A conveyable music participant that brings loads of musical refinement to your music library, the Astell & Kern A&ultima SR35 is among the greatest picks for the worth.
- Brings refinement to music library
- Compact dimension
- Simple to make use of
- Vast file assist
- Wi-Fi efficiency could be a little gradual
- Battery life doesn’t really feel too intensive
- Getting dear for an entry degree product
Two set-gainRegular and Excessive Achieve ranges to match headphone impedance
Battery lifeAs much as 20 hours battery life
MQACan full decode MQA audio streams
Very similar to wired headphones, the moveable music participant was stated to be on its knees, ushered out of the best way by the recognition of smartphones. In spite of everything, who desires two gadgets of their pocket when one is targeted on audio and the opposite can try this – and extra.
There’s little doubt the existence of the smartphone has dented the enchantment of the moveable music participant, however they’re nonetheless hanging round, and whereas they seemingly gained’t get pleasure from the identical degree of mass enchantment as MP3 gamers of their heyday, for a sure individual, they’re preferrred.
For those who’re a music fan, a conveyable music participant is one of the best ways to listen to your music, and one of the notable manufacturers is Korean firm Astell & Kern. They’ve been pumping out wonderful moveable music gamers for years, the newest within the extra reasonably priced A&norma line-up is the SR35.
- Compact type
- 720p display screen
- Angular design
The Astell & Kern A&norma SR35 is a conveyable music participant that’s genuinely moveable. In contrast to the FiiO M11S, which does its greatest impression of a smartphone (however even larger), the SR35 is dinky by comparability.
It’s the identical dimension as earlier iterations: 64mm broad, 108.3mm tall and 16.1mm deep. It’s dwarfed by the scale of recent smartphones and will resolve the issue of getting two gadgets in your individual on the similar time by being so compact.
Its proportions imply the display screen takes successful in comparison with its FiiO rivals at 3.6-inches with a decision of 1280 x 720p. As is par for the course with Astell & Kern merchandise, the display screen is off-axis – slanted diagonally with the form of the SR35 using contoured strains. More often than not I don’t even take into consideration the angular display screen.
The display screen itself is shiny and naturally vibrant, the black UI offers distinction for albums to pop higher.
The colourway is charcoal gray, which appears pretty, and the chassis is aluminum which makes the A&norma SR35 really feel gentle however nonetheless sturdy, backed up by a sexy glass end on its rear. It appears terrific, although the glass again attracts smudges. Whereas the chassis is cool to the touch when off, the participant can run heat throughout use.
Astell & Kern locations the headphone outputs on the high, which I barely favor to the underside. It makes it simpler to take the participant out with out having to twist the display screen (and begin tangling the cables). You get an unbalanced 3.5mm, and two balanced outputs in 2.5mm and 4.4mm choices. On the backside is a USB-C enter and microSD slot.
On the right-hand aspect is a satisfyingly clicky quantity wheel, whereas on the left aspect are the buttons for turning the display screen on and off/energy and playback: pausing and skipping backwards and forwards. They’re spaced so shut collectively that with my large digits, I’ve needed to be extra cautious to keep away from urgent the improper button.
- MQA decoding for Tidal Masters tracks
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Vast file assist
I’ll begin with the interface. It’s primarily based on Android however particularly customised and labelled because the ‘Crimson’ themed UX/UI. It operates similarly to Android with a swipe down revealing notifications, wi-fi connectivity, EQ modes and a brightness slider for the display screen. Swipe left or proper and also you’ll roll by means of the carousel of albums. It’s principally speedy and fluid with no alarming lag in operation because of the quad-core processor onboard.
In contrast to FiiO, Astell & Kern doesn’t assist the Google Play Retailer however affords a collection of apps to obtain in Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Apple Music, Deezer, and others I’ve not heard of earlier than comparable to Moov and KKBox.
The A&norma SR35 can boot up moderately shortly, however at instances it may be gradual with its Wi-Fi efficiency. There have been instances after I’ve jumped into an app, began navigating the interface solely to be advised that I can’t stream audio as a result of I’m not linked to the Wi-Fi, despite the fact that I’m.
There’s a glut of options that features AK File Drop which wirelessly transfers information to a PC, smartphone or FTP program on the identical community. The BT Sink perform connects to an exterior system over Bluetooth, like a smartphone connecting to a Bluetooth speaker. Bluetooth connectivity stays at v5.0, with aptX HD and LDAC compatibility for greater high quality audio streams.
Storage is just 64GB internally, which speaks the A&norma’s entry-level standing, however will be bumped as much as a most of 1TB with a microSD card.
Battery is acknowledged at 20 hours taking part in 16-bit FLAC information at quantity degree 50 by means of the unbalanced connection. Clearly, this could change at totally different volumes, display screen brightness, and headphones, although my expertise is that the SR35 can chomp by means of its battery faster than anticipated. Charging again to full beans is 2.5 hours with no fast-charging listed as a part of the spec.
Audio format assist is intensive, near if not matching Astell & Kern’s costlier gamers. There may be assist for WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF codecs, and for streaming it might probably decode MQA streams utilized by Tidal. PCM file assist reaches as much as 32-bit/384kHz, whereas native DSD playback is as much as DSD256. There’s Roon Prepared assist for integration with different Roon compliant audio gadgets.
The SR35 additionally contains a two-step acquire management to match with headphones of various impedance. For decrease impedance rated headphones, the ‘Regular Achieve’ setting will be chosen; for extra delicate headphones there’s the choice of the ‘Excessive’ acquire mode to provide a extra ample output.
Sound High quality
- Brings sharpness, element, and dynamism to music
- Retains the tone of partnered headphones
I had thought the Astell & Kern A&norma SR35 would work equally to different A&Okay merchandise, exerting its interpretation of audio on its partnered headphone, just like the AK HC3 DAC. That’s not the case.
Sure, there’s an impact that the A&norma has on headphones, however I don’t really feel it considerably alters the headphone’s personal sonic signature. It takes what’s there and it provides it extra polish and refinement, and in doing so, the AK SR35 elevates the general efficiency.
To explain the SR35’s tone is barely difficult, because it will depend on the headphone. I’ve used them with a Sivga Robin SV021, Campfire Andromeda Emerald Sea in-ear monitor, Sivga Luan, and Austrian Audio Hello-X65 open-backed headphones and, kind of, they’ve retained their very own character.
What the A&norma SR35 imparts on headphones is a sharper sense of definition and better ranges of readability. In comparison with the equally priced FiiO M15s, and utilizing the Campfire Andromeda Emerald Sea IEM, a Hello-res observe of The Beatles Lengthy and Winding Highway (Qobuz) fares a lot better on the Astell. It’s fettered with extra element and shows a extra convincing sense of dynamism than the FiiO manages.
There’s not as nice a give attention to his voice, and the soundstage is described in smaller phrases than the FiiO, however the SR35 teases out extra decision from the recording, excessive frequencies are sharper, higher outlined; the A&norma digs out extra element from every little thing whether or not its Paul McCartney’s voice or the devices – I hear extra perception with the SR35 than I do with the FiiO.
With Esperanza Spalding’s I Know You Know (Qobuz), the dynamic vary as soon as is healthier expressed on the A&norma SR35, the piano extra detailed, sharper, and outlined. The FiiO, by comparability, just isn’t as targeted.
With a play of David Bowie’s Fashionable Love on the Austrian Audio Hello-X65, and the SR35 communicates the power and momentum of the observe with confidence. Tonally the midrange is leaner and crisper, and bass is delivered with punch (however not overzealously). That contrasts with the FiiO’s smoother method. Of the 2, the Astell & Kern is the extra thrilling and assertive pay attention.
With the Sivga Luan and Ludwig Göransson’s Oppenheimer in move, the SR35 doesn’t tread on the headphone’s lush, easy presentation. There’s a pleasant weight to bass in American Prometheus, the copy of the violin is properly sharp and textured, and there’s stable dynamic expression because the notes rise and fall. With Speaking Heads’ As soon as In a Lifetime, it maintains the headphones’ easy midrange efficiency, David Byrne’s distinctive vocal expression comes throughout naturally.
You possibly can play with the EQ – the headphones supply a ‘Regular’ EQ – however I discover the soundstage contracts, and whereas there’s the choice of going into higher element by altering the acquire or Q worth of every frequency, until you get pleasure from that kind of factor, I discover it’s higher to depart as is.
Do you have to purchase it?
For the refinement it affords to music
The A&ultima SR35 doesn’t go about altering the sonic signature of your headphones. As a substitute, it refines with additional lashings of element, sharpness and dynamism for a fair higher sound.
It’s getting costlier
The efficiency is great, however with every new iteration of the A&ultima sequence, it’s changing into costlier. £800 / $800 for an entry degree product raises just a few eyebrows.
Astell & Kern describes the A&norma SR35 as its entry-level product and that appears a adequate description. It’s not much less advanced than its costlier cousins, however the smaller type issue and cheaper value works in its favour.
Whether or not your headphone sounds crisp or heat, the SR35 gained’t alter it unrecognizably however refine it with extra definition, sharpness, and dynamic expression.
It’s nonetheless costly, the worth slowly rising from the £649 of the SR25 this website reviewed in 2020, and up from the SR25 MkII (£699 / $749) or the FiiO M11S (£489). That is likely to be an obstacle to some, however for others for whom the worth just isn’t as insurmountable, the A&norma is one other trendy, feature-packed, and insightful-sounding moveable music participant from Astell & Kern.
How we take a look at
We take a look at each moveable music participant we evaluation completely over an prolonged time frame. We use trade normal checks to check options correctly. We’ll at all times let you know what we discover. We by no means, ever, settle for cash to evaluation a product.
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Examined throughout a number of weeks
Examined with actual world use
Examined with a spread of headphones
It’s not all about wired headphones with this moveable music participant. You’ll be able to join over a Bluetooth connection, and also you’ll get the most effective audio high quality with headphones that assist aptX HD or LDAC.
USB DAC Mode
Astell and Kern Aultima SR35
Astell & Kern
as much as 1TB
64 x 16.1 x 108.3 MM
Ciruss Logic CS43198 x4
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF
3.5mm unbalanced, 2.5/4.4mm balanced