Astell & Kern takes on the Sony Walkman with all-new Activo brand and P1 player

Activo P1 next to an iPhone, Airpods and keyboard
(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

Some years ago, Astell & Kern and its parent company (then iRiver, now Dreamus) developed the Activo CT10 portable music player for the hi-res download and streaming service provider Groovers Japan. The affordable Activo packed plenty of proprietary Astell & Kern hardware, so it wasn’t surprising that it sounded superb for the money – but some technical gremlins and design impracticalities somewhat let it down.

Fast forward to today and Astell & Kern is relaunching the Activo sub-brand with an all-new player, the P1, at the Munich High End show this week. Pricing is yet to be revealed, but we expect the P1 and subsequent portable offerings to undercut Astell & Kern’s premium catalogue, which in the digital audio player category starts at the £799 / $799 / AU$1299 A&norma SR35.

The P1 certainly seems to address our criticism of the CT10’s small screen (“too small to allow for an easy, user-friendly interface”): the front of its aluminium/polycarbonate body is mostly a touchscreen measuring a respectable 4.1 inches and with a resolution of 720 x 1280. All told, it doesn’t look a million miles away from the modern Sony Walkman.

Features look on-point too, with the Activo P1 offering dual-band wi-fi with access to music streaming service apps for both online and offline listening, a 20-hour battery life, and support for 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 audio files. Those wishing to store their own music have 64GB of internal memory to play with, though naturally a microSD slot can expand on that further. A balanced 4.4mm output sits beside the more typical 3.5mm jack, too, while Bluetooth aptX HD and LDAC support allow for music to be sent wirelessly to Bluetooth headphones, speakers and the like.       

Despite the portable music player world’s decreasing size, it is arguably still short of budget offerings, with the current Sony NW-A306 Walkman our only true affordable recommendation following the demise of the iPod Touch, so we hope the Activo P1 is as good in practise as it looks on paper. We hope to find out in July, when the player is expected to ship. Pricing and retailer availability will be announced closer to that launch date.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.