Astell&Kern has diluted down the tech found in some of its top-tier portable media players for the new A&norma SR35. This pocket-friendly music machine lands with the same new generation amplifier and interchangeable Quad DAC mode as the wallet-busting A&ultima range, only you won’t need a bank loan to afford one. However, the AK Zero2 in-ear monitors announced at the same time are a very different story.
The A&norma SR35 succeeds the South Korean firm’s SR25 MKII, and is the first to use a brand new UI for it’s Android-based software suite. A crimson-themed menu system puts hi-res tracks in easier reach than on previous players, while a new album art search is meant to help listeners make their music libraries more visual. AK File Drop also brings wireless transfers from a PC or smartphone, saving you from breaking out a USB cable.
According to A&K, the player is supposed to look like “a warrior’s sword of battle” in side profile, with a volume dial representing a shield. It’s not going to fool any museum curators, but design fans will still get a kick out of the angular styling and tilted 3.6in touchscreen.
Inside is where all the action is, with four Ciruss Logic CS43198 DACs that support up to 32bit/384kHz playback. There’s also MQA 8x and DSD256 decoder support. An amplifier developed in-house for the latest generation of A&futura and A&ultima players also makes an appearance, for “distortion free sound at all times”.
The SR35 should last for around 20 hours of listening to on-device FLACs in dual DAC mode, or less if you’ll be streaming MQA tracks with all four DACs doing the heavy lifting.
Connectivity is extensive for such a diminutive device, with a 3.5mm unbalanced output, and 2.5mm, 4-pole and 4.4mm, 5-pole balanced outs. 5GHz Wi-Fi, aptX HD and LDAC Bluetooth, and Roon compatibility complete the set. There’s 64GB of on-board flash storage to hold your music library, plus a microSD card slot for adding an extra 1TB.
You’ll be able to buy an A&norma SR35 directly from the Astell&Kern website, or from authorised retailers, from today. Prices are set at £799/€899/US$800.
Zero the hero
On-the-go listeners with even more cash to splash will want to check out the AK Zero2. These second-generation in-ear monitors pack an astonishing six drivers into each angular aluminium ‘bud: a rectangular planar magnetic driver, two pairs of dual balanced armatures, and a 10mm dynamic driver with piezoelectric transducer.
They split frequency duties for a total response of 20Hz–30KHz, with great attention paid to the crossover points for “perfect harmonisation” across the range. The drivers are then squeezed into 3D printed shells that cut down on movement and resonance.
The IEMs use MMCX connectors and ship with two oxygen-free copper cables in the box: one 3.5mm unbalanced and one 4.4mm balanced. You can also expect a generous selection of silicone and foam ear tips for finding the perfect fit, and a leather case to keep it all in.
Audiophile grade sound carries a premium price, which is why the AK Zero2 will set you back £1099/€1199/US$1050. They’re available from the A&K website right now.