When Astell&Kern brought out its AK240 Portable High Fidelity Sound system (£2,199) about two years ago, many of us assumed the firm has pushed the sonic and price limits of the high-end portable player genre as far as they could go, but as it turns out we were wrong. Enter the firm’s spectacular new all singing, all dancing, and all-conquering flagship model, the AK380 (£2,999), which in some respects takes up where the AK240 leaves off.
One point we should stress from the outset is that the AK380 is not purely a single purpose audio player. Instead, think of the AK380 as the platform for an expandable, multi-faceted digital audio playback system comprised of the AK380 plus any of several optional, dedicated accessories Astell&Kern has in the works.
Among these upcoming accessories will be the AK380 Cradle, which not only provides the expected USB data transfer and charging capabilities, but also incorporates a stereo balanced analogue output via a pair of three-pin XLR-type connectors, thus inviting owners to use their AK380s as the primary DACs in their full-sized audio systems, without compromising portability. The next planned accessory will be the detachable AK380 Amp said to increase the power output and of the AK380 for purposes of driving power hungry headphones—especially “high-impedance professional headphones.” Last but not least, the firm also plans to offer a compact, desktop AK380 CD-Ripper, which is a handsome little CD‑ROM drive that can rip CDs directly to the AK380’s built-in memory.
As you might expect, all three of these accessories are beautifully made and precisely matched to complement the distinctive design motif of the AK380. As of press time, however, Astell&Kern had not yet announced production release dates or final prices for the accessories (though having seen and tried them at recent trade shows, we can vouch for the fact that they look great and appear to work well). Stay tuned, and watch for further announcements from Astell&Kern.