By Simon Cohen November 21, 2023 4:40AM
Astell&Kern (A&K)’s newest USB headphone DAC/amp for adaptable accessories and computers represents a appealing big bound in architecture compared to the company’s antecedent models. The $220 AK HC4 USB DAC is the company’s aboriginal to action bifold outputs — a counterbalanced 4.4mm jack and an asymmetric 3.5mm jack, afterward a trend that has been catching on fast during 2023. It will be accessible in December through retailers that backpack A&K products.
With abutment for up to DSD 256 and PCM at 32-bit/384kHz, the AK HC4 will be able to comedy aloof about any agenda audio you can bandy at it, except for MQA. It turns out that the accommodation to use an AK4493S DAC from AKM — addition aboriginal for A&K’s headphone DACs — has meant bottomward abutment for the abundantly Tidal-only format. If MQA is critical, the HC3 (which uses an ESS DAC) ability be a bigger choice.
The AK HC4 additionally sports several added appearance that advice it angle out back compared to its ancestors (like the HC3, HC2, and Dual-cable DAC) and its rivals. The HC4 has traded a hardwired architecture for a added able USB-C port. With an included USB-C cable and a Lightning cable, you can bandy amid iPhones, iPads, and added accessories after abacus an awkward bung adapter. It additionally agency that if the cable is damaged, you don’t charge to alter the accomplished unit.
An chip aggregate rocker lets you ascendancy addition after relying on your phone’s settings. The HC4 is additionally accordant with USB Audio Class (UAC) 1.0 and 2.0, which agency you can use it on a advanced array of bold consoles that still use the earlier UAC setting.
Astell & Kern has added its Digital Audio Remaster (DAR) technology to the AK HC4, which it claims can bear aerial and analog-like aboriginal complete back arena agenda music with lower sample rates. Toggle the committed about-face to about-face DAR on and the algorithm will upsample any agreeable you’re playing.
As continued as MQA abutment isn’t a must-have, at $220, the AK HC4 is added affordable than the Ifi Go Bar ($329) and the Questyle M15 ($299) — two high-end DACs with bifold outputs.
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Simon Cohen covers a array of chump technologies, but has a appropriate absorption in audio and video products, like…
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