Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 Review

A&futura SE180

In this review, we take a close look at the new Astell&Kern A&futura SE180, selling for €1599 EUR.

 

Disclaimer: I bought the Astell&Kern SE180 on my own from a local shop, Astell&Kern didn’t endorse us or send me a device. As usual, if you want to get one, reach out to your local retailer.

EDIT: Last week we launched an AudioQuest survey and $/€2400 USD/Euro prize draw. Don’t forget to check it out here.

About Astell&Kern

Founded in 2012, Astell&Kern is one of the most renowned DAP brands in the world. Previously known as iRiver, Dreamus – the big conglomerate behind A&K – decided to work over from a clean state and aimed at new market: luxury DAP.

If high-end DAP were already a thing at the time – look at the Hifiman HM-801 for example – a high-end/luxury portable source was, almost, new. And there came the AK100, quickly followed by the AK120, two great players that lead the path to the AKXXX series.

Personally, my first Astell&Kern player was the AK240 (I still have it) and followed up to the SP1000M. But since, A&K unveiled a lot of new players, like the SP2000, the Kann Alpha, or the new A&futura SE180, which we’ll review today.

Is A&K math right, 180 > 200? That’s what we are about to know.

The Astell&Kern DAP Series

As usual, we’ll begin with a quick presentation of A&K’s DAP catalog.

A&Norma SR25

The A&Norma SR25 is the entry-level into Astell’s playfield and an updated version of the SR15. If the core remains the same – dual Cirrus-Logic MasterHiFi DAC, 32bit, DSD, and MQA native playback – this new version enjoys a much longer battery life, a better screen, and a marginally bigger case.

Astell&Kern SR25

Matty had the chance to review this player, and here are his thoughts:

The SR25 is a stunningly-packaged little device, both in terms of its one-of-a-kind looks, and its over-achieving capabilities. There are certainly some cheaper options out there in DAP-land that will get you into audiophile-grade sound for less, but they’re not really as interesting as the SR25.

Full review available here.

Astell&Kern SA700

The Astell&Kern SA700 sits in an awkward place, beneath the A&Futura range but above the A&Norma. Moreover, A&K didn’t give an A&something name to the SA700 adds another layer or perplexity, as if they wanted to create a new range, and thought “let’s just do one player”.

Thankfully, the SA700 was born under a good star. Take the old AK100II (one of my favorite DAP of all time) refresh it, put a dual AKM chip plus a beefier amp, and you get an excellent player that looks/sounds simply amazing.

Astell&Kern Kern SA700

Astell&Kern Kern SA700

Again, Matty really took a liking to this player:

Whether you’re a full-size headphone user or an IEM-lover; you’re serious about spending more time immersing yourself in some dedicated listening; or if you’re stuck inside for the foreseeable future and you simply want to treat yourself, then the SA700 gets a hearty recommendation from me.

Full review available here

Kann Alpha

When Astell&Kern introduced the Kann the first time, it came as a “professional device” for audio engineers seeking a player that could fit in their workflow. Micro-SD + SD card, single-ended and balanced headphone/line out, analog amplifier, a far cry from the usual A&K player.

Then came the Kann Cube, which looked like a joke/meme with its behemoth design and bulky case. A case so big that Astell could, and did, fit a mini-XLR port to connect the player to record systems. Funny story, the case originally came from A&K CD-ripper and if you compare both, you can see the same outlines.

astell-kern-kann-alpha-headfonia

And then came the new Astell&Kern Kann Alpha, the mature one, keeping the smaller size of the original Kann and outputting as much power as the Kann Cube. I had one for a loan a few weeks ago and have been amazed by how full and powerful the sound was – love the Sabre chips.

That say, maybe we’ll do a review later on, but I’ll have to buy one for myself this time! 

A&Ultima SP2000

The king of the hill, the ultimate TOTL, the mighty DAP. Call it as you want, but one thing’s for sure: the A&Ultima SP2000 is, for many, the best player available at the moment. Sure, it’s insanely expensive, weighs a ton, and reignites the old debate “copper vs steel”… but the cold truth is that: it really sounds super, duper good.

Astell&Kern SP2000

Astell&Kern SP2000

I owned the SP1000 and SP1000M, but in a lack of a third liver to sell, I didn’t take the new SP2000. Thankfully, Lieven had the chance to review it:

The Astell&Kern SP2000 is the best-sounding portable player the South-Korean brand has built so far. No, it doesn’t come cheap but you in return get a DAP with an innovative design, extreme usability, and most important of all: a top-level sound where the technicalities are king.

Full review available here.

And now, let’s get into the review!

The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

Page 2: Design & Build Quality

Page 3: UI & Usage

Page 4: Specifications

Page 5: Sound performances

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

3 Comments

  • Reply July 9, 2021

    CT

    Hi. I don’t understand. When you talk about that the se180 improves the volumen (150) and the power otuput (6vrms) what DAP are you comparing? Because the SE200 already have that power and volume, so is not an improvement. Would be nice if you compare this with the SE200 and other brands too. Today is difficult go to a store and listen first to buy a DAP, so the reviews are important to get a DAP. Thanks anyway, but i’m not clear why is the best sounding DAP without a real comparisions with others.

  • Reply July 9, 2021

    BT

    I went and bought myself one the other day. I agree that it looks and sounds fantastic, but is it just me or is it damn near impossible to actually swap out the DAC unit (which is supposed to be one of its big selling points)?

    I tried very hard the other day – pressing the two side buttons and pulling hard – but couldn’t get it to budge, and didn’t want to go further for fear of damaging the player.

  • Reply August 19, 2021

    Carlo

    Hi, I had to return my M8 for battery issues and unfortunately could not get a replacement. I heard about the M9 but… I do not know. Would you see the SE180 a good alternative or the R8? I have to pair the dap to the Vision Ears VE-8 iem wired with Effect Audio Janus D cable. Thanks for your suggestion. C.

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