If the term “entry level” brings to mind basic no-frills functionality and wallet-friendly pricing, Astell&Kern has a few surprises in store with the second generation of its A&norma SR25 digital audio player (DAP), which promises improved sound performance and more connectivity for just under US$750.

On the outside, things are pretty much the same as last year’s model – the aluminum housing sports familiar angular lines, the offset LCD touch panel is still funky but unchanged, there’s a knurled volume wheel to one side (which has been made more defined for this model) and it still tips the scales at about 6.27 oz (~178 g).

But A&K is promising a much improved listening experience, offering more detail than its predecessor – “the natural high-resolution sonics deliver clearly defined upper and lower ranges and a deeper, more rounded sound.” Replay Gain functionality introduced in the $2,500 SP2000T player earlier in the year makes it through to this entry-point DAP, which auto adjusts playback volume across tracks (up to a resolution of 24-bit/192 kHz) for a consistent listening experience.

There’s also an extra output port up top. Joining the 3.5-mm unbalanced and 2.5-mm balanced ports is a 4.4-mm balanced headphone jack which is reported to provide improved dynamic range and bass response, and spread the audio out over a wider soundstage.

A&K's "entry-point" digital audio player can be wrapped in a memory material protective case, though it's an optional extra
A&K’s “entry-point” digital audio player can be wrapped in a memory material protective case, though it’s an optional extra

Astell&Kern

The SR25 MkII also gains AK File Drop introduced with the SE180 model to help make wireless file transfer a breeze, and there’s a feature to connect to an external music source such as a smartphone over Bluetooth “enabling music to be played back in high-quality on the Astell&Kern player.”

Wireless connectivity options remain as before, with Bluetooth 4.2 supporting aptX HD and LDAC codecs for high-resolution playback and 802.11n Wi-Fi for streaming from popular services via a home router. There’s still 64 GB of NAND storage with microSD card expansion, dual Cirrus Logic DACs and a quad-core CPU remain, and the device supports native playback of 32-bit/384-kHz PCM or DSD256 audio files. But there’s now extra silver-plated shielding inside to protect components from electromagnetic interference.

Per-charge battery life does appear to take a bit of a hit though. A&K reckons that listeners will get about 20 hours when playing 16-bit/44.1-kHz FLAC files through the unbalanced headphone jack at about 50 percent volume with the EQ and display off. That’s about an hour less than with the previous model. Total harmonic distortion is 0.0006 percent via the 3.5-mm jack, or 0.0005 percent through the balanced outputs.

The A&norma SR25 MkII player goes on sale from early November for $749.

Product page: A&norma SR25 MKII

Audio New Atlas