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Astell&Kern

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BLUENOTE Plays 24bit Music

Astell&Kern Blue Note 75th Anniversary Package: Limited Edition

Closer to Original Sound

After successfully launching the AK100 and the AK120 models, we asked ourselves, “What is the ultimate sound quality?”
After much consideration, we decided to move a step further with our goal, which is to deliver the sound “exactly as the artist had intended” for us to hear.
Moving from the AK100 to AK120, we decided to provide a Dual DAC setup to create better left and right channel separation with clearer sound quality.
We thought that the Dual DAC setup would be enough, but while developing the AK240 Bluenote, we felt the need to further improve sound quality in order to accurately reproduce the original sound recording.
After countless hours of research and testing, we were able to find the answer.

The answer was to create both a balanced output and native DSD playback through the Dual DAC setup.
Now with the AK240 Bluenote, we can dare say that we have gotten “that much closer” to the sound quality of the original recording.

Native DSD Support

What is DSD?

DSD (Direct Stream Digital) is a digital audio file format originally developed for SACDs (Super Audio CD).
Regular digital audio file formats such as PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) is separated into 65,000(16bit) to 16,700,000(24bit) of information on the Y axis, and 44,100(44.1kHz) to 192,000(192kHz) across the X axis for digital signals.
DSD files have 1bit (0s or 1s) for Y axis and is separated into 2,800,000(2.8MHz) to 5,600,000(5.6MHz) of information for X axis.

Compared to regular audio CDs with 16bit/44.1kHz PCM format, SACD’s recording frequency goes up to 100kHz and the dynamic range goes beyond 120dB while maintaining sound clarity during the transmission.

16bit

1/44100s

Time

PCM

1bit

1/2822400s

Time

DSD

Native DSD Support

One of the approaches we decided that would help us move a step closer to the original sound quality was to provide native DSD playback without having to convert it into PCM. This was indeed a difficult task. In order to provide native DSD playback on the AK240 Bluenote, we had to select a different DAC chipset. Making the decision to change the DAC was not easy, but in order to reach our goal, we had to make a bold move which was to start from scratch.

We have asked ourselves: Does the DAC support Native DSD?
Will it allow for the Dual DAC setup?
What else is needed for the perfect Native DSD support?

In order to answer these three questions, we have decided to use the Cirrus Logic CS4398 chip in the Dual DAC setup with an added exclusive XMOS chip that will allow for Native DSD support.

The process of setting up Native DSD support was not an easy task. Since the main CPU does not process Native DSD, we needed a chip that will work with it. It took us a long time, but we made it work.
Through countless hours of testing, we were able to achieve Native DSD playback by having the main CPU process the data, send it to the exclusive XMOS chip, then through the DAC to deliver the sound.

AK240 Bluenote's Native DSD Playback Process
DSD
DSD
DSD Dedicated Chipset
DSD
DAC CS4398
Regular DSD to PCM Conversion Process
DSD
DSD
CPU PCM Conversion
PCM
DAC

Balanced Output

Unbalanced vs. Balanced Output

The unbalanced method is the most commonly used basic method which consists of “left and right signals + ground line”.
This setup includes a ground line which blocks out external noises from the outside.
However, since the ground line cannot block out all of the external noises completely, external noises can be mixed into the signals that are transmitted, which then result in changes to the sound. The longer the signals travel, the more external noises that will be mixed into the sound which is why it is used within a short distance of 1 to 2 meters.

Unlike the unbalanced method, the balanced method has an additional cold signal to compliment the hot signal which reduces the external noises.

Unbalanced method

hot signal

Balanced method

hot signal
cold signal
Ground or ground line
Ground or ground line

The balanced method has a few advantages over the unbalanced method.
The first advantage is that the hot signal and the cold signal will remove the external noises received.
The second advantage is increased output due to the 2 transmitted signals.

Noise Detected during
Balanced Output

Noise

hot signal

cold signal

Ground or ground line

Noise Removed
After Detection

Noise

hot signal

cold signal
reversed

Ground or ground line

Noise Removal Complete

signal
synthesis

Ground or ground line

Since the ground line cannot block out 100% of the external noises, noise will appear on both the hot and cold signals.
The alignment of the 2 signals allows the noise to usually appear at similar points where they will eventually be removed as the signals are transmitted.

Balanced Out
and Dual DAC

Dual DAC meets Balanced Output

It did not take us long to figure out that the AK240 Bluenote’s Dual DAC and balanced output resulted in the best sound.
During the development of the AK100 and AK120, Astell&Kern's specific analogue amp setup was already creating full balanced analogue signals streaming from the DAC and we were able to move a step closer towards the original sound by then creating a balanced output terminal at the end.

Dual DAC'S Balanced Output
DAC
CS4398
L+
L-
L+
L-
GND
DAC
CS4398
R+
R-
R+
R-
GND
A-amp
L+
L-
R+
R-
phone
Output from other products
DAC
L
R
GND
phone

256GB of Massive Storage

Astell&Kern has created the AK120 Titan with a storage capacity of 128GB, but in order to support Native DSD, MQS, and massive audio files, we had to come up with the ultimate portable music player with 256GB of storage.
With 256GB of internal memory, about 2,500 MQS (24bit/96kHz, 4 minute-long, 90MB) songs can be saved.
With the addition of a 256GB microSD card, the AK240 can support up to a total memory capacity of 512GB.

256GB

microSD Slot x1

(Max 256GB)

Max 512GB

256GB internal memory

OTA (Over-The-Air) Upgrade

It has been 13 years since iriver has used the term "firmware".
Through these years, one had to check for new firmware updates by opening emails or checking the website.
Now with a Wi-Fi connection, you can receive instant notifications about new firmware updates and can update your unit whenever and wherever you are.

More Detailed 10-Band
0.5dB-step EQ Setting

More accurate EQ setting is available on the AK240 Bluenote by doubling the bands (from 5 to 10 bands) and halving the dB steps (from 1dB to 0.5dB) available.
One can also create and save customized preset EQ settings to fit various music genres.

Full Touch Screen

Compared to the AK120, the 3.31 inch AMOLED display on the AK240 Bluenote is about 82% bigger to provide more information at a glance.
With the bigger display, the Full Touch screen makes it easy to navigate especially for smart phone users.

The playback and volume control buttons have been upgraded on the AK240 Bluenote. Music tracks with long titles, such as a classical music, are displayed on 2 lines for better navigation.
Due to the speedy file scanning functionality, a separate DB scanning function is no longer needed and file search is available for easy access to music.

AK120 2.4 inch
AK240 Bluenote 3.31 inch

USB DAC

The AK240SS supports Native DSD USB DAC function. (DoP method)

Through the USB connection, the AK240 Bluenote can be used as a USB DAC which supports Native DSD playback.
The combination of the exclusive DSD chip and the Dual DAC in the AK240 Bluenote goes above and beyond most computer sound cards and is able to create a greater sense of space and deeper sound while listening to your music.

- EQ setting cannot be used while in USB DAC mode on the AK240.

AK240 Bluenote Native USB DAC

PC / MAC

Native DSD

PCM

USB

Line Out

Car

Speaker

Headphone

Exceptional AK240 Bluenote
Leather Case

In order to raise the bar of the AK240 Bluenote even higher, much attention was devoted to the selection of leather for the case. Minerva leather, originated from Badalassi Carlo was chosen for the case. Badalassi Carlo was made by Professor Carlo Badalassi, who is known for his excellent skills with leather. Unlike modern methods, he uses a traditional method of making leather that requires extensive time and devotion. His reputation is well-known among top expensive brands due to his focus on the leather quality over quantity.

The leather case for the AK240 Bluenote was made from a process called “Full Vegetable Tanning”. This traditional method has been used in Italy for over 200 years. The process brings out the special characteristic of leather while creating a natural tanning look. A variety of trees and plants are involved in this tanning process which takes about 40 days to complete and only the most experienced professionals in Italy possess the skills to do it.

This special leather material has a lot of oil in it that will allow the leather to shine the more it is used.
Many tests and trials have been done with the creation of the leather case in order to highlight the unique design of the AK240 Bluenote.

Astell&Kern + Blue Note Record

Astell&Kern, the leading hi res portable music player that boasts studio sound quality, has announced a special package partnership with Blue Note Records to commemorate the record company's 75th anniversary in the world of Jazz and Blues.

75 legendary Blue Note jazz albums that have been remastered in the Hi-Res digital format. Especially, five Blue Note albums make their exclusive hi-res audio debuts with this release: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers’ Mosaic, Tina Brooks’ True Blue, Don Cherry’s Complete Communion, Andrew Hill’s Point Of Departure, and Bobby Hutcherson’s Components.

The 75 albums are pre-loaded on the included Astell&Kern AK240 high-resolution audio player, revealing every detail you might not have heard anywhere else, no matter how many times you’ve listened to these albums before.

Blue Note Albums

  1. 01. Thelonious Monk

    Genius Of Modern Music Volume One

  2. 02. Bud Powell

    The Amazing Bud Powell

  3. 03. Thelonious Monk

    Genius Of Modern Music Volume Two

  4. 04. Miles Davis

    Miles Davis, Volume 1

  5. 05. Miles Davis

    Miles Davis, Volume 2

  6. 06. Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers

    Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers

  7. 07. Kenny Dorham

    Afro-Cuban

  8. 08. Sonny Rollins

    Sonny Rollins

  9. 09. Sonny Rollins

    Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2

  10. 10. John Coltrane

    Blue Train

  11. 11. Sonny Rollins

    Newk's Time

  12. 12. Sonny Rollins

    A Night At The Village Vanguard

  13. 13. Lou Donaldson

    Lou Takes Off

  14. 14. Sonny Clark

    Cool Struttin

  15. 15. Cannonball Adderley

    Somethin' Else

  16. 16. Three Sounds

    Introducing The 3 Sounds

  17. 17. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

    Moanin

  18. 18. Horace Silver

    Blowin' The Blues Away

  19. 19. Hank Mobley

    Soul Station

  20. 20. Jimmy Smith

    Back At The Chicken Shack: The Incredible Jimmy Smith

  21. 21. Jimmy Smith

    Midnight Special

  22. 22. Tina Brooks

    True Blue [hi-res audio debuts]

  23. 23. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

    A Night In Tunisia

  24. 24. Hank Mobley

    Workout

  25. 25. Grant Green

    Green Street

  26. 26. Freddie Hubbard

    Ready For Freddie

  27. 27. Art Blakey

    Mosaic [hi-res audio debuts]

  28. 28. Stanley Turrentine

    That's Where It's At

  29. 29. Jackie McLean

    Let Freedom Ring

  30. 30. Herbie Hancock

    Takin' Off

  31. 31. Dexter Gordon

    Go

  32. 32. Sheila Jordan

    Portrait Of Sheila

  33. 33. Freddie Hubbard

    Hub-Tones

  34. 34. Kenny Burrell

    Midnight Blue

  35. 35. Donald Byrd

    A New Perspective

  36. 36. Hank Mobley

    The Turnaround!

  37. 37. Jackie McLean

    One Step Beyond

  38. 38. Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Pierre Michelot, Kenny Clarke

    Our Man In Paris

  39. 39. Joe Henderson

    Page One

  40. 40. Herbie Hancock

    Inventions And Dimensions

  41. 41. Jackie McLean

    Destination... Out!

  42. 42. Horace Silver

    Song For My Father

  43. 43. Grant Green

    Idle Moments

  44. 44. Andrew Hill

    Black Fire

  45. 45. Grachan Moncur Ⅲ

    Evolution

  46. 46. Lee Morgan

    The Sidewinder

  47. 47. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

    Free For All

  48. 48. Lee Morgan

    Search For The New Land

  49. 49. Eric Dolphy

    Out To Lunch!

  50. 50. Andrew Hill

    Point Of Departure [hi-res audio debuts]

  51. 51. Wayne Shorter

    Night Dreamer

  52. 52. Herbie Hancock

    Empyrean Isles

  53. 53. Wayne Shorter

    Juju

  54. 54. Wayne Shorter

    Speak No Evil

  55. 55. Herbie Hancock

    Maiden Voyage

  56. 56. Bobby Hutcherson

    Components [hi-res audio debuts]

  57. 57. Lee Morgan

    Cornbread

  58. 58. Horace Silver Quintet

    The Cape Verdean Blues

  59. 59. Wayne Shorter

    The All Seeing Eye

  60. 60. LarryYoung

    Unity

  61. 61. Ornette Coleman Trio

    At The "Golden Circle" Stockholm Vol. 1

  62. 62. Ornette Coleman Trio

    At The "Golden Circle" Stockholm Vol. 2

  63. 63. Don Cherry

    Complete Communion[hi-res audio debuts]

  64. 64. Joe Henderson

    Mode For Joe

  65. 65. Wayne Shorter

    Adam's Apple

  66. 66. Cecil Taylor

    Unit Structures

  67. 67. Cecil Taylor

    Conquistador!

  68. 68. Lou Donaldson

    Alligator Bogaloo

  69. 69. McCoy Tyner

    The Real McCoy

  70. 70. Herbie Hancock

    Speak Like A Child

  71. 71. Donald Byrd

    Black Byrd

  72. 72. Marlena Shaw

    Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?

  73. 73. Cassandra Wilson

    New Moon Daughter

  74. 74. Norah Jones

    Come Away With Me

  75. 75. Gregory Porter

    Liquid Spirit