What Mezzo Hifi did for the original AK100 is nothing short of astounding. The Mezzo HiFi MS-AK100 mod removed, replaced, and bypassed the original’s circuit to deliver clear, hiss free, and most importantly, stable sound. It drove headphones of all loads far more stably and with much less distortion than stock. And, it even added a higher-end DAC chip. That’s a lot of mod for 500$. In fact, it’s more, and in some ways, better modding than even what Ryuzoh is capable of.
But no matter how good, Mezzo’s mods are so 2014. Today, Onkyo’s DP-S1 is a lot more player for a lot less. And, it hisses far less than an AK100, also sports dual slots, and its UI is a bit more responsive playing back DSD files. It does all of that and outputs a signal that betters Mezzo’s mods, all for like 300$.
Of course, the DP-S1’s interface is awfuller, and its battery life isn’t as good. And then there’s its chin. It’s the ugly wife that sings well.
Long story short: I love what Mezzo did to the AK100. But, I no longer use mine. Which really is a shame. The AK100 is the perfect size. It gets decent battery life. It is made pretty well. After two years of firmware updates, it handles folders, file types, and UI anomalies well. Today, it is a solid player. It wasn’t always.
Its’s laughable to think that iRiver thought it a good idea to tack on a 22Ω output to what was to become one of the most iconic high-end players. What do most people who listen to high end portable players use to listen to their music? Earphones. What couldn’t the AK100 drive stably? Earphones.
Myriad AK100 mods, from Ryuzoh, to Mezzo, to Red Wine Audio, made plenty of sense. But it’s no longer 2012. Mezzo did what no one in the day was capable of doing. They went where no one else thought possible. Sure, an MS-AK100 ran hotter than stock, but it sounded way better. It was worth it. It just isn’t today.
I hope Mezzo push further afield, tackling issues in other, better players. I hope they never stop pushing the envelope. But unless you are wedded to the AK100’s form factor, tight UI, and now-vintage appeal, I see little reason today to shell out 500$ on top of your player to equal the output of a 300$ player.
If you want to read more about Mezzo’s mods, check out our dedicated MS-AK100 article: