When the Astell & Kern company is mentioned in the conversation, some are horrified, others are in indescribable delight. In the first case, all the fault is the price that many still consider unreasonably high, in the second – the design, the quality of performance and sound, according to which the players of Astell & Kern are almost equal. Disputes about the price, let's leave it to others, because today in our editorial office is just an incredible "catch" – Astell & Kern AK100 II and … yes, AK320. Which we will unexpectedly test not with headphones for 100 thousand rubles, but with quite budgetary ones.
So, the older model – the AK320, listened with the bass
The case DN-26M is made of aluminum, the cable is made qualitatively, it has a remote control with a playback control button and a microphone. Landing headphones deep, decent isolation – in general, everything is as it should.
The second-generation AK100 was tested with headphones easier –
The headphones look very cool, for good reason they are called a replacement for expensive branded devices. They are made of chrome-plated metal, have a conical shape and a characteristic metallic pattern. By the way, here are some characteristics:
The bundle of both players royally rich – cables, cases, documentation – except that the headphones do not put in the kit, although then the price would have increased at least a half times. For AK320 a genuine leather cover from Conceria Walpier is available, AK 100 II has a fabric in a solid base. Should I wear such players in cases – it's up to you, but, in my opinion, they look much better without any accessories. Not for that, the designers worked at night on the legendary appearance, then he was wrapped in a "blanket."
There are a lot of controls for both the AK320 and the second generation AK100. Both have a touchscreen 3.31-inch AMOLED-display with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels: not Full HD, of course, but for the player is enough. The assembly is located mechanical buttons, through which the devices are turned on and off. On the side panels – the play and pause button, as well as two more buttons that are responsible for switching tracks.
One of the main chips of the players Astell & Kern – volume control, it is a 150-step analog mechanical potentiometer. It perfectly complements the case of metal and does not violate ergonomics, the players are conveniently placed in the hand, although initially it is not even believed.
You can play music with the microSD memory card, and the microUSB connector is responsible for connecting to the computer. "Fill" tracks from the computer simply due to the MTP mode: in addition to it, you can choose, for example, DAC Input mode to use the player as an external DAC.
It is possible to connect headphones with a balanced and unbalanced output – they can be used in the line-out mode. The unbalanced output supports the output of the digital SPDIF stream via the TosLink interface. Among the supported music formats are WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE (Normal, High, Fast), AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF. Of the supported wireless interfaces – Bluetooth version 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b / g / n, 2.4 GHz. Using the AK Connect app for iOS and Android, you can access the AK320's music library.
In AK100 II, one Cirrus Logic CS4398 chip is responsible for the digital-to-analog conversion. AK320 boasts paired AKM AK4490 DACs (one by one per channel) and reproduces sound in 24 bit / 192 kHz format without any problems. In fact, you can talk about the sound characteristics of both players for a very long time, but all these names and indicators, as a rule, do not say anything to the majority, no matter how strange it may sound. Astell & Kern choose with eyes and ears; All the rest is superfluous. However, the fact that players can play sound in the studio format Mastering Quality Sound, which carries information in 6.5 times more CD, can not be noted. No wonder the producer calls his creations not players, but full-fledged portable studios.
The interface of both players is very similar – yet this is Android, albeit in a slightly unusual shell. The main screen is divided into three parts: the cover of the current track and the status line, the library, the AK Connect service. Everything is implemented conveniently and intuitively, so even someone who has never held a player of this manufacturer in his hands, can get used literally in half an hour.
But all this was just a prehistory, and not the most necessary, when such devices get to the review. Sound, sound, sound! And here we will analyze each player separately.
Together with AK320 headphones DN-26M opened more than completely. This family gives a convincing, powerful, clear and transparent sound with a smooth tonal bass. The scene is worked on a solid five, also at the level of localization and focusing of the sound. Yet a couple of AKM AK4490 does their thing.
How did DN-12 prove to be with AK100 II? Very, very cool. Smooth tonal balance, deep bass, close to natural timbres of instruments. "Uninitiated" is unlikely to distinguish the sound from the player from the AK320, but the true audiophile will immediately feel the difference in the imaginary scene.
However, both players perfectly work out any genres – and rock, and jazz, and classics, and hip-hop sound luxurious.
There must be some sort of conclusion, but it's very difficult to make it. What to say, these are