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Headphone Amps

Astell&Kern Introduces Two Portable Headphone Amplifiers

Astell&Kern HC3 Dongle DAC, PA10 Portable Headphones Amp and ACRO CA1000T Carriable Amplifier

Astell&Kern today introduced two new headphone amplifiers, the ACRO CA1000T ($2,229) carriable headphone amp and the PA10 ($599) portable headphone amp. In addition, the HC3 Dongle DAC ($229) we previously covered gets a confirmed price and ship date. Each new product can be pre-ordered Friday, January 20th and will start shipping Monday, February 13, 2023.


Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T Carriable Headphone Amplifier Front Angle
Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T Carriable Headphone Amp

The ACRO CA1000T is the second product in Astell&Kern’s carriable headphone amplifier lineup that combines the functions of a high-performance amplifier and the portability of a Digital Audio Player.

It follows the ACRO CA1000 (without the “T”), which was one of Headphone Editor, Lynn Miller’s favorite purchases last year. Although both models look similar, the new CA1000T is a dual-DAC that utilizes tubes, while the CA1000 is a quad-DAC.

Both models will remain in the 2023 lineup.

The Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T is the world’s first product to use ESS newest flagship DACs, the ES9039MPRO in a dual-DAC configuration. The new ES9039MPRO DAC features a built-in stereo hardware MQA renderer, supporting 16X full MQA decoding and support of MQA decoding via optical in/out.

The new DAC chipset has even more advanced modulation than the existing ES9039PRO flagship DAC to reduce power consumption, noise and distortion inside the DAC for enhanced audio performance. Bit-to-bit playback is possible up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD512 (22.4MHz), so even the smallest details the artist wanted to express in the music can be heard without distortion.

Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T Carriable Headphone Amplifier Front Angle with DAP

Triple Amp System

The CA1000T features Astell&Kern’s Triple Amp System, first introduced in the SP2000T portable audio player, but expands the system with the use of dual vacuum tubes in the CA1000T.  Users can select between tube amp mode, normal op-amp mode or the new hybrid amp mode to provide the best sound output for the type of music you are listening to.  All three modes are available when using any of the outputs on the CA1000T.

Tube Amp Mode

The CA1000T is equipped with two portable-friendly dual-triode KORG Nutubes, for a unique vacuum tube amp sound.  It features an anode grid filament structure which operates the same as a triode vacuum tube.  It is much smaller, consumes far less power and yet delivers the same audio as a full-sized tube with rich overtones.  Tube Amp Mode adds some additional warmth and texture to the overall presentation.

Op-Amp Mode

Op-Amp mode is a culmination of Astell&Kern’s expertise in amp design, delivering extreme clarity and dynamic sound that Astell&Kern is known for with its DAPs.

Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T Carriable Headphone Amplifier Rear Angle

Hybrid Amp Mode

Hybrid Amp Mode enhances the resolution and clarity of the existing tube amp mode to express more musical detail. This mode, which combines the advantages of analog playback and high-resolution output presents music with an enhanced sense of texture and body but without sacrificing detail retrieval or clarity in the midrange and treble.

The ACRO CA1000T supports four (4) levels of gain settings making the amplifier one of the more versatile options in the high-end category.

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The gain setting circuitry implemented in the CA1000T can drive even high-impedance headphones without degrading the sound quality using a max output of 15Vrms.  Both Tube AMP mode and OPAMP provide a powerful 15 Vrms output, and the headphone ports allow you to enjoy the unique sounds of vacuum tubes without any limitations.

The ACRO CA1000T offers an extensive range of input/output options that can meet the needs of audiophiles looking to build their ideal Head-Fi system with maximum utility. 

For greater ease of use, you can change the input/output settings using the touch screen on top of the product while multiple cables and devices are connected.  

Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T Carriable Headphone Amplifier Front
Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000T Carriable Headphone Amplifier Rear

Outputs include 3.5mm and 6.35mm unbalanced, 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced, mini-toslink optical out, mini-XLR and RCA outputs.  Inputs include 4.4mm balanced, coaxial and optical digital, USB, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.  

Rounding out the features of the CA1000T is Replay Gain, Crossfeed, Bluetooth 5.0 with LDAC™ and aptX™ HD codec support, BT Sink, which allows the CA1000T to connect to an external device via Bluetooth, and function as a Bluetooth DAC. Music from an external device, such as a smartphone can now be played back in high-quality, taking full advantage of the dual-DAC and triple amp system in the CA1000T.  Roon Ready support will be added in a future firmware update.

The CA1000T also includes 256GB of internal memory with support for microSD cards up to 1TB, dual-band 2.4/5Ghz a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, DLNA networking, USB-C for data transfer and support for supports USB-PD 2.0 charging with 9V/3A and provides 11 hours of continuous playback when fully charged. 

The ACRO CA1000T has a battery protection mode feature that helps extend battery life. When battery protection mode is enabled, the battery is charged up to 85%, and then the charge stops. If the battery drops to 80%, the battery will start charging again and charge up to 85%.

PA10 Portable Headphone Amp

Astell&Kern PA10 Portable Headphone Amplifier Flat Angle

The PA10 portable headphone amp is the first portable. Astell&Kern product to feature a class-A amplifier. Class-A AMPs offer the best linear output, providing soft, warm, and natural sounds by amplifying signals without distortions or defect. This characteristic makes it the most sought-after amplification method by music lovers, though it is rarely used for portable audio devices as it requires high power consumption and a design that is difficult for a small device.

Sufficient AMP output is required to extract all the subtle nuances in music when played back through varying headphones and IEMs.  With multiple gain levels, you can choose the optimal gain setting that offers the best sound of the headphone and IEM that you use to enjoy crystal-clear sounds. The AK PA10 brings out the full potential that your audio device has to offer. When connected to the balanced input, AK PA10 can support up to 6.2 Vrms output at high gain. 

Astell&Kern PA10 Portable Headphone Amplifier Rear Angle

Most portable headphone AMPs switch 3.5mm Unbalanced signals to 4.4mm Balanced signals or do not support a 4.4mm Balanced connection at all. Such input/output combinations limit users from using the pure balanced output of the source device resulting in loss of signal during the transition process. Rare for a portable Class-A AMP, the AK PA10 supports 4.4mm True Balanced input/output for high output and vivid audio.

It also supports 3.5mm unbalanced input/output ports so that you can use the PA10 with a wider variety of devices.

Astell&Kern PA10 Portable Headphone Amplifier with Accessories

The AK PA10 features a crossfeed function is implemented exclusively by hardware circuit design, not by digital software, offering a more seamless and sophisticated crossfeed effect without degrading the original sound.  Crossfeed mixes some of the signals from one channel and sends them to the opposite channel with a slight delay, creating a more central and natural sound, recreating sounds similar to that of listening via a speaker system, subsequently reducing listening fatigue. 

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A built-in 4,200 mAh battery provides up to 12 hours of continuous playback.  

Price & Availability

Pre-orders begin on Friday, January 20 with a release date of Monday, February 13, 2023 at authorized Astell&Kern dealers in the US and Canada.

  • ACRO CA1000T Carriable Headphone Amp – $2,299 US/$2,999 CAD
  • PA10 Portable Headphone Amp – $599 US/$799 CAD
  • HC3 USB-C Dual-DAC Cable – $229 US/$299 CAD
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