Go small, play big with Astell&Kern KANN MAX

Listen to this article

Editor’s brief: These days, with miniaturization of electronics, it is now possible to have incredible power in tiny packages. Just look at our smartphones, packing supercomputing power in a little bigger than our palms. Likewise, in the high fidelity world, going small these days may just mean getting an even punchier package while physical dimensions become smaller. The Astell&Kern KANN MAX is just one such beacon of sound. Read more below.

SINGAPORE – The KANN MAX is the fourth model in the highly regarded KANN series of portable digital audio players (DAPs) from industry leader Astell&Kern. The KANN MAX surpasses the power output (15Vrms) of its award-winning predecessor, the KANN ALPHA, which was lauded by audiophiles around the world for its focus on high output and ultra-clear sound.

This increased strength is contained within a smaller and lighter chassis made possible by developments in design and audio technology. This means that a greater range of headphones, including high-end, high-impedance models, can be optimally driven without an external amplifier. Music lovers can listen to their favorite albums in their entirety, just as they were recorded in the studio.

Astell&Kern KANN MAX key features at a glance

  • Features 4-step gain level with maximum 15Vrms output to support a wider variety of headphones without distortion
  • Innovative circuit design with ultra-high output and low noise in an even smaller-sized player
  • Equipped with ESS ES9038Q2M Quad-DAC for exceptionally clear and balanced sound
  • Features proprietary TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology
  • Supports playback of high-resolution digital audio files up to 32-bit 768 kHz/Native DSD512
  • Bluetooth 5.0 and 24-bit wireless codec (aptX™ HD, LDAC) support
  • Replay Gain function uniformly adjusts volume playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz

Innovative circuit design = low noise levels

The audio quality suffers as the noise floor rises in tandem with the power output. Astell&Kern’s new 15Vrms ‘Super’ output setting is made possible by cutting-edge integrated circuit design.

To begin, a traditional analogue volume controller is used to provide a high quality dynamic range with no quality loss. Next, the DC-DC power supply’s interference ripple noise (the shaking noise phenomenon that occurs when power is supplied) is eliminated by individually configuring the power supply integrated circuit for each audio section (split into DAC, volume, and amp). All audible noise is reduced, including that which is amplified, as in the operational amplifier. Finally, the smaller physical size of the KANN MAX is achieved by subdividing a printed circuit board (PCB) of the same size as the larger KANN ALPHA into 12 layers.

Quad DAC and playback

When it comes to KANN players, the KANN MAX is the first to feature four ES9038Q2M DACs for a powerful audio output. Using Quad DACs, wherein each DAC is fully allocated to four separate amp channels, allows for maximum expression of the original sound’s richness and realism.

With the help of Astell&Kern’s amplifier circuit technology, which subtly and naturally boosts the DAC’s strengths, the device’s precise decoding capabilities restore the distortion-free studio-quality sound.

Playing files up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD512, the KANN MAX also features 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm headphone connections to suit a wider range of headphones and in-ear monitors (IEM). Instead of using rings like most other products do for the headphone connector, this one uses a gold PVD coating method to reduce contact noise from the output jacks. This enhances the look and performance of the product.

The KANN MAX improves upon the system by including a Replay Gain feature. It uniformly and automatically adjusts the volume of playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz, so you can listen to your playlists without having to adjust the volume every time.

KANN MAX featuring TERATON ALPHA technology

Astell&Kern’s TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution, the product of years of development, is capable of reproducing music with a high degree of fidelity with respect to the source recording. The digital-to-analog signal conversion (DAC) that occurs at the audio output interface stage is made possible by the technology that Astell&Kern has tirelessly developed and perfected over the years: the elimination of power noise and the provision of efficient power consumption and amplification.


The KANN MAX can play music from a connected Bluetooth source, like a smartphone, using the player’s BT Sink feature. In addition to its support for 24-bit aptXTM HD and LDAC codecs, the KANN MAX’s Bluetooth® 5.0 allows for a longer range and more reliable wireless connection to headphones.

The KANN MAX has Wi-Fi and AK File Drop for streamlined wireless data exchange. To further simplify music administration, users on the same network can share files wirelessly using a computer, smartphone, or FTP client.

Battery and storage

Constant playback for 13 hours has been made possible by optimizing the size of all power-related components and the power circuit. The KANN MAX has 64GB of internal storage and supports microSD cards of up to 1TB in capacity, allowing users to store and transport an enormous music library.

Powerful streamlined design

The bold design concept of the KANN series continues with this player, which features a more streamlined profile thanks to its sharply tapering hexagonal top line and the hairline treatment on the back, which conveys a sense of speed and power.

Pricing & Availability

The Astell&Kern KANN MAX high-resolution digital audio player will be available in Singapore later this month at a retail price of S$1,999 (including GST), and can be found at AV One (www.av1group.com.sg), Connect IT, E1 Personal Audio, Jaben, Treoo, and TK Foto.