NEWS: Astell & Kern 100 music player beats iPhone 5

The small black shell of the AK100 houses hi-fi quality tech that now fits in the palm of your hands. Stripping the best chips from full-size budget hi-fi separates, including the DAC hardware that converts digital sounds to analogue, the AK100 can cope with studio quality sound – master recordings by the original artist before any CD or MP3 compression starts.

What does that mean? It means the AK100 can play 24 bit digital flac files. A flac album is roughly ten times the size of an iTunes download, which shows how much data you’re missing via normal music downloads on an iPhone 5. You can rip your CDs and vinyl as flac files but there’s also high definition download services from Linn, B&W and Naim audio. Naturally, the AK100 will play other files including Apple Lossless, the highest quality CD rip option from Apple – it doesn’t support flac as a format.

In terms of spec, the retro volume dial is accompanied by a touchscreen and 32GB of internal memory. There’s space for two 64GB MicroSD cards too, so you can get a potential 160GB of storage to house around 160 albums as full, 24 bit, 96 Mhz quality files. There’s no wireless sync, adding to the old-fashioned feel of the AK100 but there is a concession to wireless music in the shape of a Bluetooth mode. To get the very best from the AK100, you’ll need decent headphones – typically the detail-packed Sennheiser HD 25 II studio headphones work well but aren’t the only solution. You’ll hear the benefit right up to the £1000 price bracket in terms of headphones.

For the traveler after luxury audio on the go, this is the gadget to beat. The AK100 is on sale now for £569.

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