Astell & Kern builds a network player for high-end audio lovers

CD sales may be slowing, but people who love studio-quality sound are probably focused on high-resolution recordings anyway, and if that’s you and you’ve been eyeing a way of delivering this to your living room, Astell & Kern may have the solution.

It’s a box that looks like it should compete with the sort of offerings Bang & Olufsen just started offering, as Astell gets into networkable media players that are designed to pull content from around your home, and even take your current CD collection and turn it into digital gold.

That’s what the company is offering in the AK500N, a music server featuring a 1TB solid-state drive, support for high-resolution audio up to 24-bit in 192kHz, and a CD drive to let you rip your CDs into formats like FLAC and WAV.

No speaker is built into this one, mind you, so you’ll want to bring your own and setup to get the sound going, though once you do, you’ll find single- and double-rate DSD playback, as well as the ability convert files into 24-bit sound, shifting to the DSD format in real-time.

There’s also a 7 inch LCD touchscreen built into the player, not just to help you select the music you want to play through the box, but to help guide you through the conversion of your music collection to that 1TB solid-state drive, and if you run out of more, Astell sends word that you can add up to three more 2.5-inch SSDs into the box, with as much as 4GB being stored on the AK500N.

That tablet up top relies on Android, but you can bring your own device to the box yourself, with iOS and Android supported here.

Connections to the network are handled over some similarly fast technology if you’re fine with wired, with Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet while wireless is used over 802.11b/g/n WiFi, with two USB ports also offered if you want to plug any other drives in.

But we’re particularly interested in the fact that this network player includes a battery, even though it feels more like it would be a stationary item.

The inclusion of the battery, which offers up to seven hours of playback time, means the player switches to the battery when it’s playing audio so that you don’t hear the hum of power through the sound, so when you’re done, the AK500N goes back to charging itself.

Pricing for the Astell & Kern AK500N isn’t cheap, that said, though if you’re good for spending over $15,000 (yes, we said over), you’ll be fine, with select audio stockists grabbing this box for $16,999.