The Astell & Kern AK Jr is the high end audio company’s latest portable high resolution music player and it is the slimmest most affordable one yet. If you’re sold on the benefits of high resolution audio though, there is a lot to like about the Jr aside from its sleek exterior.
The most satisfying results are with acoustic and live functionalities where the extra detail, the wide soundstage and sumptuous low end warmth really shines through. If you can afford to spend big, listening to tracks in that maximum 24-bit/192kHz format is a joy. The problem is, trying to find enough of it.
Classical music fans are well catered for, but if you are looking for something more current, then there isn’t a great deal to choose from. It surely sounds great, but did not essentially feel that discernibly different from listening to it through a streaming service. It just did not blow you away the way the Marvin Gaye album did. Audiophiles will lap up the amendment in sound quality you get with the Jr. It is just a shame there isn’t a wealth of music to really make the most of the great hardware.
With Bluetooth 4.0 support to connect a pair of wireless headphones or a portable speaker. The lack of Wi-Fi and a more fully fledged version of Android is disappointing though as it would have been great to tap into a high res audio streaming service like Qobuz Tidal or Deezer Elite to broaden the music catalog. The AK Jr’s software is built on Android, even though you would not know it because it is such a basic take on Google’s operating system and you cannot download Android apps.
Specialties & Designing
That is pretty much what we have found with it on a daily basis, so it isn’t quite the killer battery functionality you can get from an iPod. It’ll get you comfortably through a day and maybe two at a stretch and will turn itself off when it is inactive to help preserve the power. Clearly, the ability to go longer has come at the expense of the slim design.
The aim is to offer songs that sound much closer to the original recording by offering less compressed file. As an added bonus, that DAC specialty can be used for your desktop PC or Mac. There isn’t a very good deal of configuration needed to use it either. Once you plug it in, there is an option to use the DAC mode and as long it is selected as the audio output in your sound settings, you are good to go.
The Jr is the best looking high resolution player we have had our hands on. There is no Pono player rubber in sight and it is significantly slimmer than Sony’s ZX2. This is a beautifully crafted piece of hardware and gives the iPod touch and most portable high resolution players a run for their money.
The Jr’s good looks continue with a thin layer of glass covering the subtle patterned finish. The stand out specialty here though is the rotary volume dial. Tucked away on the right hand side of the body, it has that nice satisfyingly click when you crank the volume up or down.
The AK Jr is blessed with good looks and very good sound quality to make it one of the best ways to take your high res audio out and about.