AK is a company that designs high-end portable music players. Their latest device is slim, has all the benefits of a high resolution audio, but it’s in no way considered affordable.
The Astell and Kern AK Jr costs $500. The music player’s price comes as quite the shock. Not because it’s expensive, but because it’s so cheap when comparing to other flagship devices the company has released.
A&K has never strayed away from their core demographic, which consists of audiophiles – the top one percent of music listeners, mind you. Their usual flagship costs somewhere between $3,000 an $3,500.
Astell and Kern AK Jr Review
It’s beautifully constructed out of aluminium, it outputs a gorgeous sound and it works just perfectly as a DAC amp. The thing is, its corners are sharp and if you’re not paying attention you can easily scrape your skin or ruin that leather jacket you just adore.
Their neanderthal OS isn’t that responsive and you’ll get annoyed because it lags more often than not.
Unfortunately, and this is a big deal breaker, it doesn’t have any streaming service support whatsoever.
Astell and Kern AK Jr Specs
- 64 gigs of storage
- Micro SD card support
- Works perfectly with Windows and Mac
- 5.9mm thick
Astell and Kern AK Jr – Design, Features
Arguably, the AK Jr is the best looking music player of the year. It’s slimmer than Sony’s ZX2 and it’s better designed than the Pono player. It competes with the iPod touch and it seemingly gives Apple’s device a run for their money.
It’s roughly the size of an iPhone 5S.
The anodized aluminium gives the JR a futuristic and minimal look. The industrial vibe is pretty awesome, more so when you show it off to your friends and colleagues. However, it doesn’t have any curves, it’s all straight lines. Its corners are sharper than the norm and if you aren’t careful, the JR can taste blood without even flinching.
It measures just about 5.9 millimeters in thickness and it weighs 3 grams above the 90 mark. If you’ve been using Apple’s sixth gen iPod touch until now, it will feel a little bit on the hefty side, but not by much.
Because of its angular design, it’s a chore to hold the AK Jr in the palm of your hand. It pinches your skin and you just want to drop it in your pocket. Browsing for long periods of times, seeking for that perfect song for your morning commute isn’t that feasible.
It’s a looker, I can give it that. On the back of the AK you’ll observe a thin layer of glass that covers the music player’s finishes. It’s subtle, and elegantly done.
The rotary volume dial, which has been tucked on the right side, feels natural to the touch. A satisfying click can be heard each time you decide to lower or increase the volume.
Buttons and ports are spread across the device’s entirety. They are easy to reach, and build materials are high-quality. On the left side, the play and pause button can be found.
On top, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and a standby button. On the opposite side, way below, there’s the USB charging port. Astell and Kern, for aesthetic purposes, placed it between two screws. Indeed, it gives it a more elegant touch.
The 1,450mAh battery that resides inside the aluminium body delivers between nine to ten hours of music time, Astell and Kern claims. They are pretty much spot on, to be honest. Not an outstanding battery-life, but more than satisfying. The iPod tops it by a long shot.
The Astell and Kern AK Jr turns itself inactive when it’s not being used in order to preserve power. The slim design sacrifices battery-life. This is the price we pay for mini-me devices.
The microSD car slot is located above the rotary dial. You can boost the default 64 gigs of internal storage up to 128 gigs. This is a ton of room for mp3s or other files that are associated with high resolution audio.
The Sony A15 sports a doubled-in-size on-board storage. Regardless, AK’s 64 gigs are impressive.
The Astell and Kern AK Jr has a nice to the touch display. The touchscreen is a 3.1-inch LCD display. Yet, it falls short when compared to smartphones that reside in the same price category.
What I found completely unforgivable is the device’s screen responsiveness. If you softly tap the touchscreen you won’t get a reaction. You need to be rough with the music player and tap it like you mean it. Opening folders, or selecting items is irritating, to put it mildly. I was hoping for something more decent.
But, you can get passed this once you see how many formats the Jr supports – AAC, WAV, FLAC and mp3, of course.
It’s also compatible with the Philips and Sony-created DSD audio format. It does increase the sampling rate above your normal quality setting – this translates to bigger file sizes.
Astell and Kern AK Jr – Software
The OS is based on Android, but you can’t notice this. Why? Because it’s a primordial version that resembles the basic features of Google’s Android. You can’t download Android apps.
You don’t have Wi-Fi connectivity – it’s an addition that can be found only on the company’s more expensive models.
However, you do have Bluetooth 4.0 which you can use to connect to headphones or portable speakers.
It’s disappointing that it doesn’t have a more evolved Android OS. You won’t be able to use high res audio streaming services like Deezer Elite or Qobuz Tidal. We’ll probably see this feature added in the next gen music player – God knows when that will come out, though.
The UI is intuitive and simple. Even your great grand pappy can use it without popping a vein out of frustration.
Astell and Kern AK Jr – Sound Quality
Well, you have to give Caesar what Caesar is due. Sound quality wise, the Jr sounds gorgeous. For you eclectic audiophiles out there, the Jr shines when you task it to play a dizzying variety of music genres.
Acoustic and live performances are sublime and with enough detail that doesn’t delve into noise. Sumptuous highs and lows, warm sounds, simply put, a dish to die for.
It’s just a shame that it doesn’t support music streaming services. An untapped potential that can break the whole device.
Astell and Kern AK Jr – Verdict
Should you buy the Astell and Kern AK Jr?
If you don’t mind the fact that you can’t stream high res audio and that it doesn’t include Wi-Fi connectivity, then the Jr is pretty great.
However, the $500 price tag is, uhm, too much. You can get a more than decent smartphone out of this kind of money. Actually, you can buy the OnePlus 2 which is a flagship killer.
I, for one, don’t recommend the Astell and Kern AK Jr mainly because you can get a device that does more for the same exact price. Sound quality is superb, and AK have outdone themselves. It’s one of the best high res music players. But that’s just it. it’s just a high res music player.