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Making music sound more like music

Updated on November 5, 2013

If you're looking for a super-deluxe gift for the holidays, something for the audiophile in your life, this might be just what you're looking for.

The iPod and the iPhone win for convenience, but they haven't been paying much attention to quality. From the lossy MP3 format that many people use for storage, to the cheap D/A converters and lack of attention to detail, we can do better.

A lot better.

For many people, the point of a gift is not to get something you need, but to get something you always wanted, but couldn't justify. There's a place for socks and underwear, no doubt about it, but sometimes you want to get something that will blow people away.

If you know a music lover, this might be that thing.

The first feature that this device has that virtually no other can offer is formats. Your recipient will be able to rip CDs and SACDs to play in formats that don't rob the music of its virtues. Even better, though, is the ability to go to sites like HDTracks and download the original master tapes of recordings and listen to them in much higher resolution than they've ever heard before.

The second feature is the chipset. Getting something from bits to audio isn't an easy or obvious process, and for the last five years, Apple has relied on the cheapest possible DA chip. The Astell & Kern not only uses the most expensive chip they could justify, but they use two, which makes a significant difference in stereo soundstaging.

Now, the UI isn't nearly as good, the battery life isn't as good, the form factor isn't as good and it doesn't make phone calls or run apps.

But hey, you knew that already.

This is the gift the well-heeled will give to the picky this season.

And two things to go with it...


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      andy-litton 4 years ago

      Anti design and even anti apple. Bloody good idea though.