The Astell & Kern ‘Super Junior’ audio player is a sharp-looking gizmo. No, literally. The corners of this lightweight device could practically scrape skin. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it raised eyebrows coming through customs in some parts of the world. Thank goodness, then, that a genuine leather case is optional to wrap the thing in: albeit less accessory and more actual protection for you and your device.
Design aspects aside (for a moment), one might wonder why we’d even consider investing in an audio player when our phone can store and play music files just as easily. But here’s the thing: our phones also store a heap of other stuff, and frankly there’s never enough room for awesome music content. So, for true audiophiles, a secondary device – one that is totally dedicated to the storage of sound – is a must.
Recently, I purchased an audiobook: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, narrated by my favourite actress Parker Posey. I thought I was actually purchasing an audio CD and was looking forward to dusting off the ol’ player to listen to a little critique, but alas my ‘book’ arrived in the form of an MP3-only disc containing separate files (or ‘Chapters’) that I then had to transfer to my phone to play. Suffice to say, it was a bitch having to shift all those files to my phone, and then to discover they’d taken up most of the space in my music folder, chewing up a huge chunk of my phone memory. I vowed to never buy an audiobook again.
Welcome, then, the AK player, which has 64GB of internal flash memory and a microSD Memory Card Slot to add up to 256GB. Hooray!
After transferring hundreds of fresh and classic tracks to this beautiful-looking device (and The Feminine Mystique in its entirety), I ventured off for a walk around the park. The sound itself is crisp, even with the earphones provided: a nice balance of bass and treble levels, clear-cut vocals, and the buds are comfortably snug in the ol’ ear holes. When tested with a pair of Dre Beats earbuds, I was in sonic heaven. So, the AK is certainly a good match for listening accessories by other brands.
But… there are a few anomalies that don’t sit well with me with this attractive little gadget. Firstly, skipping is kind of problematic, especially, say, when the player is in your pocket as you’re taking a brisk walk. I’d have thought by now that the manufacturers (the same people behind iRiver audio products) would have found a way to make an audio player whose screens and knobs (the AK actually comes with an old-school tactile volume controller) that wasn’t so sensitive to human movement.
Secondly, I kept getting confused when giving the player commands. This isn’t because the functionality options aren’t there; it’s because some exist in more than one place. Take volume as an example, again. There is the modern option of raising and lowering levels via touchscreen but then also that odd little aforementioned knob. It kind of makes you do a double-take every time you want to boost or lower levels, and in this day and age we shouldn’t have to remind tech makers that less is more.
Thirdly, and this critique is somewhat incidental… I found that the fact the device had come with music already uploaded was kind of presumptive, particularly since it was packed with K-pop. I understand the dozen or so songs are by a band calling themselves ‘Super Junior’ and that they’d likely be on brand in somewhere like Korea, especially since value for money in purchasing such technology is highly appreciated there (and where such music would be too), but surely the manufacturers could have micro-managed their marketing a little better. At least thrown in an Ed Sheeran song amid the K-pop mix… and I’m not even a Sheeran fan. But you get my drift.
The members of ‘Super Junior’ have even gone and provided simulated autographs for the back of the device (lots of members in this group!): a bit of a cheesy move, but one that other artists might want to extrapolate on, albeit with more minimalist technique, perhaps.
When all is said and done (and played and played), the AK Super Junior does a good enough job in providing quality sound – and lots of space to store it. With a little tweaking of its sensitivity to movement, and some serious board meetings with its designers, the brand could be onto something excellent here. Antonino Tati
Astell & Kern Super Junior (Special Edition) – Technical Specifications:
- Ultra Slim & Light 8.9 mm Aluminium Body Design
- Single Wolfson WM8740 DAC
- 3.1 Inch WQVGA (240 x 400) LCD Touch Screen
- 3.5mm Single Ended Audio Output
- 64GB of Internal Flash Memory + microSD Memory Card Slot (Up to 256GB)
- DSD64 (1bit 2.8MHz) Playback Supported, Stereo Through DoP (DSD to PCM conversion)
- USB DAC
For further information and stockists, please contact Busisoft AV.