Astell&Kern is the driving force in the high end DAP market. Their products are considered some of the very best. The recently launched SR15 is their new entry model. A first glance at it now, on Headfonia!
Disclaimer: This post is part of our Picture Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here.
I have been a long-time fan of Astell&Kern DAPs. My first one was the AK120ii, which I still think is one of the finest looking and great sounding products of theirs. Since then I have climbed up the product ladder to their current flagship – the A&ultima SP1000, which I think is the best DAP of all.
Most people will probably agree with me here, the industrial design of Astell&Kern players is very unique and I am not surprised by how many other brands have copied them. The most famous example to me is the Chinese brand FiiO, which everyone knows. Just look at their recent products, they all resemble AK to some extent to me.
Astell&Kern however does not only make great looking DAPs, but also one of the best softwares out there. Their User Interface is extremely responsive and well thought out. I know people have had problems with AK not supporting certain streaming services, but even those days seem to be over. AK has announced a short while ago that their products will be supporting side-loading Android applications soon (expected this October). Though not all of their players will from start.
Just last week I have received one of Astell&Kern’s latest Digital Audio Players – the A&norma SR15. I immediately started taking photos of it, as I was just in a photoshoot for other reviews. These photos were shared in the Headfonia chat-group and nobody believed I was taking these. I understand, because I really am not good at that. I mean, just look at the photos Nathan or Berkhan take. These are on a whole other level that I will never reach.
The SR15 is the spiritual successor of the not so long introduced AK70 MK2, which Lieven reviewed earlier this year. My expectations for AK players are always high, as they seem to improve from model to model. Since the SR15 landed in the Vienna office, it replaced my SP1000 as daily driver. I am amazed by the price to performance relation of the SR15.
The SR15 has inherited the redesigned User Interface of the SP1000, which I am very happy about. It’s snappy and intuitive, though not everything is mirrored from the ultima to the norma. The design of the A&norma is simply gorgeous. Just look at the attention to detail AK’s designers put in. The volume wheel is incredible (also the tactile response) and the three-dimensional cubes on the back plate still baffle me.
What most people seem to have a problem with, is the tilted screen. Yes, it is unusual, but it’s not just an AK design blurb. Once you have it in your right hand you will notice that the screen is completely straight when you look at it. Since I’m always using my DAP with my left hand, that doesn’t apply directly to me, but I don’t mind.
There are some things I would have liked to see different though, like USB C, fast charging, a pre-applied screen protector or a supplied case for the SR15. Though it doesn’t need it like the A&futura SE100, who’s corners are much sharper in comparison.
Sonically the SR15 impresses. It is a damn fine mix of musicality and technical performance. I have mostly been using it with the Jomo Quatre (review soon) and the combo is loaded with heaps of details, emotions and an organic beauty. The soundstage is wide and clear. Resolution is top and imaging very good. Overall a very competitive and convincing product. A full review will come over a reasonable course of time, so keep an eye on Headfonia.
John Darko, a man I have highest respect for, claims the DAP days are over, but are they really when you can get something like the SR15?