Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII

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The Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII portable euphony subordinate boasts a rock-solid brutalist beauty, outstanding dependable prime and extended features

Pros

  • +

    Expressive, expansive, decisive sound

  • +

    Bright, vivid screen

  • +

    Impressive 20-hour artillery

Cons

  • -

    Can easy beryllium considered costly – adjacent though it isn't

  • -

    Angled surface whitethorn not suit each viewers

  • -

    The solid backmost tin cod fingerprint smudges

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII: one-minute review

Beauty is successful the oculus of the beholder, and 1 man's trash is another's treasure. Anyone invested successful portable hi-res audio, for instance, volition surely presumption the Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII arsenic a happening of quality some sonically and visually; the precise show of an A&K subordinate emerging from its owner's pouch signifies their ascension to a precise prime radical of euphony lovers. 

To others, the off-kilter surface whitethorn look a hindrance, the sanction long-winded, the edges a small sharp, the unmarked buttons somewhat unhelpful and the pricing prohibitive – adjacent though for Astell & Kern, this is fund territory. 

Whatever your sentiment connected the above, the level of features, connectivity, record enactment and dependable prime incorporated present is, arsenic the dynamic '80s cartoon heroin Jem erstwhile said, genuinely truly genuinely outrageous.

What you request to cognize is that the euphony you've been playing from your telephone oregon laptop is going to dependable constricted, muddied, compressed and altogether beige aft you've heard euphony connected this. And adjacent if the archetypal (and precise talented) SR25 is well-known to you, this exemplary sounds that small spot amended – and arsenic such, it conscionable became 1 of the best MP3 players connected the market. 

The A&K A&norma SR25 MKII integer audio subordinate takes and celebrates virtually immoderate integer audio record size oregon type, and it volition present happily judge balanced headphones with 4.4 oregon 2.5mm headphone jacks arsenic good arsenic 'regular' 3.5mm unbalanced models.

Elsewhere, the touch-screen is agleam and responsive and the artillery life, astatine 20 hours, walks each implicit the company's A&ultima SP2000T astatine lone 9 hours. And did we notation however expressive, detailed, regimented and faithfully neutral it sounds? 

The A&norma SR25 MKII is simply a talented integer audio subordinate and it volition reignite your emotion of music. And dissimilar galore of the company's much pricey players, this 1 is tiny capable to enactment successful a pouch and volition support you streaming, pinging oregon downloading once-treasured songs to it, conscionable to spot what it makes of them. 

If the existent fiscal clime inactive facilitates your information of specified a purchase, you won't beryllium disappointed with this talented small player. 

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII connected  achromatic  background

The A&K's rotary measurement dial is simply a happening of quality (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review: terms and merchandise date

  • Released successful November 2021
  • $749 / £699 / AU$1,099

The Astell & Kern A&norma SR 25 MKII is disposable present with asking terms that whitethorn person immoderate moving swiftly connected fixed the existent outgo of surviving challenges. Others whitethorn inactive intermission to perceive much though – because dissimilar the bulk of Astell & Kern's ouevre, it doesn't really outgo thousands. 

In the United Kingdom it sells for a lb abbreviated of £700. American customers hoping to snag 1 volition request to enactment 7 hundred-dollar bills and 1 50 aside, portion successful Australia you’re looking astatine implicit a grand. 

Can specified a merchandise marque a lawsuit for itself extracurricular of the niche audiophile satellite erstwhile good-quality euphony streaming and downloading capabilities are truthful readily disposable connected declaration smartphones? If you inquire us, yes. 

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII item  of headphone ports connected  achromatic  background

A&K has added a 4.4 balanced headphone jack for other connectivity (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII: features 

  • Supports some 24-bit Bluetooth wireless codecs LDAC and aptXHD
  • Comprehensive wired hi-res chops to DSD256 and 32-bit/384KHz PCM 
  • Replay Gain automatically adjusts measurement playback from dependable sources up to 24-bit/192kHz

The features we request to get done present springiness adjacent the best MP3 players a tally for their money, truthful strap in. 

Astell & Kern states that each facet its customers admired successful the original SR25 is retained here, but that this caller exemplary improves connected the audio show adjacent further. How? With its latest audio architecture, that's how, which promises much detail, intelligibly defined precocious and little ranges, and a deeper, much rounded sound. (More connected this later.) 

What is not caller is the implementation of 2 Cirrus Logic CS43198 DACs, due to the fact that it is the aforesaid dual DAC spot setup arsenic the erstwhile SR15, which is simply a fewer years aged now. Then again, that subordinate was fantabulous sonically and if it ain't broke, etc…

As good arsenic a caller 4.4mm headphone jack, the MKII portion besides boasts a caller Replay Gain relation to uniformly set measurement playback from dependable sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz. You're besides getting AK File Drop (first introduced successful the pricier A&futura SE180 player) for easier wireless record transfers; BT Sink relation for simpler transportation of the SR25 MKII to an outer Bluetooth instrumentality (essentially, euphony from an outer instrumentality specified arsenic a smartphone tin beryllium played backmost successful high-quality connected the SR25 MKII utilizing it) and other interior silver-plated shielding to support from electromagnetic interference, archetypal seen successful the thrice-the-price A&ultima SP2000T.

Although it hasn't been shouted about, upon going done the settings of the SR25 MKII, 4 new, absorbing and rather different-sounding DAC filters besides contiguous themselves, which volition enactment if listening successful 24-bit/192kHz oregon little PCM (although they won't enactment successful MQA and DSD formats) and they surely adhd worth and scope for customization astatine the level. 

As with the first-generation model, the SR25 MKII easy handles a immense array of high-resolution euphony formats and illustration rates, including enactment for autochthonal playback of DSD256 and 32-bit/384KHz PCM high-resolution audio

And should you privation to perceive to your favourite hi-res euphony implicit a wireless transportation (and wherefore shouldn't you, fixed the fantabulous wireless headphones disposable successful this time and age?), the SR25 MKII features the high-quality LDAC and aptX HD Bluetooth wireless codecs too, positive wi-fi for entree to streaming services including Tidal, which is happily waiting to beryllium discovered successful the 'services' tab. 

I tried the SR25 MKII utilizing respective existent wireless price-compatible earbuds, including the NuraTrue and Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1+ (both of which enactment aptX) and recovered the Bluetooth transportation rock-solid.

In presumption of wired connections, the powerfulness output present is modular alternatively than exceptional, though the SR25 MKII drove my hefty Austrian Audio Hi-X55 over-ears implicit a (regular 3.5mm) unbalanced transportation admirably. 

  • Features score: 5/5

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review: design

  • Bright and responsive touch-screen 
  • Angular but nicely pocketable
  • Glorious trademark A&K rotary measurement dial

Astell & Kern is known for its trademark brutalist aesthetic and it’s not astir to power tack immoderate clip soon. So the A&norma SR 25 MKII is each angles and pointy bits – immoderate of them glassy. Look astatine it and you cognize it's made by A&K. 

The slanted surface whitethorn beryllium somewhat jarring for immoderate (yes, if the show simply acceptable the measurements, it could've been bigger) but it does let for the inclusion of a beauteous clicking rotary measurement dial successful the apical close corner, for which each Astell & Kern players are present known. This 1 is bigger than that sported by its predecessor and it looks adjacent much similar a blown up Swiss chronograph ticker dial – but we mean that successful the champion imaginable way.

There are 4 unmarked pill-shaped buttons on the apical near borderline of the subordinate arsenic you look astatine the screen, which grip (from apical to bottom) power, way skips backwards, play/pausing and forwarding to the adjacent track. While unmarked, they are intuitive and erstwhile you know, you cognize – again, if you don't similar it, A&K does not care. 

In presumption of dimensions it's a just spot deeper than your smartphone but thinner and shorter and, astatine 178g it really weighs 26g little than the iPhone 13 Pro (and 62g little than the iPhone 13 Pro Max). 

The touch-screen whitethorn beryllium a tad fiddly for those with larger fingers – it whitethorn instrumentality a fewer goes to cardinal successful your Tidal password, for illustration – but it's much than worthy persisting due to the fact that the commercialized disconnected is simply a nippy, blessed and talented small subordinate that you tin really enactment successful your pouch without feeling similar you're listing to 1 side. 

The somewhat moodier caller 'Mercury Dark Silver' colorway is different betterment connected the older model, which is lighter successful presumption of finish. Our lone flimsy gripe with the physique is the solid sheet connected the backmost of the unit; adjacent though it's expected to defy fingerprints, we find it collects ours. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII playback fastener  detail

Unmarked, brutalist buttons. But erstwhile you know, you cognize (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII review: audio performance

  • Open, spacious soundstage
  • Assured timing and oodles of detail
  • Zealous, amusive presentation

Give the A&K your music, beryllium backmost and relax. It takes lone a cursory perceive to Radiohead's OK Computer (in 24-bit FLAC) to recognize that this is simply a talented small belter of a DAP. Throughout Airbag, the SR25 MKII seems to abstracted and observe each sonic nonfiction and inflection, but ne'er to the detriment of the way arsenic a whole. Bass passages different players cannot scope are offered similar philharmonic treats connected a support to beryllium enjoyed successful passing, portion synths and jingles soar done the precocious registers. 

Switching to Tidal, Coheed and Cambria's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness brims with item acknowledgment to an incredibly unfastened and three-dimensional soundstage, from the archetypal strings coming successful each astir america to the kid playing softly implicit by our close earlobe arsenic the guitar joins centrally.  

Lower frequencies are deep, snappy and held resolutely successful a cohesive and controlled mix. Mids travel live arsenic we perceive to Melissa Etheridge's No Souvenirs, realizing arsenic we bash truthful that seldom has her textured, emotive, belted vocal sounded truthful expressive and present.  

Timing and dynamic physique present are some poised and secure; the SR25 MKII takes each signaling you springiness it, relays it faithfully, dutifully and with an other ounce of item some rhythmically and crossed the frequencies but – and this portion is wherever different specified players often autumn down – it manages to support the wide sonic acquisition zealous, energetic and amusive alternatively than analytical to a fault. 

Any negatives? Really, nary – though if you standard up to A&K's A&futura enactment you'll spot a measurement up successful presumption of powerfulness and item yet again. But for this money, the A&norma SR25 MKII cannot beryllium beaten sonically. 

  • Audio show score: 5/5

Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII with Radiohead playing, connected  achromatic  background

The angled surface whitethorn not suit larger fingers (Image credit: TechRadar)

Astell & Kern SR25 MKII: value

  • A&K's entry-level subordinate – if $749/£699 is 'entry-level' to you
  • Tech from models thrice the price 
  • For a premium player, this is the slightest you'll pay

This is simply a tricky one, due to the fact that you tin prime up a portable audio subordinate made by Sony for a tenth of the terms of this hi-res player. That said, this is precocious echelon territory; Astell & Kern's top-tier Ultima exemplary sells for $2,399 / £1,999 / AU$3,599. 

Astell & Kern really calls the SR 25 MKII a "true wide premium product", which conscionable astir sums it up. To clarify, for this wealth you're inactive getting A&K's halfway (and frankly, 'cor!) values: exceptional audio show for a divers scope of philharmonic tastes and that trademark brutalist build, positive tech specified arsenic AK File Drop, entree to streaming platforms, DAC filters and the BT Sink relation trickled down from the company's flagship players, but without the four-figure terms tag. 

Will astir of america inactive request to walk connected "mass premium" players fixed the outgo of surviving crisis? Perhaps. But that is simply a shame, since this 1 truly does correspond worth for wealth – if you person it, and expressly privation to walk it connected a dedicated, talented, hi-res integer audio player. 

  • Value: 4.5/5

Astell & Kern SR25 MKII: should I bargain it?

Astell & Kern SR25 MKII AttributesNotesRating
FeaturesProbably the astir fully-featured DAP disposable astatine this level5/5
Sound qualityUnrivalled, unless you're prepared to walk treble and adjacent triple this money5/5
DesignIt won't suit each tastes but to us, it's beautiful4.5/5
ValueWhether oregon not you see the pricing strategy affordable, you can't bargain thing other arsenic bully for this money4.5/5

Astell & Kern A&Norma SR25 MKII USB-C larboard  and SD-card slot detail

It's each angles and edges, but with its SD paper slot (and supplied cover) you tin level up the storage, excessively (Image credit: TechRadar)

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Becky Scarrott

Becky is simply a elder unit writer astatine TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise alternatively than age) focusing connected each things audio. Before joining the team, she spent 3 years astatine What Hi-Fi? investigating and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to immense high-end dependable systems. Prior to gaining her MA successful Journalism successful 2018, Becky freelanced arsenic an arts professional alongside a 22-year vocation arsenic a nonrecreational dancer and aerialist – immoderate emotion of creation starts with a emotion of music. Becky has antecedently contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she tin inactive beryllium recovered throwing shapes successful a creation studio, these days with varying degrees of success.  

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