Most of us store our portable music libraries on smartphones or else we listen to streaming services like Spotify or Tidal. But for dedicated audiophiles who want the ultimate Hi-Res musical experience, there’s an overwhelming wish to listen to the highest quality music while they’re on the move or, perhaps, working away from home. There are two ways to do this, one is a headphone amplifier and DAC that attaches to a smartphone, but that solution can be a bit unwieldy. The other method for those interested in the best possible sound in the small and convenient package is a Digital Audio Player (DAP).
Korean brand Astell&Kern has been making these types of premium music players since 2012. In that time the company has come up with some great-sounding DAPs, including some with a rather eccentric styling. However, the latest product to come out of A&K’s Korean research lab is the SA700 and physical design is based largely on Astell&Kern’s legendary AK120 model. This latest player looks much more mainstream and conservative that some of the company’s recent players which are, perhaps, an acquired taste.
Despite its more classic styling, the SA700 is totally current with the latest tech. The new player is small and manageable, encased in a steel housing, which gives it a substantial feel in the hand. The smaller size also enables the touchscreen of the SA700 to be controlled using one hand. The 4.1-inch touchscreen has a relatively hi-res display at 720 x 1,280, pixels and there are control buttons and an oversized volume wheel ranged down the die of the casing, making the SA700 easy to use on the move or while exercising. The volume wheel features two protector wings to stop the volume levels from being accidentally adjusted. The protector also includes an LED source that illuminates the knurled pattern of the volume wheel as soon as the music starts playing. The color of the LED even changes to show the state of playback.
Inside the SA700 are two AKM AK4492ECB DACs, and this is the first product to offer these new chips. The player also features a bit-to-bit playback up to 32-bit 384KHz and also supports native DSD playback up to 11.2MHz.
The SA700 has two headphone outputs, one for a pair of balanced headphones with a 2.5mm jack plug, and the other for unbalanced headphones using a standard 3.5mm jack plug. For music lovers who prefer listening suing wireless headphones, the SA700 can stream audio via Bluetooth with support for both AAC and aptX HD codecs. For storing music files locally there’s 128GB of onboard memory that can be further expanded to 512GB using a Micro SD memory card slot. Both charging and data transfer is via a USB-C cable.
I hope to get a review sample of the Astell&Kern SA700 soon and will post a full review as soon as possible. Having listened to quite a few A&K players over the years, I think the build and sonic quality should be well worth the wait.
Pricing and availability: The Astell&Kern SA700 is available now and can be ordered in Onyx Black and Stainless Steel finishes. The retail price is £1,295 / $1,299.
More info: www.astellnkern.com/