Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 Review

A&futura SE180

A&futura SE180

Design & Build Quality

Casing

Nowadays, there are lots of great-looking players available, but all were inspired by Astell&Kern design, to some extent. And there is a good reason for that: A&K is the benchmark. 

Even if the new A&Futura SE180 feels a bit heavy, a tad big, all is made to highlight how « premium » that player feels and looks. It’s a benchmark.

As usual, the case is made of one solid block of aluminum, CNC-milled, brushed, and anodized, magnified by the two glasses, front and back. If the upper model (aka the SP2000) is made of copper or stainless steel, aluminum costs and weighs a lot less.

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Even though, the peculiar design smoothed edges and amazing perceived quality slightly, but surely, outsmart the other player I owned recently. 

Like the FiiO M11 Plus LTD, you can spot a holographic pattern under the backplate, but A&K engineering magic makes it more exclusive, more… luxury.

There is no gap or flaw on any part of the player, but if the player looks astounding without the case, I’d prefer to keep it covered; if I had the case. Again, you’ll have to get one in a separate purchase, and it won’t come cheap…

Layout

Like the Kann Alpha, the A&Futura SE180 finally offers two balanced outputs. Not that one isn’t enough, but since A&K held dear to the classic 2.5mm TRRS, many audiophiles had to use an adapter, like ddHiFi ones, for example, to connect their 4.4mm Pentaconn headphones/IEMs. On the upper side, you get:

  • the classic 3.5mm TRS output, compatible with almost everything
  • the usual 2.5mm TRRS, balanced output, that I use more than the…
  • 4.4mm Pentaconn, balanced output, first introduced by Sony and now available almost everywhere

On the lower side, you’ll find the sole multi-purpose USB-C port, that can be used for data transfer, charging and DAC/Source connection. As it appears, this port is fully USB 3.1 compliant, making file transfers faster than before.

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Surprisingly, the control buttons, usually found on the left side of the player, are now completely gone. The only button you’ll find, apart from the power switch, is now located under the volume wheel. Okay, that’s not completely true either, as you also have two small buttons, completely hidden in the case, located on the upper part of those side panels. What for you ask? So you can take off the DAC/Amp module, my friend! (more about that later)

Once again, build quality is absolutely flawless and wherever you look or touch, you’ll be rewarded. Think of it like a luxury car, if it seems cool from the outside, it’s when you sit that you really feel the difference.

Screen

Once again, I have nothing to say but good things about the A&Futura SE180 screen.

A vivid, sharp 5” 1920×1080 IPS screen combined A&K proven UI, that behaves extremely fast, most of the time. Responsiveness is top-notch, the contrast looks very good too, and colors appear more vibrant than many players, equally sized.

The screen/size ratio isn’t as good as the one found on the iBasso DX300, but this is still one of the best screens out there.

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Everyday carry

On a day-to-day basis, the A&Futura SE180 is very pleasant to use, but way too big to be really comfy.

It’s a bit thick and even if longer than my iPhone, which makes it hard to fit in my trousers’ pocket. Add the case and this can be even more problematic, especially when it’s getting hot like summer, and you don’t wear a jacket… You’ll definitely have to buy a separate pouch for this one, unless if you constantly wear a jean.

The scroll wheel remains a pleasure to use, it’s accurate and allows you to finely tune the listening volume. There is no cover for the wheel, so it’s easy to unintentionally turn up/down the volume, but fortunately, you can lock the wheel through in the settings. A life-saving option with IEM.

Number? The A&Futura SE180 weighs a hefty 380g and is 137mm tall, 77mm wide, 19.9mm thick. Thick.

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

Page 1: About the brand

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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