I was chatting with George Poutakidis of Melbourne’s Addicted To Audio yesterday. (Full disclosure in case you missed the banner ad to the right: A2A are a DAR site sponsor). I was teasing him about the number of brands he now distributes/sells down under – far more than any other digital audio focussed retailer in Australia. Poutakidis chuckled as he told me he’s recently added yet another brand to his arsenal: Astell&Kern.
Unless you’ve been living underground for the past six months, you’ll know that Astell&Kern is the (cleverly named, luxury) brand through which iRiver launched their audiophile-grade portable media player, the AK100 (AU$649). Think: an iPod for audio nerds: Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip, compatible with 24bit/192kHZ FLAC & WAV as well other Hydrogen Audio favourites APE and OGG Vorbis, 32Gb internal storage (expandable to 96Gb), optical input (to serve as a DAC itself) and optical output (to feed an external DAC).
Astell&Kern added a second player to their line-up – the AK120 (AU$1280) – a few months back. It runs twin Wolfson DACs (one for each channel), 64Gb internal storage (expandable to 128Gb), a better volume control and (Head-fiers rejoice) lower output impedance – 3 ohms (as opposed to the AK100’s 20 ohms).
Recent firmware updates have seen the addition of gapless playback with both models now able to handle Apple Lossless; both of these issues hitherto stood as deal-breakers for this listener. Phew. The AK120 even supports DSD (if that’s your thing). v2.10 firmware for the AK100 allows it to be used as a USB DAC, just like its bigger brother.
I shall be getting BOTH models in for review but this isn’t a aren’t-we-awesome-with-our-A&K-players group hug. Oh no.
See – the chaps at iRiver HQ are readying a docking stand for both the AK100/AK120, making charging and USB DAC connectivity even easier. Ever thought about using your Astell&Kern media player as the front end of your main rig? Now you have. The A&K docking stand sports aesthetics similar to the players themselves and the tilt angle is fully adjustable.
The Astell&Kern docking stand will sell in Australia for AU$219 with the first shipment expected to land mid-August.