Apart from us hardcore music lovers and audiophiles, most people can’t understand why anyone would opt for a dedicated music player. You can play music right from your phone, can’t you? Sure, but pair your phone with high-quality headphones and download high-resolution music files, and you’ll be left wanting. Solution? Listen to Astell&Kern‘s AK70 ($599 SRP), suggests Tech Hive’s Theo Nicolakis, and you’ll change your tune.
Nicolakis feels the major disadvantage with a dedicated music player is that it’s not only another device to carry, but it’s often a big and bulky device to boot, and we here at HRAC tend to agree with that assessment. And while Astell&Kern’s AKJr’s iPod nano-like size was seemingly perfect, he felt its sluggish user interface and Spartan feature set left him wanting more when he reviewed it last year.
Fast-forward several months, and the high-end music player manufacturer is back with the AK70, and its feature set is as great as its design. There’s 64GB of onboard storage plus one MicroSD expansion slot that Astell & Kern says can handle cards up to 256GB. There are 200GB cards available that you can also try and they should work, but be sure to buy high-quality, name-brand MicroSD cards to avoid issues.
Common with Astell&Kern’s other second-generation devices, a Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC lies at the heart of the AK70. This chip can handle all standard high-res music formats up to 192kHz/24-bit. It will down-sample 32-bit music files to either 192/24 or 176/24 using a sample-rate converter. DSD 128/64 files will be converted to PCM 176/24 for playback.
The AK70 also features aptX HD support so you can stream hi-res audio files over Bluetooth, and it’s among the first players on the market to do so. (Make sure you’re running the recent firmware, as aptX HD support was added after the player first shipped.)
The Chesky recording of Rebecca Pidgeon’s album The Raven was beautifully delivered. The 176.4/24 FLAC version of “Spanish Harlem” had a nice sense of space and soundstage depth when it was paired with the Beyerdynamic Amiron headphones. No matter which headphones were used to play this song, bass lines were flat-out warm, natural, detailed, and intoxicating through the AK70, driving almost every headphone with a good sense of control and detail.
Read more of Nicolakis’s A&K AK70 review at Tech Hive.