Hi-Fi Corner: Astell&Kern’s new AK Jr portable makes hi-res affordable(ish)


Astell&Kern makes some of the most gorgeous pieces of high resolution portable gear  — inside and out — that you’ll find on the market. But for many listeners, even the company’s entry level units have approached the point of being cost prohibitive. Not anymore. AK today introduced the newest member of its high-resolution brood, the AK Jr, priced at $499.

If $500 seems like a pretty penny for a portable player, it’s actually extremely competitive in the world of high resolution audio on the go. The Jr matches well with Neil Young’s $400 Pono Player (if you can find one) and it’s practically a steal in comparison to the company’s flagship AK240, which comes in at around $2,500. And although you won’t find the AK240’s sprawling feature set, or glistening internal components like a double shot of Cirrus Logic 4398 DACs, the new upstart is no slouch.

Related: Trade out your clunky gear for this silver sonic jack of all trades

While the name might not inspire loads of confidence outside of Indiana Jones fans (Junior!), the AK Jr boasts the same Wolfson WM8740 DAC as the original AK100 offered, which is also a preferred chip for top quality digital audio conversion throughout the hi-fi world. The device also offers 64GB of native storage, as well as a microSD slot for up to 64GB of add-on storage to accommodate your high-resolution files. As you’d expect, the resolution tops out at 24bit/192kHz, and the player can handle most common file formats like WAV, FLAC, and Apple’s ALAC, as well as single-rate DSD files.

There’s no balanced output like you’ll find with the AK240, so the AK Jr won’t be as ideal as the hub of your home’s hi-fi system, but the player does include unbalanced 3.5mm output with an impedance of 2 0hms, which should be enough to push most high end headphones. And like the rest of AK’s line, the player can also double as a USB DAC for your PC to bypass your internal sound card.

While no word has been given yet for the AK Jr’s release date, the device will be on display at High End Munich from May 14-17, and at the T.H.E. Show Newport from May 29-31.

This post first appeared on our brother site, Digital Trends.

Image by Alex An