Astell&Kern KANN is the most unusual of family

Company Astell&Kern is widely known not only to the audiophiles — many know her as a producer of very expensive players. Despite the fact that the brand is really a premium, sometimes Astell&Kern still produces a more affordable audio players. Our today’s hero is by no means cheap, but interesting it’s more the fact that he received absolutely new design, he was given the name instead of the traditional digital index, and is the most powerful player in the market. Meet Astell&Kern KANN.

Because of the emergence of a large number of devices from China in the Astell&Kern decided to act boldly to try to combine a new sound, a huge set of features, interesting design and a proprietary shell. Manufacturer completely away from the traditional vision of design and produced perhaps one of the most interesting audio that was released recently. Let’s see what happened.


  • DAC: AKM AK4490
  • Output level: 4 Vrms normal output 7 Vrms balanced
  • Output impedance: 5Ω balanced output, 1.9 Ω normal
  • Frequency range (normal exit): 20 Hz – 20 kHz (±0,067 dB), 20 Hz – 70 kHz (±0.75 dB)
  • Frequency range (balanced output): 20 Hz – 20 kHz (±0,067 dB), 20 Hz – 70 kHz (±0.75 dB)
  • The ratio signal/noise: 116 dB normal output 117 dB balanced
  • Total harmonic distortion+noise: 0,0004% of normal output, 0,0008% balanced
  • Formats supported: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE (Normal, High, Fast), AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF
  • Max resolution: 384 kHz/32 bit, DSD up to DSD256
  • Screen: 4″, 480 × 800
  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: V4.0 with aptX support for HD
  • Input: USB 3.0 Type-C
  • Outputs: 3.5 mm / 4-pin balanced 2.5 mm; microUSB / PCM up to 32 bit 384 kHz / DSD: 2.8 MHz, 5.6 MHz
  • Battery: 6200 mAh
  • Work time from a single charge: up to 15 hours
  • Charging time (Quick Charge): ~ 2 hours
  • Built-in memory: 64 GB
  • Memory card: MicroSD
  • Dimensions: 71,2 mm × 115,8 mm × 25.6 mm
  • Weight: 278 g

Packing and delivery

The player comes in a box of black cardboard, which is pleasant to the touch gray cover. In the design decisions with the Astell&Kern few can match — even to the packaging approach are serious.

Inside, in addition to the KANN, put a thick USB-C cable to charge the player and connect to the computer, a couple of protective films for display, as well as special plugs for the connectors, so they do not accumulate dust. Case this time is not included, but it is unlikely you want to hide the device behind a layer of fabric or leather.

Design and ergonomics

The appearance of players Astell&Kern used to be very recognizable: each device resembled an ingot with sharp irregular edges, causing interest in them only grew. With KANN the manufacturer decided to experiment (especially in the form of housing, some earlier still had issues) and released the player a completely different shape. Now he is much better in the hand, does not slip and feels massive. Weight and size KANN is due to the high capacity of the battery necessary to ensure a decent battery life. The case is solid, made of aluminum.

Wheel adjust the volume volume and the power button are quite accessible and logical places (on the right side and top, respectively). The playback controls are located in the opposite part of the body, directly under the display. Convenient because you can control playback without taking your player out of your pocket. Hardware buttons under the screen provide the player a huge advantage over touchscreen phones in ergonomics.

On the top panel all the fun: headphone 3.5 mm, 2.5 mm balanced line outputs of the player made separately, not combined with naushnikov outputs. Everyone will be able to find a way by which to listen to your favorite tracks.

There is access USB Audio (up to 32 bit 384 kHz / DSD: 2.8 MHz, 5.6 MHz), charging port and two memory card slots — one for microSD, the second as a normal SD. Memory cards can work simultaneously (up to 256 GB microSD, up to 512 GB SD card), so the output is 832 GB of storage. For tracks in lossless enough for the eyes. If you have a stationary DAC and headphone amplifier, you can easily use the player as a library file or as a streaming device.


The shell of the player is arranged logically, with the smoothness and stability is no problem. The main menu consists of several items: “Songs”, “Albums” and “Artists”, and swipe from the bottom opens four additional “Genres” “Playlist” “Folder” and “Save”. Opens the list of network resources, and the “Directory” gives access to a simple file Manager.

File Manager is very handy. On top there is a button context menu, which allows you to delete files and folders, copy them, create a new folder, and add tracks to the playlist. There are navigation by tags, which works perfectly: you can sort songs by bitrate — for example, to choose only the files 24/192 or DSD128.

On the playback screen, minimalistic, and swipe from the top opens the familiar “shutter” with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, lock the keys when display is off, switching the connection mode to computer (DAC/drive), EQ and other menu items. There is a multiband EQ with a very fine pitch.

One of the features of KANN — support digital output via USB for external DACs. As the player is equipped with two ports, it can charge while working in a transport role. Through the use of asynchronous mode, it is possible to achieve ultra-low jitter, of course, if plug the DAC “knows” the Protocol. The output signal is carried out with high precision bit-by-bit, with no intermediate conversion. DSD provides the ability to output in DoP.

Signal fidelity is not inferior to that of SPDIF/Toslink, so Astell&Kern KANN with USB support capable to provide sound quality that is difficult to distinguish from the “optics.” There is also support for Bluetooth, but I would advise you not to use this feature. Still a player of this level it is better to listen with good quality headphones and cable.

Third-party install is still impossible, but a strong need for this self — shell works very well.


Starting a conversation about sound, not to mention a very powerful amplifier — no wonder KANN is considered to be the most powerful player at the moment. The amplifier will work well even on non-standard load 8-12 Ohms. The upper limit depends on sensitivity of earphones. The magnitude of the signal is twice higher than that of the amplifier SP1000, which is impressive.

Like all flagships of the Astell&Kern AK KANN works with Connect — network, which are all devices Astell&Kern, which not only allows you to connect multiple iPods to the same network to play and copy music from any of them, but also to receive content from a remote server. As the server can be any computer on which you need to install proprietary software, available for free download on the official website. Everything works without problems both on Windows and on Mac as well as mobile applications. You can control playback using the player with any smartphone, and the content can reside on any device that is on the same network.

Connecting the player to your MacBook Pro via the micro-USB port, you can evaluate the quality of the internal DAC in KANN. He brings a whole new level even tracks from streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. KANN supports playback of digital content options 32 bit / 382 kHz (PCM) and DSD256 (11.2 mHz).

Sound KANN can be put in the middle between the flagship SP1000 and more simple player Astell&Kern. Player gives good dynamic sound without dullness, and the quality is even better than AK380 without amplifier. Despite the fact that there is applied AK4490 one DAC instead of two, it does not prevent to demonstrate impressive performance at the output. The sound has its own handwriting, with a little brightness in the middle, but without color high.

To listen the player used the following headphones.

  • Dunu DN-2000J
  • Astell&Kern Rosie

Traditionally, multiple tracks for example.

Powerwolf — We Drink Your Blood Style of music, almost perfect for player, angry guitars, distinctive vocals, a Groovy melody, it all benefits from the energetic flow.

Conor Maynard — One Dance Fairly well and CAN cope with more lyrical melodies, such as this acoustic song.

Alvaro Soler — La Cintura And again energy and expression, which are well able by the player. Slightly dark sound compensates for excessive Latin American motifs.


Astell&Kern have been asked to develop a single device instead of very expensive bundles of AK300 and amplifier. It so happened player KANNsignificantly more affordable, more compact in size and several times lighter. Especially now that device has no analogues on the power of the headphone amplifier.

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