Hot on the heels of the last generation, Astell and Kern’s new portable digital player product line looks as healthy as ever. The flagship AK240 will remain the top dog, but both the AK100 and AK120 are receiving an ascetic design and internal updates for their second iterations.
Both newcomers stand a little taller than the originals thanks to an additional chrome hat of sorts that holds the side physical volume knob. The new knob on the AK100 is rock solid and rotates both freely and deliberately. Clearly an update from the last version we reviewed [here], it feels so robust you could probably hammer a nail in with it (although that would probably be the world’s most expensive hammer). Even with the elongation both units still feel extremely slick in the hand and totally pocket-friendly. DAC duties have changed over from Wolfson to the Cirrus Logic SC4398, which is the same chip found in the mighty AK240. The AK100 handles the conversion via a single chip, whereas the AK120 utilizes two chips. Additional specs include single-ended and balanced headphone output, digital optical, wifi streaming, DSD playback and microSD expandability. Both units can even act as a standalone external DAC when connected to any PC or Mac via USB. The two new players share a slightly different finish loving called “Smokey Blue” for the AK100 and “Stone Silver” for the AK120. The AK100 comes with 64GB storage space under the hood, while the AK120 carries 128GB. Retail pricing is $799 for the AK100 mk.2 and the AK120 mk.2 is $1,699.