Astell&Kern launches the SE180 portable player

Playing 'swapsies' with DACs

by Andy Bassett
Hi-Fi News

2

Astell&Kern launches the SE180 portable player

Portable music specialists Astell&Kern’s latest digital audio player, the SE180, goes for a swappable DAC design for ultimate user audio customisation.

The new SE180 is the third model in the A&futura series and takes the innovative multi-DAC innovation first introduced with its stablemate the SE200 and expands upon it. The SE180 is now the first of the Astell&Kern players to feature fully interchangeable all-in-one DAC units, allowing users to fine tune their audio with different ‘flavours’ of DAC.

In addition to this innovative design, the SE180 is also the first player to feature Astell&Kern’s TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology along with an enhanced user-interface design, a full HD display and added advanced connectivity functionality.

Astell&Kern launches the SE180 portable player

The option to change the DAC in the player offers new levels of flexibility and has been achieved by separating the main body from the all-in-one module. This creates an independent structure that blocks power and radio frequency noise generated by the main unit, preventing it from interfering with music playback. Moreover, expert engineering means it’s almost impossible to tell that there are two elements in the SE180.

Out of the box, the SE180 comes with an 8-channel SEM1 ESS ES9038PRO DAC, capable of playing up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 files.

Owners will be able to upgrade this support with the ability to play files up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD512 by using the optional SEM2 Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC which will be available at launch.

Both the SEM1 and SEM2 modules support 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphones connections for accommodating a greater variety of headphones and in-ear monitors, while there is support for MQA playback via downloaded MQA audio files and through the Tidal music app.

Astell&Kern intends for a third DAC module to be available later in the year with a fourth being readied for release in the first half of 2022.

Astell&Kern launches the SE180 portable player

Also new to Astell&Kern’s players is the company’s patented TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution which works in concert with the DAC to achieve the best possible audio output. Leveraging extensive research and development, the technology removes power noise and provides efficient power consumption and amplification right through to the audio output interface stage, where the DAC takes over.

The A&futura SE180 is the first Astell&Kern player to sport a full HD display, presented as a 5-inch touchscreen which packs in a 1920×1080 pixel resolution at 441 ppi, and the 16.7 million colours are perfect for checking out the album artwork.

To provide seamless and intuitive interaction with the SE180, an experience consistent with Android smartphones sees a new navigation bar pinned at the bottom of the screen for controlling playback from any screen, while a single swipe returns to the previous screen. Meanwhile, the colour-coded LED light surrounding the player’s volume wheel provides feedback on volume level, file type and bitrate.

Astell&Kern launches the SE180 portable player

The A&futura SE180 series of ‘firsts’ continues with the debut implementation of AK File Drop for easier wireless file transfers. This allows transfer using a PC, smartphone, or FTP program located on the same network for more convenient music management.

Bluetooth 5.0 is onboard for greater range and stability when connecting to headphones and there’s support for 24-bit aptX HD and LDAC codecs. In addition, the newly introduced BT Sink function connects the SE180 DAP to an external device, such as a smartphone, enabling music to be played back in high-quality on the Astell&Kern player. 

But you don’t need an external music source since the 256GB on-board memory can be expanded up to 1TB via a microSD card slot meaning owners will have access to thousands of Hi-Res albums at all times.  


Available from www.astellkern.co.uk, the A&futura SE180 (with SEM1 ESS ES9038PRO DAC module) is priced £1,399 / $1,499 / €1,599.  

The optional SEM2 DAC (Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC Module) is priced £319 / $349 / €379

 Both will be available from May 2021

Source: Astell&Kern Press Release

Image Source: Astell&Kern

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