Editor’s Note: I’ve decided to also lump together the latest news as well…
DAPs, DACs, and Amplifiers
Many enthusiasts like to slam the AK100 for its price, lack of gapless playback, and high output impedance, but the AK100 has sold quite well over the past few months, and iRiver followed up with the announcement of the Astell&Kern AK120 right before the show (technically at the Munich HI-END Show that occurred essentially simultaneously with #HPFES). The highlight feature of the AK120 has to be its DSD-ready capability, a feature that is most likely software-mediated, as its dual Wolfson WM8740 DAC chips do not natively support DSD, unlike their higher-priced brethren, the WM8741 and WM8742. At a likely price of $1200, the AK120 also costs nearly twice that of the AK100. Nevertheless, expect those with deep pockets to spring for one immediately. Here’s an interview with Astell&Kern on the AK120, conducted by Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity fame at the Munich HI-END Show:
Not to be outdone by iRiver, FiiO, perennial favorite of budget-conscious audiophiles, have been readying their own DAP, the X3. It’s not quite as stylish-looking as the AK100 or AK120, and lacks a capacitative touchscreen, but on paper it is a feature-packed machine, supporting nearly every digital format under the sun up to 24-bit, 192 kHz data rates and utilizing very similar basic internal circuitry as their well-regarded DAC/amp unit the E17 Alpen — all for less than $250 USD. The X3 has already had a soft launch in FiiO’s native China and its associated areas such as Hong Kong. If the price is favorable in Taiwan, I may possibly be buying a unit for myself (and of course featuring it here).
Of course, there’s also the upcoming iBasso DX50, which seems to be more of a direct AK100 competitor than is the X3, but the X3 seems to be a great value on paper.
Possibly the most fascinating amp shown at the show was the EK Japan TU-HP01, a hybrid tube/integrated portable amplifier that features the thinnest profile I’ve ever seen in any tube-based design.
A couple of days ago, after having recuperated from his illness, our AnakChan took a trip to Fujiya-AVIC to take a first-look at the TU-HP-01 — a special, exclusive photo album is up on our Facebook page. AnakChan had this to say about the TU-HP01:
So EK is EleKit Japan and they have an English site. There’s an English PDF for this product too.
In my discussions with Fujiya-AVIC yesterday, the AAA batteries can drive the amp for 10 hours. It doesn’t get hot either, so it’s safe to bind the amp to other devices (as pictured). It comes with the MUSES 8820 but also includes the OPA2604. One could also source and buy pin-compatible opamps to roll, with the exception of MUSES 01, which requires too much power draw. The MUSES 02 is fine, however.
Japanese distributor Zionote previewed a prototype balanced amp at the show. It’s designed by Mr. John Lee, founder of JL Acoustic Labs, whose products are also distributed by Zionote. CYMBACAVUM will be putting up an exclusive look at JL Acoustic Labs’ BAB1-MC digital amplifier soon. As for this amp, it’s aiming to be one of the most affordable balanced amplifiers on the market, at an estimated $299, perhaps.
Zionote was also busy with showing yet another Korean offering from Smart Audio, the SmartDAC/LE. To be honest, I don’t really know about (or care) what’s in the SmartDAC, but isn’t it just the cutest little thing?
Um, I’m too tired to write more. I’m sure there are a billion more things that I’m forgetting…