The device that helped turn Apple into a $US3 trillion (around $4 trillion) company (a milestone it passed earlier this year) is officially dead, as the last iteration of the iPod, the iPod Touch, was laid to rest earlier this week. But for those with more discerning ears who refuse to enjoy their music through a smartphone, rest assured that there are still personal media players out there, like this one that you can drop $US1,300 (~$1,805) on.
Today Astell&Kern announced the KANN MAX, a major update to its KANN ALPHA high-res audio player that may be slightly reminiscent of the iPod Touch, but instead packs some serious audio chops inside. And yes, that includes a headphone jack — three of them, actually, in different sizes and with gold plating — because truly devoted audiophiles wouldn’t dare sully their ears with a pair of wireless headphones. Although the KANN MAX does include Bluetooth and support for the aptX HD and LDAC codecs for the normals who hate their ears.
Although the new KANN MAX loses an hour-and-a-half of battery life compared to the previous-gen KANN ALPHA — 13 hours compared to 14.5 — it actually manages to be smaller and lighter while boosting the power output from 12Vrms to 15Vrms. That allows the KANN MAX to work natively with more higher-end headphones that require their own power source to work, without the need for an additional amplifier. For comparison, the iPods’ headphone jacks delivered around 2-3V.
The KANN MAX comes with 64GB of storage onboard, which might seem like a lot given the original iPod shipped with just 5GB, but the device is also compatible with high-resolution digital audio files up to 32-bit/768kHz quality. These contain a lot more information and take up considerably more space than MP3 or Apple’s AAC files. The KANN MAX’s storage can, thankfully, be expanded to up to 1TB using a microSD card, while a clever feature called BT Sink allows high-res music files stored on other devices, like a laptop with a large external drive, to be played through the KANN MAX over Bluetooth, without the introduction of audio compression.
The most notable update for the KANN MAX is the use of four ES9038Q2M digital-to-analogue converters, with each one dedicated to one of the MAX’s four amplification channels. Astell&Kern promises this approach means that the “depth and realism of the sound source can be expressed to the fullest” while “music output is expressed as the original sound without distortion.” As with a lot of audiophile-grade gear, the marketing speak does a lot of heavy lifting, but with some high-quality source files and even higher-quality headphones physically plugged in, even the most casual music fan will certainly…probably…be able to hear the difference between the KANN MAX and what their beloved iPod was capable of pumping to their ears.