Skip to main content

Astell & Kern announces the ridiculously powerful and pricey Kann Cube

Astell & Kern announces the ridiculously powerful and pricey Kann Cube

/

Cramming as much power into one music player as possible

Share this story

Photo: Astell & Kern

The Astell & Kern Kann is, in my book, the best portable music player you can buy. It’s got a huge 6,200mAh battery, a sweetly melodic AKM AK4490 DAC, a beefy amplifier that can feed the most demanding of headphones, and USB-C charging. It also costs a mighty $999. Now imagine A&K took each one of those specs and cranked it up to 11. That’s how you arrive at the newly unveiled $1,499 Astell & Kern Kann Cube, the spectacularly high-specced second generation of the Kann line.

For Astell & Kern, the Kann series of devices goes under the tagline of “one player to rule them all.” The company has fancier and pricier PMPs to sell, such as the $3,499 A&ultima, but those tend to sacrifice some battery life for the sake of sleeker design. Plus, they often have extra amp attachments to make them powerful. The Kann and Kann Cube are entirely about cramming as much power into one music player as possible.

Here are the spec highlights of the new Kann Cube: 7,400mAh battery (rated to last for nine hours of FLAC playback), two ESS ES9038PRO Sabre DACs, 128GB of expandable storage, a new quad-core CPU, and USB-C fast charging. The display is a 5-inch 720p panel, which may sound meager, but it should be more than sufficient for selecting your favorite lossless MQA tracks on Tidal, which the Kann Cube now natively supports.

WTF is a DAC?

The digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is an essential component in any modern audio system. It’s the circuitry that converts the 0s and 1s of your digitally stored music into an electric signal that can be played back via headphones and speakers. The reason DACs matter is that the process of conversion is not straightforward. There are a bunch of errors and flaws to correct for, and a perfect translation is very difficult to achieve. The best DACs can scale in price up into the tens of thousands of dollars, but most of us will experience the cheapest varieties, which come integrated into our smartphones, laptops, and basically any digital device that produces sound. Wireless headphones each have their own built-in DAC, which means their sound quality isn’t dependent on the device that provides the music. The headphones do their own conversion.

As far as the amp goes, the Kann Cube almost doubles the output of the original Kann, which was already one of the most potent PMPs available. That makes this new player the truest expression of Astell & Kern’s stated goal of a single player for all purposes and circumstances. I especially appreciate the ginormous battery, which is what made the Kann so unusual in its class: most portable music players sound phenomenal these days, but don’t last anywhere near as long as most other modern gadgets. The upgraded CPU should also be a help, as I found the first-gen Kann’s interface hilariously (though also forgivably) slow and laggy.

The only downside to the A&K Kann Cube, other than its stratospheric price? It weighs nearly 500 grams (18 ounces), nearly doubling the heft of the already big and chunky Kann and threatening to tear a hole through any jeans pocket it’s inserted into. You can look for the Kann Cube to be on sale at the end of May.