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Astell & Kern Upgrade 2 High-Resolution Audio Portables

Munich, Germany – Astell & Kern launched two new iPod-type high-resolution audio players that incorporate features of its recently launched flagship model, including a new step-up DAC chipset and Wi-Fi.

The two new models, unveiled at the High End Munich show, are the AK100 II and AK120 II, second-generation models whose pricing and availability will be announced in two weeks at THE Show in Newport Beach, Calif.

The new models will join their first-generation predecessors, which are priced at a suggested $799 and $1,499, and join the flagship AK240, launched at International CES at $2,500.Two other models will also stay in the line, which starts at $699, to bring the selection to seven SKUs.

In the two new models, the iRiver brand is incorporating an upgraded DAC, the Cirrus Logic CS4398. In the current flagship, the DAC enables native playback of single-rate and double-rate DSD files, making it unnecessary for the players to convert DSD files to PCM for playback. The two new models, however, convert DSD files to PCM for playback because they do not have the flagship’s processing power to do native DSD playback, a spokesperson said.

Like its predecessor, the AK100 II features a single DAC chipset, and like its predecessor, the AK120 steps up to two DAC chipsets to output audio independently to each channel. The two chipsets create a dual-mono configuration like that found in high-end component DACs to deliver broader dynamic range, a wider soundstage, and improved depth and clarity, the company said.

Both new models also add Wi-Fi connectivity, is also available in the flagship. Wi-Fi enables wireless streaming of high-resolution audio from a Mac or PC via the MQS Streaming function. Wi-Fi also enables firmware updates to be performed over the air. Potentially, Wi-Fi could be used to download music directly from a high-resolution music site.

Compared to their first-generation counterparts, both also add balanced analog outputs to go with unbalanced analog outputs.

Like the brand’s other models, both players can be used as a USB DAC to go around a computer’s internal sound card to improve the quality of PC music. They also feature a larger screen at 3.31 inches to display more information. The display uses AMOLED technology.

Like the flagship, both models support single-rate and double-rate DSD playback, PCM files up to 192kHz/24-bit resolution, Apple lossless formats, and multiple lossy compressed-music formats.

The AK100 II features 64GB of internal memory while the AK120 II features 128GB of embedded memory. Both also sport a single MicroSD slot that supports up to 128GB cards.

The flagship AK240, already shipping, features dual-mono design, 256GB embedded memory and 64GB MicroSD slot and 3.31-inch AMOLED display. It is built from aircraft-quality Duralumin and carbon fiber, which are more durable, higher-quality materials than the aluminum chassis used in the new AK100 II and AK120 II.