Astell&Kern’s AK HC4 USB DAC: A Game-Changer in Mobile Audio Technology
A&K’s latest USB headphone DAC/amp, the AK HC4, is a significant advancement in design and functionality compared to its predecessors. Priced at $220, this DAC is the first from A&K to offer dual outputs — a balanced 4.4mm jack and an unbalanced 3.5mm jack, catering to the growing trend in 2023. It is set to hit the shelves in December through A&K’s authorized retailers.
The AK HC4 supports DSD 256 and PCM at 32-bit/384kHz, making it compatible with a wide range of digital audio formats. However, it does not support MQA, as it utilizes an AK4493S DAC from AKM, which led to the exclusion of MQA support. If MQA compatibility is essential, A&K’s HC3, which uses an ESS DAC, might be a more suitable option.
In addition to its dual outputs, the AK HC4 boasts several other standout features. It has replaced the hardwired design with a more versatile USB-C port, offering greater flexibility and convenience. The inclusion of a USB-C cable and a Lightning cable allows seamless connectivity with iPhones, iPads, and other devices without the need for plug adapters. Moreover, the integrated volume rocker enables users to control amplification without relying on their phone’s settings.
The AK HC4 is also compatible with USB Audio Class (UAC) 1.0 and 2.0, expanding its usability to a wide variety of game consoles that still utilize the older UAC setting. Additionally, A&K has integrated its Digital Audio Remaster (DAR) technology into the AK HC4, promising delicate and analog-like sound reproduction for digital music with lower sample rates.
Despite its advanced features, the AK HC4 is priced at $220, making it a more affordable option compared to high-end DACs with dual outputs such as the Ifi Go Bar ($329) and the Questyle M15 ($299), making it an attractive choice for audiophiles looking for premium audio performance at a competitive price point.
In conclusion, the Astell&Kern AK HC4 USB DAC represents a significant leap in mobile audio technology, offering a compelling combination of cutting-edge features, versatility, and affordability. With its dual outputs, high-resolution audio support, and innovative technologies, the AK HC4 is poised to make a lasting impact in the world of portable audio devices.