Many of us enjoy listening to a good tune or two when out and about, and a goodly proportion of that mobile music will likely be sourced from a smartphone or tablet. For those who prefer high quality sounds though, dedicated players like Neil Young's Pono and those from iRiver's Astell & Kern are probably going to be on the menu. The latter has announced a new flagship portable audio player aimed squarely at audiophiles and sound professionals, which is capable of 32-bit/384 kHz bit-to-bit decoding without the need for conversion but comes at a rather high cost.

The AK380 supports a host of high resolution audio formats such as WAV, FLAC and AIFF, as well as lossy formats like MP3, WMA and AAC, and handles both native 32-bit/384 kHz resolution PCM audio files and native single- or double-rate DSD files. The company says that the player's two AKM AK4490 DAC chipsets creates a true dual-mono setup for clear channel separation, broader dynamic range and a wider soundstage.

The portable audio player has 256 GB of internal flash storage with microSD expansion and boasts 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless capabilities, including built-in DLNA support to cater for high resolution wireless streaming from networked storage. An upcoming iOS/Android app will allow users to wirelessly feed in music from a smart device's library and control playback from a smartphone or tablet.

Elsewhere, the AK380 features a 4-inch touchscreen display at 480 x 800 pixel resolution, a 3,400 mAh Li-Pol battery, an aircraft-grade aluminum body and both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs. There's parametric EQ for fine adjustment of 0.1 dB increments over 20 bands, and the device can even be used as a USB DAC, bypassing a computer's own soundcard for high resolution playback.

The 3.14 x 4.42 x 0.7 in (79.8 x 112.4 x 17.9 mm), 8.11 oz (230 g) player can also be slotted into expansion docks for added functionality. These include an amp dock that gives the player greater power output for driving high-end headphones, a charging cradle with balanced outputs and an external CD-ROM driver for ripping music to the player without needing a computer.

Displayed at Munich's High End Show last week, the AK380 will debut in the US at the end of this month at T.H.E. Show Newport. We've no word on availability, but we can tell you that the price of admission into A & K's hi-res audio world has been set at an eye-watering US$3,499.

Product page: AK380

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