DAC's entertainment: Astell&Kern upgrades its award-winning hi-res audio player

New generation amp technology, interchangeable Quad DAC mode and new in-ear monitors to match

Astell&Kern SR35 portable audio player
(Image credit: Astell&Kern)

Astell&Kern, purveyors of high-end audio systems, have just upgraded their award-winning portable music player. The successor to the SR25 MKII, the A&norma SR35, promises to deliver a serious audio upgrade – and the firm has also unveiled what it calls "game-changing" new in-ear monitors.

The A&norma SR35 are Roon ready and have full MQA 8x decoder support for pristine hi-res audio. There's dual band Wi-Fi for high quality streaming and the new BT Sink function promises to bring music from external devices such as smartphones to a much higher level of quality than the source devices can provide.

These are quite pricey devices – the RRP is £799 / €899 / US$800 / AU$1299 – but they're serious bits of hardware. For the first time in the A&norma series, the SR35 has a dual/quad-DAC switching mode for easy adjustment of sound and power output. It's also the first in the series to get the firm's New Generation AMP technology, which we first saw in the high-end A&ultima and A&futura ranges. Designed in house, the New Generation AMP promises to effectively eliminate noise and distortion at high power outputs. It also boasts a two-step gain mode to deliver consistently powerful sound on more demanding audio equipment such as sensitive IEMs and high-end headphones.  

Speaking of IEMs...

Astell&Kern's AK ZERO 2 in-ear monitors are "game-changing"

That's what Astell&Kern say, anyway. Designed in Japan, the new IEMs are clad in the firm's trademarked angled aluminium and combine multiple driver types to deliver exceptional audio.

There are three kinds of driver in each ear. The first, a Planar Dynamic Driver, is there to deliver the high frequencies. Then there are two pairs of Coil Parameter Custom BA drivers, with ultra low distortion to make vocals really sing. Those drivers are there for the full range, with particular emphasis on the low to mid frequencies. 

Last but not least, there's a 10mm Dynamic Driver with a piezo transducer to handle the lowest and highest frequencies that other IEMs can struggle with. All of this is packed into a 3D printed acoustic chamber designed to eliminate unnecessary movement and resonance.

IEMs are in a different class from even the best headphones, and that means they're a bit more expensive too: the AK ZERO 2 are £1,099 / €1,199 / US$1,050 / AU$1849. As with the SR35 you'll be able to get them directly from Astell&Kern or from its audio retail partners.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).