The Astell&Kern digital audio players have greatly impressed as being some of the very best of their kind. Which is kind of an odd thing to say, I suppose, because this market was swallowed whole by Apple about a decade ago, and most folks would probably be perplexed both by the idea that there were non-iPod music players out there and that iPod-based audio could be bettered.
It really is quite the mind-trick that Apple has pulled here, but the truth is, Apple has been clearly leapfrogged by many companies offering very fine fully-portable digital audio players. And, to my mind at least, at the very top of that heap sits the Astell&Kern AK240 digital audio player. Audio360 has covered this flagship product at some length, so I’ll refer curious parties to that review.
New to A&K is the refresh to the lower-level products, the AK100 II and the AK120 II. These two used to be clad in a combination of metal and plastic — the new units are all metal and quite sleek. Any questions of build quality are banished at a glance, and in-hand, the new units are really nice to … ah … fondle. Ahem. Anyway, the new models also boast improved specs and a greater flexibility to support a wider range of headphones.
Shown here with headphones from Sennheiser, Audeze, Final Audio Design and some universal IEMs from a variety of companies, these players are outstandingly high-quality. I saw several attendees produce their own older-model AK players strapped to the back of portable amp and/or DAC to create a semi-portable audio brick, but the new players are quite good on their own.
Specs and more details can be found online.