Heating up the competition for high-resolution audio delivered by portable players, Astell&Kern, the high-end audiophile brand of MP3 player pioneer iriver, has teamed up with Blue Note Records to offer a special edition of its flagship AK240 audio player loaded with newly re-mastered versions of 75 titles in the Blue Note Records library. Celebrating the 75th anniversary of Blue Note Records’ founding, the partnership was announced Tuesday night at an event held at Capitol Records studios in Hollywood.
Included in the $6,000 package is the high-resolution player, physical copies of the albums on microSD and two books on Blue Note Records.
All 75 titles were re-mastered from the original analog sources under the supervision of Don Was, president of Blue Note and Barak Moffitt, head of strategic operations at Capitol Records, who called the project “a convergence of studio & consumer electronics.”
Pointing to the “spiritual power of music,” Henry Park, president of iriver, explained that “MP3 players have changed the way we listen to music at the price of loss of quality.” Thus, he continued, “We felt obligated to do something to deliver the fidelity of true live performance in a portable manner.”
High-resolution, digitally remastered versions of 75 of Blue Note Records’ seminal albums come preloaded on a special Astell & Kern player along with physical copies on microSD that are shipped in a high-end display stand.
The initial offering in the partnership is a $6,000 limited edition package (1,000 units globally, 200 for the U.S.) with a special “blue” version of the AK240 player, a special book with the original album art, and Richard Haver’s new book Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression. In addition to the albums pre-loaded on the player, the package also includes a copy of each album on a microSD card in an acrylic case with the album art. The cases are presented as stacked in a decorative tower for open display and transfer to other devices, if desired. are available in high-resolution audio for the first time in this package.
Titles include Thelonius Monk’s first 1947 sessions as well as a wide range of historic releases from Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman, and more contemporary titles from Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, and Cassandra Wilson. Five of the albums including Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers’ Mosaic
The AK240 player that is at the core of the offering has 256Gb of built-in memory as well as a microSD slot, a 3.31-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, and is capable of playing a variety of file formats, including FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AiFF, AAC, and OGG along with the more conventional MP3, WMA, and AAC formats. The dual Cirrus CS4398 DACs support audio up to 24-bit/192Hz and DSD Native, DSD64, and Stereo DSD128 decoding. The unit itself, which lists for $2,500 as a standalone product, supports USB for data input and has WiFi and Bluetooth along with wired headphone and two-pole balanced outputs is housed in an aircraft-grade Duraluminum body.