While the AK380’s hardware motif is all about adding angles, the new UI designed for it is simpler, and more comfortable to use than the angular, and somewhat scattered one found in the AK240. Home-screen UI interface buttons no longer terminate in time with interface button typography. Rather, they are naturally, and evenly split into two even columns whose touch targets are large and well-spaced.
A new pull-down menu controls things like repeat, shuffle, gapless, equaliser, bluetooth, and more settings. Because its functionality can be called from any main audio interface screen, it is easier than ever to use. Excellent.
And, as of this date, it is less prone to OS and music playback errors than the AK Jr. It’s yet to freeze on me, either. And while hardly instantaneous, at least in comparison to the AK240, the AK380 starts up in a jiffy.
Like the Jr, the AK380’s setting-menu is, at a glance, hardly easy to suss. Is gapless on, off, or disabled? Did I engage repeat, or disable it? The base (or off) colour is grey, which is the default disabled position for a number of popular software interfaces. Why A&K chose it to represent off is another poor, and arbitrary design decision. The good news is that it could be fixed with a well thought-out firmware update.
Plusses and minuses aside, both A&K device GUIs and hardware UI are miles ahead of the competition in the portable audiophile world.
Android File Transfer is a piece of shit. It disallows the creation of all but top-level folders. Yes, you can drag and drop folders into top-level folders, but it constantly beach balls, and stutters, making jerking it properly into the right one something of a game. And because any song that shares its name with another, defaults to OS file system commands, either replacing the older file, or being skipped. As you can imagine, simply dumping stuff into the AK380’s top level nets mussed albums.
I’m sure that Windows users get on better.
The good news is that AK380 hardly ever loses songs, albums, or fails to read ID3 tags. It’s just a pain to go to iTunes, click ‘show in finder’, and select the folder one level up before dragging the thing to Android File Transfer. What should be one step now is three, and is tied to a son-of-a-beachball app whose father was a hamster and whose mother smells of elderberry.
The good news is that no matter the file type, format, or size, AK380 handles it like a champ. It runs cooler, navigates smoothly, and never hiccoughs whilst DSDing. It is a beast.
Transfer speed to internal memory is much faster than the Jr. And, the AK380 retains the same DAC, charge, and data transfer, functionality. For reference, the same 369 ALAC album that takes one minute and seventeen seconds to transfer to the AK Jr, takes just twenty-seven seconds to pop into the 380. Compounded over the transfer of dozens, if not hundreds, of albums, savings dozens of seconds in a single transfer becomes hours.
Despite gains in speed, USB exhibits another anomaly: after disengaging the AK380 from charging, or DAC use, and engaging it to file transfer, the AK380 error dumps you out of Android File Transfer, suggesting that the screen is locked and that the device must be reset in order to transfer files. This has occurred a dozen times and needs to be fixed.
While I’ve run down the battery at least a dozen times, I’ve yet to finalize battery run-down tests, and have two mixed-use runs yet to compile. But I can say definitively: you won’t get a full 2015 day of work with it.
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