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Review: High-res music player ups the audio ante
Also, the on-screen equalizer is a bit confusing. There are dots to drag, and on-screen dials with frequency numbers to spin. A simpler design to access those adjustments, which are important, might have helped.
The physical design of the device is very polished and professional. It has a black metal finish with a nicely knurled volume knob along the right side. The screen offers touch control for basic playback and music library duties. Three buttons along the left side allow you to play, pause and advance tracks forward and backward without relying on the touch screen.
The high-definition audio world made possible by this product won’t be for everyone. Beyond its own hefty price tag, the audiophile-grade album downloads are also more expensive than their iTunes counterparts. For instance, Green Day’s “21st Century Breakdown” costs $17.98 for the full 24-bit album download at HDtracks.com. The same album costs $11.99 at iTunes.
In addition, you won’t find as robust a selection at online high-definition audio retailers as you would on iTunes. Songs must be specially mastered in the studio to deliver the true 24-bit sound experience. There is a nice range of music from classical to heavy metal, but it remains a fraction of what is available at lower quality from other outlets.
Those highest-quality audio files take up more storage space as well. Your typical MP3 file weighs in at about four megabytes for a four-minute song. The same song in a lossless format for the AK100 takes up about 200 megabytes.
The AK100 comes with 32 gigabytes of storage built in. That’s enough room for roughly 160 four-minute songs if each of them is encoded at the highest quality the AK100 can play. By contrast, a 16-gigabyte iPod Nano can hold roughly 4,000 songs in MP3. The AK100’s memory can be expanded to 96 gigabytes with additional memory cards, but you’ll have to be judicious about it when filling it up with audio of this quality.
The AK100 does play the lesser-quality formats, including MP3, OGG and WAV. If you only fill it up with standard MP3s, it will hold thousands of songs, like most traditional digital music players.
The AK100 player also has built-in Bluetooth technology, allowing it to stream audio wirelessly to connected devices such as Bluetooth-enabled speakers. It worked fine, but the high-definition audio fidelity is better experienced with proper headphones.
With the AK100, you won’t be able to view photos or video or make phone calls, as the iPod Touch offers. The AK100 does one thing _ play music _ and does it really well.
Is the difference worth it? For some, maybe. Others won’t care about that difference, can’t hear it, or would decide it’s not worth the additional cost it even if they can hear it.
But for those who truly appreciate a good recording, and would like to hear something as close to the original as possible, the Astell & Kern player is a refreshing device they’ll likely embrace.
Follow Ron Harris on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Journorati
About the AK100:
By Donald Lambro
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