There aren’t many makers of high-res media players anymore, but if you need the best of the best, be prepared to pay up.
Even though so many of us are using our phones as media players, not everyone is. In fact, some people will actively choose to use a device specifically focused on playing music in the highest quality possible.
Astell & Kern has been working in this space for longer than a lot of companies, and while high-res audio is somewhat niched, the fact that lossless and high-res lossless are now free on Apple Music could free it from that niche somewhat, opening the door to more people.
For folks joining, while a phone can do this job, dedicated media players arrive with high quality components built in. Sure, you can always plug in a special DAC into your phone such as Astell & Kern’s Type C DAC or the THX equivalent and get a better quality audio out of your phone, but if you’re after something dedicated, you may want to go big, and that’s where A&K’s latest comes in.
The newest media player from A&K is the A&Ultima SP2000T, not named for the classic Ultima RPG games, but rather possibly because it’s a high-end media player for high-res sound.
If you’ve ever seen Astell & Kern’s large media players before, the massive chunks of metal and glass stand out, not just because they’re thick and heavy, but because they come packing in the features.
Some of the biggest in the range (and certainly bigger than the tilted screen SR25 we reviewed last year), the SP2000T features a triple amplifier system allowing you to jump between an operation amps, a vacuum tube amp, and a hybrid amp that blends the two together. That’s one reason why the SP2000 will be so big, but there’s also a 5 inch Full HD touchscreen on top, as well as four digital-to-analogue converters (DACs) making up two DACs per channel delivering detailed sound.
It’ll come with support for three headphone jacks, working across the 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm output jacks, and one of A&K’s patented sound technologies also makes an appearance, Teraton Alpha, something it launched in the modular SE180 player.
There’s also support for WiFi and Bluetooth, with aptX HD and LDAC supported for folks with wireless headphones, as well as 256GB storage with room to move via a microSD card slot.
What there isn’t is a price you might call “affordable”, with the A&Ultima SP2000T priced at $3599 in Australia. That is definitely a high-end media player for sure, and one we’re not sure anyone but the most luxurious audiophiles would go for. However if that’s you, the Astell & Kern SP2000T will be found in October.