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A Look At The High-Res Audio Hardware Debuting At CES 2018

Highlights include voice control, soundbars, car head units

To fill demand in the High-Res Audio niche, multiple brands are unveiling or showcasing new products at CES. Here’s a quick primer.

Acoustic Research: The AR High End and Digital division of Voxx is demonstrating a third-generation high-res DAP priced at only a suggested $399 but said to deliver sound that is “smoother and tighter than what is typical of the price point.” The AR-M200 joins two models at $999and$699and features integrated Class A headphone amplifier, Bluetooth aptX HD streaming, and audiophile-grade components such as the AKM4490 DAC.

Astell&Kern: The $3,499 A&ultima SP1000 features 5-inch bezel-less HD display, USB Type-C 3.0 port, 256GB of internal memory, microSD card slot, upgraded DAC chipset (two AKM AK4497EQ DACs), and octa-core CPU.

The $999 KANN natively plays 32-bit/384kHz PCM audio and DSD256. The $699 AK70 MK II is a dual-DAC player. All A&K players feature Wi-Fi, USB DAC function, DLNA, digital audio output via USB, aptX HD Bluetooth, and support for high-resolution music streaming services from Tidal and Groovers+.

Also on display: the company’s first desktop headphone amp, the $899 Arco L1000, with dual high-res DACs.

Emotiva: The new desktop DC-2 DAC is on display. Details were unavailable.

Harman/Kardon: The Harman brand is readying its second smart speaker with built-in Alexa and 96/24 high-res Wi-Fi streaming. The new $199-MSRP Allure Portable, shipping in the spring, will be a portable version of the $249-MSRP 360-degree Allure, available in late 2017.

JVCKenwood: The Kenwood and JVC car audio brands will expand their selection of high-res head units, and Kenwood will launch its first two component-speaker sets and first two amplifiers meeting the Japan Audio Society’s requirements for wearing the Hi-Res Audio logo.

At CES, Kenwood will expand its high-res lineup to 26 SKUs with 96/24 capability and to 11 SKUs with 192/24 and DSD. That’s up from 23 SKUs and nine, respectively.

“We have been promoting and marketing hi-res, and you can expect this momentum to increase this year,” said training manager Seth Halstead.

JVC will expand its selection of high-res head units, currently ay two with 192/24 WAV and FLAC playback and playback of 11.1MHz DSD files.

LG: The company expanded its selection of soundbars with high-res audio to six SKUs from four, with the top two bars feature 192/24 FLAC, ALAC and WAV decoding and the rest featuring 96/24. The high-res models will carry the Japan Audio Society’s High-Res logo because of their decoding capabilities and ability to reproduce sound out to 40kHz.

Onkyo: New high-res DAPs will be displayed. Details were unavailable.

Oppo: The company launched an MQA firmware update in late 2017 for the universal $1,299 UDP-205 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player with DVD-Audio and SACD playback. The player, the first 4K Blu-ray player with MQA, previously played high-res files, including DSD files. It will be displayed at the DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s Hi-Res Audio Pavilion.

Sony: MQA playback has been incorporated into the two latest portable players from Sony’s Walkman brand. The company is also unveiling its latest high-res XAV-AX5000. Like other heads with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it plays high-res 96/24 FLAC files and better-than-CD 48/24 WAV files but converts the files to better-than-CD 48/24 PCM. A current head unit with the High-Res logo, the RSX-G59, remains in the line with high-res 192/24 and DSD file playback without down-conversion.