Astell&Kern (A&Okay)’s latest USB headphone DAC/amp for cellular units and computer systems represents a fairly large jump in design in comparison to the corporate’s earlier fashions. The $220 AK HC4 USB DAC is the corporate’s first to supply twin outputs — a balanced 4.4mm jack and an unbalanced 3.5mm jack, following a pattern that has been catching on speedy all over 2023. It’s going to be to be had in December thru shops that elevate A&Okay merchandise.
With strengthen for as much as DSD 256 and PCM at 32-bit/384kHz, the AK HC4 will have the ability to play near to any virtual audio you’ll throw at it, with the exception of for MQA. It seems that the verdict to make use of an AK4493S DAC from AKM — any other first for A&Okay’s headphone DACs — has supposed losing strengthen for the in large part Tidal-only layout. If MQA is significant, the HC3 (which makes use of an ESS DAC) could be a more sensible choice.
The AK HC4 additionally sports activities a number of different options that assist it stand out when in comparison to its siblings (just like the HC3, HC2, and Twin-cable DAC) and its competitors. The HC4 has traded a hardwired design for a extra flexible USB-C port. With an integrated USB-C cable and a Lightning cable, you’ll change between iPhones, iPads, and different units with out including an ungainly plug adapter. It additionally implies that if the cable is broken, you don’t wish to substitute the entire unit.
An built-in quantity rocker means that you can keep watch over amplification with out depending in your telephone’s settings. The HC4 may be appropriate with USB Audio Magnificence (UAC) 1.0 and a pair of.0, this means that you’ll apply it to all kinds of recreation consoles that also use the older UAC surroundings.
Astell & Kern has added its Virtual Audio Remaster (DAR) generation to the AK HC4, which it claims can ship subtle and analog-like unique sound when enjoying virtual track with decrease pattern charges. Toggle the devoted transfer to show DAR on and the set of rules will upsample any content material you’re enjoying.
So long as MQA strengthen isn’t a must have, at $220, the AK HC4 is extra inexpensive than the Ifi Cross Bar ($329) and the Questyle M15 ($299) — two high-end DACs with twin outputs.