One of the more extravagant booths at this years High End 2015 was from Astel & Kern, the company now has an extensive line of players covering a variety of price points which to be honest... don't sound that much different from one another. This years show has seen the company unveil the AK380 player that will sit at the top of their price range. That price is £3000 which I find every bit as unnecessary as it is ridiculous. Demoing the unit next to the little brother the AK240 and even the AK120 the audible difference appears virtually indistinguishable. Technically speaking the unit offers dual 32bit DAC's, reduced jitter (oh goody), native DSD, 256gb hard drive and larger battery. Its a beautiful player but is as ergonomically friendly as a ninja star. It does sound very good, as good as most of the other far cheaper players on display this year from both AK and their competitors. While listening I had the player crash and freeze an number of times (which you can see in the gallery bellow) but I was assured that this will be fixed upon final release.... at £3000 i should hope so.
All in AK are still make good sounding, grossly overpriced players. The AK380's price and virtually indistinguishable benefit in sound quality (extremely minute if at all) from competitors at many times less cost means that I strongly advise you not to drink the companies Kool-Aid on this one. To me the AK380 seems far more of an exploitation of this hobby than a contribution to it.
You can find out more about Astell & Kern's products here.