First generation Astell&Kern DAP owners who considered the original International+ a case of close-but-no-cigar might want to take a look at the updated ‘Optical Edition’ from Portland manufacturer ALO Audio.
The International+ ‘Optical Edition’ maintains the diminutive size of its forerunner which means an original AK100 or AK120 can still be rubber-strapped to its back without either protruding. However, whilst the original International+ could parse only analogue signals from the South Korean DAP, the new model comes loaded with an optical input for off-board D/A conversion – at which point the attached AK100/AK120 serves as transport only. Straight and right-angled optical cables ship inside the box.
The new 3.5mm optical input sits adjacent to the two mini USB ports: one’s for connecting a compatible smartphone, PC or Mac whilst the other is used for charging the International+’s internal battery, from which you’ll get anything between 7 and 15 hours (depending on type of usage).
The other big change is internal. Gone is the Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chip found in the original International+. It’s been replaced by the increasingly popular, mobile-friendly ES90182KM chip from ESS Labs. The upshot is an ability to handle up to 24bit/192kHz PCM. DSD decoding is possible too but limited to the USB input.
The circuit design remains balanced throughout with ALO’s own mini-balanced connector complementing the 3.5mm single-ended headphone output.
Lastly, the new ‘Optical Edition’ ships with a zip-locking, padded carry-case and is available only in black. The price remains the same as the original: US$599.
You can read my review of the original International+ here.
Further information: ALO Audio