ASTELL & KERN A&UL­TIMA SP1000

US$3499 /

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Oh, a mas­sive mp3 player!

Re­ally? Get back to your iPod Clas­sic. Putting mp3s on this thing would be like wash­ing a Fer­rari with a Daiso sponge. Sure, it can han­dle ev­ery­one’s favourite for­mat (and a lot of it, given the 256GB stor­age ca­pac­ity), but what the SP1000 re­ally wants is your acronyms. Think wav, flac, aac and the rest, all en­joyed via the head­phone port, op­ti­cal out or bal­anced 2.5mm socket. Ru­mour has it, ev­ery time you plug in a pair of $10 head­phones an au­dio­phile some­where screams to the tune of An­other Day in Par­adise.

But it doesn’t look like a Fer­rari…

Quite right. In­stead, it’s styled like some­thing straight out of Tony Stark’s labs (au­dio divi­sion), with a stain­less steel and cop­per build that whis­pers “Hold me and I’ll hold all of your favourites in loss­less qual­ity”. It’s all bev­elled edges and hard, un­for­giv­ing cor­ners – prob­a­bly quite apt for own­ers who care more for their cu­rated vinyl col­lec­tions than for any­one else’s opin­ions.

Can they re­ally hear the dif­fer­ence?

Be­tween a poxy 96kbps mp3 and 32-bit/384kHz au­dio? Who can’t? OK, quite a lot of peo­ple – and files of the lat­ter qual­ity are rarer than plat­inum-plated iPods. But if you care about au­dio then the SP1000 will care for you. Its stun­ning shell con­tains an octa-core pro­ces­sor and dual-DAC setup ded­i­cated to de­liv­er­ing the best pos­si­ble lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – which in­cludes na­tive sup­port for 11.2MHz DSD (up to 256 times bet­ter qual­ity than CD).

Can I watch movies on it?

You’re slightly miss­ing the whole ‘this ma­chine sounds fan­tas­tic’ thing. While it does have a 5in dis­play with 720p res­o­lu­tion, that’s only for the cause of help­ing you pe­ruse your doubt­less mas­sive mu­sic col­lec­tion in all its sharp, bright beauty. In fact, the en­tire in­ter­face has been de­signed around your au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence (and not dis­tract­ing you from it), with min­i­mal­ist menus, con­trols and an­i­ma­tions. It’s pris­tine, pared-back and truly premium. Which is good, given the $3k-top­ping price tag.

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