Astell & Kern
The folks at iRiver’s Astell & Kern division continue to move from strength to strength, as evidenced by the launch of a new flagship AK240 portable HD music player (price TBA). The AK 240 can decode PCM audio files up to 192/24 resolution levels as well as double-rate DSD audio files (up to 5.6 MHz). Moreover, the AK240, which is billed as a “dual-mono” unit, incorporates dual CD4398 DACs, supports balanced output, allows Wi-Fi music downloading, and is supplied with an impressive 256GB of built-in onboard memory plus a microSD slot. The user interface and industrial design—both of which are traditional areas of expertise for Astell & Kern—are first rate on the AK240, which sports a large, full-color control screen and a sturdy and pleasingly angular aircraft grade Duralumin housing.
What of the AK240’s price? A company spokesman refused to be pinned down on this point, but the AK240 it will obviously come in well above the $1499 price of the present AK120 Titan model. An educated guess would place the price at or above $2400, but under $3000. Expect to see the AK240 near the end of Q1, 2014.
Astell & Kern also rolled out a very high-end earphone called the AKR02, which was developed through the assistance of Astell & Kern’s technology partner Final Audio Design—a firm that also makes its own extensive range of headphones and earphones. The (pardon the pun) final price of the AKR02 is expected to fall some in the range o $1,300 to $1,400.
At CES Audio-Technica stood poised to launch a slew of new high-performance gaming headsets, but since fall outside the purview of Hi-Fi+ we had to look elsewhere in the lineup for more music-worth models.
Two that caught our eyes were the ATH-ANC70 noise cancelling headphone ($199), which replaces the venerable ATH-ANC7b (one of our all-time favourite noise cancellers), and the SonicFuel ATH-OX7AMP ($299), which is a nicely made on-ear headphone sporting a built-in headphone amplifier that powers the unit’s 40mm drivers.