the player can scrape metadata from the Gracenotes library over Wi-Fi and apply it to the saved files.
After you have the files ripped, saved, and transferred, the last piece of the puzzle is a great pair of headphones. Astell&Kern has also unveiled the Michelle Limited in-ear monitor to complement the AK70 MK II’s high-res audio capabilities. The monitors feature 3-way balanced armature drivers, and Jerry Harvey Audio’s patented FreqPhase technology, which manipulates the shape of each driver’s connect tube for more accurate sound.
The Michelle Limited include both 3.5mm unbalanced and 2.5mm balanced cables, both of which are compatible with the AK70 MK II, as well as other players. Three silicon tips of various sizes are also provided to help ensure good fit.
This entire set of new Astell&Kern’s equipment will be available in October. The AK70 MK II will retail for $700, while the AK CD-Ripper MK II and the Michelle Limited in-ear monitor will cost $400 each.