Astell & Kern A&norma SR15 £599

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

A quirky de­sign and an even quirkier name (A&K also makes a player called the A&ul­tima), this player has du­al­dacs, 3.5mm and bal­anced 2.5mm head­phone jacks, 64GB of stor­age (ex­pand­able via mi­crosd card), and built-in Blue­tooth, wi-fi and Tidal.

Many of those fea­tures were on the A&norma’s pre­de­ces­sor, the AK70 MKII (£600), but here we have more ad­vanced DACS and an im­proved in­ter­face. The SR15 can also be used as a dig­i­tal source when its USB type-b out­put is con­nected to an ex­ter­nal DAC or am­pli­fier.

For­tu­nately, the A&norma has as much sonic as­pi­ra­tion as de­sign am­bi­tion, with a shrewdly de­tailed, dy­namic yet lush per­for­mance that could give the AK70 MKII, let alone smart­phones, an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex.

Bat­tery life is good too, we get around nine hours play­ing at rea­son­ably high vol­umes – both wired and via Blue­tooth. The A&norma has the per­for­mance to take home the hon­ours in this cat­e­gory. Add in its wide com­pat­i­bil­ity and up-to-the minute user in­ter­face and Prod­uct of the Year sta­tus is as­sured.

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