Picture Sunday: Astell&Kern XB10

The star of this week’s Picture Sunday Monday is the Astell&Kern XB10. Check out other recent Picture Posts Here, and Here. This week’s picture Sundays was delayed because of our Canjam coverage.

It’s still Dre Day, A.K. *#@$!

Review: Astell & Kern AK70 – AK’s best yet
Review: Astell&Kern AK70 – Geniality
Review: Astell & Kern AK380 – Momentary
Astell & Kern AK Jr – Who You Calling Junior?

Two months ago, Nuforce’s BE6i lit a fire under my bum. Now I’m all: wireless, it burns us! It burns us! But there is still so much wrong with it, with Bluetooth DAC/amplifiers. Hiss can be solved in wireless earphones. Just make sure they’re not overly sensitive. And then there’s the space problem. Is there enough space for both a battery and a good audio circuit?

I’m still not convinced.

Bristling with discrete controls, Astell&Kern’s XB10 nails the source-agnostic interface. It slips into a coin pocket, and in my garden, manages a clean signal for up to ten metres. At the eleven or twelve mark, it jackhammers in and out of connection. I’ll try it on the crowded, signal-buzzing train in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, AK DAP Bluetooth sucks. I get up to about a metre with the AK70 and about the same with the Jr and AK100. Pass your hand between the XB10 and the AK70 and the signal might cut out. Which makes the XB10 an imperfect companion for AK’s own devices.

Perhaps Astell&Kern designed the XB10 for iPhones and other devices with strapped Bluetooth signals. It certainly does things they can’t. Of particular import is its balanced output. I’ve not had time to properly test it, but I’ve done preliminary hardware tests on its 3,5mm output. The skinny is that it holds signal under load as good, or better, than AK’s best DAPs. It hisses quite a bit more than is comfortable through sensitive earphones, and would probably fail most oscillator tests, but it sounds good and meaty. I’ll put it through hard, and significant paces in the next few weeks.

Don’t expect a Bluetooth device to cleave close to the performance you get from a DAP, or phone. But expect the XB10 to push forward the Bluetooth performance and expectation line.

4.8/5 - (5 votes)

Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

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