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A&K Raises Bar In High-Res Audio Portables

Munich, Germany – High-resolution audio supplier Astell & Kern went to the High End show today to expand its portable-audio lineup with a new flagship that steps the company’s selection farther up in price and performance.

The $3,499-MAP AK380 will join the previous flagship, the $2,499 AK240, and three other portables priced at $499, $899, and $1,699. Shipments will likely begin in early June in the U.S.

The AK380 offers multiple step-up features over the previous flagship, including native playback of 32-bit/384kHz PCM. The AK240, in contrast, supports 32-bit/384kHz files but downconverts them to 24 bits for playback. Like the previous flagship, the AK380 plays back single-rate and double-rate DSD files natively without conversion to PCM.

The AK380 will also come with multiple optional docks to add features and functions compared to one dock for the other players. For those players, the available dock charges the players and also connects them to a computer for use as a USB DAC. The dock enables the player to sit upright on a desk for easier control compared to plugging a USB cable from a computer directly into a player’s microUSB jack, the company said.

The new dock for the AK380, in contrast, adds balanced outputs to connect the player to a home system, creating a neater appearance compared to using the A&K players’ built-in balanced outputs and adding your own cables, the company said.

Another dock option will serve as a headphone amp enabling the portable to drive a wide variety of inefficient headphones and in-ear monitors, and one more dock contains an external CD-ROM drive that lets consumers rip music and transfer the content direct to the AK380 without using a computer.

Also new is built-in DLNA 1.0 to supplement the previous flagship’s ability to use built-in Wi-Fi to download and stream music wirelessly from a networked computer. With DLNA, if the player is connected to a home audio system, users can use an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet equipped with the new AK Connect app to remotely control the selection of PC-stored songs for playback, a spokesman said.

Other enhancements in the new flagship include 4-inch touchscreen, up from 3.31 inches, and stepped-up parametric EQ, allowing for 20 bands of adjustments in 0.1dB increments compared to 10 bands in 0.5dB increments.

The new AK380 features two AKM AK4490 DAC chipsets to create a dual-mono setup for greater channel separation, broader dynamic range and a wider soundstage, the company noted.

 Like the current flagship, the AK380 features aircraft-grade aluminum body.