Astell&Kern enter the affordable hi-res zone with the new AK Jr

Astell&Kern makes some of the most gorgeous pieces of high resolution portable audio gear  — inside and out — that you’ll find on the market. But for many listeners, even the company’s entry level units have approached the point of being cost prohibitive. Not anymore. Today the company introduced the newest addition to its high-resolution brood, the AK Jr, priced at $499.

If $500 seems like a pretty penny for a portable player, it’s actually extremely competitive in the world of high resolution audio on the go. The Jr matches well with Neil Young’s $400 Pono Player (if you can find one) and it’s practically a steal in comparison to the company’s flagship AK240, which comes in at around $2,500. And although you won’t find the AK240’s sprawling feature set, or glistening internal components like a double shot of Cirrus Logic 4398 DACs, the new upstart is no slouch.

While the name might not inspire loads of confidence outside of Indiana Jones fans (Junior!), the AK Jr boasts the same Wolfson WM8740 DAC the original AK100 offered — a preferred chip for top quality digital audio conversion throughout the hi-fi world. The device also offers 64GB of native storage and a microSD slot for up to 64GB of add-on storage to accommodate space-hogging high-resolution files. As you might expect, the resolution tops out at 24bit/192kHz, and the player can handle most common file formats like WAV, FLAC, and Apple’s ALAC, as well as single-rate DSD files.

There’s no balanced output available as with the AK240, so the AK Jr won’t be as ideal as the hub of your home’s hi-fi system, but the player does include an unbalanced 3.5mm output with an impedance of 2 0hms, and that should be enough to push most high-end headphones. And like the rest of AK’s line, the player can also double as a USB DAC for your PC to bypass your internal sound card.

While no word has been given yet for the AK Jr’s release date, the device will be on display at High End Munich from May 14-17, and at the T.H.E. Show Newport from May 29-31.

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