Astell&Kern KANN MAX DAP, AK HC2 Dual DAC Dongle, Astell&Kern Pathfinder IEMs Munich Launch

Posted on 13th May, 2022

Astell&Kern KANN MAX DAP, AK HC2 Dual DAC Dongle, Astell&Kern Pathfinder IEMs Munich Launch

Astell & Kern announces its new KANN MAX player and Pathfinder IEMS as well as the HC2 Dual DAC cable, which will all be at High End Munich 2022.

Astell&Kern has revealed its compact KANN MAX digital audio player as well as the fruits of its latest Campfire Audio collaboration in the hybrid Pathfinder IEMs. Additionally, they are launching a new inline HC2 DAC for mobile phone listening.



You may have seen that Apple has pulled the plug on the iPod after 21 years of service. However, with digital audio players such as Astell&Kern's KANN MAX, is it any wonder?

The new hi-res portable music player trumps its KANN Alpha predecessor in pretty much every respect, including power (15V RMS) and bragging rights of four ES9038Q2M DACs, all wrapped in a smaller, lighter body.

The result is that the KANN MAX will play nice with more headphones, even those with high impedance, without needing a separate amp. You also have a selection of headphone connections covering 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm plugs. Furthermore, each of the three headphone output jacks is coated in gold PVD to minimise contact noise, which A&K says should improve the sound even more.


By employing Quad DACs, one DAC can be allocated to each of the four individual amp channels resulting, according to A&K, in more sonic depth and realism and should, combined with the brand's amplifier circuit technology, provide ultra-low distortion.

The KANN MAX supports files up to 32-bit/ 768kHz PCM and native DSD512. Also, A&K's nifty Replay Gain functionality automatically and uniformly adjusts volume playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz to save you from having to manually volume match between tracks in a playlist.

The new DAP also benefits from Astell & Kern's patented Teraton Alpha Sound Solution, removing power noise and providing efficient power consumption and amplification.


Hooking the KANN MAX to your mobile device is via the BT Sink function, so you can play tracks at the highest quality. Bluetooth 5.0 is also present and supports 24-bit aptX HD and LDAC codecs. In addition, there is wi-fi for connecting straight to the internet, and AK File Drop promises to make wireless file transfer a breeze.

Finally, battery stamina is quoted at 13-hours, and onboard memory is 64 GB which can be expanded up to 1 TB via microSD card.


Astell & Kern has teamed up with US headphone maker Campfire Audio again, this time to create Pathfinder. The companies previously collaborated on the Solaris X earphones.


Pathfinder sports Knowles Dual-Diaphragm Balanced Armature (BA) drivers and, because they have a single-coil operating two individual diaphragms, A&K claims they are more powerful than an equivalent model with a single, larger diaphragm. This, says the manufacturer, results in a warmer, more natural midrange.

Taking care of the higher frequencies is Campfire Audio's patented Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (TAEC) tech, which is said to optimise performance by adjusting the volume of space available in front of the driver providing a direct passage from the driver to your ear. As a result, we're told to expect fatigue-free highs without sibilance.

The low-end is the job of dual custom 10mm dynamic drivers. An all-new design from Campfire Audio, with hybrid diaphragms housed in a Radial Venting 3D-printed acoustic chamber. Each driver is vented through a specially designed opening at its face, apparently creating a larger soundstage. According to Campfire, this makes for a faster and more powerful low-frequency response without unnecessary pressure or bass bloat.


The A&K Pathfinder comes bundled with three cables covering 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone connections. However, the spotlight is firmly placed on the all-new Silver-Plated Copper Litz Cable where four conductors are arranged side by side and promise “the most transparent and extended sounds possible”, according to the company. Elsewhere, the custom beryllium/copper MMCX connectors provide more resilience against wear and tear than regular brass connectors.


Rounding things off for the A&K Munich launch is the AK HC2 Dual DAC Cable with the promise to transform the audio of your mobile devices and computers via their USB-C port (or Lightning port via the supplied adapter) and a 4.4mm balanced headphone connection.


Under the hood of this 17mm x 50mm x 10mm dongle are two Cirrus Logic CS43198 MasterHiFi DACs that support hi-res files up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD256 - the same DACS are found in Astell & Kern's A&norma range of digital audio players.

These hand-off to an analogue amplifier potent enough to drive most headphones and boasts bespoke capacitors claimed to optimise the audio circuit, suppress power fluctuations and minimise power consumption.

A&K states that distortion and noise are reduced by processing the digital signal after it passes through the dual-shielded cable instead of having the DAC in the USB terminal connected directly to the device.


The AK HC2 arrives Roon Tested so subscribers benefit from the management and sonic features of this multi-music platform, while additional convenience comes thanks to volume control available via the dedicated Android control app.

The KANN MAX (£1,199/ €1,499) and AK HC2 Dual DAC Cable (£169/ €199) will be available from mid-June. The £1,899/ €2,199 Pathfinder IEMS will go on sale from mid-July.

These new launches will be showcased at the High End Show 2022 in Munich (19th-22nd) at the Astell&Kern stand in Hall 1, D02/E03a.

Visit Astell&Kern for more information


    Jay Garrett's avatar

    Jay Garrett

    StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Headphones
    Tags: armour home  astell & kern  astell kern 


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