Astell&Kern (A&Okay)’s latest USB headphone DAC/amp for cell gadgets and computer systems represents a fairly large leap in design in comparison with the corporate’s earlier fashions. The $220 AK HC4 USB DAC is the corporate’s first to supply twin outputs — a balanced 4.4mm jack and an unbalanced 3.5mm jack, following a development that has been catching on quick throughout 2023. It is going to be obtainable in December by way of retailers that carry A&Okay merchandise.
With assist for as much as DSD 256 and PCM at 32-bit/384kHz, the AK HC4 will have the ability to play nearly any digital audio you possibly can throw at it, apart from MQA. It seems that the choice to make use of an AK4493S DAC from AKM — one other first for A&Okay’s headphone DACs — has meant dropping assist for the largely Tidal-only format. If MQA is important, the HC3 (which makes use of an ESS DAC) is likely to be a more sensible choice.
The AK HC4 additionally sports activities a number of different options that assist it stand out when in comparison with its siblings (just like the HC3, HC2, and Twin-cable DAC) and its rivals. The HC4 has traded a hardwired design for a extra versatile USB-C port. With an included USB-C cable and a Lightning cable, you possibly can swap between iPhones, iPads, and different gadgets with out including an ungainly plug adapter. It additionally signifies that if the cable is broken, you don’t want to switch the entire unit.
An built-in quantity rocker enables you to management amplification with out relying in your telephone’s settings. The HC4 can also be appropriate with USB Audio Class (UAC) 1.0 and a couple of.0, which implies you need to use it on all kinds of sport consoles that also use the older UAC setting.
Astell & Kern has added its Digital Audio Remaster (DAR) expertise to the AK HC4, which it claims can ship delicate and analog-like unique sound when taking part in digital music with decrease pattern charges. Toggle the devoted change to show DAR on and the algorithm will upsample any content material you’re taking part in.
So long as MQA assist isn’t essential, at $220, the AK HC4 is extra reasonably priced than the Ifi Go Bar ($329) and the Questyle M15 ($299) — two high-end DACs with twin outputs.
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