Not one to shy away from innovation, Astell & Kern has kicked off 2022 with one of the most unique desktop propositions we've seen. The Acro CA1000 is a headphone amplifier and digital music player combined, offering a complete all-in-one desktop or portable system for wired headphones.
As you can see from the image above, the headphone amp sports balanced 2.5mm and 4.4mm and unbalanced 3.5mm and 6.35mm outputs on its front, with that range of sockets and a four-step Gain Level setting catering for a wide variety of headphone types and impedances.
The digital music player, which cannot be detached from the unit, has a 4.1-inch touchscreen that can tilt upwards (up to 60-degrees), allowing users to easily control playback and settings through its Android OS, or alternatively lie flat within the aluminium chassis.
Its 256GB of onboard storage (expandable by up to 1TB via a microSD card) is plenty large enough to accommodate an ample library of hi-res files – the Quad ES9068AS DAC supports native DSD512 and 32bit/384 kHz playback.
The player can also receive music over Bluetooth from a connected phone (via the BT Sink function) and send playback wirelessly to a pair of wireless headphones thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD and LDAC support. Wi-fi is on the menu too. Want to connect an external source? Inputs spanning optical, coaxial, USB-C and RCA are all at your service.
The system is portable, too, with an 8400mAh battery offering up to 10.5 hours playback for use away from a plug socket.
And last but not least, the Acro CA1000 utilises Astell & Kern's Teraton Alpha technology (as introduced in the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning A&futura SE180 player), promising optimal audio output through efficient power management and the removal of amplification distortion and power noise.
And there you have it: a distinctive digital desktop solution that may well transform your headphone listening. The Astell & Kern ACRO CA1000 will cost £1999 / $2100 / AU$3099 when it goes on sale in February.
The best hi-res music players on the market 2022
CES 2022 is here! What to expect as the world's biggest tech show returns