Astell & Kern’s newest PMP — the $999 Kann — is out today, and it looks like a portable media player that makes some impressive modern-day advances. It’s particularly notable given that the high-end portable audio market tends to move very slowly toward the future (when it does at all).
Astell & Kern is positioning the Kann as an entirely new design that it hopes will stand out from its slate of earlier AK devices as a “complete all-around” PMP that will work well for a wider range of users.
The first thing to know about the Kann, though, is that it’s big: at 25.6mm (just over an inch) it’s over four times as chunky as a modern smartphone like the Galaxy S8 or iPhone 7. It also weighs over half a pound (278.7g).
What do you get in exchange for carrying around this brick-sized device? A massive 6000mAh battery (Astell & Kern claims 14 hours of listening time), an integrated powered headphone amp, and both microSD and full-size SD card slots. That’s right: this portable PMP officially has more SD cards slots than Apple’s new MacBook Pro.
On the more technical side of things, the Kann also has a pair of 3.5mm (unbalanced) and 2.5mm (balanced) jacks for both headphone out and line out, 64GB of internal storage, and it can charge and transfer data over USB-C. And when it comes to audio files, Astell & Kern claims that the Kann can handle playback of up to 32-bit/384kHz for PCM audio, up to DSD256 (11.2mHz) for DSD audio, and supports aptX HD Bluetooth codecs.
Like any of Astell & Kern’s products, the Kann isn’t exactly cheap at $999 dollars, given that the average smartphone can accomplish the same basic task of “playing music on the go” in a dramatically cheaper, smaller and more versatile way. For example, the Korean version of the LG G6, is a full-featured smartphone that costs less than the single-purpose Kann, but still offers an integrated quad-DAC for noticeably improved sound quality.
But if you truly care about having the best sound, and can live with the huge cost — and the huge size — then it might be worth giving the Kann a try. Astell & Kern is also sweetening the deal for early preorders with a free 256GB memory card.