Astell & Kern's portable desktop audio system packs in new DAC technology

Astell & Kern ACRO CA1000T
(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

For the best audio performance when listening to digital music on headphones, you'll need a separate DAC and/or a dedicated headphone amplifier. Astell & Kern's latest product combines both these elements with an adjustable screen display to create a unique desktop system for headphones-based listening. And it's portable, too.

Astell & Kern's ACRO CA1000T is not only the world's first portable device with ESS's latest flagship Dual DAC and Dual Tube Triple Amp System technologies, but it also has plenty of connections giving you lots of options in how you listen.

The ACRO CA1000T is "designed for audio connoisseurs", and it has the ports to prove it. XLR and RCA outputs are present and correct, along with wi-fi and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technologies, letting you hook up all manner of speakers and external audio devices.

The ESS DAC inside the system is the ES9039MPRO, which claims to provide a clear, three-dimensional sound with improved modulation to improve power efficiency and reduce noise. It also has a new circuit design that promises a full, detailed sound across the frequency range.

Dual Twin Triode KORG Nutube tubes are also onboard, as is a complete balanced circuit that separates left and right channels with two vacuum tubes to create more natural, softer sounds. The Triple Amp System lets you choose either Tube Amp or OP Amp mode, or both at the same time.

Like the Astell & Kern ACRO CA1000 before it – which launched almost a year ago to the day – the CA1000T has the South Korean firm's Teraton Alpha tech, which aims to eliminate distortion at even the highest volumes. And it supports a four-stage Gain Level setting of up to 15Vrms for more advanced headphones and in-ear monitors.

In terms of looks, it's very much an Astell & Kern piece, with the firm's usual industrial design language and screen inspired by its portable music players. The screen tilts up to 60 degrees, too.

File playback compatibility is extensive – it supports up to native DSD512 and 32bit/768kHz PCM, MQA full decoding, and aptX HD and LDAC codecs for top-notch sound quality when streaming. It's Roon Ready, too.

On top of all this, the ACRO CA1000T is also portable, with over 10 hours of playback. The Battery Protection Mode keeps the power pack in rude health when plugged into the mains, by charging it up to a maximum of 85 per cent and returning it to that level when it drops to 80 per cent. This should negate any negative effects from staying connected to the mains over long periods. 

The ACRO CA1000T is available now for £2299 / $2300 / AUD$3699.

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Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.