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A&K Lowers Entry Price Of High-Res Portables

Seoul, Korea — Astell&Kern, which entered the high-resolution portable-audio market more than two years ago, is expanding its lineup down in price to include the $499 entry-level AK Jr.

“We hope that the introduction of the AK Jr will successfully reach a new demographic which is just as passionate about true quality sound,” said Henry Park, CEO of A&K parent iriver.

The portable headphone-type music player, shipping to retailers in late May, is priced lower than the previous opening price of $699 for the first-generation AK100, which was discontinued last year.

The company’s three other current portables are priced at $799, $1,499 and $2,500.

The AK Jr supports high-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM and single-rate DSD, which is converted to PCM. It also supports Apple lossless formats and lossy music formats.

Key features include 3.1-inch touchscreen, 64GB internal memory, 64GB microSD card slot, a single Wolfson WM8740 DAC, and an unbalanced 3.5mm headphone jack with 2-ohm output, which is said to drive a wide range of high-end headphones and in-ear monitors.

Like the three other portables, it can be used as a USB DAC that connects to computers to bypass the computer’s internal sound card.

The current AK100 II, AK120 II and the flagship AK240 feature such upgrades from the AK Jr as single- and dual-DAC Cirrus Logic 4398 chipsets, single- and double-rate DSD playback (with native DSD playback on theAK240); 3.31-inch high-resolution AMOLED screens; unbalanced and balanced analog outputs to enable use with almost any headphone or earbud on the market; and Wi-Fi connectivity, used for music streaming and downloading music wirelessly from a computer or network storage device.

A&K’s new model isn’t the lowest priced high-res portable on the market. Sony offers a $299 model, though the company also unveiled a $1,199 model.