PRESENTATION
The Astell & Kern Kann has been tested in its version 1.03CM.

ERGONOMICS
In terms of manufacturing and design, we recognize at first glance the leg of Astell & Kern. Often, high-end music player rhymes with imposing design, and the Kann does not escape the rule. This very thick and heavy model will have a lot of trouble getting bothered, whether in a pocket or in the hand. Fortunately, the Kann has a serious and robust construction. The majority of the walkman is protected by a thick aluminum chassis. What is a shame, however, is that the manufacturer does not provide any protective case or storage pouch. The only accessory that is found is a Type-C USB cable, in addition to some screen protective films. For a walkman with these pretensions, it is all the more regrettable.

 

The edges on the underside are not always pleasant on contact, but thanks to its grooved surface, the Kann holds well in the hand. The various buttons remain accessible: the knob and the front buttons (pause / play, menu and navigation between tracks) can be activated with one hand with the thumb of the right hand; as for the ignition and locking button, it is more easily accessible with the index finger of the left hand. Contact with the volume control dial is pleasant. Its behavior and its small notches assure an accurate management of the listening volume (the setting is made on 150 levels). Although this is not particularly troublesome in situation, let’s say that the player tends to heat quickly, after only about twenty minutes of use in nomadic mode.

The Kann is not really the kind to revolutionize the quality of the display on audio players. Its 4 “(≈10.2 cm) screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 px is not very luminous and has limited viewing angles, as it does not take advantage of any oleophobic or antireflective treatment. really reduced in full sun, even by adjusting the brightness to the maximum.

With regard to connectivity, the Kann is certainly one of the most complete on the market. It can be connected in multiple ways to multiple sources. On this point, the promise is clearly kept. In addition to the many wired connectors, there is Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth 4.0 (A2DP profiles, AVRCP and aptX HD codec) for wireless. Unfortunately, the first one only serves to update the player and access some integrated software, but we will return to it in the “Multimedia” part.

On the storage side, this player has an internal memory of 64 GB, which is not exceptional given its size and positioning (Plain 1 and 2, for example, offer 128 GB). The Kann can still rely on its two slots that can drastically extend memory up to 832 GB – 64 GB (internal) + 256 GB (microSD) + 512 GB (SD).

As we feared during his announcement, the Kann does not recharge via the micro-USB port. The use in DAC mode on a computer gives rise to a comical situation, where you need to connect both USB Type-C and micro-USB cables to ensure continuous use. If you connect a headset and another line source, the player looks like a small gas plant. If you want to recharge your player after a long day of use and use it as a DAC, know that the Kann will put an infinite time to recharge if you connect it directly to USB on a computer. In this case, it is better to connect it to the mains via an adapter powerful enough to benefit from fast charging (“Fast Charge”).

The manufacturer promises 14 hours of use with a full load, which is little, but always better than direct competition (Plane 1, 2, M or Questyle QP1R). In practice, we have never been able to reach this threshold. At best, in wired use, with a screen off most of the time and a wide variety of file formats, we reached an average of 12 hours 30. Moving to Bluetooth in the same configuration will lose 1 hour 30. The results are not brilliant, and the recharge time does not save the bet. Indeed, the Kann takes on average 4 hours 30 to recharge, more than a third of what it leaves us in use. If you have a power adapter that is powerful enough to take advantage of the fast charge, you will gain 1 hour 30 minutes, which is far from negligible.

MULTIMEDIA
The regulars of Astell & Kern will not be disoriented, since the Kann opts for the usual interface owner with some air android. It is frankly not the most modern: the possibilities of personalization and the compatibility with third party applications are at least limited. The experience of use is still pleasant, thanks to the good fluidity and the simplicity of use of the whole.

The regulars of Astell & Kern will not be disoriented, since the Kann opts for the usual interface owner with some air android. It is frankly not the most modern: the possibilities of personalization and the compatibility with third party applications are at least limited. The experience of use is still pleasant, thanks to the good fluidity and the simplicity of use of the whole.

The vast majority of the basic functions of playing (gapless, browsing between / in the tracks, continuous playback, looping …), navigation (playback, file search, information about the song being played, illustrations, lyrics …) and file management (multiple selections, delete, add to current listening, a playlist …) are present. However, it is not possible to organize or move its files, nor to display directly in the explorer the information on a file without having to read it. The indexing of files is always good, which is a plus when you want to quickly find a particular song, album or artist. Of course, its effectiveness depends on the amount of information entered in each file before the transfer.

On the small side, it’s not madness. The only element to be distinguished is the EQ, which shines with a parameterization precision rarely seen in this category: 20 bands are available, the gain can be adjusted with a pitch of 0.01 dB for and the factor Q the selected frequency band) can be adjusted with a pitch of 0.1. In other words, if you want to be precise, you will be served! Nevertheless, no EQ profile is proposed, neither effect nor fantasy of this kind. The only additional applications available are the Tidal Music Streaming Service, as well as Groovers + and Moov, two very complex obscure applications to use if you do not speak Korean. As for Tidal, the player offers access to a version of the application specifically adapted.

AUDIO
Internally, the Kann can count on its AKM AK4490 DAC. Without real surprise, the sound performances are clearly at the rendezvous. Even if the differences are very far from jumping to the ears, we can still say that the Kann is a little bit below the Cowon Plains 1 and 2. Remember that to offer a reliable comparison point between all devices and getting closer to the most common usage scenario, the measurements you can see have been made on the headphone output in 3.5 mm mini jack.

Internally, the Kann can count on its AKM AK4490 DAC. Without real surprise, the sound performances are clearly at the rendezvous. Even if the differences are very far from jumping to the ears, we can still say that the Kann is a little bit below the Cowon Plains 1 and 2. Remember that to offer a reliable comparison point between all devices and getting closer to the most common usage scenario, the measurements you can see have been made on the headphone output in 3.5 mm mini jack.

Very powerful, the Kann delivers an excellent output voltage, able to propel the most greedy helmets. Both gain levels can meet all power requirements. Even at very high levels, the harmonic distortion rate remains very wise and never exceeds 0.004%. The signal is reproduced faithfully, whether in terms of frequency response or dynamic range (110 dB).

On the crosstalk side, ie the indicator of good separation of the channels, the observation is the same as on Plane 2. We were able to measure -76 dB on each channel, which is in itself a good value, but remains below certain other models like Plain 1 (-92 dB), Plain D (-86 dB) and even the small AK Jr (- 81 dB).

CONCLUSION
Although it does not revolutionize the market audiophile high end players, the Astell & Kern Kann keeps its promises by offering beautiful sound performances and above all a very complete connectivity. It can be interesting if you want to invest in a very versatile player quality, for use both at home and on the move. If you do not need as many connectors and are looking instead of a nomadic listening more discreet companion, other references will be more suitable.