What can we say about Astell & Kern’s admirable catalog of portable hi-res music players? Luxury meets innovation? True, across the board. That the South Korean class leader’s body of work includes some of the best MP3 players around? Also correct.
And now there’s a newcomer in town, an update to the fantastic Astell & Kern A&ultima SP2000T – the SP3000.
With what A&K tells us is a “reimagined user interface”, the A&ultima SP3000 is also the world’s first portable player with a watch-grade 904L stainless steel housing and the latest high-quality audio circuitry. Essentially, 904L stainless steel is a high-quality metal that has never been used on a portable player until now.
Although this particular beast was first made from metal beloved by luxury watchmakers – yes, it is extremely durable and yes, it is resistant to corrosion – like its older siblings, it is still an object of brutalist beauty. .
A&ultima SP3000 is also the world’s first digital audio player with independent Dual Audio Circuitry. This complete separation of balanced and unbalanced output provides “the purest sound reproduction possible” – as you can see, A&K is not shy about this.
It is also the first player to adopt Asahi Kasei’s new flagship AK4499EX DAC chip, which is used in the innovative HEXA Audio Circuitry structure that separates digital and analog signal processing.
Other specs highlights include 256GB of native storage expandable up to 1TB with the microSD memory card slot, three headphone ports (3.5mm, 2.5mm and 4.4mm), USB-C charging (A&K says that about 10 hours on it) plus a Qualcomm Snapdragon 6125 Octa-Core processor and support for high-resolution aptX HD and LDAC wireless streaming.
Opinion: This is the player dreams are made of – and that’s before we even get to the new screen…
The SP3000 can play virtually any hi-res file format, with support for all major formats (including MQA, Native DSD 512) and streaming service connectivity. Oh, and it’s Roon Ready too. Even if it fits in your hand, I’m pretty sure it could become the talented hub of your lounge hi-fi system.
But perhaps the most notable new feature is that A&K’s staple, gorgeous watch-style dial is now paired with a new 5.46-inch full high-definition display and next-generation screen interface, making it easier than ever to find and enjoy favorite songs, also through Tidal and Apple Music, I go to streaming services when hi-res audio is on the menu.
Astell & Kern’s unique Teraton Alpha technology has also been further refined for the SP3000. The technology combines effective power noise removal, efficient power management and relentless amplification, alongside a fully converted audio output interface. The Hexa DAC structure and independent dual audio circuitry, first implemented in the SP3000, have been combined with the Teraton Alpha sound solution to provide an incredibly authentic sound here – all of which will wake up and notice audiophiles around the world.
And to top it off, the SP3000 comes with a premium leather case to protect and enhance the beauty of the 904L stainless steel housing. It is made by Alran, a company that has been making leather by hand since 1903 in Tarn, France. This cover has been developed with Alran’s unique Hand-Boarding technology, where the leather is apparently rubbed in different directions using wooden planks, allowing the user to feel the texture of the surface.
The Astell&Kern A&ultima SP3000 is now available for pre-order. Prepare yourself for prizes (and save for Christmas), though, as they are: $3,700 / £3,799 / AU$5,499 / NZD$6,499.
Oh, and if you For real Wanting to invest in high-resolution portable audio, A&K teamed up with high-end in-ear monitor company, Empire Ears, to produce Odyssey, possibly the most beautiful next-generation IEMs I’ve ever seen.
Billed as the perfect in-ear partner for the A&ultima SP3000, the Odyssey is a handcrafted, high-quality wired in-ear monitor that combines a glittering, multi-laminated design with the latest audio technologies from both renowned brands to deliver a clear, accurate and powerful sound. sound thanks to the Quadbrid system with 10 drivers… yes, all in one earpiece.
You get dual W9+ subwoofers, five balanced armature drivers, dual electrostatics and a W10 bone conductor, with a seven-way synX crossover network and EIVEC MKII engine that apparently harmonizes all 10 drivers for perfect coherence and timing throughout a remarkable 5Hz-100kHz frequency range.
The Odyssey costs $3,400 / £3,499 / AU$4,999 / NZD$5,799.
We haven’t heard these objects of high-resolution audiophile beauty. But watch this space…