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Astell and Kern’s Kann Max player is smaller and more powerful

The rate at which Astell&Kern announce products only appears to be speeding up as the year goes on, with news of a new digital audio player in the Kann Max.

The Kann Max is actually more of a Kann mini, as this 4th model in the series is smaller than the Kann Alpha, as well as shedding a few grams on the weight scales while maintaining the angular visuals Astell&Kern products are known for.

The reduced size is down to dividing the printed circuit board into 12 layers, which now take up less space and reduce the physical size of the Kann Max in the process.

But the Kann Max hasn’t forsaken performance over a slimmed down look, boasting a higher output to produce a powerful and ‘ultra clear’ audio performance.

It’s achieved this next step in power by reconfiguring its integrated circuit design. As power input increases, so does the noise level, so Astell&Kern has added a new 15Vrms ‘Super’ output setting to mitigate this issue.

AK KANN MAX on white background

Without getting too much into the technical ins-and-outs, the Kann Max’s analogue volume controller looks delivers a “rich dynamic range” without any loss, with the power supply for each audio section (DAC, volume and amp) configured separately to remove the interference ripple noise caused by the DC-DC power supply, while noise in other areas such as the operational amp section is minimised too.

The Kann Max is the first player in the series to feature four ES9038Q2M DACs. By employing Quad DAC configuration, a DAC can be fully allocated to the four individual amp channels for a more expressive sound with the depth and realism of the source.

File support goes up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD512, with 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm connections to accommodate a wider variety of headphones and in-ear monitors. And in Astell&Kern’s all-consuming attempt to reduce noise as much as possible, noise from the output jacks is minimised by using a gold PVD coating method instead of the typical rings other products use.

Replay Gain functionality that automatically and uniformly adjusts volume playback from sources up to 24-bit/192kHz is supported, as is the Teraton Alpha technology that – you guessed it – removes noise for more efficient power consumption and amplification all the way through to the audio output stage.

Connectivity is Bluetooth 5.0 and there’s BT Sink function for connecting the Kann Max to a smartphone or other device and playing back music from the device on the MAX. AptX-HD and LDAC streaming is supported and there is, of course, Wi-Fi support. Battery life is 13 hours, while there’s 64GB of onboard memory with expandable storage up to 1TB possible.

Priced $1,300 / £1,199 / €1,499, the Kann Max goes on sale mid-June 2022.

The Max wasn’t the only products Astell&Kern revealed, with the AK HC2 Dual DAC Cable ($170 / £169 / €199) that elevate the hi-res audio experience on iOS and Android, and the Astell&Kern and Campfire Audio PATHFINDER hybrid in-ear monitor ($1,900 / £1,899 / €2,199), were also announced.

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