Astell&Kern launches new modular DAC digital audio player

Astell&Kern has introduced the SE180, the third model in its award-winning A&futura series – and the brand’s first player to feature interchangeable all-in-one DAC modules.

Expanding on the multi-DAC first introduced with the SE200, music fans can customise their sound with different audio-flavoured DACs to find the hi-fi-grade sonics that suit them.

The A&futura SE180 is said to be the audio specialist’s most advance player yet and is the first model to boast it’s TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology for improved audio, an enhanced user-interface design, a full HD display and added advanced connectivity functionality.

The interchangeable DAC design not only offers a new level of audio flexibility for the user but also improves the sound performance. By physically separating the main body from the all-in-one module, power and radio frequency (RF) noise generated by the main unit is completely blocked. This creates an independent structure that prevents noise from interfering with music playback.

The module slots easily into place from the top of the player and features a double locking mechanism that securely connects each component. Expertly engineered, with flowing smooth lines between each part, there isn’t a noticeable trace of two separate elements in play.

The A&futura SE180 arrives with a default module featuring the SEM1 ESS ES9038PRO, an eight-channel DAC traditionally used for premium home audio equipment. This provides a wider dynamic range and greater detail, while audio file support is extensive for high-resolution fans, with the SEM1 DAC capable of playing up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 files.

The SEM2 Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC will be the first optional module available on launch with the ability to play files up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD512. Both 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. The next DAC module will be released later in the year with another model following in the first half of 2022.

With the A&futura SE180 the first to harbour Astell&Kern’s patented TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology, it removes power noise and provides efficient power consumption and amplification right through to the audio output interface stage where the digital-to-analogue signal conversion (DAC) takes place – audio technology Astell&Kern has consistently developed over the years.

The SE180 user-interface has also been enhanced; a new navigation bar pinned at the bottom of the screen allows users to control playback and skip tracks from any screen, while a single swipe returns to the previous screen. Like the SE200, users can also discern the volume level, file type and bitrate being played thanks to the colour-coded LED light surrounding the player’s volume wheel.

The A&futura SE180 is also the first model to feature AK File Drop for easier wireless file transfers through a PC, smartphone, or FTP program located on the same network.