Astell&Kern’s new SR15 hi-res digital audio participant is constructed for individuals who have a ardour for high-fidelity music on the go. Armed with Astell&Kern’s up to date person interface, the flexibility to side-load a number of streaming companies, a automobile mode, and much extra, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover a better-built, more-flexible, or better-sounding participant at this value level.
The Astell&Kern’s SR15 (formally often known as the A&norma SR15) is the primary mannequin from Astell&Kern’s new “standard” line of gamers. Astell&Kern says that the A&norma line is designed to “provide those new to high-resolution audio a feature-packed introduction to the Astell&Kern brand.” I’d say Astell&Kern succeeded in spades.
Power and efficiency
The A&norma SR15 is the successor to A&K’s superb AK70 MK II that I beforehand reviewed. The SR15 is constructed for high-res music playback. Under the hood, you’ll discover two Cirrus Logic CS43198 DACs performing the heavy lifting of changing digital audio information into the analog music you hear by way of your headphones. The SR15 will decode just about no matter file format you throw at it, together with native assist for 24bit/192kHz PCM audio and DSD64.
The SR15 encompasses a quad-core CPU. The highly effective processor ensured a reasonably fluid UI expertise in my testing. I beforehand took Astell&Kern to job for the molasses-like UI response on their now discontinued AK Jr. Every subsequent A&Ok mannequin I’ve reviewed has carried out flawlessly.
The SR15’s characteristic checklist goes on with Wi-Fi, assist for the AK Connect app (I’ll speak about this extra under), USB DAC performance, DLNA networking assist, OTA (over-the-air) software program updates, digital audio output through USB, and aptX HD.
The SR15 has a brand new “car mode” you can both change on from the settings or add to the pull-down menu as a shortcut. When you allow automobile mode, it places the interface full display with massive track-forward, previous-track, and play/pause buttons on display much like Apple Car Play. Car mode could be oriented both horizontally or verticaly. The SR15 is not suitable with Android Auto, in case you’re questioning.
For growth, there’s a single microSD card slot that helps extra storage as much as 2TB. The main characteristic, nevertheless, is assist for Astell&Kern’s new Open App service that means that you can side-load a number of streaming music companies onto the participant.
Industrial design on show
Astell&Kern places their industrial design prowess on full show with the SR15. The strong aluminum alloy physique resembles the AK70 collection, however takes on a novel aptitude. The display is bodily angled, tipping to the left like a leaning of Tower of Pisa. I need to inform you it was actually odd to get adjusted to the display tilt once I first used the participant. If you take a look at the images all through this overview, you’ll see what I imply.
I presume they did as a result of if you maintain the participant in your proper hand, the show is parallel to your physique. In different phrases you’re wanting straight on to the display. Visually it takes some getting used to for positive. Left-handed use is extra awkward. The display tilt is accentuated, and I discovered that I used to be tilting my head to take a look at the display. I’m not a fan of this design resolution.
The glass-covered rear panel has a 3D dice design that jogged my memory of the favored 1980’s online game Q-bert. The again panel shimmers as completely different sides of the 3D cubes decide up the sunshine, alternating between diamonds and full 3D dice designs. It’s very cool and complicated.
I’ve had some A&Ok gamers with enclosures that had too-sharp edges; that’s not the case right here. There’s an ever-so-slight bevel at each be part of that makes the participant snug to carry. Thank you for listening A&Ok!
Built for wired and wi-fi life
The SR15 is designed for each wired and wi-fi listening. You’ll discover a conventional 3.5mm headphone jack and a balanced 2.5mm output right here, however the participant additionally helps each aptX and aptX HD wi-fi headphones. AptX HD will stream high-res audio at bit charges as much as 24-bits and sampling charges as excessive as 48kHz. You should have headphones that assist aptX HD to get the very best wi-fi efficiency, and the SR15 correctly negotiated that reference to my B&W PX headphones. .
The SR15’s whole enclosure acts as a large warmth sink. Generally talking, the participant remained cool; nevertheless, if I had it even a bit out within the solar, the participant received very heat—nearly scorching to the contact. I’d urge warning earlier than you tuck this child into some pocket with little to no air flow.
Open App rocks, even when it’s clunky
The SR15 helps Astell&Kern’s new Open App characteristic. If you’ve used Astell&Kern gamers prior to now, you recognize they sometimes assist two, perhaps three streaming companies. That limitation is now gone. With Open App, you possibly can set up all kinds of streaming companies—together with Apple Music.
Be ready, nevertheless, for a clunky set up course of. You should obtain the music service’s app to your laptop, mount the participant to your laptop as a USB storage system, after which side-load the app onto the playere. Astell&Kern gives a complete step-by-step here. Astell&Kern must design a computer-free means of putting in music companies over a Wi-Fi community.
Loading Open Apps locations them in a definite part under the factory-installed Deezer and Tidal companies. Once you’ve side-loaded any new apps, you’ll must activate them.
Astell&Kern’s Open App additionally brings offline mode to companies equivalent to Tidal and Spotify. In the previous, you couldn’t stream music from companies equivalent to these until you had been linked to a Wi-Fi community. I ought to notice, nevertheless, that offline assist is accessible solely with the Open App variations. To get offline assist for Tidal, for instance, you could obtain and set up the Open App model of Tidal instead of the model that’s on the participant if you take it out of the field.
CD-ripping and streaming options
The SR15 will hook up with Astell&Kern’s AK CD-Ripper for computer-less ripping of your CD assortment. This characteristic has been a staple on the earlier era AK70 fashions.
There’s no query that Astell&Kern has made a robust dedication to the shift in direction of streaming with Open App integration. But a hidden gem of the SR15 is the truth that it could function the guts of your music-streaming leisure with AK Connect.
AK Connect leverages DLNA, so you possibly can scan suitable DLNA servers for content material, stream music from the SR15 to different DLNA-compatible units, or use the participant as a controller for content material playback. Mount the SR15 to your laptop as a USB storage system and scan its folders, and also you’ll see that SR15 comes with a Mac and Windows DLNA-compatible media server.
The included MQS server will scan your laptop for any music information and set up them by artist, album, style, and many others. Then, from the SR15, you possibly can browse your music library over Wi-Fi anyplace in your home.The MQS Server received’t seem in your community, nevertheless, till it’s fully completed scanning and indexing your music information. This can take a number of minutes. Once indexing is full you’ll see inexperienced mild seem on the app’s interface, letting you recognize it’s prepared.
Sweet Astell&Kern sound
I additionally paired the Astell&Kern SR15 with Focal Stellia closed again headphones utilizing an Axios 2.5mm copper cable. For wi-fi listening, I used Bowers and Wilkins PX headphones. My observations under relate to the Focal Stellia pairing.
Simply put, the SR15’s sound is clear, dynamic, and refined. Some would possibly take into account its sound a hair analytical. I’d say the sound is actually in the identical custom of the AK70 MKII.
The SR15 doesn’t fairly obtain the extra velvety, easy sound of Astell&Kern’s bulkier—and costlier—KANN line of gamers. It’s not essentially a foul tradeoff for extremely portability.
The SR15 had no downside driving the Focal Stellia headphones. The SR15 created a pleasant, layered soundstage with no matter music I threw at it. I reveled in Janos Starker’s efficiency of Bach’s Cello Suites, listening to each delicate stroke and the sense of area evident within the recording.
Microdynamics had been a perennial power. Turning on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or Sarah McLachlan’s Bloom Remix, I felt as if the SR15 revealed extra of the nuanced parts of the mixes contained within the recordings. Listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “Ice (Dusted Mix)” or “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (Junior Boys Mix),” I might clearly and distinctly make out every sound object completely layered in a three-dimensional area.
Listening to Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 performed by Carl Adam Landstrom, the SR15 and Focal Stellia one-two punch positioned orchestral devices firmly in area and time and gave me the flexibility to listen to the very texture of every instrument.
Turning to extra fashionable tunes, high-res recordings by Adele, Rebecca Pidgeon, Eric Clapton, and Steely Dan sounded pristine.
I do have a couple of crucial observations: I want that the SR15 had a bit extra bottom-end oomph and dynamics. Bass was refined, however a bit shy on sure tracks I do know effectively. I additionally discover that the keyboard on such a small display is tough to navigate. I grew accustomed to creating typos in person names, passwords, and searches. I’d prefer to see bigger display actual property in a future improve.
Astell&Kern does it once more
The SR15 is an outstanding, refined, high-res music participant designed for the discerning music lover who doesn’t thoughts shelling out $699 for transportable music bliss. Open App assist is an actual sport changer for customers who love Astell&Kern merchandise, however have longed for both a broader choice of streaming companies or offline/obtain assist. If you’ve got a earlier era AK70 or AK70 MKII, Open App alone makes the SR15 a worthwhile improve. Aside from the tilted display, I cherished my time with the SR15 and might’t advocate it strongly sufficient.