Regular readers will need no reminding of Astell & Kern's A&norma SR25, a quite wonderful and What Hi-Fi? 2021 (and 2020) Award-winning hi-res audio player, built on the success of its similarly splendid predecessor, the A&norma SR15. But A&K is not one for resting on its laurels and, would you Adam-and-Eve it, the firm has just released a second-generation iteration, the sensibly named A&norma SR25 MKII.
The firm says that every aspect we admired in the original SR25 is retained, but the new model promises to improve on the audio performance even further. It also adds new features such as a balanced 4.4mm headphone jack, plus tweaks to its already eye-catching, compact design.
The A&norma SR25 MKII represents the new entry point to Astell & Kern's portable high-resolution music player offering – if, in your world, £699 ($749) counts as 'entry-level'.
So what's changed? The promised improvement in sound performance comes from Astell & Kern’s latest audio architecture, which supposedly delivers more detail, clearly defined upper and lower ranges, and a deeper, more rounded sound. We hope to hear that for ourselves soon enough.
As well as a new 4.4mm headphone jack, the MKII unit also boasts a new Replay Gain function to uniformly adjust volume playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz. You're also getting AK File Drop (first introduced in the pricier A&futura SE180 player) for easier wireless file transfers; BT Sink function for simpler connection of the SR25 MKII to an external Bluetooth device; and extra internal silver-plated shielding to protect from electromagnetic interference (first seen in the thrice-the-price SP2000T).
Aesthetically, there's a new, more defined volume wheel design and a slightly moodier Mercury Dark Silver finish, too.
As with the first-generation model, the SR25 MII handles a huge array of high-resolution music formats and sample rates, including support for native playback of DSD256 and 32-bit/384KHz PCM high-resolution audio. Should you want to listen to your favourite hi-res music over a wireless connection, the SR25 MKII features the high-quality LDAC and aptX HD Bluetooth wireless codecs.
A protective case in a choice of three eye-catching finishes is also available to complement the SR25 MKII and safeguard the player from the hazards of a life back in the fast lane – nobody needs scratches on that offset 3.6in HD (720 x 1280px) touch-screen. Made from a soft and durable polyurethane fabric from Italy called Laskina, the material promises protection against external shocks and scratches, as well as an excellent grip. The fabric also mimics the texture of classic leather, for a luxurious look, complete with natural leather-style creases and shine. Finishes include Denim Blue, Orange and Black.
The Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 MKII is priced £699, $749, €799 (about AU$1100) and will be available in early November, which is also when the A&norma SR25 MKII case (£59, $60, €69, about AU$100) can be snatched up.
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