Affluent music fans that prefer personal listening to filling a room with speakers are well catered for by Astell&Kern’s latest headphone amplifier. The mighty yet mini Astell&Kern Acro CA1000T wants to be a one-stop shop for your entire audio setup, with an abundance of outputs for tethered listening and a built-in battery for (slightly) more mobile playback.
Beyond the usual selection of headphone outputs (3.5mm and 6.35mm unbalanced, plus 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced), you’ll find RCA and XLR analogue outputs at the rear, along with digital coaxial, optical and USB Type-C ports for hooking up all manner of other equipment – or a set of speakers, if you want to fill the entire room with sound. There’s also on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with both aptX HD and LDAC for hi-res wireless playback.
While it won’t slide in your pocket like one of A&K’s personal streaming media players, the carryable CA1000T has the same interface courtesy of a pop-up 4.1in screen. It can handle all the file formats you’d expect from a top-tier system, including lossless FLAC and ALAC, plus DSD512 sampling, and supports all the major music streaming services through its Android operating system. There’s 256GB of on-board flash memory, plus a microSD card slot for adding more should you have a truly colossal music library.
It’s on the inside where things have really stepped up compared to the firm’s outgoing CA1000. As well as a top-to-bottom circuit redesign, the CA1000T is the first of its kind to run twin ES9039MPRO DACs courtesy of ESS. These are paired to twin Triode Korg Nutube tubes, effectively a modern equivalent of the vacuum tubes loved by hi-fi geeks. Listeners can swap between Tube Amp and OP Amp modes, or combine the two for what Astell&Kern calls its “unique, signature sound”.
At a little under a kilo it’s a lot more portable than a rack-mount headphone amp or DAC, and the built-in battery is apparently good for up to eleven hours of listening through unbalanced headphones.
The Astell&Kern Acro CA1000T is on sale directly from the astell&kern website, along with top-tier audio retailers. Expect to pay £2299/$2300/€2599 to add one to your home listening setup.