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Astell&Kern AK10 smartphone DAC review (TONEAudio)

  • Fresh from their success with standalone AK100 and AK120 digital audio players, iRiver’s sub-brand Astell&Kern want to “Hifi Your Smartphone”. The AK10 is a dongle DAC and headphone-amplifier with onboard transport controls and jog-wheel volume control*. Unless you want to chance your arm with Apple’s Camera Connection kit, the AK10 is best suited to the latest crop of iPhones (5 and 5s): the AK10 connects directly to the Lightning port using the supplied cable.

    astell&kern_ak10_3

    Some Samsung phones will also work IF they support ‘on the go’ (OTG) USB audio. Specifically: Samsung Galaxy S3 & S4 and Samsung Note2 & Note3. Bringing a USB OTG cable ($10 from eBay) to a Samsung Galaxy S3 allowed the AK10 to funnel audio into a pair of V-Moda M-100 with terrific results…until I slapped on Cyanogenmod, which doesn’t appear to support USB audio. The Android OS remains a bit of a lottery in this respect. To confirm AK10 compatibility with your Android phone I’d recommend contacting the guys at Astell&Kern directly. Click “Global Network” on their home page for your nearest contact.

    astell&kern_ak10_5

    Sadly, the Google Nexus 5 running 4.4 KitKat doesn’t register the AK10 or any other USB DAC.

    I put the AK10 through its paces for issue 59 of TONEAudio (.pdf, 29Mb). Head on over to page 130 to read my findings.

    Further information: Astell&Kern | Addicted To Audio

    *Transport controls and volume control are iPhone-only.

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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