If you own some of the very best headphones, you've probably encountered a really frustrating problem with mobile audio: many devices just aren't powerful enough to drive high quality headphones or deliver all the nuances of high resolution audio. That's partly because they're built with the need to balance audio output with battery life, and on devices such as phones that means battery life wins. And it's partly because they aren't made for really discerning listeners.
Astell&Kern has the answer: its first portable Class A amplifier, the PA10. It's designed to deliver every nuance of hi-res audio to even the most demanding headphones and in-ear monitors.
Power to the people
The PA10, which costs £549, is based on the firm's existing high quality audio expertise and delivers 4.4mm True Balanced input and output as well as the more familiar 3.5mm. It amplifies the sound source and does so without distortion or other unwanted defects, delivering a richer, warmer and more immersive audio experience. There are two different gain levels to support different kinds of headphones.
Having a Class-A amplifier in such a small form factor – and with twelve-hour battery life – is quite an achievement. Class-A amps are common in audiophile kit but not in portable audio hardware because of their comparatively high power consumption. It seems that Astell&Kern has cracked that particular problem, delivering Class-A audio with all-day battery life.
I haven't had the chance to try this one yet, and in all honesty my headphones aren't high enough spec to benefit. But if you're really into your audio and want the same high-end hi-res audio experience when you're out that you have at home, the PA10 looks like it'll be perfect for your pocket.