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Astell & Kern Junior (AK Jr.) Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by doublea71, Apr 24, 2015.
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  1. Hellkitchen
    No it's not that. Line out is off and even if on it requires a confirmation before setting the volume to maximum. I'm afraid it is some kind of ghost touch on the display. Maybe the protective film? I'm using the one that was supplied with the jr.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
  2. Asphodel
    Hello, folks, I finally got into the world of Hi-Fi audio with the AK JR, and so far...
    Well, I thought I'd ask here for some help on getting the most out of my device, as well as give my own impressions so far.
    First off, disclosure; I got this largely because I was sick and tired of devices dying after a year, maybe half a year, and I figured Hi-Fi devices ought to take a bit more punishment.

    Second - well, the quality really is pretty great, even with junky earbuds.
    I picked up some high fidelity plugs, but they're the type that go directly into your ears and - in addition to being pretty uncomfortable - don't seem to stay put, or offer a huge amount of variation in sound quality, especially when compared to song quality.
    At this point, I'm thinking I just might wear clunky headphones around for the sound quality and comfort.

    So, the AK Jr...

    It seems a little questionable, to be honest, I kind of feel like I wasted my cash. Maybe I'm handling it wrong, but there's usually a 3-8 second delay between switching songs, something that I haven't dealt with on low-fidelity Ipods, Zunes, or the APGtek (my previous player). I've read this might be due to the vast majority of songs being stored on the device, but - what's the point of that capacity if it takes so long to use? Currently removing all but a hundred to see if that has a noticeable effect. If not, I'd love to know some ways to speed up song-swapping.

    Two - what do you all use to copy your music over? I've used Musicbee for some time, but the format it exports for playlists - m3u - doesn't seem to work. There's an option to export static playlists as .pls files, but even with the song data located correctly (Music\AlbumName\Song_Title.format), the playlist is detected on my player... But doesn't detect music, instead displaying gibberish as if it's reading some things from the playlist, but out of order. I'm open to suggestions here!

    Battery life seems pretty good, the player is really sharp, though, and there seems to be no efficient way to lock it while allowing for transfer between songs. Tapping the power once disables the volume control on the right, but like Hellkitchen, I get a pretty bad audio variance between songs, even songs that have a fairly similar output pre-transfer. Not sure what that is, and not 100% sure it's the JR, trying to narrow it down so I can get some more help/help other people looking for answers...

    Honestly, I just want a rugged player that plays music and only music, with a big capacity. No art, no frills, no touchy-buttons and the like. Alas, I don't think there's such a thing, haha! :floatsmile:

    Though I mentioned a lot of complaints, I'd wager most are user unfamiliarity, and I'm hoping to get some advice on those things (especially what y'all use for your music transfer. Help a guy out, natch?); the audio quality is definitely better then the faint, tinny sound I'm used to, and I won't deny that the player looking and sounding great is a nice change of pace.

    Hellkitchen; if I figure out what's causing the audio disparity, I'll report back here.
    Things I'm gonna test, unless someone comes back with the obvious solution I'm probably missing, are file formats (does it only occur with certain formats? If so, what? I've got a lot of different types of music... .mp3, .flac, .ogg, more uncommon formats), the shuffle feature, and maybe trying to get it volume locked. That's all that jumps out at me at the moment. Here's hoping we can crack this one! :darthsmile:
  3. Hellkitchen
    Hi, thank you for your thoughts. In my case it is not a matter of audio disparity. The volume goes really high or really low randomly and it's very dangerous.
    I'm noticing that this happens always when the player is powered on for the first time and seems it doesn't happen afterwards. It surely is a software issue.
  4. Hellkitchen
    I quote myself because it happened again and this time it wasn't just after the power on. I'm really angry. It's a shame I can't enjoy this dap because it can hurts my ears. I've already put it on sales.
    Never gonna buy an A&K product again.
  5. Asphodel
    Sorry to hear that - that really sucks. I still don't have any better advice or anything, do you have anything you plan to fall back on?
    Also, I doubt I'll figure out what's up before you've put it up/got a sale, but did you notice anything specific that might have caused the error? While I'm plinking around, I'll see if I can't try to reproduce it!
  6. stoobot
    Got to say I've not had some of the problems that others have mentioned in this thread. As a DAC between my 2012 MacBook Pro and HiFi system it seems to work fine for me.

    I've found the sound quality exceptional! Very slightly warm, but not overly flavoured.

    I've also found the UI to be quick enough to navigate for my needs. I keep most of my portable audio on a 200gb microSD for when I'm out and about.

    For transfer I just drag and drop into my own folder structure in the Jr, then point MP3tag at the AK to tidy up any dodgy tags or missing artwork. The only thing that annoys me is that sometimes where artwork is higher than 500x500 resolution it won't display - so I have to replace with lower res art. I feel like this is going to annoy me when i eventually upgrade to a player with a higher resolution display.

    My only real firmware issue is that I don't seem to have a way to 'lock' the volume wheel when the player is in my pocket. I can sort of understand why they stopped support for the Jr OS, given that it's pretty much the only player in the line up that doesn't run off an android based system - but it's still disappointing that support stopped so quickly, especially considering that the unit proved so popular.

    Not sure that I'd be brand loyal to A&K in the long term based on the withdrawal of support for what I'd consider a fairly new unit. I've thought about upgrading to the AK70 a few times, but I'm a bit apprehensive that as soon as I buy one, the updates will vanish because it's "old" and the Kann is the new star pupil. I'm not sure if others such as Onkyo and FiiO behave in a similar way, or whether this is unique to A&K.

    Even with this said, the sound quality is so good that I'd highly recommend the Jr to anyone buying their first hi res standalone DAP - especially now they can be picked up for about £200.

    Next step is to upgrade my IEMs to some Noble Tridents or maybe CA Nova (other suggestions welcome!)
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
    Asphodel likes this.
  7. Hellkitchen
    I don't know, it may be a communication error between the software and the hardware. I only know this is really frustrating, also because this DAP sounds extremely well with my headphones and my music in general (metal).
  8. Hellkitchen
    EDIT: I don't know, triyng again it doens't seem it is an hardware problem. I think the software is completely buggy.
    There are no custom firmwares for this DAP?

    EDIT 2: maybe I'm finding out what's wrong here. Every time I wake up the device it behaves like the display is touched and randomly it can start or stop songs, activate the shuffle, the repeat or, if I set the volume with the weel, se it too high or to low, just like if I touched the display.

    I think this is a software issue and this is incredible. Who is the ***** that wrote such a crappy software?
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  9. Asphodel
    Good to hear from you, stoobot, I really like your description of the sound as 'warm', that's really kind of how it feels, isn't it?
    Maybe I should bite the bullet and try dragging-and-dropping my own collection, though I like randomizing what gets copied over, something that's a bit easier with audio software. Hmn...
    Oh, one thing I can help with!

    If you go to the settings and activate 'lock mode' you can tap the power button to disable the volume control. It's not perfect, since if you're in a rough work environment you can still nudge the buttons enough to switch songs.
    But it's pretty good - if only there weren't a 3-8 second delay between certain songs for me, I'd be pretty pleased with it.
    Coincidentally, if you're not experiencing that, maybe it's my file structure?

    Hmn... The screen is a bit sensitive, surely, and occasionally picks up the plastic strips as touchpad activity, but if you have it in lock mode, it shouldn't be doing that at all.
    I'd be less inclined to think about that as a software error, and go through the following steps to isolate the problem.

    I. Make sure the device has lock mode enabled in settings, then make sure you tap the power button once to get it in lock mode. You can still use the previous/rewind, pause/play, and fast-forward/skip buttons in lock mode.
    II. Try removing the plastic film cover.
    III. Let the battery die, then re-charge it.

    If you're still experiencing issues, I'd assume a defective unit, maybe. Which could also explain your volume shifts.
  10. Mr Makarov
    Hi everyone!
    Today finally got my AK Jr (and the nice black case for it).
    I was on the fence about new DAP for years..but got a good deal on AK Jr. Previously I had experience with FiiO players and it was far from being a good one - discovered what FiiO was "not my cup of tea" (SQ wise).

    Will be comparing it to Sony Walkman F806 DAP (which I love), and some entry level DACs such as DragonFly Black, Hifiman EF2A and Meridian Explorer. (probably will throw FiiO X1 and X3 into the comparison list).

    -!! AK Jr can drive to very loud volume the Hifimans HE400 ad HE400i - nice! (just quick tested)

    -Will try it with: Sony XBA-3, XBA-4, Dunu Titan 1, Shure SE535, SE425 and SE846, Senns IE800 (very curious about that one), Hifiman HE400i and HE400 (can´t let it go) and Denon AH-D600

    Will report my findings soon
    Asphodel likes this.
  11. Forever8895
    Hello everyone,

    I am a new member here. I just enter this Hi-fi world a few months ago with my new Astell&Kern AK Jr. I usually pair it with my RHA Ma750 and the sound is quite terrific. Until today, when I wanted to pair it with my Harman kardon onyx studio (1st gen) via bluetooth, the sound is stutter and very laggy. The speaker works well with my iPad, so I guess the problem is with my AK Jr. Does anyone encounter such problem before? Thank you very much!
  12. stoobot
    Thanks for the volume lock tip! Had no idea I could do that. Thank you.

    Do you have gapless playback enabled? I find without gapless, there's a fair bit of latency between tracks. If you don't have it on, it's the little circular G on the play/pause/album art page and gives you a little tab with a G on the battery bar to show its on.

    Failing that, I think it might be down to folder structure. I find that playing full albums in gapless mode is pretty flawless, but sometimes where I have playlists that jump between albums and artist folders, it takes longer to load a track.

    Hi and welcome!

    I use mine paired with an Project E-box Bluetooth receiver and a Rega Brio amp. I find the Bluetooth to be pretty short range if I'm honest. If I set the Ak Jr down near the receiver it works great - but if I move around the room a lot it can stutter. In my car via Bluetooth it works perfectly - but the sound quality isn't as good as using the line out.

    I find that for Bluetooth to work well it needs a clear 'line of sight' to the receicer
    Asphodel and Forever8895 like this.
  13. Forever8895
    Seems like this little device is not for Bluetooth connection. Never mind, I am happy with the combination I have now. Thank you very much for your answer!
  14. Asphodel
    Thank you so much, stoobot! That is exactly what I needed to do, and though there's still more latency then other devices I've used, it's down to a second/two seconds at worst, which is more than manageable. Lovely!
    Glad I could help with the lock mechanism, it was a bit tricky to figure out - and I'll second having a good file structure. It had decreased my initial lag problems, somewhat, so I think having a good file structure + gapless is the way to go.

    Sorry to hear that the bluetooth isn't great; I haven't had a chance to really play around with it yet, but I'll let you know if I find anything useful. I'm glad it's working well for you beside that, though!

    Ah, good to hear that, let us know if you discover anything else useful! Here's hoping the player really turns out well for you!
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
    Forever8895 likes this.
  15. stoobot
    Excellent news! Glad that worked for you! Weirdly it doesn't eradicate gaps between tracks altogether, but it does make playlists and albums feel a lot more fluid, and keep momentum
    Asphodel likes this.
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