The device that helped turn Apple into a $3 trillion company (a milestone it reached earlier this year) is officially dead, as the latest iteration of the iPod, the iPod Touch, has was buried 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 you can drop US$1,300 ($1,805 ).
Today, Astell & Kern announced the KANN MAX, a major update to its KANN ALPHA Hi-Res Audio Player that’s perhaps slightly reminiscent of the iPod Touch, but instead packs some serious audio bits. And yes, that includes a headphone jack – three of them, in fact, of different sizes and gold plating – because truly dedicated audiophiles wouldn’t dare get their ears dirty with a pair of wireless headphones. Although the KANN MAX includes Bluetooth and support for aptX HD and LDAC codecs for the normal who hate their ears.
Although the new KANN MAX loses an hour and a half of battery life compared to the previous generation KANN ALPHA – 13 hours compared to 14.5 – it actually manages to be smaller and lighter while increasing the power output by 12Vrms to 15Vrms. This allows the KANN MAX to work natively with higher end headphones that require their own power source to operate, without the need for an additional amplifier. For comparison, the headphone jacks of iPods deliver about 2 to 3 V.
The KANN MAX comes with 64GB of built-in storage, which might seem like a lot considering the original iPod shipped with only 5GB, but the device is also compatible with high-resolution digital audio files up to a 32-bit/768kHz quality. These contain much more information and take up much more space than Apple’s MP3 or AAC files. The KANN MAX’s storage can, fortunately, be expanded up to 1TB using a microSD card, while a smart feature called BT Sink allows playback of high-resolution music files stored on other devices, like a laptop with a large external drive. the KANN MAX via Bluetooth, without introducing audio compression.
The most notable update for the KANN MAX is the use of four ES9038Q2M digital-to-analog converters, each dedicated to one of the MAX’s four amplifier channels. Astell&Kern promises that this approach means that “the depth and realism of the sound source can be expressed to the maximum” while “the musical output is expressed as the original sound without distortion”. As with a lot of audiophile-grade gear, there’s a lot of marketing pitch to it, but with high-quality source files and premium 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 into their ears.