Review – Astell & Kern, The Ultimate Hi-Res Music Player


In the world of expedited services and instant gratification, one often lose track of how it is like to write a snail mail, or even simple things like waiting for the good things in life. How pure, unadulterated life used to be.

What is the Ultimate sound quality?
The loudest? The most coloured sound signature? Or something else?
The engineers at Astell & Kern (A&K) never fail to amaze the audiophiles within us, or for those who simply want the best things in life. Which is why after launching the wildly successful AK100 and AK120 models, they have now launched the latest and most expensive Hi-Resolution Music Player, the AK240.


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Seeking alignment with the goal of “providing the ultimate sound quality, by delivering the sound exactly as the artist had intended”, A&K decided to provide a Dual DAC (Digital-Analogue Converter) setup to create better left and right channel separation with clearer sound quality, incorporating a balanced output and native DSD (Direct Stream Digital) playback in the setup.

The AK240 boasts an aircraft-grade Duraluminum chassis that starts with a single 435g billet of the material, which goes through a complex 12- step process of machining, finishing , anodizing and laser engraving to complete the finished enclosure. The back panel is a carbon fibre panel under deep gloss finish, giving a distinct impression of depth.

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A 3.31-inch AMOLED WVGA (480 x 800) touchscreen display is a little smaller than most smartphone displays, but provides plenty of space for comfortable control in use, and when turned up to maximum brightness, is easy to read in full sunlight.

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The AK240 is able to play virtually any current digital format, including PCM up to 24/192, DSD64x and DSD128x, FLAC, WMA, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, DFF and DSF music formats. This is achieved by a pair of Cirrus Logic CS4398 chips, one for each of its two channels. Unlike the “entry-level” AK100/120, the AK240 can play DSD files in their native format without converting to PCM, thanks to the addition of another XMOS processor dedicated to DSD conversion.

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The AK240 also has 256GB of internal storage and one microSD slot that can accept up to 128GB cards, that besides serving as a portable player, can also function as a USB digital-to-analogue converter (DAC). With the in-built Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity, the AK240 supports streaming via digital Bluetooth and also serves as a means for firmware updates via the A&K site via Wifi.

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The Astell&Kern AK240 is a revolutionary, portable High-Resolution media player. The sound quality is superb, neutral tonally with a slight bias-ness towards bright. However, the resolution and finesse is so excellent that the harshness or edginess is negated. It is definitely not comparable to the B&W Nautilus or the sort, but when pitted against entry-level home music systems, it is miles superior.

Thus, the AK240 can be had for a very reasonable S$3199 (earphones not included).

Review by Steffan “CrossFit” Fung

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