Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium portable high-resolution audio devices, introduces the AK HC2 Dual DAC Cable, an uncompromising and ultra-compact way of transforming the audio of your iOS and Android smartphone and tablet and Windows or Apple laptop computers. Following on from the AK HC1 (PEE51), this portable DAC arrives with a 4.4mm balanced headphone connection so audiophiles and music fans can seamlessly drive their high-resolution headphones of choice and experience original studio-quality sounds, whether on-the-move or listening from a desktop.
With digital-to-analogue conversion circuitry in laptops, tablets and smartphones remaining a secondary focus, and headphone jacks becoming a rarity in smartphones, making the most of the high-resolution audio offered by the most popular streaming services might not appear straightforward. But thanks to the AK HC2 it can be achieved, easily and effectively.
Astell&Kern AK HC2 Dual DAC Key features at a glance:
Supports 4.4mm balanced output for improved channel separation and reduced noise
Powerful 4Vrms output to drive a wide variety of headphones
Equipped with a CS43198 Dual DAC to deliver a hi-fi grade sound
Dual Shielded Cable minimises distortion and signal noise
Compatible with iOS and Android devices
Optional Android app to enable detailed volume control
Balanced audio for iOS and Android devices
Despite measuring just 17mm x 50mm x 10mm, the AK HC2 USB-C Dual DAC is packed with cutting-edge features, carefully designed to deliver high-quality, low-noise sonics via its 4.4mm balanced headphone output. Ultra-fine audio technology means Astell&Kern has been able to incorporate circuitry, components and power management in a supremely portable device without concession.
Simply plug the Dual DAC into your device’s USB-C input, connect a pair of 4.4mm headphones, and lose yourself in the detailed, dynamic and thrillingly realistic sound. And if you want to improve the audio performance of an iOS device, simply use the supplied USB-C to Lightning adapter.
Superior Dual DAC, circuit design
At the heart of the AK HC2 Dual DAC Cable are two Cirrus Logic CS43198 MasterHiFi DACs – high-performance DACs that feature in Astell&Kern’s award-winning A&norma range of digital audio players, and support hi-res playback up to native 32bit/384kHz and DSD256. The dual DACs are paired with a high-performance analogue amplifier, powerful enough to drive even high-impedance headphones without difficulty – and the 4.4mm balanced output means lower noise, higher output and clearer channel-separation every time. Bespoke capacitors optimise the audio circuit, suppressing power fluctuations and optimising output performance, while also minimising the power consumption of the connected device.
Durable, dual-shielded cable design
Most USB DAC products have the DAC positioned in the USB terminal connected directly to the device to process and output audio. However, with the AK HC2, digital signals from the device pass through the dual-shielded cable to the audio circuit before being converted to an analogue signal by the DAC. By processing the digital signal at a later stage, the sound performance is superior and noise-free sound compared to other USB DAC products.
A dual-shielded cable is designed to minimize noise interference and deliver a transparent sound as possible. The copper core wire is coated with tin to prevent corrosion and strengthen tensile force for enhanced durability, while the woven cable is wrapped in an aluminum film to help block noise – a persistant issue in audio playback.
The AK HC2 arrives Roon Tested so subscribers can enjoy the management and sonic features of this multi-music platform, while additional convenience comes thanks to volume control available via the dedicated Android control app.
Light and shadow design
As is customary with Astell&Kern devices, the AK HC2 follows the company’s unique and distinctive design language. The angled surface follows the ‘light and shadow’ vocabulary featured throughout the Astell&Kern product range, while longevity and a premium feel and build is assured thanks to the polished and robust aluminium body.
The Astell&Kern AK HC2 USB-C Dual DAC is priced £169 / $170 / €199 and available from mid-June 2022 from www.astellkern.co.uk
Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium portable high-resolution audio devices, has teamed up with Campfire Audio, a U.S. designer and manufacturer of premium hand-built earphones, to introduce the AK SOLARIS X in-ear monitor (IEM). Based on Campfire Audio’s Solaris 2020, this X model is designed and tuned especially for Astell&Kern, re-imagining the original’s sonics to faithfully convey a deep, rich but natural sound, synonymous with Astell&Kern.
Hand-assembled in Portland, Oregon, USA by skilled craftsmen, ensuring each individual earphone is manufactured to the highest quality standards, the AK SOLARIS X is a culmination of Campfire Audio’s acclaimed acoustic technology and design. Featuring a custom-made balance armature (BA) driver and a dynamic driver hybrid system, alongside a patented Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (T.A.E.C.) technology and a 3D Printed Acoustic Chamber, the SOLARIS X delivers music as the artist intended and the perfect companion to Astell&Kern’s high resolution portable digital audio players.
Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber technology
The custom BA driver, designed specifically for the AK SOLARIS X, is smaller in size than its predecessor but still offers a wideband performance that extends high frequencies without sibilance or fatigue. Working in the tandem with Campfire Audio’s patented T.A.E.C. technology, that optimises the driver performance by adjusting the volume of space available in front of the driver and provides a direct passage from the driver to your ear, the new driver delivers unsurpassed clarity and a smooth, extended top end.
Polarity Tuned Chamber
Another BA driver provides rich delivery of the mid-range frequencies, while the custom 10mm dynamic driver is optimised for the Polarity Tuned Chamber. By deploying particular volume cavities, both in front and behind the dynamic driver, bigger sounds can be drawn from smaller drivers. In the case of this hybrid design it can also specifically target the AK SOLARIS X‘s driver performance with the result a deeper and more refined mid-to-low frequency.
3D-printed acoustic optimised construction
Campfire Audio’s high-end earphones are highly acclaimed by audiophiles around the globe, so it’s no wonder the attention to detail is key to delivering superior musical experience from the AK SOLARIS X. Each earphone integrates a 3D-printed, acoustically optimised interior chamber to enable the drivers to deliver the highest audio quality possible and create a natural and accurate sound.
4N Pure Silver Litz Cable design
The AK SOLARIS X comes with a balanced 2.5mm pure silver cable (a 3.5mm adapter is supplied) allowing the earphones to reach their full performance potential. The Pure Silver Litz Cable consist of four 4N (99.99% purity) conductors designed to provide the most transparent and extended sounds possible. The soft-touch jacket that wraps around each conductor ensures both flexibility and durability, while the beryllium/copper MMCX connectors are more resilient against wear and tear, compared to regular brass connectors.
Eco-friendly cork case
To support people with disabilities and allow them to live independently, Campfire Audio sourced a small boutique shop in Portugal, who work-side-by-side with people with physical disabilities, to hand make the AK SOLARIS X’s carry case. To keep these earphones in pristine condition while in transit, the protective case is made from eco-friendly cork material for long-lasting durability.
The Astell&Kern AK Solaris X is priced £1,499 / $1,500 / €1,799 and available in the UK exclusively in-store at Harrods and Selfridges from mid-July.
Specially Customed New Single BA Driver + T.A.E.C. [High]
Single Updated Custom Balanced Armature Driver [Mid]
Specially Tuned 10mm Dynamic Driver [Mid + Low]
Frequency Response: 5Hz-20kHz
SPL: 94dB @ 1kHz: 9.16mVrms
Impedance: 8.1 Ohm @ 1kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion: Less than 1%
About Campfire Audio
Campfire Audio springs from a passionate focus on refined audio reproduction. Each model in our earphone line is designed and assembled by hand in our Portland, Oregon workshop; our earphones are second to none in performance and finish. With a small team of highly skilled and dedicated craftspeople, we continuously experiment with materials and techniques to create something unique and special for the people who care most about it.
Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium portable high-resolution audio devices, introduces the SE180, the third model in its award-winning A&futura series and the audio specialist’s first player to feature interchangeable all-in-one DAC modules. Expanding on the multi-DAC innovation first introduced with the SE200, music fans can customise their sound with different audio-flavoured DACs to find the hi-fi-grade sonics that suit them.
The A&futura SE180 is the company’s most advance player yet and is the first model to boast Astell&Kern’s TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology for improved audio, an enhanced user-interface design, a full HD display and added advanced connectivity functionality.
Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 new audio design and feature innovations include:
Interchangeable all-in-one DAC modules
New TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology
Full HD display for improved image quality
Enhanced user interface more consistent with an Android smartphone experience
AK File Drop for easier wireless file transfers
BT Sink function for simpler connection of the SE180 to an external Bluetooth device
INTERCHANGEABLE DAC MODULES
The innovative interchangeable DAC design not only offers a new level of audio flexibility for the user but also improves the sound performance. By physically separating the main body from the all-in-one module, power and radio frequency (RF) noise generated by the main unit is completely blocked. This creates an independent structure that prevents noise from interfering with music playback.
The module slots easily into place from the top of the player and features an innovative double locking mechanism that securely connects each component. Expertly engineered, with flowing smooth lines between each part, there isn’t a noticeable trace of two separate elements in play.
The A&futura SE180 arrives with a default module featuring the SEM1 ESS ES9038PRO, an 8-channel DAC traditionally used for premium home audio equipment. This DAC provides a wider dynamic range and greater detail, while audio file support is extensive for high-resolution fans, with the SEM1 DAC capable of playing up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 files.
The SEM2 Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC has the ability to play files up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD512.
The SEM3 ESS ES9038Q2M Quad DAC supports high-resolution audio playback up to native DSD512 and 32bit/768kHz.
The SEM4 Asahi Kasei AK4493SEQ dual DACis the first to feature Digital Audio Remaster (DAR) upsampling technology, enhancing the sample rate of the audio source so music fans can get closer to the analogue-like original sound.
All modules support 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphones connections for accommodating a greater variety of headphones and in-ear monitors (IEM), while there is support for MQA playback via downloaded MQA audio files and through the Tidal music app.
The result of extensive research and development, Astell&Kern’s patented TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution is designed to deliver audio playback close to the original sound. The onboard DAC is not the only factor that determines the quality of sound from a DAP: Power, noise, signal conversion, circuit structure all effect the sound signature. Only when each and every one of these elements are optimised, can a player produce sound as close as the music artist and producer intended.
With the A&futura SE180 the first to harbour TERATON ALPHA technology, it effectively removes power noise and provides efficient power consumption and amplification right through to the audio output interface stage where the digital-to-analogue signal conversion (DAC) takes place – audio technology Astell&Kern has consistently developed and perfected over the years.
ENHANCED USER INTERFACE DESIGN
The A&futura SE180 user-interface has been enhanced to offer an experience consistent with an Android smartphone. A new navigation bar pinned at the bottom of the screen allows users to control playback and skip tracks from any screen, while a single swipe returns to the previous screen. Like the SE200, users can also discern the volume level, file type and bitrate being played thanks to the colour-coded LED light surrounding the player’s volume wheel.
FULL HD DISPLAY
Album artwork pops from the screen with the A&futura SE180 is the first Astell&Kern player to boast a full HD display. This 5-inch touchscreen packs a 1920×1080 pixel resolution, 16.7 million colours and 441 PPI, resulting in a clean and sharp user-interface design.
The A&futura SE180 is also the first model to feature AK File Drop for easier wireless file transfers. Users can wirelessly transfer files through a PC, smartphone, or FTP program located on the same network to make music management even more convenient.
The newly introduced BT Sink function connects the A&futura SE180 to an external device, such as a smartphone, via Bluetooth, enabling music to be played back in high-quality on the Astell&Kern player.
Elsewhere the A&futura SE180 boasts Bluetooth 5.0, providing greater range and a more stable wireless connection to headphones and, along with support for 24-bit aptX HD and LDAC codecs, offers the best possible wireless sound quality.
The A&futura SE180 features 256GB on-board memory that can be expanded up to 1TB via a microSD card slot, meaning users can carry thousands of hi-res albums with them at all times.
To keep the A&futura SE180 in pristine condition but still stylish, a Black or Navy leather case is available. Using quality Badalassi Carlo Minerva leather, this material is made from a process called ‘full vegetable tanning’, a traditional method used in Italy for over 200 years, that 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, while containing oil that allows the leather to shine the more it is used.
The Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 (with SEM1 ESS ES9038PRO DAC module) is priced £1,399 / $1,499 / €1,599 and is available now from www.astellkern.co.uk
The optional Astell&Kern SEM2 Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC Module is priced £319 / $349 / €379 and is available now from www.astellkern.co.uk
The optional Astell&Kern SEM3 ESS ES9038Q2M Quad DAC Module is priced £319 / $349 / €379 and is available now from www.astellkern.co.uk
The optional Astell&Kern SEM4 Asahi Kasei AK4493SEQ Dual DAC Module is priced £369 / $400 / €429and is available now from www.astellkern.co.uk
Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium portable high-resolution audio devices, introduces the AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable, enabling music fans to experience the best sound quality possible from a computer or mobile device, while on-the-move. Joining the company’s line-up of award-winning portable digital audio players (DAPs) and headphones, this ultra-compact audio accessory will transform the sonic performance from an Android smartphone, Windows 10 PC, tablet PC or MacOS computer*.
With leading smartphone manufacturers continually omitting headphones jacks and including low-performance DACs, and with popular streaming services offering high-resolution quality tracks, enjoying high-quality music playback on-the-go or on your desktop is becoming increasingly difficult. This is where the AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable becomes an essential audio accessory: Plug the dual DAC cable into the USB-C input on your device, connect a pair of 3.5mm headphones and immerse yourself in dynamic and detailed sounds.
At the heart of the Astell&Kern AK USB-C DUAL DAC Cable sit two Cirrus Logic CS43198 MasterHIFi™ DACs which support high-resolution audio playback up to native DSD256 and 32bit/384kHz. With years of expertise in audio circuit and amplifier design, the company was able create a complex and highly integrated circuit design to fit into a diminutive, chewing gum packet-sized (17mm x 50mm x 10.3mm) chassis. Elsewhere, Astell&Kern’s bespoke designed capacitors, that also feature in its range of high-performance DAPs, optimise the audio circuit to suppress power fluctuations and provide stable operation and best-in-class audio performance all from an ultra-portable housing.
The dual DACs are paired with an independent analog amplifier, designed to deliver a distortion free, live, warm and clear sound as the artist intended, while harbouring power to sufficiently drive a variety of high impedance headphones with a 2Vrms (Condition No Load) output level.
A custom-made, durable, 4-core cable is designed to withstand the vagaries of life on-the-go and to reduce signal interference for the cleanest audio possible. With Technora aramid fibre at its core to block external noise, thick silver-plated copper is wrapped around this centre strand, with a further layer of copper added in a spiral arrangement. The addition of copper wire helps to affect a clear and rich spatial sound, while separate shielding treatment is applied to the cable to block distortion and digital and analogue signal noise from the playback device.
As you would expect from an Astell&Kern the device, theAKUSB-C Dual DAC Cable boasts a stunning, angled surface design that follows the ‘light and shadow’ concept employed throughout all Astell&Kern products. The smooth, polished metal zinc alloy body offers a reassuring premium feel and bulletproof protection for life on-the-road.
The Astell&Kern AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable is priced £109 and will be available from April from www.astellkern.co.uk
* iOS-based devices, such as iPhones and iPads, are currently not supported. A dual DAC cable requires more current to run than a single DAC cable. Current iOS devices limit the amount of current exported and so don’t provide enough current to power a dual DAC configuration.