The iPod may have died at the turn of the 2010s, but for audiophiles, Astell&Kern’s handheld Hi-fi Digital Audio Players (DAPs) couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Since 2012, the company’s developed some of the most premium-sounding audio gear consumers could ask for, with the SR35 being a culmination of the company’s decade-long innovation in the audio category. Now in its fourth avatar (following last year’s SR25 MKII) the SR35 boasts even better specs, with 20 hours of continuous playback, Quad DAC, and two-step Gain control – all powered by Astell&Kern’s New Generation Amp technology, featured for the first time in their portable A&norma product range.
Designers: So Yean Kim, Ji Sun Kim, Jong Min Jeong, Dong O Hwang, Seon Mi Ko & Jong Seung Kim
The A&norma SR35 lives up to Astell&Kern’s lofty legacy. It delivers sound that rivals full-size players, ensuring you get the most out of your music on the go. At the heart of the SR35 is the Cirrus Logic CS43198 Quad DAC Chip, ensuring impeccable sound reproduction. What sets it apart is the inclusion of Astell&Kern’s TERATON ALPHA technology, which enhances dynamics, spatial perception, resolution, and separation, delivering true-to-life Hi-Fi audio that does your lossless music collection true justice.
The experience is powered by Astell&Kern’s latest amp technology. Pulling from its top-end A&ultima line, the SR35 is the first in the A&norma series to get this high-end amplifier tech, which effectively improves noise reduction at high power output. To ensure consistent operation with various impedance output sources, the output end of the SR35 is enhanced with increased current handling capability, thereby optimizing performance across multiple devices. The SR35 comes with two-step gain-matching (“Normal Gain” and “High Gain”) for different headphones and IEMs, and houses three jacks on top for wired connections including one unbalanced 3.5mm out, and balanced 2.5mm and 4.4mm outputs respectively.
Although the audiophile community expresses much disdain for wireless experiences, the A&norma SR35 does a compelling job of handling wireless audio well too. The SR35 embraces the future of music playback with Bluetooth v5.0, supporting LDAC and Qualcomm® aptX™ HD codecs. Additionally, its dual-band (2.4/5GHz) WiFi ensures uninterrupted streaming and Roon Ready compatibility, allowing you to enjoy HiFi music through various services. The BT Sink function connects the SR35 to external devices via Bluetooth, offering a cableless, wireless solution for music file management, and Roon Ready compatibility elevates your audio experience by delivering the best sound quality through network systems.
The A&norma SR35’s design is instantly memorable with its iconic slanted 3.6-inch HD display that’s carried forward from its SR15 in 2018. With perhaps the strangest bezels on the planet, the hi-fi audio player boasts a tilted UI that cleverly avoids accidental touches from your thumb or fingers while holding the device. The tactile experience gets carried forward to that large textured volume crown on the side, which becomes a defining element of sorts for the SR35’s design. The other defining element is its compact, chiseled form factor that Astell&Kern describe as ‘warrior-inspired’. The bezel on the left is shaped like a broad sword with a pointed tip, while the large volume knob almost doubles as a shield-like element. The angled surfaces also lend a rugged appeal to the hi-fi audio player, eliciting a comparison with Tesla’s armored Cybertruck. All this combined has earned the SR35 multiple accolades including the iF Design Award 2023.
But it’s not all about outer aesthetics; the user interface has received a thoughtful overhaul too. The SR35 boasts a redesigned Crimson-themed UI/UX for an immersive music experience while simultaneously offering intuitive navigation through music categories with simple gestures as well as a powerful search feature and integrated album art for a visually engaging experience. The dark black and red theme not only reduces eye fatigue but also prolongs the SR35’s industry-leading battery life. Built with a 3,150mAh battery on the inside, the SR35 provides an impressive 20 hours of continuous playback that comfortably gets you through long-haul flights, long workdays, vacations, or even lazy weekends when listening to great music can become somewhat of a ritual.
The A&norma SR35 weighs a mere 184 grams, despite its all-metal body that gives it a premium in-hand experience. It sports a USB-C port at the base that lets you charge your audio player or connect it to a Windows or macOS device for transferring files. For enthusiasts, the SR35 starts at $800, undercutting Astell&Kern’s A&ultima series (while still delivering all the power-features) as well as the competition.