For a £100 price hike, the AK70 MKII aims to advance on our current Award-winner with dual DACs plus improved amplification and battery.

Astell & Kern’s AK70 MKII promise: “by far the most sophisticated, highest-performance player under £600.” We heard similarly bold claims when the original AK70 landed in our laps and, credit where it's due, the hyperbole wasn’t unjustified. A 2016 What Hi-Fi? Award proves it.

Indeed, the portable music player specialist is no doubt looking to enjoy similar success with this MKII version.

The AK7 MKII is 2mm thicker and 18g heavier than its sibling

To do that, and indeed to justify the price increase, the AK70 MKII moves from a single to a dual-DAC design for “optimum performance” for both left and right channels. Amplification has supposedly been enhanced and jitter reduced, also in the name of improved sound quality. And the battery now has a 2500mAh capacity – up from 2200mAh.

The unique ‘misty mint’ finish remains exclusive to the AK70 (which now has a place in the brand’s line-up as the entry-level model), with Astell & Kern instead opting for a more traditional black design for the MKII. It keeps the shimmery back panel, straight-edged chassis, 3.3in touch-screen and trademark volume dial, mind you.

That extra hardware comes a price… and we aren’t just talking literally. The AK70 MKII carries extra bulk, albeit not much. Put the two players side-by-side (as we’ve done above) and the slight height increase and extra 2mm thickness makes it clear where the MKII has gained 18g. Even so, it still only weighs 150g. The bottom line: it’s still perfectly jeans-pocket-able. (Far more so than its much bulkier big brother, the Astell & Kern Kann.)

More after the break

As with the AK70, the MKII doubles as a USB DAC, working much in the same fashion as (for example) the AudioQuest DragonFly Black to improve audio from a laptop or computer.

Wi-Fi connectivity and compatibility with the AK Connect App opens up network streaming – from Tidal, for instance – while built-in Bluetooth lets you stream music to wireless headphones or speakers.

Balanced and standard 3.5mm outputs still sit atop the player, and its 64GB of internal memory can be further expanded by up to 200GB via a microSD slot.

The AK70 MKII will be available from October for £600. Whether it is worth leapfrogging the AK70 for we've yet to establish, but we already a review sample in our grasp - so we (and you) are close to finding out. 

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