Have your say & ask the experts!

Astell & Kern AK 100 and 120 FLAC / AIFF "studio quality" portable music players - any feedback?

17 replies [Last post]
ClydeFrog's picture
Offline
Joined: 22 May 2009
Posts: 12

It's odd that there are so many high-end and obscure systems in the pages of What Hifi but I've not seen the Astell and Kern portable music players reviewed.

US reviews mention the audiophile quality DACs and ability to play the kinds of "studio master" AIFF and FLAC files sold by hdtracks.com, commenting on the high price, low capacity, poor ergonomics but stunning audio.

Do these go by another name in the UK / Europe, or is this just an item that the editors / public have missed?

 

Diamond Joe's picture
Offline
Joined: 1 Mar 2008
Posts: 1272
Astell & Kern AK 100 and 120

HiFi Choice reviewed the AK120 in the September issue, gave it 5 stars IIRC. Seemed hugely expensive to me  shifty

__________________

He's not a diamond geezer, or called Joe!

AlbaBrown's picture
Offline
Joined: 29 Jun 2012
Posts: 68
Astell & Kern AK 100 and 120

 

 

Don't worry, they are great machines from a sound quality point of view (although sadly I couldn't stretch to a AK120!). Not the most fluid UI when compared to the Apple & Android devices though. (if that really matters when the music starts playing!)

 

From what I hear Computers Unlimited will be taking over distribution of the AKs soon, so no doubt What Hifi will discover them then!

 

Previously they were handled by a much smaller, more specialist/selective distributor. 

__________________

Naim Unitiqute, Naim DAC, Naim Nait5i, Tannoy HPD385/8 15" Dual Concentrics in Amesbury cabinets. TQ Black Speaker cable. Fujitsu P50XHA58EBb (AVM-II), Oppo BD95EU, Sky+HD, Wireworld Ultrviolet HDMIs, PSB M4U 1 Headphones.

Clare Newsome's picture
Offline
Joined: 4 Jun 2007
Posts: 13941
RE: Astell & Kern AK 100 and 120

AlbaBrown wrote:

 

 

 

From what I hear Computers Unlimited will be taking over distribution of the AKs soon

 

You hear correctly: we officially became Astell&Kern distributor this week.

Diamond Joe wrote:

HiFi Choice reviewed the AK120 in the September issue, gave it 5 stars IIRC.

The review is online here

 

__________________

Group Marketing & PR Manager - Computers Unlimited;

Former Group Editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision and Whathifi.com

Twitter: @ClareNewsome

cheeseboy's picture
Offline
Joined: 17 Jul 2012
Posts: 860
RE: Astell & Kern AK 100 and 120

so you can either spend over 1k - which is just crazy, given you can get a pretty much the same thing from fii0 for 200 sheets - http://www.fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx?ID=100000045041475&MenuID=105...

 

 

jacking's picture
Offline
Joined: 5 Jul 2005
Posts: 29
RE: Astell & Kern

You seem impresed by the X3 as you've made at least one other post in praise of, but you're distorting the facts re the Astell & Kerns' price. Only one model comes in at over $1k, the other is £580, and both include a portable external DAC whitch on it's own is worth £250/£300, which makes them excellent value.

jacking's picture
Offline
Joined: 5 Jul 2005
Posts: 29
RE

'scuse my typos £1k not $1k and which not whitch. Happens when I get annoyed.

The_Lhc's picture
Offline
Joined: 16 Oct 2008
Posts: 12578
RE: Astell & Kern

jacking wrote:

You seem impresed by the X3 as you've made at least one other post in praise of, but you're distorting the facts re the Astell & Kerns' price. Only one model comes in at over $1k, the other is £580, and both include a portable external DAC whitch on it's own is worth £250/£300,

Can you use that DAC with another source (genuine question, I can't be bothered to go and find out for myself)? If not then you AREN'T getting the value of a standalone DAC as you suggest. EVERY portable media player has a DAC in it, that in itself is not a selling point.

Quote:
which makes them excellent value.

That is very much a matter of opinion and not one I think you'll find many people agreeing with. £1100 IS hugely expensive for an iPod equivalent device.

Clare Newsome's picture
Offline
Joined: 4 Jun 2007
Posts: 13941
RE: Astell & Kern

The_Lhc wrote:

 

Can you use that DAC with another source (genuine question, I can't be bothered to go and find out for myself)?

Yes - the A&K players have optical inputs

The_Lhc wrote:

£1100 IS hugely expensive for an iPod equivalent device.

It's a premium performance range, capable of far more than an iPod. So only broadly equivalent - in the way, say, all cars are equivalent.

Like a lot of premium products - from hi-fi to cars to even food - the A&K players are not designed to be mainstream. We're certainly not claiming they are! Smile

 

 

__________________

Group Marketing & PR Manager - Computers Unlimited;

Former Group Editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision and Whathifi.com

Twitter: @ClareNewsome

The_Lhc's picture
Offline
Joined: 16 Oct 2008
Posts: 12578
RE: Astell & Kern

Clare Newsome wrote:

The_Lhc wrote:

Can you use that DAC with another source (genuine question, I can't be bothered to go and find out for myself)?

Yes - the A&K players have optical inputs

Really? I missed that bit of Andrew's review (was it Andrew? Someone round here recently anyway...)

Quote:
The_Lhc wrote:

£1100 IS hugely expensive for an iPod equivalent device.

It's a premium performance range, capable of far more than an iPod. So only broadly equivalent - in the way, say, all cars are equivalent.

Like a lot of premium products - from hi-fi to cars to even food - the A&K players are not designed to be mainstream. We're certainly not claiming they are! Smile

I understand that but, to continue the car comparison, there aren't many people who wouldn't say a new Bentley wasn't expensive, regardless of how capable a car it is.

chebby's picture
Offline
Joined: 2 Jun 2008
Posts: 15319
RE: Astell & Kern AK 100 and 120
__________________

Marantz M-CR603 • Rega R3 loudspeakers • AirPlay • Apple iPad Mini • Apple iPhone 5 • Apple iMac • Apple AirPort Extreme 802.11N • Humax HDR-Fox T2 • Panasonic TX-L32D25B • Sony BDP-S390

Clare Newsome's picture
Offline
Joined: 4 Jun 2007
Posts: 13941
RE: Astell & Kern

The_Lhc wrote:

Can you use that DAC with another source (genuine question, I can't be bothered to go and find out for myself)?

Clare Newsome wrote:

Yes - the A&K players have optical inputs

The_Lhc wrote:

Really?

Yep - the AK100 has optical and the AK120 both optical and USB inputs.

__________________

Group Marketing & PR Manager - Computers Unlimited;

Former Group Editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision and Whathifi.com

Twitter: @ClareNewsome

jacking's picture
Offline
Joined: 5 Jul 2005
Posts: 29
RE: Astell & Kern RE: Astell & Kern

Yes it's completely portable and can be used in all situations where a quality DAC can make a difference, and I still see it as excellent value and most definitely not a iPod equivalent, but something far superior. If you go onto the Astell & Kern web site there are links to expert reviews & opinions. i am delighted with mine which I've had for about six months, although disappointed that I could have saved the £250 I had already paid for a Meridian Exporer DAC.

adamrobertshaw's picture
Offline
Joined: 10 Nov 2011
Posts: 73
What isn't made clear here is

What isn't made clear here is how the external signal introduced to the AK120 dual DACs would then be output from the AK120 to a hi-fi amp?

I think this would probably involve using the analogue 3.5mm earphone jack and connecting to an amp by twin RCA.
Not sure I would ever connect an £1,100 source to an amp using a 3.5mm jack to twin RCA connector.

Also can the analogue line out be set to a fixed level? Again I would think that the earphone jack is a variable output designed to drive headphone volume.

__________________

Adam Robertshaw

LOUNGE - Cyrus CD Transport, Cyrus Stream X2, Cyrus DAC XP Signature with PSX-R, dual Cyrus X Power in bi-wire configuration with dual PSX-R / VdH The Wave interconnects, PMC Twenty 22 and matching stands, fixed out via VdH The Wave interconnects to Pathos Aureum / Sennheiser HD800

MY DEN - Mac Mini with Audirvana Plus, Cyrus 8XPdQX, Monitor Audio GX50 / GS stands, B&W MM1

SURROUND - Marantz BD5004 / NR1601, Monitor Audio RX centre / RX2 front / B&W 685 rear / Velodyne mini BVE, Apple TV 1080p

Clare Newsome's picture
Offline
Joined: 4 Jun 2007
Posts: 13941
RE: What isn't made clear here is

The AK120 is designed to use either optical into a digtial amp or analogue via 3.5mm to RCA. Where it massively differs from other portables is that it doesn't use poor-quality headphone amps, which tend to be 'noisy'. As the Hi-Fi World review notes:

 "The AK120 delivers no less than 1.6V from its headphone output, close to the 2V figure of a CD player, and way higher than the 0.3V of most portables"

 

__________________

Group Marketing & PR Manager - Computers Unlimited;

Former Group Editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision and Whathifi.com

Twitter: @ClareNewsome

The_Lhc's picture
Offline
Joined: 16 Oct 2008
Posts: 12578
RE: Astell & Kern RE: Astell & Kern

jacking wrote:
Yes it's completely portable and can be used in all situations where a quality DAC can make a difference, and I still see it as excellent value and most definitely not a iPod equivalent, but something far superior.

Superiority doesn't discount equivalence. I've no doubt the A&K is better than an iPod but they're both portable audio players, therefore they are equivalent.

Quote:
If you go onto the Astell & Kern web site there are links to expert reviews & opinions.

Who'd have thought it?