Nuevo buque insignia de Astell & Kern y sin lugar a dudas el reproductor portátil más seductor, sofisticado, exclusivo y musical del momento, el Astell & Kern AK240 es un deslumbrante producto que revoluciona los cánones establecidos para las realizaciones de su clase. Diseñado para reproducir con una fidelidad extrema grabaciones musicales de calidad virtualmente idéntica a la que manejan los estudios de grabación profesionales (concepto MQS/”Mastering Quality Sound” ) el AK240 es una genuina fuente de audio High End portátil al más alto nivel. Con una estética refinada y salvaje a partes iguales que seduce de inmediato por la agresividad de sus aristas –a la manera del perfil de los cazas “furtivos”- el Astell & Kern AK240 destaca en primer lugar por permitir la reproducción de señales DSD (una potente codificación digital monobit que permite reproducir señales de hasta 100.000 Hz) nativas gracias a la combinación de dos convertidores D/A de grado audiófilo de alta precisión con un exclusivo “chip” XMOS. A ello se suma otra exclusividad en un reproductor de audio portátil: la presencia de una salida analógica (toma de auriculares) balanceada, que permite reducir todavía más el ruido de fondo y por lo tanto maximizar tanto la relación señal/ruido como la gama dinámica. El AK240 también es el primer producto diseñado por Astell & Kern que ha sido pensado para ofrecer calidad MQS por “streaming” inalámbrico gracias al innovador software “Astell & Kern MQS Streaming Server”, a la vez que está preparado para recibir e instalar de manera instantánea mejoras de “firmware” por vía inalámbrica gracias al concepto OTA (“Over-The-Air”). Asimismo, la interfaz de usuario del AK240 alcanza unas cotas de brillantez excepcionales gracias a una pantalla táctil de grandes dimensiones con tecnología AMOLED que agiliza la gestión de las bibliotecas más complejas, a la vez que un nuevo ecualizador de alta precisión que combina 10 bandas con pasos de ajuste de 0’5 dB permite al usuario un grado de personalización sin precedentes. Por su parte, la combinación de una memoria interna de 256 GB con una externa –vía tarjeta micro-SD de 128 GB- permite, por ejemplo, almacenar hasta 2.500 temas musicales con calidad MQS codificadas a 24 bits/96 kHz. El carácter exclusivo del Astell & Kern AK240 es rematado por una construcción excepcionalmente robusta, a lo que se suma una sofisticada funda de la codiciada piel Minerva fabricada a medida en Italia.
Reproductor digital de audio portátil de referencia absoluta.
Reproducción de señales DSD nativas (método DoP) DSD64 (1 bit/2’8 MHz) y DSD128 (1 bit/5’6 MHz).
Memoria interna de 256 GB expandibles a 384 GB mediante 1 tarjeta microSD de 128 GB.
2 “chips” de conversión D/A de 24 bits/192 kHz y entrada separada para señales DSD Wolfson WM4398.
Salida analógica balanceada.
“Streaming” inalámbrico de señales MQS (“Mastering Quality Sound”) exclusivo de Astell & Kern.
Formatos de audio compatibles: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, APE, MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG y DSD.
Pantalla de visualización AMOLED táctil de 3’31” con resolución WVGA.
Ecualizador de 10 bandas con ajustes por pasos de 0’5 dB para personalizar el sonido con una precisión excepcional.
Cuerpo fabricado en duraluminio de grado aeronáutico obtenido mediante el mecanizado de un boque sólido de 435 g.
Software de gestión (“firmware”) actualizable instantáneamente por vía inalámbrica (OTA/”Over-The-Air”).
Entrada Micro-USB Tipo B para carga y transferencia de datos (PC y Mac).
Respuesta en frecuencia de 10-70.000 Hz, +/-0’03 dB.
Relación señal/ruido de 117 dB en modo balanceado y 116 dB en modo no balanceado.
Impedancia de salida de 1 ohmio para la toma balanceada y de 2 ohmios para la toma no balanceada.
Dimensiones: 66x107x17’5 mm (An x Al x P).
Peso: 185 g.
Closer to Original Sound
After successfully launching the AK100 and the AK120 models, we asked ourselves, “What is the ultimate sound quality?” After much consideration, we decided to move a step further with our goal, which is to deliver the sound “exactly as the artist had intended” for us to hear. Moving from the AK100 to AK120, we decided to provide a Dual DAC setup to create better left and right channel separation with clearer sound quality. We thought that the Dual DAC setup would be enough, but while developing the AK240, we felt the need to further improve sound quality in order to accurately reproduce the original sound recording. After countless hours of research and testing, we were able to find the answer.
Native DSD Support
What is DSD?
DSD (Direct Stream Digital) is a digital audio file format originally developed for SACDs (Super Audio CD). Regular digital audio file formats such as PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) is separated into 65,000(16bit) to 16,700,000(24bit) of information on the Y axis, and 44,100(44.1kHz) to 192,000(192kHz) across the X axis for digital signals. DSD files have 1bit (0s or 1s) for Y axis and is separated into 2,800,000(2.8MHz) to 5,600,000(5.6MHz) of information for X axis.
Compared to regular audio CDs with 16bit/44.1kHz PCM format, SACD’s recording frequency goes up to 100kHz and the dynamic range goes beyond 120dB while maintaining sound clarity during the transmission.
Native DSD Support
One of the approaches we decided that would help us move a step closer to the original sound quality was to provide native DSD playback without having to convert it into PCM. This was indeed a difficult task. In order to provide native DSD playback on the AK240, we had to select a different DAC chipset. Making the decision to change the DAC was not easy, but in order to reach our goal, we had to make a bold move which was to start from scratch.
We have asked ourselves: Does the DAC support Native DSD?
Will it allow for the Dual DAC setup? What else is needed for the perfect Native DSD support?
In order to answer these three questions, we have decided to use the Cirrus Logic CS4398 chip in the Dual DAC setup with an added exclusive XMOS chip that will allow for Native DSD support.
The process of setting up Native DSD support was not an easy task. Since the main CPU does not process Native DSD, we needed a chip that will work with it. It took us a long time, but we made it work. Through countless hours of testing, we were able to achieve Native DSD playback by having the main CPU process the data, send it to the exclusive XMOS chip, then through the DAC to deliver the sound.
Unbalanced vs. Balanced Output
The unbalanced method is the most commonly used basic method which consists of “left and right signals + ground line”. This setup includes a ground line which blocks out external noises from the outside. However, since the ground line cannot block out all of the external noises completely, external noises can be mixed into the signals that are transmitted, which then result in changes to the sound. The longer the signals travel, the more external noises that will be mixed into the sound which is why it is used within a short distance of 1 to 2 meters.
Unlike the unbalanced method, the balanced method has an additional cold signal to compliment the hot signal which reduces the external noises.
The balanced method has a few advantages over the unbalanced method. The first advantage is that the hot signal and the cold signal will remove the external noises received. The second advantage is increased output due to the 2 transmitted signals.
Since the ground line cannot block out 100% of the external noises, noise will appear on both the hot and cold signals. The alignment of the 2 signals allows the noise to usually appear at similar points where they will eventually be removed as the signals are transmitted.
Dual DAC meets Balanced Output
It did not take us long to figure out that the AK240’s Dual DAC and balanced output resulted in the best sound. During the development of the AK100 and AK120, Astell&Kern's specific analogue amp setup was already creating full balanced analogue signals streaming from the DAC and we were able to move a step closer towards the original sound by then creating a balanced output terminal at the end.
256GB of Massive Storage
Astell&Kern has created the AK120 Titan with a storage capacity of 128GB, but in order to support Native DSD, MQS, and massive audio files, we had to come up with the ultimate portable music player with 256GB of storage. With 256GB of internal memory, about 2,500 MQS (24bit/96kHz, 4 minute-long, 90MB) songs can be saved. With the addition of a 128GB microSD card, the AK240 can support up to a total memory capacity of 384GB.
The answer was to create both a balanced output and native DSD playback through the Dual DAC setup.
Now with the AK240, we can dare say that we have gotten “that much closer” to the sound quality of the original recording.
Astell&Kern products have started to evolve into network players by providing Wi-Fi capability.
To listen to your favorite music, you no longer have to turn on your computer, search for your music, wait for the songs to download, connect your player via USB cable, and then wait for the files to transfer to the player. Now with MQS Streaming, you can easily download or stream music directly from the AK240 by having the unit and your computer connected to the same network.
- "Astell&Kern MQS Streaming Server" software must be installed on your PC or MAC with a shared folder saved for MQS Streaming to work.
MQS music service provider "groovers" started with the launch of the AK100. With the AK240, you no longer need to go through the traditional process of purchasing and downloading music on your computer, now you can easily download MQS music directly from the AK240 via the groovers store link on the home page of the AK240. As long as you are in a Wi-Fi area, it is easy to download MQS music wherever you go.
OTA (Over-The-Air) Upgrade
It has been 13 years since iriver has used the term "firmware". Through these years, one had to check for new firmware updates by opening emails or checking the website. Now with a Wi-Fi connection, you can receive instant notifications about new firmware updates and can update your unit whenever and wherever you are.
Story Behind the Design
The unique design of the AK240 was derived from the combination of light and shadow. The front asymmetric look of the unit was designed from the shape of the shadow when light was shining on it. This shape strongly represents the Astell&Kern brand which expresses uniqueness and class while strongly protecting the volume knob as well.
There are 2 parts to the design of the volume knob on the AK240. First is the luxurious and exquisite diamond-pattern design on the knob where it is gripped. Second is the fine hairline design at the end of the knob that shines to emphasize the natural beauty of the AK240.
The back of the unit is composed of real carbon fiber plates which blend well with the overall AK240 design.
Even though the body of AK240 is just one piece, it goes through 12 stages of production until it is complete. The initial 6 stages involve the original materials being prepared, and the next 6 stages involve putting together all of those original parts. Each stage takes numerous hours which are worked on by our experts.
During the first stage stage all of the original materials are cut and prepared to fit the shape of the AK240. The original 435g duralumin piece is processed and 90% of the material is cut out leaving only 41g of the main body.
The second stage involves carving out the internal part of the main body into the unique design of the AK240 which takes up the majority of the time.
The third stage involves trimming the outside of the main body to create the unique asymmetric look.
Stages 4 through 7 involve working on all 4 surfaces of the unit. Drilling is carefully done from every angle with protection in place to prevent the case from collapsing.
During stage 8, the duralumin body is sanded down. After the sanding, strong sandy wind is blown onto the exterior body to create the soft, yet luxurious luster.
Diamond cutting is done during stage 9. To create the unique high-luster design, diamond cutting is done where each surface meets.
During stage 10, the duralumin is carefully cleaned to remove any unnecessary particles from previous stages.
Stage 11 involves anodizing the body to cover it with a unique gun metal color. Even though this is one of the 12 stages, anodizing is done multiple times during this stage.
In the last stage, laser imprinting is done on the duralumin body. On each body, a unique product serial number is imprinted on the unit by a high-precision laser.
More Detailed 10-Band 0.5dB-step EQ Setting
More accurate EQ setting is available on the AK240 by doubling the bands (from 5 to 10 bands) and halving the dB steps (from 1dB to 0.5dB) available. One can also create and save customized preset EQ settings to fit various music genres.
Full Touch Screen
Compared to the AK120, the 3.31 inch AMOLED display on the AK240 is about 82% bigger to provide more information at a glance. With the bigger display, the Full Touch screen makes it easy to navigate especially for smart phone users.
The playback and volume control buttons have been upgraded on the AK240. Music tracks with long titles, such as a classical music, are displayed on 2 lines for better navigation. Due to the speedy file scanning functionality, a separate DB scanning function is no longer needed and file search is available for easy access to music.
The AK240 supports Native DSD USB DAC function. (DoP method)
Through the USB connection, the AK240 can be used as a USB DAC which supports Native DSD playback. The combination of the exclusive DSD chip and the Dual DAC in the AK240 goes above and beyond most computer sound cards and is able to create a greater sense of space and deeper sound while listening to your music.
- EQ setting cannot be used while in USB DAC mode on the AK240.
Exceptional AK240 Leather Case
In order to raise the bar of the AK240 even higher, much attention was devoted to the selection of leather for the case. Minerva leather, originated from Badalassi Carlo was chosen for the case. Badalassi Carlo was made by Professor Carlo Badalassi, who is known for his excellent skills with leather. Unlike modern methods, he uses a traditional method of making leather that requires extensive time and devotion. His reputation is well-known among top expensive brands due to his focus on the leather quality over quantity.
The leather case for the AK240 was made from a process called “Full Vegetable Tanning”. This traditional method has been used in Italy for over 200 years. The process brings out the special characteristic of leather while creating a natural tanning look. A variety of trees and plants are involved in this tanning process which takes about 40 days to complete and only the most experienced professionals in Italy possess the skills to do it.
This special leather material has a lot of oil in it that will allow the leather to shine the more it is used. Many tests and trials have been done with the creation of the leather case in order to highlight the unique design of the AK240.
Supported Audio Formats
Aircraft Grade Duralumin
3.31inch WVGA (480 x 800) AMOLED Touchscreen
WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE(Normal, High, Fast), AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF
FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF : 8kHz ~ 192kHz (8/16/24bits per Sample)
/ DSD Native : DSD64 (1bit 2.8MHz), Stereo / DSD128 (1bit 5.6MHz), Stereo
Unbalance 2.1Vrms / Balance 2.3Vrms (Condition No Load)
Cirrus Logic CS4398 x2 (Dual DAC)
Support up to 24bit/192kHz Bit to Bit Decoding, DSD64/128
USB Micro-B input (for charging & data transfer (PC & MAC))
/ Connection Mode : MTP (Media Device)
PHONES (3.5mm) / Optical Out (3.5mm) / Balanced Out (2.5mm, only 4-pole supported)
802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz)
2.59 ”(66 mm) [W] x 4.21 ”(107 mm) [H] x 0.68 ”(17.5 mm) [D]
6.5 oz (185 g)
Firmware upgrades supported (OTA)
Signal to Noise Ratio
±0.023dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalance & Balance
/ ±0.3dB (Condition: 10Hz~70kHz) Unbalance & Balance
116dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 117dB @ 1kHz, Balance
130dB @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 135dB @ 1kHz, Balance
0.0007% @ 1kHz, Unbalance / 0.0005% @ 1kHz, Balance
0.0004% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Unbalance / 0.0003% 800Hz 10kHz(4:1) Balance
Balanced out 2.5mm (1ohm) / PHONES 3.5mm (2ohm)
3,250mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer Battery
microSD (Max 128GB) x1
Windows XP, Windows 7,8 (32/64bit), MAC OS X 10.7 and up