Astell&Kern’s new headphone DAC is PlayStation-ready

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Astell&Kern HB1 Bluetooth DAC/amp seen pinch portable crippled console.An Astell&Kern HB1 Bluetooth DAC/amp connected to a Nintendo Switch and Focal headphones. Astell&Kern

Bluetooth DAC/amp has a assortment of features that will endear it to fans of hi-res audio, but if those fans are besides console gamers, it could beryllium moreover much charismatic acknowledgment to its support of USB Audio Class (UAC) 1.0 and its headset-friendly microphone compatibility. A&K has besides announced its latest high-end portable media player, nan , which offers an intriguing and versatile operation of analog outputs. Both caller products will beryllium disposable successful November from prime A&K retailers. The HB1 has been priced astatine $259, while nan Kann Ultra will waste for $1,599.

Astell&Kern HB1 Bluetooth DAC/amp

Astell&Kern HB1 Bluetooth DAC/amp.Astell&Kern

The HB1 is perfectly bursting astatine nan seams pinch features. In summation to being a modular hi-res DAC/amp for wired connections to phones, tablets, and PCs, it besides supports UAC 1.0 for wired usage pinch crippled consoles for illustration nan PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. Despite nan truth that nan newer UAC 2.0 has been astir for years, these gaming machines proceed to trust connected UAC 1.0, which fewer audiophile-grade DACs support.

This isn’t nan first clip we’ve seen a dongle-style DAC/amp beforehand its UAC 1.0 compatibility — nan precocious released budget-priced Earfun EA100 has this characteristic excessively (albeit pinch an awkward mode switch). However, nan $80 EA100 only supports one-way audio from a UAC 1.0 console — awesome for amended sound, but not adjuvant for games that require headsets. The HB1, connected nan different hand, supports sound audio successful 2 ways: it has a built-in Knowles mic for folks who usage in-ear monitors (IEMs) pinch nary inline cablegram mic (or who usage nan 4.4mm balanced output), and a 3.5mm jack that uses a four-pole, mic-compatible creation for headsets aliases wired earbuds pinch inline mics.

Astell&Kern HB1 Bluetooth DAC/amp seen pinch adapter cables.Astell&Kern

As acold arsenic its regular audio chops go, nan HB1 is comprehensive: acknowledgment to its ESS ES9281AC PRO DAC, it supports autochthonal DSD256 and up to 32-bit/384 kHz lossless audio, including up to 8x rendering of MQA tracks if you link nan HB1 to an MQA-decoding device/app for illustration nan Tidal customer moving connected an iPhone aliases Android phone. Speaking of iPhone and Android, nan HB1 comes pinch some USB-C-to-USB-C and a USB-C-to-Lightning adapter cables truthful you tin activity pinch virtually immoderate instrumentality and immoderate platform. There’s besides a companion app for some iOS and Android that lets you configure respective of nan HB1’s settings.

It’s difficult not to announcement nan immense dedicated measurement knob connected nan broadside of nan HB1. It’s been a stylistic cue of A&K’s portable devices for years. However, we’re not wholly judge if it makes consciousness for a Bluetooth DAC that mightiness beryllium shoved successful a pouch aliases different places wherever that knob could beryllium inadvertently turned. We’re besides a spot amazed that nan HB1 doesn’t travel pinch a clip truthful you tin deterioration it connected clothing — an particularly important usability if you’re going to usage it pinch nan built-in mic we mentioned.

Astell&Kern HB1 Bluetooth DAC/amp.Astell&Kern

In position of Bluetooth, you get support for Multipoint, truthful nan the HB1 tin beryllium connected to 2 root devices simultaneously, and there’s built-in hi-res audio codec compatibility pinch LDAC and aptX HD. Strangely, there’s nary aptX Adaptive compatibility, a bizarre omission fixed that A&K is utilizing a Qualcomm Bluetooth chipset.

Cleverly, nan HB1 tin beryllium configured to springiness Bluetooth priority, truthful if you’re connected via USB and nan DAC senses a caller Bluetooth session, it will move automatically. There are besides options for really nan DAC recharges via USB. Speaking of that, artillery life connected nan HB1 has been pegged astatine six hours if you usage nan 3.5mm unbalanced larboard aliases 5.5 hours if you usage nan 4.4mm balanced port, astatine 50% volume.

Astell&Kern Kann Ultra

Astell&Kern Kann Ultra.Astell&Kern

The latest portable media subordinate successful nan Kann family, nan Ultra will look instantly acquainted to A&K fans, pinch its sharply angled facets and oversized measurement knob. What makes nan Ultra guidelines retired is nan different postulation of analog outputs — you get 4 successful total: 3.5mm unbalanced and 4.4mm balanced headphone outputs and combo preamp/line-out outputs.

The headphone jacks person 4 summation presets and output that tin spell arsenic precocious arsenic 16Vrms — which should beryllium capable to thrust moreover nan highest impedance headphones effortlessly. The preamp/line-out outputs tally done a dedicated preamplifier, letting you power nan measurement erstwhile successful preamp mode aliases bypass nan preamp wholly successful line-out mode, pinch 4 fixed voltage levels from 1.4V to 4V.

Astell&Kern Kann Ultra.Astell&Kern

Why truthful galore options? The Ultra is designed to beryllium utilized pinch conscionable astir immoderate analog input you tin deliberation of, from high-end IEMs and wired headphones to stereo amplifiers, progressive speakers, and AV receivers. The intent is for folks to tally each of their integer audio sources — whether they’re streaming euphony services aliases audio files stored successful nan Ultra’s 128GB of onboard retention — done its top-of-the-line flagship DAC from ESS, nan ESS9039MPRO, which is utilized successful a dual-DAC configuration.

As you mightiness guess, nan ESS DAC is capable to process conscionable astir immoderate integer source, up to lossless 32-bit/768kHz and autochthonal DSD512. It’s besides a afloat MQA decoder.

Astell&Kern Kann Ultra.Astell&Kern

The Kann Ultra besides provides features that were introduced connected nan A&Ultima SP3000, including:

  • Digital Audio Remaster Technology (DAR), which upsamples nan sample complaint of nan sound root being played, allowing much refined play and “analog-like original sound.”
  • Crossfeed, which mixes parts of nan original awesome from 1 transmission and sends that awesome to nan other transmission pinch a clip quality to halfway nan sound image, for illustration erstwhile listening pinch speakers. Settings specified arsenic support cutoff, support gain, and mixer level, fto you set nan level of crossfeed.
  • DAC Filter: 7 DAC filters that fto you fine-tune nan sound.
  • ReplayGain, which maintains a accordant playback level betwixt tracks.

Astell&Kern Kann Ultra

Astell&Kern AK HB1

Editors' Recommendations

  • Earfun makes hi-res audio much accessible pinch affordable earbuds and DAC
  • Sony updates its Signature Series hi-res Walkman pinch caller features, higher prices
  • Sony’s caller flagship headphones committedness best-in-class sound canceling and calling
  • Astell&Kern blurs nan statement betwixt headphone amp and integer audio player
  • Astell & Kern, Beyerdynamic partner connected gorgeous over-ear headphones

Simon Cohen

Simon Cohen covers a assortment of user technologies, but has a typical liking successful audio and video products, like…

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