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Astell & Kern Portable Doubles As Home-Audio Source

Astell & Kern is expanding its line of portable highres players to seven with the launch of the machined- aluminum AK320, which will sit in the center of the line between two models priced at $1,699 and $2,499. The line ranges from $499 to $3,499.

The new model ships in January. Pricing was unavailable.

Though priced lower than the flagship, it will nonetheless come with the flagship’s four-pin balanced-audio docking port on the bottom so that it can be plugged into a variety of docking accessories, including a headphone amplifier, a docking cradle with XLR balanced outputs for connection to a home-stereo amp or pre-amp. The AK320 also features two of the same AKM AK4490 DACs used in the flagship AK380.

The new model features 128GB of internal memory compared to the flagship’s 256GB. The new model also comes with 128GB microSD card slot and decoding of 24-bit/192kHz PCM and DSD64 and DSD128. The flagship, in contrast, supports up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and up to Quad DSD (DSD256) native playback.

In another difference, the flagship plays back DSD natively, whereas the new model converts DSD to PCM on the fly for playback.

The new AK3320 features two AKM AK4490 DAC chipsets for a dual-mono setup that improves channel separation and dynamic range and delivers a wider soundstage.

Via its microUSB jack and four-pin balanced outputs, the AK320 slots into expansion docks currently available for the flagship player.

The docks include the $699 AK380 portable amp, which delivers greater power output to drive a wide variety of inefficient headphones. The AK380 docking cradle provides a convenient place to put the player charging it or using it as a USB DAC at home. The cradle also features balanced outs so it can be used as a high-res source for a stereo system. At $349, the AK380 external CD-ROM drive lets users rip music from discs directly to the AK380 without using a computer.

The new model also comes with Wi-Fi and DLNA 1.0, enabling users to wirelessly stream music from any DLNA-compatible NAS or device on your network. Wi-Fi also allows for downloading of music from a computer or NAS drive. An AK app lets users stream music directly from an iPhone or Android phone or tablet to the player.

The AK320 can also be used as a USB DAC when connected to a computer to bypass the sound card to deliver high-res sound to a stereo system.