T.H.E. Show Newport 2014 Show-Stopper: Astell&Kern Reveal New AK120II and AK100II Portable Players

I thought the original AK120 did a great job of playing files of all types, but the user interface (UI) left a lot to be desired. A couple of months ago I received a review sample of Astell & Kern's gorgeous AK240 high-resolution portable music player. Not only is it stunningly beautiful and musical, the UI is the best of any music player I've ever experienced. You're never more than intuitive one or two clicks and maybe a drag and drop away from anything you want to do. I absolutely love it...but it's a luxury player and way too expensive for most people. Astell & Kern are addressing the situation with two new players.

The basic differences between players boils down to this:

  • AK240 ($2500) - Custom XMOS chip for native DSD playback; Cirrus Logic CS4398 x2 (Dual DAC); 256GB internal memory; luxurious aircraft grade machined Duralumin chasis and carbon fiber rear panel.
  • AK120 II ($1699) - Plays DSD but converts to PCM first; Cirrus Logic CS4398 x2 (Dual DAC); 128GB internal memory; machine aluminum chassis.
  • AK100 II (no official price, best guess $899) - Plays DSD but converts to PCM first; Cirrus Logic CS4398 x1 (Single DAC); 64GB internal memory; machine aluminum chassis.

All three players share a number of really terrific features including: file type support for WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE(Normal, High, Fast), AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF/DSD; PCM sample rates of 8kHz ~ 192kHz (8/16/24bits per sample), DSD to 5.6MHz; wi-fi streaming from network music servers and computers; single-ended and balanced outputs; USB DAC functionality; over-the-air wi-fi firmware upgrades; and that spectacular user interface.

I'm very much looking forward to a session with these cool new players, but for the moment you can check out the the video below where Jason Henriques explains the line-up to me. Comprehensive spec listings are available by drilling into the Astell & Kern website. This very cool Head-Fi post and the one following by Michael Mercer and Warren Chi comparing the players head-to-head is very informative, as is this Enjoy the Music review of the AK240 by Steve Rochlin.

COMMENTS
paul's picture

With a "best guess" of $899.00; a single 128GB sd card at $119.00 and the leather case (best guess) of around $75.00. The cheapest new Astell&Kern portable player is (+-) $1,100.00. This price is abusive.

I own a first generation AK 100. It is ok at best. I would never buy another product from Astell&Kern at these price points.

johnpy2's picture

as paul. I own the original AK 100. Interface and sw made some decent hw all but unusable. Glad they are trying again, but they will never see my hard earned cash again.

jhwalker's picture

Too rich for my blood - the portable sound world is evolving so fast, I can't imagine spending more than about $300 for a portable player. I like having the latest and greatest, but can't spend north of $1k USD / year to get it :/

paul's picture

@ warrenpchi:

I think you are mixing the abusively high cost (which I am complaining about) with the sound quality (that you addressed).

For the sake of argument, I will be more than happy to say the AK240 is the best portable player ever made.

A portable digital music player can be made and sold for between $213.00 and $229.95 (Fiio X3 and iBasso DX50). I am in no way, shape or form saying either the X3 or the DX50 sound as good as the AK240. What I am saying is the cost of manufacturing a Fiio X3 is around $150.00.

There is nothing handmade or custom about the AK240. The same basic machine that cut the case for the Fiio X3 is now cutting the case for the AK240. Plus or minus - the boards, the chips and the other parts are similar in number and in price. Some upgrades here and there, but all within several hundred dollars.

Jonathan's picture

I totally agree with you. So why hasn't anyone from this website reviewed any of Fiio's products.

purk's picture

@ Warren,

I'm glad that AK is releasing more relatively affordable models compared to the AK240. At the same time, I do feel sad for those who shelled out 1.5k for the AK120 Titan (released at the beginning of this year) thinking that they just bought a flagship unit. Imagine having your precious DAP being a yesteryear model in less than 6 months . I bet that AK will release another DAP to supplant the AK240 within a year given their business model. Still, I think their products are overpriced given the performance compared to other highend DAPs from Sony, Fioo, iBasso, and Hifiman. And "no" I am not a bitter AK120 owner despite able get the modded AK100 at half the price due to its being outdated. I suggest everyone to wait 6 months before buying the AK DAPs as their latest & greatest are just around the corner.

purk's picture

Tyll,

Sony NW-ZX1 is running full Andriod 4.1 and its interface is the next best thing to iPod/iPhone. Like any Andriod device, one can drag and drop files with ease. Many have reports that the sound of the ZX1 is on par with the old AK120/120 Titan...not bad if you asked me.

Like the AK240, the ZX1 is also capable of hi-rez streaming via wifi. In fact, one can easily buy a battery powered wifi drive with 1TB capacity and have all of your music with you.

Bobs Your Uncle's picture

Some insults to intelligence are so egregious that the most appropriate response is the 2nd thought that comes to mind: Mom's advice that, if one has nothing positive to say, then simply say nothing at all.

That noted, I'll just wish everyone a very pleasant day!

otaku2's picture

I enjoyed hearing the AK100 at the NY Audio Show last year.
However, I cannot justify spending that kind of money on something that can be lost or broken. I just lost my iPod 5.5Gen, and that was bad enough without it being a thousand-dollar piece of equipment.

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