Astell & Kern at Audio46

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp

portable

Product SKU: AK HC4 (PEE54)

 

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Product Details

Audio46's Opinion

In a nutshell, you should find the difference pretty striking – the audio experience becomes grander, cleaner, richer, and more powerful. It takes only moments to recognize a substantial upgrade in the performance of your IEMs or headphones, a leap worth several hundred bucks, in fact. Yet, the core of your headphone’s sound signature remains intact. Add to that a sleek, edgy design and sturdy build, in addition to the DAR feature, and the HC4 becomes fantastic value for money.


Our Full Review

↓ Details provided by Astell & Kern
(Specifications and appearance of this product are subject to change without notice)

Hi-Fi Sound on the Move, AK HC4

Astell&Kern offers a Hi-Fi USB DAC cable product range for a true Hi-Fi experience on smartphones and PCs.

The Hi-Fi sound provided by Astell&Kern's design, which was completed in a small size, has won praise from countless audiophiles and media.

The AK HC4 continues the advantages of its highly acclaimed predecessors, delivering even more perfected sound in various usage scenarios through advanced design. Featuring Dual Output, compatible with most IEMs and headphones, the AK4493S DAC for true Hi-Fi sound, and Digital Audio Remaster technology, it brings the level of Hi-Fi sound previously exclusive to Astell&Kern's digital audio players to the AK HC4. Enjoy Hi-Fi sound like never before.

  • 3.5mm, 4.4mm Dual Output 
  • AKM AK4493S
  • DAR (Digital Audio Remaster) 
  • Supports iOS devices
  • Interchangeable Cable (Type-C / Lightning Cable Included)
  • Supported UAC1.0 (For Gaming System
  • Roon Tested

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp Overview

Selection for Hi-Fi Sound – ultra-high resolution sound from AKM AK4493s DAC

To achieve the highest audio quality achievable with a USB DAC, the AK HC4 is the first in the USB DAC Cable lineup to incorporate AKM's DAC. AKM's DAC has earned much love when featured in Astell&Kern's digital audio players, but due to the small size of USB DAC Cables and the challenges of amp design, it has been difficult to implement in the USB DAC Cable lineup until now.

The AK4493s DAC from AKM, used in the AK HC4, is further enhanced with improved noise control, lower power design, and ultra-precise amp design technology, delivering exceptionally high-quality Hi-Fi sound. Furthermore, it supports Native DSD256 and up to 32bit/384kHz to handle any high-quality audio source, allowing you to experience the high-grade sound quality that Astell&Kern delivers.

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp Hi-Res Sound

Precision DAC and AMP Design for Hi-Fi Sound

In order to gain stable output power and ultra-high-quality Hi-Fi sound through the Dual Output, AK HC4 introduces an exclusive AMP circuitry that supersedes the standard built-in DAC AMP.

While maintaining a compact form factor 29.5 x 64.5x 14.5mm, we used micro resistors and capacitor parts to achieve a small footprint without compromising performance. Carefully selected ultra-small tantalum capacitors, which are used in AK player products to create a stable system and audio performance by controlling the power fluctuations, are also included to create an optimal audio circuit design. In addition, the output and audio performance are enhanced with Astell&Kern's unique power management technology to minimize current consumption in respect of the connected device.

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp Precision DAC

3.5mm, 4.4mm Dual Output 

The AK HC4 features Dual Output with both 3.5mm and 4.4mm connectors, allowing you to use AK HC4 with most Hi-Fi IEMs and headphones without the need for adapters or additional cables.

The 4.4mm Balanced output provides a high output of 3Vrms, maximizing the performance of sensitive headphones and IEMs, while ensuring clear channel separation and minimal noise.

The 3.5mm Unbalanced output is compatible with the majority of existing IEMs and headphones, offering a sufficient output of 2Vrms to fully experience the capabilities of your IEMs.

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp Dual Output

Digital Audio Remaster Technology for Even More Vivid Original Sound

The AK HC4 is equipped with digital audio remaster (DAR) technology, which was only applicable to the latest digital audio players from Astell&Kern.

DAR technology is developed to upsample the sample rate of the sound source being played to go beyond the limits of the source format.
The high sample rate allows more refined play and offers delicate and analog-like original sound, helping you to enjoy the richness of the original sound, subtle differences in the nuance of the music and rich sounds at a higher level.

In addition, the DAR slide key on the side of the product gives you a more intuitive selection of DAR options.

* The DAR function can be selected On/Off depending on the sound source or your preference.

* Supports PCM playback conversion Rate up to 384 kHz/DSD256. 

DAR option

Maximum Conversion Rate

PCM

44.1kHz range PCM will be converted to 352.8kHz for playback

48kHz range PCM will be converted to 384kHz for playback

No conversion will be made when playing DSD with this option selected

DSD

DSD files below DSD256 will be upconverted to DSD256 for playback

 

High Compatibility and Simultaneous Support for UAC 1.0 & 2.0 for Gaming

While modern smartphones, tablets, and PCs support UAC 2.0 connections, many gaming devices still exclusively support UAC 1.0 connections.

To cater to both scenarios, AK HC4 ensures compatibility by supporting both UAC 2.0 and UAC 1.0 connections for cross-platform quality sound experiences.

Connect AK HC4 to your gaming device such as PlayStation and Switch, and enjoy low latency and enhanced sound for an immersive gaming experience.

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp Nintendo Switch

Noise-Free Rear Output Structure

AK HC4 incorporates a rear audio output design to minimize noise.

Most USB DAC products have the DAC positioned in the USB terminal that is connected directly to the device to process and output audio.

However, with the HC4, digital signals from the device go through the dual-shielded cable to the audio circuit before being converted to an analog signal by the DAC. By processing the digital signal after, the result is superior, noise-free sound compared to other USB DAC products. 

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp Noise Free Output

Dual Noise Shielded Cable

To ensure optimal usability across both Android and iOS devices without the need for additional adapters, AK HC4 features an interchangeable cable that readily supports Type-C and Lightning connections. 

The AK HC4 features a dual shielded cable to minimize noise and deliver a more vivid, original sound.

The copper core wire is coated with tin to prevent corrosion and strengthen tensile force for enhanced durability.

Additionally, the entire cable is wrapped in an aluminum film to block noise with an extra layer of shielding around the power cable to further minimize noise, the biggest issue in audio, then the tin-coated copper wire is woven to minimize noise interference to sound.

Finished with a fabric jacket on top of the TPE jacket, the cable features enhanced durability and usability with perfect aesthetic appeal.

Precautions When Using the Product

  • This product is compatible with most Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, Windows 10/11 and macOS products. In some cases, it may not be compatible or may be restricted depending on the hardware, software and/or system of the device that you connect to.
  • When connecting to a Windows PC, the driver will automatically be recognized and installed. For high-quality sound files, you are required to install a separate USB DAC driver which can be downloaded from the Support — Download section on the website.
  • 4-pole earphones and headphones support CTIA devices, but OMTP is not supported. 
  • To play DSD and high-quality PCM sound files on a smartphone, you must install a separate free/paid player program that supports high-resolution audio playback. (When using the default player app on a mobile device, the file will be downsampled. Please make sure to play it with a different player app.)
  • Please note that the volume will be fixed to the maximum level if you allow access with Tidal and some other apps on Android devices. 
  • Make sure to check the volume on your connected player device before using headphones or earphones. Some devices may automatically set the output level to maximum volume when the cable is connected. Listening to headphones or earphones at maximum volume may damage your hearing. Please verify the volume level before each use.
  • Do not connect the USB-C Dual DAC Cable to an Astell&Kern player. When connecting the cable to a player and using it as an external DAC, the output volume will be fixed at the maximum volume setting. It is not possible to adjust the volume through the Astell&Kern player. Listening at maximum or a high-volume setting may cause serious damage to your hearing. Astell&Kern, its affiliates and agencies, cannot be held liable for any damage or injuries from negligent or inappropriate use.
  • Firmware updates may be released periodically for stability improvements. For more information on firmware updates and to check if a firmware update is available, please visit the Support — Download section on the website.

LED for real-time indication

AK HC4 has an LED indicator located on the front, that displays song details and USB Connection.

  • Standby: White
  • PCM: Red
  • DSD: Blue
  • UAC1.0: Green 

* When connected to UAC 1.0, the LED is fixed green.

Astell & Kern AK HC4 Portable USB DAC/Amp with Earbuds and Phone

General Specifications 

Model

 

AK HC4

Body Color

 

Moon Silver

Body Material 

 

Aluminum

DAC

 

AKM AK4493S 

Sample rate

 

PCM : 8kHz ~ 384kHz (8/16/24/32bits per Sample)
DSD Native: DSD64(1bit 2.8MHz), Stereo / DSD128(1bit 5.6MHz), Stereo / DSD256(1bit 11.2MHz), Stereo

Output Level

 

Unbalanced 2Vrms / Balanced 3Vrms (Condition No Load)

Input

 

USB Type-C (Supports UAC 1.0 and UAC 2.0)

Output

 

3.5mm (Unbalanced), 4.4mm (Balanced, Only 5-pole supported)

Dimensions

 

29.5mm[W] x 64.5mm[H] x 14.5mm[D]

Weight

 

About 1.09oz (31g)


Audio Specifications

Frequency Response

 

±±0.062dB (Condition : 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalanced │ ±0.063dB (Condition : 20Hz~20kHz) Balanced 

±0.066dB (Condition : 20Hz~70kHz) Unbalanced │ ±0.067dB (Condition : 20Hz~70kHz) Balanced 

Signal to Noise Ratio

 

118dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced │ 118dB @ 1kHz, Balanced

Crosstalk

 

-134dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced │ -136dB @ 1kHz, Balanced

THD+N

 

0.0005% @ 1kHz, Unbalanced │ 0.0009% @ 1kHz, Balanced

IMD SMPTE

 

0.0005% 800Hz 10kHz (4:1) Unbalanced │ 0.0004% 800Hz 10kHz (4:1) Balanced

Output Impedance

 

Unbalanced Out 3.5mm (0.9ohm) │ Balanced Out 4.4mm(1.6ohm)

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