I’ll get to the point right away: I just downloaded the . tested Astell & Kern’s A&norma SR25 MKII hi-res digital audio player (or DAP, as audiophiles often call them) and it provided a stone-cold sonic masterclass for my iPhone 11† Samsung Galaxy S21 and older iPhone 7 (audio reviewers often have two or three phones on the go and that’s not weird at all).
For the . to name best mp3 player at this level it’s actually about doing it too – saying the A&norma SR25 MKII is a good mp3 player is like saying Karim Benzema is good at kicking balls or Patrick Mahomes is good at throwing them.
And it’s not even the superb, sighing sound quality that makes me love it so much – although we’ll get to that later.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a spot in my bag that can only be filled by my trusty vintage iPod Classic† The ease of use, the abundance of storage space and, to be honest, the rich seam of albums from a troubled childhood – My Chemical Romance, Pennywise, Anti-Flag, I keep you close to my heart; I’ll keep you here – make it irreplaceable.
Then welcome the A&K A&norma SR25 MKII. I strongly want you to know about it, even though I realize many will overlook it for $749 / £699 / AU$1,099 – and I understand. Smartphones are the non-negotiable essential to keep us connected to the world at large and convenient, these also serve as Walkmans. So the basics covered, right?
Not for me. Not when I know portable music can sound like this, So much better.
Opinion: A&K’s player will rekindle your love of listening
Remember that a new iPhone 13 will cost you around $799 / £779 / AU$1,349 for the 128GB model. Yes, these costs are often broken down into monthly installments as part of your network provider contract (and let’s take initiatives like Apple Pay Later) but it is proof that such compensation is digestible, even in the current financial crisis – and is currently paid by most of us with interest.
Now, this A&K player. If the company’s May issue: Kann Max proves why the iPod had to die, the A&norma SR25 MKII I just spent the week with proves you don’t have to shell out $1,300 / £1,199 / AU$1,899 for a worthy replacement. You really just need to cough up half that to get much of the same technology, still in a handsome Astell & Kern guise and crucially, with the sonic wizardry of Astell & Kern baked into it.
Gone are the days of plugging your finicky player into your PC and waiting for hours while also loading DSDs; this little player has AK File Drop (first introduced in the more expensive A&futura SE180 player) for easier wireless file transfers, plus Wi-Fi for access to platforms such as Tidestreaming and downloads, all without breaking your phone’s data limit.
But what will change for you the most, if you buy one, is that you will free up more time for music. You will enjoy this. And while that has a lot to do with how good it sounds, it probably has more to do with the lack of distraction when listening.
Ask yourself: do you really enjoy music on your phone? Do you play an album all the way from start to finish, noting the concepts or musical passages that can be repeated between songs? Or are you trying to stream a song on Apple Music do you realize that your 5G connection is unreliable? Or are you distracted by a WhatsApp thread, or a calendar notification, or an incoming call, or the… that Lossless streaming is ruining your data limit?
That won’t happen here. And that’s before we even get into how easy it is to get hi-res music on the thing for offline listening — and how good that music will sound.
If you like music on the go, at least let these words float around in your head for a bit. Yes, times are far from easy, but I’d say we need music right now more than ever – and when it comes to bringing music to your ears, this product is number one, top of the heap. Start spreading the news…