In the world of Hi-Res audio players it’s argued that Astell & Kern stand shoulders above everyone else, normally relegated to only the most ardent of audiophiles, their offerings such as the AK380 the behemoth AK500 system make mere mortals blush at their respective pricepoints…
Luckily for them and us music lovers Astell & Kern have released the AK JR (Astell & Kern Junior), a phenomenal Hi-res player at a mere fraction the cost of its bigger siblings. It’s a beautiful unit that boasts miniscule size, coming in at 93g, with a small and yet easily navigable 3.1 inch LCD touch screen, but above all it packs in big sound as well. Let’s take a closer look at what made this the What Hi-Fi? 2015 Product Of The Year for the portable music player category.
Straight off the bat the AK JR feels well designed, from getting it out of the box and witnessing its tapered beauty to the second you start it up, greeted by an interface that’s easy to understand and simple to get playing as soon as possible.
After all, that’s the reason reason you’ll buy this unit, to hear your favourite music just how the artist intended – for this the AK JR doesn’t disappoint! As soon as I put on 2001 by Dr Dre (44.1khz), an album I’ve listened to almost constantly since I was 14, I was taken back to my childhood years whilst at the same time introduced to new aspects of the songs I’d never heard before. A drumbeat here, a cough heard in the distance, the AK JR took this album and introduced it through the ears of someone standing right outside of the studio and it was magnificent!
It’s not just about quality either, the AK JR also goes loud, for such a small unit it offers a worldly sound thanks to its 1.95v rms headphone output which also meant it had no problem driving any headphones I used, especially perfect for driving premium headphones. With that kind of volume you need the highest of Hi-Res which is no problem as it can deal with resolution up to 24bit/192kHz.
Playability wise the AK JR stands up offering DSD audio via conversion to PCM at 2.8MHz as well as WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF and DSF so there’s not really any file you can throw at it that it won’t be able to play for you. It can also function as a USB DAC for your PC or Mac eliminating the need for a sound card and letting you use the high quality built-in Wolfson Dac that the AK JR features.
Memory wise the AK JR offers 64GB of internal memory with the ability to add an additional microSD card and boost that up to 128GB in total. That’s around 625 Hi-res audio files (based on one 4 minute song at 24bit/96khz needing 90MB) with just its internal memory and 1250 when upped with the microSD card.
All in all this is worthy of its What Hi-Fi? award, boasting a great sound ability inside a unit so small that you can control it one handed on the go, if you’re a Hi-Res audio fan who’s always on the move then this is definitely the one for you.
To find out more about the Astell & Kern Junior, click here.
Author – Hal, Plymouth store