Astell & Kern is fully aware of a new wave of budding audiophiles and budget conscious ones. Over the years they have developed a number of digital audio players (DAP) of the more affordable variety that still captures the essence of what makes Astell & Kern players so highly sought after. Perhaps it’s also due to pressure from the competition, but with the AK70 MK2, Astell & Kern have themselves a bona fide entry-level, audiophile-grade DAP.
As the name suggests, the MK2 is an improvement over its predecessor, although it does feature a brand new look to go with it. It doesn’t stray too far from Astell & Kern’s signature designs with fairly sharp edges, and unlike its predecessor, it’s only available in black.
As an entry-level model, it surprisingly sports a dual DAC configuration – something that’s usually reserved for mid-range models at the very least. There’s no way to tell if it’s purely down to this new configuration, but the MK2 is a clear improvement and boasts a wider sound in every sense of the word: it’s more dynamic and displays a marked improvement in musical detail. It is still, however, classic Astell & Kern – a relatively neutral presentation with a crispness as well as tight bass that makes it one of the benchmarks in the audiophile world.
The AK70 MK2 is relatively modest when it comes to specs. No ambitious 32-bit shenanigans here, this DAC natively supports up to 24-bit/192kHz files and doesn’t have native DSD support. However, that’s not critical in a player of this class. However, there’s no support for MQA streaming, which we feel, is a bit of a letdown as it would have made this an exceptional, versatile player regardless of price category.
With 64GB of storage built-in with a microSD slot for an additional 256GB storage and support for balanced headphones, there’s little more to ask for in a (budget) top-class player. Even the user interface is fairly smooth and not sluggish – quite unlike most entry-level models.
The AK70 MK2 isn’t cheap, but it’s a good way to get a taste of what it’s like to own an audiophile grade DAP.
With a fairly comprehensive feature set, the AK70 MK2 won’t come across as a DAP that has been ‘nerfed’ significantly. It’s a very cultured device that has no major compromises and is capable of delivering a stellar sound befitting its price. While you can certainly buy excellent DAPs for less money, few will sound as enjoyable as this one.