Activo CT10 high-res digital audio player review: High-end personal audio without the high-end price


Sweet sound, compact size, superb interface, rich feature set, and a $299 price tag render this player a steal.

If you’ve longed to bring out the best in your music, but balked at the astronomical cost of high-res music players, then take a serious look at the Activo CT10. At $299, this budget-priced player is anything but entry-level.

If you’ve longed to bring out the best in your music, but balked at the astronomical cost of high-res music players, then take a serious look at the Activo CT10. At $299, this budget-priced player is anything but entry-level.

The Activo CT10 is a high-resolution digital audio player from Groovers Japan, a high-res download and streaming music provider based in Japan. The CT10 was developed in collaboration with Astell&Kern and iRiver (Astell&Kern’s parent company). Astell&Kern makes some of our most favorably-reviewed high-res digital audio players, though they can cost up to several thousand dollars. Can the Activo give you a taste of that high-end sound at a fraction of the price? Absolutely.

Astell & Kern tech under the hood

The Activo CT10 features Astell&Kern’s Teraton TM200, a circuit board that combines a Cirrus Logic CS4398 digital-to-analog converter (DAC), an analog amplifier, an independent power unit, and a jitter-preventing clock. These features ensure your digital files will be reproduced with the utmost fidelity and accuracy. Listening to well-recorded music on high-quality headphones, you’ll notice serious sonic refinement compared to your smartphone.

HD audio over Bluetooth

The CT10 checks off all the boxes you’d want in a high-res digital audio player. Promising “better than CD-quality” sound, the Activo will play every major lossy and high-res file format, including FLAC, ALAC, DSD, and WAV up to 24-bit/192kHz. There’s even a menu option called “Hi-Res,” so you can browse only the high-res music files on the player.

The Activo will also play lossy formats, such as MP3, AAC, and WMA. Lossy file formats discard some data to make smaller files, but you’ll never get that data back. Most people can easily hear the difference between lossy and lossless encording of the same music.

High-resolution lossless files can take up a lot of storage space, and the CT10 comes with a modest 16GB of onboard storage. If you’re thinking that’s too little storage for lots of high-res files, you’re be right. Thankfully, the CT10 comes with a microSD slot capable of supporting up to 400GB microSD cards, giving this player maximum storage capacity of 416GB. That’s not too shabby, although the prices for a 400GB microSD cards start at about $160 on Amazon. Things get even better with the Activo’s strong network support, which I’ll talk about more below.