Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 Review

A&futura SE180


 For the nit-pickers and nerdy ones here, I’m giving the specs and technical sheets. For all the others, you can just get to the next page and see how the DAP performs.

Sabre and Asahi Kasei

Once again, the Asahi Kasei chip shortage pushed Astell&Kern to get a new DAC for its player. Instead of packing AKM chips, the A&Futura SE180 now sports a Sabre ESS 9038Pro. A lovely chip that we’ve already encountered in players like the iBasso DX220.

It’s one of my favorite chip and also one of the first that offered out-of-the-box 32bit decoding, without any down sampling. The DAC is advertised for a DNR of up to 140dB and THD of -122dB, native playback supports 32-Bit 768kHz PCM, DSD256 via DoP, native DSD512, and… MQA. Moreover, this chip embeds no less than 8-channel, allowing A&K to output a true balanced signal, with just one chip.


In single-ended mode, crosstalk reaches 138dB, but in balanced mode, the separation reaches new heights, 145dB which is simply astounding. And if not as impressive, the signal-to-noise ratio also gains a few dB: 122dB in single-ended mode, 126dB in balanced mode.

But, A&K did a magic trick with the SE180. Like the SE200, you can enjoy a completely different DAC, brought to you by…AKM! To do so, you’ll have to purchase the SEM2 module (that I don’t have at the moment, unfortunately) and swap the SEM1 module for the SEM2. Thanks to that, not only do you get a different amp – like the iBasso DX300 for example – you also get a new DAC!

The SEM2 is gifted with two AKM AK4497EQ, the same chips found in the FiiO M11 Pro and M11 Plus LTD. A very good DAC, smoother than the Sabre on paper, but until I get one for my SE180, all I can say is that it “should” be different and maybe keener to the ear. Wait & see.


Teraton Alpha

A quick note about Astell’s Teraton Alpha “ultimate sound solution”. Basically, it’s a set of various patents, related to the DAC section, Amp section, and Software section that all proceed in symbiosis to ensure the perfect sound on your A&K device.

The patents act on:

  • power noise reduction when the device is in use, regardless of the source (streaming or local)
  • better audio wiring to improve the crosstalk, it mainly acts on the amp part
  • the complete mute of the unused channel, so that noise levels always remain at the lowest level while the user listen to his music

Check the movie here : 


Inside the box

The Astell&Kern SE180 bundle is scarce, very scarce. In the box you have:

  • the Astell&Kern SE180
  • a USB-C cable
  • a glass protection
  • a quick-start manual
  • and you’re done!

No adapter, no coaxial cable, nothing! For a sub $500 or even sub $1000 I was already complaining, but for a $1500 device… it’s downright infuriating.


Full specs

  • Type: Digital Audio Player

  • OS: Astell&Kern UI
  • CPU: Quad-core
  • RAM: 4Gb
  • ROM: 256Gb
  • DAC: 1x ES9038PRO (SEM1) / 2x AKMAK4497EQ (SEM2)
  • Sample rate: PCM : 8Hz – 768kHz (8/16/24/32bits) native – DSD64/128/256/512
  • System clock: 800 femtoseconds (25ps)
  • Outputs: 3.5mm headphone out/line-out  / 2.5mm balanced headphone output / 4.4mm balanced headphone output
  • Input: USB Type-C
  • Screen: 5” 1920×1080 IPS with Wide Gamut
  • Micro SD: SDHC / SDXC (single slot)
  • USB DAC: yes
  • WiFi : 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz support
  • Streaming app support
  • Bluetooth support : SBC, aptX, LDAC, aptX-HD, AAC
  • Duplex Bluetooth: player can emit and receive music
  • Battery: 3.8V 3600mAh Li-Polymer
  • Quick Charge: yes (9V/1.67A)
  • Battery life: 10h30 in single-ended, 9h in balanced
  • Charging time: around 3h
  • Size: 77mm*137mm*19.9mm
  • Weight: 380g 

 3.5 mm Headphone out

  • SNR: 122dB
  • Crosstalk: -138dB
  • Output impedance: 1 ohm
  • THD: 0.0005%

2.5 mm Headphone out / 4.4mm Headphone out

  • SNR: 126dB
  • Crosstalk: -145dB
  • Output impedance: 1.5 ohm
  • THD: 0.0004%

 The review continues on Page five, 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 5: Sound performances

If you arrived on this page directly, please click here to start reading at the beginning:

4.2/5 - (164 votes)

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.


  • Reply July 9, 2021


    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


    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


    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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