CNET First Look
Astell & Kern AK Jr wears the big pantsThe Astell & Kern AK Jr marries classic design with class-leading sound, making it one of the best hi-res players for the money -- $500, £399 or AU$699.
Though the phone name has only been around since 2012, Astell & Kern has quickly made a name for itself as the go to brand for high end portable hi-fi. But with players stretching into the thousands of dollars, it's been a brand that not many people have been able to experience until now. Enter the Astell & Kern AK Jr. This is a $499 player which trims some of the features and bulk to leave you with a slim, attractive player which actually performs really well. It's the design that first strikes you. From the beautiful volume knob to the discreet and easy to use, even when in a bag, playback controls It's made of aluminum, and the corners can be a little bit sharp in your palm, but this can be solved with a pretty expensive $50 case. The back is glass, and it does look very spiffy. Like many portable players appearing these days, the AK Junior offers high res playback, up to 24 bit, 192 kilohertz. Of most file types, including Sony's DSD. The player offers simple connectivity, just a 3.5 mm output, micro SD and USB, and it also offers a minimalist, but fun to use interface. The device holds 64 gigabytes of space onboard, but can take up to an extra 64 gigabytes as well. It's pretty straightforward and the touchscreen is a lot better to use than the mashy buttons of it's competitors. Sound quality is excellent and it sounds better than any smartphone anywhere near the price. What you will get is better bass and better mid-range details than a flat sounding phone. If you hook it up to a computer, you could also get better quality PC audio too. At 500 bucks thought, it's 200 more than the similar sounding Sony NWZA 17, and also only a fifth of the battery life. With its much better design and materials, metal versus dentable plastic, and a user experience that's far superior I'd by the AK junior over the Sony any day. This is Ty [UNKNOWN] with cnet.com. [SOUND]