Astell & Kern A&Futura SE200 Portable Audio Player Review & Comments

vkvedam

Active Member
@Ed Selley, thanks for the review.

Million dollar question, does in terms of pure SQ does it sound better than the Hugo 2 playing the same source material, let's say Tidal Masters file to avoid confusion?
 

BillRawles

Active Member
Flamin' Nora, niche you say???

As someone who has had their music on their phone since the release of the Sony Ericsson K750, I think I'll give this one a pass.

Thanks, interesting review all the same.
 

bogart99

Well-known Member
Was only the other night looking at my original Sony Walkman. Think I bought in December 1979 for £99 around £350 at todays prices. Only time I have ever lead the field.
 

clydebest

Distinguished Member
I have a HIBY R5 which cost a fraction of this device.. but how much better does Tidal Masters and equivalent from Qubuz , Dezzer , Amazon, actually sound not £1500 worth better or close..one for those with more money than sense , me thinks.
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
I do not mind spending money on toys, my issue is:

- switchable DAC chips is one man's innovation and another's idea of lack of direction

- if release schedules stay consistent this is a stop gap until the successor to the SP2000

- still insistent on not supporting 4.4mm balanced when everyone else in personal audio is

As an aside I wonder whether Sony will announce any new audio toys next month at the Berlin show
 

badunn31

Novice Member
I thought the iPad would be a flop given how niche I considered that was!

I just wonder that given this is a portable device...to be used on-the-go...whether the audio benefits would be realised. I know it can be used whilst sitting on your sofa or in bed but I’m struggling with who it is aimed at. Let’s also not forget the expensive IEMs and heavy duty bespoke case required and we are now in £2k territory.
 

steve500

Active Member
Sony Ericsson K750
My wife still uses this phone daily as her alarm, even though she has a personal iPhone X and a company Samsung galaxy. You just don't realise how large phones have become until you see phones like these side by side with modern phones
 

andy1249

Distinguished Member
Fiio M6 has an ESS 9018 sabre dac.
No balanced output and aptx instead of aptx HD
Plays everything including DSD
Takes up to 2TB microSD
Modified android also and you can load apk (for me jremote 2 was a must and it runs fine )
Has wi fi and all the popular music services including tidal and amazon music HD
Works as a high quality DAC if you want it too.
Is a significant quality increase over a smartphone
Looks great, smooth edged block of gorilla glass

Costs 110 quid from amazon
No brainer really..... 1800 quid for a PAP.....mental! A waste of money.
 
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Steven

Senior Moderator
Digital audio players and in ear monitors for audio enthusiasts are niche. It is conversely absolutely correct the companies do not expect to sell millions of units like mass consumer laptops or smartphones. These are targeted at a small but enthusiast segment. On a planet of 7 billion, small is still tens to hundreds of thousands. That is potentially enough if you sell in the thousands of units X four figures.

Cost and value are different things.

I would not spend £1,800 for the SE200, not due to cost, but for the reasons outlined in my previous post there is insufficient value.

Neither would I be remotely interested by the Fiio M6 promoted by @andy1249 even if it were offered to me free of charge precisely because of the features (or lack of). Cheap sabre DAC, no balanced output, no high bit rate Bluetooth codec support. My five year old Samsung Note 4 ticks those boxes anyway. My criteria of value means a digital audio player has to offer features the Note 4 cannot

As with a great many discussion threads on an AV Technology site, seek out your value 😎
 

Superaintit

Standard Member
Interesting review. It reminds me of the experience I just had with a high end streamer. Its very niche. Like a record player it needs a special audience. It was great on its own, until I connected it to a highish end dac with input buffering build in. Long story short even a stock mac mini could better it. This might seem incredible and I'm not trying to upset anyone. Just stating what I heard. I work in IT and have a fair knowledge of it. To me it seems the regular updates and usability of say apple, sonos, google products cannot be bettered by a niche high end hardware manufacturer. It would be interesting to compare this player to a stock iphone se or android phone with a well implemented dac. I suspect therein lies the secret to good sound. And of course ample amplification
 

andy1249

Distinguished Member
Neither would I be remotely interested by the Fiio M6 promoted by @andy1249 even if it were offered to me free of charge precisely because of the features (or lack of). Cheap sabre DAC, no balanced output, no high bit rate Bluetooth codec support.
Not recommending the M6 over and above any other player with similar tech , what I am saying , given the tech on offer in both devices , is that in a blind listening test with the same headphones , I,ll bet no one could tell the difference .... and that no personal audio player is worth a price tag of 1800 ...... sometimes niche just means ridiculously overpriced .... definitely the case here , you can get similar/ indistinguishable levels of performance for a tenth of the price , easily.

Sabre DACs of the 9xxx series , long since entered the realms of being indistinguishable from each other.
They are non decimating for DSD which is the only reason I'm interested in them over and above any other DAC.

Balanced output for a couple of feet of wire ? A ridiculous affectation of no practical real world use.

Aptx is lossy regardless of which suffix its bragging , its always lossy , its noticeably better than SBC or AAC but everything has those lesser options and lossy is lossy regardless.
 
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Steven

Senior Moderator
I think it is valid to debate features and spec

I think there needs to be care about making declarations on sound. Have you actually listened to the SE200? 😎
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
Not recommending the M6 over and above any other player with similar tech , what I am saying , given the tech on offer in both devices , is that in a blind listening test with the same headphones , I,ll bet no one could tell the difference .... and that no personal audio player is worth a price tag of 1800 ...... sometimes niche just means ridiculously overpriced .... definitely the case here , you can get similar/ indistinguishable levels of performance for a tenth of the price , easily.

Sabre DACs of the 9xxx series , long since entered the realms of being indistinguishable from each other.
They are non decimating for DSD which is the only reason I'm interested in them over and above any other DAC.

Balanced output for a couple of feet of wire ? A ridiculous affectation of no practical real world use.

Aptx is lossy regardless of which suffix its bragging , its always lossy , its noticeably better than SBC or AAC but everything has those lesser options and lossy is lossy regardless.
Just yesterday I chanced on a well constructed review of the differences between Rolex watch at 10K and extremely well constructed Chinese copies at 1K. The website was "Watchfinder .co.uk . " The upshot was that it took an expert, using side by side comparison, to distinguish one from the other. ..both were using movements virtually the same ,and only extremely tiny features of hand buffing screw heads allowed the expert " tells. ".
His last comment was very telling ..if he knew it was a copy, he felt hollow, and with the real one he felt whole. It sounded to me as the Cosmetics add .." Because you are worth it" Me I would feel fuller, with 9K more in my Credit Union.
That in a nutshell is my feeling about bespoke Hi Fi. I don't disagree with Eds appreciation of the jewelry aspect of the product.
 

McCol

Well-known Member
Not recommending the M6 over and above any other player with similar tech , what I am saying , given the tech on offer in both devices , is that in a blind listening test with the same headphones , I,ll bet no one could tell the difference .... and that no personal audio player is worth a price tag of 1800 ...... sometimes niche just means ridiculously overpriced .... definitely the case here , you can get similar/ indistinguishable levels of performance for a tenth of the price , easily.

Sabre DACs of the 9xxx series , long since entered the realms of being indistinguishable from each other.
They are non decimating for DSD which is the only reason I'm interested in them over and above any other DAC.

Balanced output for a couple of feet of wire ? A ridiculous affectation of no practical real world use.

Aptx is lossy regardless of which suffix its bragging , its always lossy , its noticeably better than SBC or AAC but everything has those lesser options and lossy is lossy regardless.

I'd have to disagree about your blind test theory. I've owned many different DAP's over the years and often have 2 or 3 on the go at the same time before selling one or two on. These are often DAP's at different ends of the spectrum in terms of price and spec.
What I would say from personal experience is that often DAP's in a similar price range will not vary greatly in sound differences and may differ based on one's own signature preference.

In terms of spending £1800 on a DAP, I can't say I wouldn't as I spent £1200 on the Fiio M15 a few months ago, to my ears and I was able to listen side by side to other players it is a clear step up from other players in its price range.
 

HeadBanger

Well-known Member
Not recommending the M6 over and above any other player with similar tech , what I am saying , given the tech on offer in both devices , is that in a blind listening test with the same headphones , I,ll bet no one could tell the difference .... and that no personal audio player is worth a price tag of 1800 ...... sometimes niche just means ridiculously overpriced .... definitely the case here , you can get similar/ indistinguishable levels of performance for a tenth of the price , easily.

Sabre DACs of the 9xxx series , long since entered the realms of being indistinguishable from each other.
They are non decimating for DSD which is the only reason I'm interested in them over and above any other DAC.

Balanced output for a couple of feet of wire ? A ridiculous affectation of no practical real world use.

Aptx is lossy regardless of which suffix its bragging , its always lossy , its noticeably better than SBC or AAC but everything has those lesser options and lossy is lossy regardless.

I don’t get the craze for balanced outputs either (although my FiiO has them) especially with battery dependant players.


HB
 
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MaryWhitehouse

Active Member
still insistent on not supporting 4.4mm balanced when everyone else in personal audio is
Really what is the point other than some of the cables look cool? We’re forever saying or being told that in the rest of hifi balanced is pointless below quite a lot of meters so why is it great in personal audio? Just because it generates marketing & revenue?
 

Steven

Senior Moderator
I don’t get the craze for balanced outputs either (although my FiiO has them) especially with battery dependant players.


HB
Really what is the point other than some of the cables look cool? We’re forever saying or being told that in the rest of hifi balanced is pointless below quite a lot of meters so why is it great in personal audio? Just because it generates marketing & revenue?
My post was not a comment on the merits of single ended versus balanced ended. Indeed no opinion is or was offered on that subject. My post was a comment on A&K choosing to offer balanced with the 2.5mm connector port, rather than the more physically robust 4.4mm balanced connector port adopted by everyone else in the industry

Anyone who has seen and used the 2.5mm balanced plug termination versus 4.4mm balanced plug termination in person knows the 4.4.mm plug is a more robust engineering design

If you are going to offer balanced then benefit consumers with the more robust plug design?

I would submit one's opinion on single ended versus balanced ended does not provide justification for inferior engineering decisions

Please see the specification list of the SE200 offering 4x port output: 1x 3.5mm single and 1x 2.5mm per DAC chip as part of the USP of offering dual DAC chips. Many thanks
 

MaryWhitehouse

Active Member
Indeed no opinion is or was offered on that subject
I didn’t say you had. I was hoping someone could say why balanced is valid in this context regardless of the solution used.
 

HeadBanger

Well-known Member
Per the Benchmark article I linked above there are no sonic advantages (assuming design and engineering are good) but balanced output can offer more power so can therefore drive much more power hungry cans.

Disadvantages with the balanced outputs is it requires more power and the output impedance doubles. This won’t matter with high resistance ‘phones but it matters more with very low resistance ‘phones (most high end IEMs have very low resistance). Impedance mis-match can literally skew the frequency response (some may actually like this and prefer balanced as a result). As a general rule of thumb you need a maximum output impedance of 1/8 of your ‘phones impedance to avoid this (lower than 1/8 is also fine).

@Steven my comment on the craze for balanced outputs was not aimed at you. I agree with you that if adding a balanced output then the 4.4mm socket/connector is a much more robust solution.

HB
 
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