AK Jr Review - Astell & Kern
The AK Jr is that it comes beautifully and mysteriously packaged - like all Astell & Kern products. A sleek, thin, black box concealing goodness inside. The new AK Jr is Astell & Kerns entry into the affordable audiophile market. If you don’t have the money for the AK 100 II or similar, then this is a good step into good audio ~$500-$600.
It’s important to consider that this is affordable, so any comparisons with >$1000 models is not entirely fair.
The first thing you’ll notice when the AK Jr comes out of the box is how nice the size and form factor is. It’s small, manageable and good looking. It’s steel case gives it the indestructible feel other A&K products have been forged like. The external includes volume scroll wheel, microSD card slot, headphone out, power button, track skip (FW/BW) and play/pause.
AK Jr Specifications
The AK Jr includes 1 x Wolfson DAC (WM8740). It doesn't have wifi but does include Bluetooth 4.0. You can use is as a portable audio player or as a USB DAC. We commuted to the warehouse this morning listening to it with a pair of Westone W60 IEM’s. At work we connected it as a USB DAC to our Macbook using the same Westone W60’s, listening via iTunes Match and found the sound sampling to be very similar. The screen is WQVGA 240 x 400 and is touch screen. This works better than we expected on a small screen.
Storage goes up to 128GB but there is only 64GB in-built memory. You an expand this using a 64GB card via the microSD card slot (rumour has it that you could also try a 128GB card, but don’t quote us on that).
Audio formats are wide and varied WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE (N/H/F), AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF. Sample rate 8kHz - 192kHz depending on on source. DSD to PCM. Decoding up to 24 bit / 192 kHz bit to bit.
Works with Mac or PC.
It only weighs 3.28 oz’s which will appeal to all. It’s made from aluminum and is silver in finish. It’s also only 8.9mm thick.
Connecting your AK Jr
Connecting the AK Jr to your computer is straight forward. We’re using a Mac. When you first connect the unit via micro USB you’ll have a new menu appear for a few seconds only. Your choices will be:
- Charge Battery
- Connect to USB DAC
- Connect Removable Disk
Files can be transferred to the unit by connecting it to your computer then quickly selecting ‘Connect Removable Disk’. The unit will then appear as a drive on your computer - all going well it will be a Drive called 'AK Jr’. From there you will be able to open the folder and drop your audio files into the music folder. The Jr will scan the folder automatically by default (you can change this to manual scanning if you prefer). The music will then appear as desired in albums, artists and songs.
We first downloaded a bunch of files from our iTunes Match account to our mac. Then found the files in the iTunes folder and dropped them into the music folder on the AK Jr. Once we safely disconnected the Jr from our Macbook Air it auto updated quite quickly for about 10GB of files. No complaints here. It played m4a no problem so we then added some FLAC files which were also gobbled up with great haste.
AK Jr Updates
The cable connection is a Micro USB connector which works great with PC/Mac. Firmware Version 1.0 is what our unit shipped with and this has since been replaced with Version 1.02. The update instructions are available from the iRiver product support page http://www.iriver.com/support/download_view.asp?dNum=1114. This update improves sorting, touch features, bluetooth connections, album art display and reworks the Pro EQ Levels. We upgraded without incident. You just download the .hex file and drop it in the root folder. Unplug from your machine and it auto updates.
AK Jr Features
The preconfigured EQ is set by A&K. They call it PRO EQ and you can’t mess with it too much. There is the option of a 5 band EQ you can tweak to get things more to your liking if you don’t like all the default audio you hear to begin with.
Other basic settings are available in the settings screen which include:
- Date and Time
- Display (brightness)
- Power (auto power off / backlight off / sleep)
- Bluetooth (on/off)
- Auto Library Scan
- Line Out
- System Info
- Reset All Settings
EQ can be selected from the three menu dots ... on the play screen. This menu option also accesses meta data on the current file being played.
AK Jr Sound and Audio Quality
It’s definitely a full sound that brings strong bass, mids and pretty good highs. It’s a full sound, which we also appreciated when using it with the beyerdynamic DT 770’s also. The W60’s got a good work out and those 6 drivers were givin’ it. The bass alone might surprise you and the ability to put vocals so strong in the mix is quite awesome. So nice to hear the vocals become the hero in so many mixes where previously it was like they were a second thought. Really like that. We sat around 35-40 on the volume dial, which peaks at 75. We increased this with our Bose QC15’s up to about 50. You can adjust the volume via the scroll wheel on the side or by touching the screen and dragging the line out.
Overall it’s a balance sound and we like that. For a single DAC it will appeal well to anyone wanting a portable DAC, or looking to enter the audiophile world of daps.
The AK Jr seems very capable of driving most headphones or IEM’s you throw at it - it’s strong and powerful for a small unit. For ~$500-600CAD mark it’s hard to complain and expect more from such an experienced company as Astell & Kern. We haven’t put it next to the more expensive AK 100 II or the AK 120 but word on the street is it’s surprisingly close in audio to those models, perhaps a little less warm. If your a treble head you might tweak the EQ a touch but the masses are going to like this the way the music gets served.
Perfect for both IEM’s and headphones.
Questions? Ask below.
*Note: Photos show the AK Jr model with engraving and stand. This is not with the consumer model.