The Good The Astell & Kern AK Jr offers excellent design and great usability -- from the dedicated volume dial to the no-nonsense menu. Great-sounding sonics and able to drive many different types of headphones. Able to put dedicated USB DACs to shame.
The Bad The corners on the casing are pointed, which can make it uncomfortable to hold, and the case that fixes the problem runs an extra $50. Making playlists could be more straightforward. Relatively short battery life at only nine hours. Sound quality isn't $200 better than the Sony A17.
The Bottom Line The Astell & Kern AK Jr marries classic design with class-leading sound, making it one of the best high-res players for the money.
Class-leading high-res player under $500
Despite launching in only 2012, the name Astell & Kern has quickly become synonymous with high-end audio on the go. But with prices reaching into the many thousands of dollars, the company's gear has long been "aspirational" rather than "affordable" for many music fans. With the AK Jr, the brand becomes more attainable than ever before.
While $500, £399 or AU$699 is not exactly pocket change, it buys an impressive portable player. The AK Jr manages to achieve the trinity of usability, design and sound quality. It looks great, and the aluminum and glass construction feels luxurious, too.
Yes, although the newruns $300, £249 or AU$419 for a similar capacity and does a lot more than "just play music," it can't match the A&K's design or sound quality, and it doesn't play back high-res audio files. Meanwhile less expensive and similarly performing players, namely the and the , have their own flaws and don't exhibit the AK Jr's beautiful build quality. If you want something better than a phone, with excellent design and superb sound, the Astell & Kern AK Jr is arguably the best yet.
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