Astell & Kern A&norma SR15 £599
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.