Music

Astell&Kern equips latest digital audio player with three DACs

Astell&Kern equips latest digi...
The dual DAC setup in the SE200 is actually made up of three digital-to-analog converters
The dual DAC setup in the SE200 is actually made up of three digital-to-analog converters
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The SE200 supports up to 32-bit/384-kHz bit-to-bit decoding and native DSD256, includes Bluetooth with aptX HD and Wi-Fi, and can unfold MQA files
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The SE200 supports up to 32-bit/384-kHz bit-to-bit decoding and native DSD256, includes Bluetooth with aptX HD and Wi-Fi, and can unfold MQA files
The dual DAC setup in the SE200 is actually made up of three digital-to-analog converters
2/3
The dual DAC setup in the SE200 is actually made up of three digital-to-analog converters
The SE200 can serve as a multi-DAC portable digital music player, or as a USB DAC for Mac or PC
3/3
The SE200 can serve as a multi-DAC portable digital music player, or as a USB DAC for Mac or PC
View gallery - 3 images

Luxury portable music gear brand Astell&Kern has announced the second product in its premium A&futura range, the SE200, which is claimed to be the first in the world to sport a multi-DAC design.

The digital-to-analog converter pretty much does what it's name suggests, converting digital data into analog audio signals. In 2013, Astell&Kern released a portable audio player with dual DACs, but you'll find three at the heart of the SE200 – one AK4499EQ and two Sabre ES9068AS – which is said to mark the first time DACs from two different companies have been installed in one digital audio player.

The two ESS Sabre DACs are set in a dual configuration, and the flagship AKM DAC flies solo. Each configuration gets its own amplifier circuit to make the most of the different characteristics on offer. The user is therefore given the option to select the preferred DAC setup for the music being listened to, but can also employ manufacturer-specific filters for further sonic customization.

The SE200 features an octa-core processor, balanced and unbalanced outputs for each of the two DAC configuration, can support up to 32-bit/384-kHz bit-to-bit decoding and native DSD256, there's 256 GB of internal storage (with microSD expansion), and wireless connectivity shapes up as Bluetooth with aptX HD and Wi-Fi. The player can also serve as a USB DAC for a Mac or PC, too.

The SE200 can serve as a multi-DAC portable digital music player, or as a USB DAC for Mac or PC
The SE200 can serve as a multi-DAC portable digital music player, or as a USB DAC for Mac or PC

The digital music player also has an MQA decoder built in. MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated, a technology that folds studio quality audio into files that are small enough for streaming. The SE200 supports MQA playback of both downloaded audio files and over Tidal Masters streaming.

Battery life depends of the DAC chosen. If you opt to play everything via the AKM DAC then you can look forward to 10 hours of continuous playback, while going the ESS route will keep you listening for longer at 14 hours per charge. Switching between the two will likely get you somewhere inbetween.

The overall aesthetic is similar to the first A&futura model released last year, but Astell&Kern has swapped the glass back of old for a new ceramic rear cover for improved wireless network performance. Out front is a 5-inch HD touchscreen, and the LED lighting around the volume wheel shows different colors to represent music playback information, including the current DAC in use, track bit-rates and volume.

The A&futura SE200 will go on sale from next month for US$1,799. The video below has more.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE200

Product page: SE200

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6 comments
guzmanchinky
I just don't see how music can sound any better than it already does, especially with a set of premium headphones? I need to experience this side by side to see what this DAC hype is all about...
alexD
meehh... don't beat a dead horse..... or, cellphones do all that these things do.... or, do you have extra pockets and want to carry more stuff ?
Grunchy
There's something about 384 kHz playback, what could it be - ah yes it's far beyond human hearing. It's completely stupid. I picked up a 2nd hand UX533 Sony for $6 that probably works better than this thing ever possibly could (besides being smaller, with easily replaceable batteries, and 300x cheaper than $1799).
Eddy
It's going to take a lot longer to listen to a music track with one of these eye wateringly priced things while switching between all the modes and listening for what we can't hear or might be there and then writing down the settings for that track. Ridiculous purchase for 99.9% of listeners who only have access to severely compressed mp3's and no machine can bring back what is not now there in the recording.
Bob Stuart
My issue with players is never the audio quality, and always the selection management tools.
Arrakis
384/24A 24-bit digital music sample taken 384,000 times per second (384 kHz). This is a standard format for very high-quality, downloadable music. A 384/32 designation means that a larger sample size of 32 bits is used rather than 24.