Astell & Kern's AK USB-C Dual DAC cable promises to boost your portable listening

Astell & Kern USB Dual-DAC Cable
(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

Portable music player specialist Astell & Kern has launched a USB-C DAC cable to enhance the sound quality of an Android phone, Windows 10 PC, tablet PC or MacOS computer.

As we bask in an age of high-quality streaming and increasingly high-performing headphones, the weak link in on-the-go listening is invariably the standard audio output of such devices. Portable DACs such as the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt, Audiolab M-DAC nano and Zorloo Ztella have come in to help right that wrong, and now Astell & Kern is stepping in with a solution of its own for the increasing number of USB-C-ported devices on the market.

Essentially, the AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable is designed to be the link between USB-C devices and headphones, and improve the audio quality in the process. (Astell & Kern says the cable doesn't support iPhones and iPads due to the dual DAC incompatibility and power restrictions of iOS devices.)

Astell & Kern USB Dual-DAC Cable

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

The DAC is founded on two Cirrus Logic CS43198 MasterHIFi digital-to-analogue chips, which support high-resolution audio playback up to native PCM 32-bit/384kHz DSD256. Astell & Kern is behind a number of excellent, What Hi-Fi? Award-winning portable music players, so it's not surprising to learn it has carried its expertise in circuit and amplifier design, and DAC implementation, into this DAC cable. To that end, the circuit features the bespoke capacitors found in its players and has been optimised to prevent power fluctuations. The analogue amplifier is designed to drive a variety of headphones, including power-hungry and high-impedance models (with a 2Vrms output level). 

That impressive-looking twisted cable – made up of Technora aramid fibre at its core, wrapped by silver-plated copper and a further copper layer, then finished with separate shielding treatment – promises to not only physically withstand the daily grind but also, importantly, block external noise and thus reduce signal interference.

The AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable's polished metal zinc alloy casing has an angled surface that resonates with the aesthetic of the company's portable music players. The fact it's the size of a packet of gum and weighs just 25g means it can discreetly slip into your desktop set-up or pocket without adding much bulk.

The Astell & Kern AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable is priced £109 ($149) and will be available from April in the UK and May in the US.


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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 reviewed all manner of audio gear, from budget amplifiers to high-end speakers, and particularly specialises in headphones and head-fi devices. In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.