For too long, we have been chained to the normality of having gadgets with rectangular screens that fit linearly inside rectangular boxes. Now, in the age of the notch, the screens are being reconsidered in many ways, and my favorite reinterpretation this year has to be that of A & norm SR15 of Astell & Kern. This portable player of $ 699 is the beginning of the new line of "standard" A & K devices from A & K, which descends from the even more expensive offers of the company. Get a dual Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC, a quad-core processor, native DSD and PCM playback up to 24 bits / 192kHz, Bluetooth 4.1 with AptX HD, a solid aluminum alloy body and a 3.3-inch WVGA (800 x 480) ) LCD TFT.
Oh, yes, the screen is very probably terrible, but I want to dwell on the peculiar design choice of A & K. A portable device like this SR15 player should be held in the hand, and so, unlike, say, A desktop monitor, your screen does not really have to adhere to any kind of flat line or horizon. We tilt our mobile devices in many ways, so the apparent tilt here is not going to be as unpleasant in use as it is to simply look at it in a still photo. I like that the inclination helps the SR15 to accommodate a large and thick volume knob, but more than anything, I love that it has an immediate character and a difference. The absurd is charming.
Along with A & norm SR15, which goes on sale in June, Astell & Kern has also just announced A & future SE100, which develops the premium portion of its range with an offer of $ 1,699. The SE100 is based on an ESS Saber ES9038Pro DAC with eight channels, an octa-core processor and decoding capabilities of up to 32 bits / 384 kHz. It also has a 720p 5-inch screen, a 10-hour battery, 128GB of internal storage and a USB-C input with fast charging support. This PMP will be available later this month.
Do not ask me to justify the prices of any of the models here: if you yourself do not feel the need to process multichannel signals, powerful built-in amplifiers and support for every conceivable music format ever invented, my words will not convince you of see the value in the products of A & K. What I can say from my experience with the previous products of this company, highlighted by the excellent Kann and A & ultima SP1000, is that they are very well manufactured and produce a sound worthy of their Premium height (if not pricing).
Most of us can live happily without dropping four figures into a portable media player, but I know I feel a little better about the world knowing that the deliciously decentralized A model simply exists.