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Rip vinyl direct to AK3xx DAPs with Astell&Kern’s AK Recorder

  • fujiya_avic_spring_2016Another show, another new portable player from Astell&Kern. This year’s month’s week’s newcomer is the AK300, the third model in the ‘3’ series that started with the flagship AK380 and was later augmented by the more affordable but non-native-DSD-ing AK320 (US$1795).

    At US$795, the AK300 is more affordable still. Separating the AK300 from the AK320 is a single AKM4490 DAC, 64Gb of internal storage, a black finish and a thousand bucks.

    One has to wonder just long the AK100 II and AK120 II will stick around given that the similarly-priced 3 series models’ asymmetrical form factor fits in with Astell&Kern’s ecosystem of amplifiers and dock add-ons (and the second generation models do not).


    Which brings us to the big/ger A&K news arriving via the Fujiya Avic headphone festival in Tokyo. The AK Recorder – an screw-on device that turns the host device’s signal path on its head.

    Input comes via a stereo mic that puts the ant in antennae – which bumps A&K into the pro audio space – or via mini-XLR input (cable supplied) or a single-ended 3.5mm mini-jack.

    A live demo that wasn’t quite to be (a failed phono stage – it happens) showed just how the AK300 (or AK320 or AK380) can be used to digitise vinyl to DXD/DSD with no intervening PC required. The video shows the essence of the AK Recorder’s utility for the vinyl enthusiast:

    Price? US$795. Neato!

    Further information: Astell&Kern







    DAR 750 x 290

    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.

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    1. Kinda sorta cool but Sony now has a turntable that essentially does the same thing. The PS-HX500 turntable (MSRP $599) will convert analog to DSD. I recently began buying records again because I enjoy having a genuine, tactile copy of what I listen to. Not always mind you, just sometimes. I also still buy CDs. Downloads? Less than ever but if I can find a reason then I will find the need/want/desire again.

      Personally I’m not ready to make the jump to DSD. I have no faith (yet) in the format and as we all know, you can’t make a leap of faith in two jumps…

      …Unless someone is there to catch you. Think Betamax. While there are more people on the DSD boat than were allowed aboard the SS Betamax it’s hard to forget the Titanic had a “Jonah” or two on board.


      • Hey SS – I’m not sure I follow how the Sony TT does the same as the A&K does device does here? TEAC also make a digitising TT but the AK Recorder’s magic trick is that it captures the incoming audio, digitises it and then hands it off to the host A&K ‘player’ for immediate storage, no PC required. Does the Sony not require a PC?

    2. Hi John –

      Yes, the Sony turntable requires a PC but along the same lines, the AK requires a turntable. The end result is the same but I acknowledge that the AK simply eliminates the traditional digital middle man, i.e., the computer. Kinda sorta cool.

      The AK Recorder mitigates the relative dearth of DSD recordings available in that it allows you to open your Vinyl Vault (or that of family and friends) and not only catalog it via DSD but also have the ability to instantly take it with you to listen to wherever you want to go.

      Again, kinda sorta cool.

      In the end, I just want to hear the music. I cannot discern between the myriad of audio file formats out there and I seriously doubt that any can. To be able to do so would suggest that the formats add or take away “something” audible to the music. Alas, my ears are human, not golden. 😉

      If something is popular enough to be supported enough to become something of a “standard” then I will consider it. I’ve taken cruises on 8-Track, DAT and DCC for example and each time I made it back to shore. Perhaps this AK Recorder is just the lifeboat that DSD needs to stay afloat long enough to reach the landing of both popularity and profitability.


    3. if you make a recording of your vinyl record in DSD format then the best it can sound is exactly like the record ?

      if you make a recording of your vinyl record in uncompressed WAV or FLAC then the best it can sound is exactly like the record ?

      will the DSD recording sound better than the WAV or FLAC? or the same ?

      One thing I like about this device is that it is (hopefully I would expect) a top notch analogue to digital converter.

      High quality ADC’s have not been easy to find to date. The devices available for converting your vinyl (or tape) collection into electronic files have generally been pretty average. However as the vinyl resurgence has taken hold (often packaged and promoted as luxury 180g vinyl etc these days) then it seems that ADC’s as an audiophile quality device will now start to appear.

      An important point of note is that if you are bypassing the PC with the recordings then how do you edit the files ? ie split the side of the record into individual tracks etc ?

    4. Hi John,
      Did you have a chance to spend some time with the AK 300? Just wondering how it sounds. Maybe something in the future, perhaps?

    Boys AND girls at the Spring 2016 Fujiya Avic headphone festival

    Burning up in Tokyo with Campfire Audio’s Andromeda, Nova