After the KANN and KANN CUBE, Astell & Kern has this week announced the third model in its series of more powerful portable audio players. The incoming KANN ALPHA will offer 12Vrms from its 2.5mm and Pentaconn 4.4mm balanced outputs to bring into play more power-hungry or high-impedance headphones. However, ensuring that the new model won’t foist a surfeit of headroom on sensitive IEM users, the KANN ALPHA comes loaded with three gain modes (low, mid and high).
Low-impedance IEM users should take note of the KANN ALPHA output’s impedance ratings: 3.5mm (0.8 Ohms), 2.5mm (2.0 Ohms) and 4.4mm (1.8 Ohms)
The press release is also eager to highlight the noise minimisation measures applied by Astell & Kern’s engineering team to the KANN ALPHA’s analogue outputs:
“Although KANN ALPHA has a much higher output than most portable players, the player features a redesigned power circuit that provides stable power to the player while suppressing electrical noise. A newly developed audio circuit design provides a never before seen crosstalk measurement of 141dB, which is unmatched by any other portable audio product in its class.
“When 2.5mm and 4.4mm structures are connected only to the general mute circuit, as is the case with players from other manufacturers, they do not prevent noise interference that may occur because each output signal is not properly blocked. KANN ALPHA boasts noise-free output because Astell&Kern built an independent structure that completely blocks interference from outputs by switching off outputs that are not being used, therefore preventing noise from occurring.”
“In order to minimize contact noise from the output, a gold PVD coating method is applied to the headphone connectors instead of the typical rings used by other manufacturers’ products.”
A quad-core processor runs the KANN ALPHA’s customised Android 9.0 operating system, music playback engine, Wi-Fi connectivity (including UPnP/DLNA streaming support), a software interface running on a 5″ touchscreen plus aptX HD- and LDAC-capable Bluetooth 5.0 streaming.
64Gb of internal storage gets us up and running with locally stored music and is optionally extendable via a microSD socket (max 1TB). For cloud streamers, Astell & Kern’s Open App service enables the installation of selected native Android APK apps: Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, SoundCloud, Qobuz, SiriusXM, Tune-In, myTuner, Bandcamp and Deezer. Offline content functionality is available for some (but not all) apps.
On D/A conversion, the KANN ALPHA loads in a pair of dual-mono arranged ESS ES9068AS DACs that support PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD256, user-selectable filters plus full MQA hardware rendering that extends to MQA-CD playback when the KANN ALPHA is used in tandem with the AK CD-ripper (available separately).
The KANN ALPHA’s body is made from aluminium, its 3.5mm socket doubles as a mini-TOSLINK digital output and its USB-C socket can be used three ways: 1) for fast-charging its 5600mAh battery (for 14.5 hours of runtime — 5.5 more than the KANN CUBE), 2) for data transfer to/from a connected PC/Mac and 3) to server as a USB DAC when connected to a Windows or MacOS device.
The KANN ALPHA will begin shipping in late September / early October for US$1099.
Further information: Astell & Kern
KANN ALPHA will be available soon for $1,099.