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.
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.
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.
*Transport controls and volume control are iPhone-only.