I’ll cut to the chase: I just tested Astell & Kern’s A&norma SR25 MKII High Resolution Digital Audio Player (or DAP as audiophiles often call them) and it delivered a cool sonic masterclass for my iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 and older iPhone 7 (audio reviewers usually have two or three phones on the go and that’s not entirely weird).
Calling it the best MP3 player at this level is actually doing that 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 sublime gasp-inducing audio quality that makes me love it so much – although we’ll come back to that later.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a place in my bag that can only be filled by my trusty vintage iPod Classic. Its ease of use, abundance of storage and, to be honest, a rich collection of albums from a restless youth – My Chemical Romance, Pennywise, Anti-Flag, I hold you close to my heart; I keep him here – make him irreplaceable.
But months invariably turn into years, and indeed, the sands of time swallowed the humble iPod years ago – even Apple’s last surviving player, the iPod Touch (7th generation), has now gained its wings.
Welcome to the A&K A&norma SR25 MKII. I emphatically want you to know about this, although I realize that at $749 / £699 / AU$1,099 many will ignore it – and I understand that. Smartphones are the non-negotiable essential for staying connected to the world at large and with ease, they also serve as Walkmans. So covered base, right?
Not for me. Not when I know portable music can sound like this, so much better.
Opinion: A&K player will reignite your love of listening
Consider that a new iPhone 13 will cost around $799 / £779 / AU$1,349 for the 128GB model. Yes, this cost is usually split into monthly installments as part of your network provider agreement (and let’s not forget initiatives like Apple Pay Later), but it’s proof that this fee It is palatable even in the current financial crisis – and is currently being 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. In fact, you just need to cough a half this to get the same technology, still in a nice jacket from Astell & Kern and, crucially, with sonic magic from Astell & Kern.
Gone are the days of plugging your demanding player into your PC and waiting for hours while the DSDs load too; This little player features 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 like streaming and Tidal downloads, all without breaking into the your phone’s data limit.
But what will change the most for you if you buy one is that you will have more time for music. You will be delighted with this. And while that has a lot to do with how good it sounds, it arguably has more to do with the lack of distractions when listening to it.
Ask yourself: do you really like music on your phone? Do you play through an album from start to finish, noting concepts or musical passages that might echo between tracks? Or do you try to stream a track on Apple Music and realize your 5G connection is dodgy? Or do you get distracted by a WhatsApp thread, or a calendar notification, or an incoming call, or the… that lossless streaming is killing your data allowance?
That won’t happen here. And that’s before we even get into how easy it is to put high-res music on the thing for offline listening — and how good that music is going to sound.
If you like music on the go, at least let those words roll around in your head for a bit. Yes, times are far from easy, but I’d say that’s when we need music more than ever – and when it comes to getting music to your ears, this product is number one, top of the pile. Start spreading the news…