iRiver bites the Apple, releases firmware update for AK100

For more, check out our full review of the iRiver Astell & Kern AK100 audio player.

There’s already been plenty of ado about iRiver’s AK100. The product is essentially a super-powered iPod, armed with a Wolfson WM8740 Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) which iRiver claims will deliver digital tunes the way they’re meant to be heard. Ironically, however, despite it’s creator’s titular homage to Apple products, the AK100 did not offer support for Apple-based codecs until now.

Yesterday, iRiver released firmware update version 1.3 for the AK100, which adds support for AAC, ALAC and AIFF files, rounding out a lineup that already includes MP3,WAV, WMA and APE, among others. It’s no secret that the ever-popular iPod isn’t exactly audiophile-quality, but now – if you’re willing to shell out $700 – you can hear your iTunes library in a whole new way.

When we took the AK100 for a spin, we found the interface and feature set left something to be desired – but boy did the sound quality knock our socks off. To say that the product boasts superior audio as compared to the iPod would be a criminal understatement.

Still, the AK100 presently poses no threat to Apple’s ubiquitous device. Given its sky-high price point, it’s obvious that iRiver isn’t courting the mainstream anyway. But what if the price of the technology came down? We could certainly see consumers paying a smaller premium for the AK100’s impeccable audio. And we have fun imagining  Apple incorporating higher-end digital reproduction in future devices as a response.

We’ll be posting an in-depth review of the product in the coming week. Stay tuned.

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