It is not often that you get your hands on something as cool as the Astell & Kern Audio Player. The reason? The $999 price tag of the new KANN audio player. Still, if you have a high-end pair of headphones, or more than one, you will immediately hear the difference this player makes.
Before you even plug in your headphones, you will notice the quality in the device. At 1 inch by 2.8 by 4.6 inches, the player is compact, but it is heavy, weighing in at nearly 10 ounces. It feels like a solid piece of metal. It is available in two finishes, Astro Silver and Eos Blue.
You can see what is playing on an easy-to-read, 4-inch 480 by 800 pixel screen. Metal control buttons feel solid and add to the heft of the already substantial player. The rotary volume knob also has a great tactile feel, one that is the envy of every touch screen user out there.
The top of the player is equipped with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a 2.5mm balanced headphone jack along with 3.5mm stereo and 2.5mm balanced stereo analog output jacks. On the KANN’s bottom side, there are slots for MicroSD and SD cards, a USB-C connector for data/charging and the Micro-USB connector for digital audio output. The player sports 64GB of internal memory, and the slots can support another 768GB of music, so there’s plenty of room for high-res audio files.
Much of the weight of the KANN is due to the 6,200mAh Lithium Polymer battery that’s responsible for its above average power output. That power output is what drives even high-end headphones better than nearly any other player on the market. While that power is important, another amazing feature of the large battery is how long it lasts.
Most users can go through an entire work week without recharging it and have a little bit of juice left for the weekend. This is important in an age when smartphones come without headphone jacks and need to be charged nearly every night.
This is where the KANN shone the most. The powerful battery does drive high end headphones, and you really need a good pair to truly appreciate the full range of sound the player can provide. However, even a less expensive pair of headphones still reveals phenomenal sound and range, revealing higher highs, lower lows, and clarity that is hard to put into words.
Bass lines and drum tracks are clearer than with any other player, including the high-end Pono Player, and Astell & Kern’s own AK Jr. and AK100. Vocals that sound muffled on other players are crystal clear from the KANN.
Technically this means the Kann is a high resolution set of headphones, going up to 382 KHz/32 bit PCM and DSD256. Practically speaking, this means the sound from the KANN is an essential part of listening to music in rich detail. Once experienced, nothing else will substitute.
Nine Inch Nailed It
One of my favorite things to play first on any audiophile type equipment is Nine Inch Nails “The Great Destroyer.” This song has a range of highs, lows, and a fabulous synthesizer part that will reveal any audio weakness very quickly. The KANN handled it flawlessly through a pair of Audeze LCD3 Fazors. Just to check the difference, I played the same tune through a less expensive pair of Oppo PM3 over ear headphones.
The conclusion was simply this: you’d have to have a pretty crappy pair of headphones not to notice the difference between the two.
For the Nine Inch Nails tune, I use an uncompressed MP3 file. To test the player with a little Pink Floyd, I streamed “The Wall” through the Tidal service. CD quality sound is promised and delivered, and the KANN performed flawlessly. Of course, this can also depend on the speed of your internet connection, but if you have a high-speed router you should be more than fine streaming great music to the KANN.
Listening through both the above pairs of headphones, the one word that came to mind over and over was simply “wow.” When it comes to dedicated personal music players, the KANN is alone in the market.
If you are a fan of Bluetooth, the KANN comes with Bluetooth 4.0, and delivers great sound that way too. No matter what your taste in audio and music, the Astell & Kern audio player is well worth the cost and will not disappoint no matter how hard you put it through its paces. You may want something a little lighter and more compact for running or workout purposes but for pure music enjoyment there isn’t another choice that’s even close.
What are your favorite audiophile grade music devices? Leave us a comment in the section below.