Astell&Kern Adds MQA to Three Portable Players

If you own an Astell&Kern portable high-resolution music player, you own membership in an exclusive club. A&K, after all, is the Ferrari of music players. Now, thanks to a firmware update, the V12 in your 812 Superfast just got another 100 horsepower.

They made the announcement last month, and true to their word, Astell&Kern showed their souped up players at CES. Specifically, the A&ultima SP1000M, A&futura SE100, and A&norma SR15 portable players now support MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). These latest updates join the A&ultima SP1000 player that had previously gained MQA.

With the new firmware, the players have a full MQA decoder built in. They can unpack MQA files all the way back to their original high-resolution goodness. Playback is supported via downloaded MQA files, and via the embedded Tidal app which allows streaming using Tidal Masters integration.

You will recall that the flagship &ultima players have two excellent Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ digital-to-analog converters, one for each independent channel, and support native playback of up to 32-bit/384 kHz PCM audio and native playback of DVD up to DSD256. USB-C makes for fast data transfers. The A&ultima SP1000 has 256 GB of internal RAM and the SP1000M has 128 GB of RAM. The A&futura SE100 and A&norma SR15 are "budget" players but have more than adequate D/A converters and onboard signal processing that benefit and make good use of MQA-quality files.

If you own one of these players, you can find the update instructions here. What are you waiting for? Zoom, zoom.

Postscript: In past CES shows, the Hi-Res Audio was promoted by a "Tech Zone" where software and hardware companies held panel discussions about Hi-Res Audio. This event was not held at this year's CES. That's disappointing, but one could argue that the promotion served its purpose by introducing Hi-Res to the public.

Now, I think Hi-Res has a good foothold and can prosper on its own. There are literally hundreds of compatible devices, and tens of thousands of titles, from over a dozen companies. Hi-Res Audio will never be a star attraction, but for those of us who value sound quality, Hi-Res is here to stay. You can read more about Hi-Res Audio here.