Astell&Kern is back with another reference hi-res audio player: the Kann. Paired with exceptional headphones and top-notch recordings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more blissful sonic experience from a hi-res audio player at this price point. Just be warned, Kann’s price tag is as big as its bulky size.

A bold design

Every Astell&Kern player has a bold, distinctive design that breaks the mold. Kann is no different. The Kann’s aluminum mass is sculpted into a trapezoidal work of art that is remarkably natural to hold and use. The Kann comes in a choice of Astro Silver and Eos Blue finishes. My review sample came in the former.

The Kann’s sides are ribbed. Slightly scalloped lines traverse the back. I tip my hat to the industrial design team; the play of light and shadows on the player is something truly beautiful to look at.

The player’s right side is rounded. That simple attention to detail made it comfortable to hold with my right thumb naturally resting on the volume dial.

The Kann’s tapered backside makes the large, ribbed volume dial well-suited for left or right handed use. However, I noticed a design quirk in my testing.

kann 03 Astell&Kern

The Kann’s rear has a slightly scalloped design.

To lower the volume, you rotate the dial toward the Kann’s screen. On a few occasions, while the player’s screen was active, my thumb inadvertently hit the touch screen when lowering the volume. Because Astell&Kern’s interface makes the entire touch screen part of the volume control, hitting the outer edge made the volume jump louder. The sudden volume increase jolted me. If you rotate the volume dial with your left thumb across the front screen, the likelihood of accidentally swiping the screen becomes even greater. After a few days (and jolts) I learned to be more careful.

Be careful. You might accidentally hit the screen when lowering the volume, causing the volume to ju Astell&Kern

Be careful. You might accidentally hit the screen when lowering the volume, causing the volume to jump louder.

The player’s aluminum housing got very warm when I used it for extended periods. The heat output was exacerbated when I put the Kann in closed quarters, like a pocket. The player never overheated, but it’s something to monitor.

Astell&Kern has moved all physical player controls to the Kann’s front, directly under the 4-inch 800 x 480-resolution touchscreen. Buttons are large and easy to decipher by touch.

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