Picture Sunday – Astell&Kern SR15

Astell&Kern SR15

Astell&Kern is the driving force in the high end DAP market. Their products are considered some of the very best. The recently launched SR15 is their new entry model. A first glance at it now, on Headfonia!

Disclaimer: This post is part of our Picture Sunday series, you can find all of the previous ones here.

I have been a long-time fan of Astell&Kern DAPs. My first one was the AK120ii, which I still think is one of the finest looking and great sounding products of theirs. Since then I have climbed up the product ladder to their current flagship – the A&ultima SP1000, which I think is the best DAP of all.

Most people will probably agree with me here, the industrial design of Astell&Kern players is very unique and I am not surprised by how many other brands have copied them. The most famous example to me is the Chinese brand FiiO, which everyone knows. Just look at their recent products, they all resemble AK to some extent to me.

Astell&Kern SR15

Astell&Kern SR15

Astell&Kern however does not only make great looking DAPs, but also one of the best softwares out there. Their User Interface is extremely responsive and well thought out. I know people have had problems with AK not supporting certain streaming services, but even those days seem to be over. AK has announced a short while ago that their products will be supporting side-loading Android applications soon (expected this October). Though not all of their players will from start.

Just last week I have received one of Astell&Kern’s latest Digital Audio Players – the A&norma SR15. I immediately started taking photos of it, as I was just in a photoshoot for other reviews. These photos were shared in the Headfonia chat-group and nobody believed I was taking these. I understand, because I really am not good at that. I mean, just look at the photos Nathan or Berkhan take. These are on a whole other level that I will never reach.

Astell&Kern SR15

Astell&Kern SR15

The SR15 is the spiritual successor of the not so long introduced AK70 MK2, which Lieven reviewed earlier this year. My expectations for AK players are always high, as they seem to improve from model to model. Since the SR15 landed in the Vienna office, it replaced my SP1000 as daily driver. I am amazed by the price to performance relation of the SR15.

The SR15 has inherited the redesigned User Interface of the SP1000, which I am very happy about. It’s snappy and intuitive, though not everything is mirrored from the ultima to the norma. The design of the A&norma is simply gorgeous. Just look at the attention to detail AK’s designers put in. The volume wheel is incredible (also the tactile response) and the three-dimensional cubes on the back plate still baffle me.

Astell&Kern SR15

Astell&Kern SR15

What most people seem to have a problem with, is the tilted screen. Yes, it is unusual, but it’s not just an AK design blurb. Once you have it in your right hand you will notice that the screen is completely straight when you look at it. Since I’m always using my DAP with my left hand, that doesn’t apply directly to me, but I don’t mind.

There are some things I would have liked to see different though, like USB C, fast charging, a pre-applied screen protector or a supplied case for the SR15. Though it doesn’t need it like the A&futura SE100, who’s corners are much sharper in comparison.

Astell&Kern SR15

Astell&Kern SR15

Sonically the SR15 impresses. It is a damn fine mix of musicality and technical performance. I have mostly been using it with the Jomo Quatre (review soon) and the combo is loaded with heaps of details, emotions and an organic beauty. The soundstage is wide and clear. Resolution is top and imaging very good. Overall a very competitive and convincing product. A full review will come over a reasonable course of time, so keep an eye on Headfonia.

John Darko, a man I have highest respect for, claims the DAP days are over, but are they really when you can get something like the SR15?

Picture Sunday – Astell&Kern SR15
4.6 (92.08%) 96 votes

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    7 Comments

    • Reply September 30, 2018

      Booker

      Interesting, there’s been so few reviews of this unit around – everyone’s been busy paying attention to the ultima.

      Very keen to see the review 🙂 I’ve got a Plenue V which uses the same DAC (or the CS43131 at least, which is the CS43198 with a built-in amp from what I gather). Of course sound isn’t all about the DAC chip, but the specs on this thing are crazy – 126dB SNR, and it’s being used in “entry level” players (whether A&Ks 700 USD offering counts as entry level might cause arguments).

      The detail retrieval on the Plenue V is fantastic, hopefully I’ll get a chance to compare it with A&Ks implementation in the SR15 sometime soon.

      • Reply October 1, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Booker,

        thanks for your comment.

        True, most concentrate on the ultima, that’s of course because it is a statement product by them. However, I agree with you, it is the SR15 that should deserve more attention as it is available to a broader audience with its more affordable price.

        I’d love to compare it to the Cowon offerings, but these are very difficult to audition here. Maybe one day…

        Cheers!

    • Reply October 1, 2018

      Muhammad Iqbal

      Their product are the best ini DAP market. They pay attention to user experience, sound, and build quality.

      • Reply October 1, 2018

        Linus

        Hello Muhammed,

        thanks for your comment.

        Absolutely, AK really pays attention to the big picture. Plus, it is incredibly costly to produce fake AK DAPs due to the machining involved, so you won’t have the risk to run into counterfeits. But they really nail it all, sound, UI and build quality – I fully agree with you.

        Cheers!

    • Reply October 6, 2018

      R7

      Kudos to AK,,many players getting streaming music services, including offline,, awesome for company to listen , kudos AK,, they even have rep on major forums,,kudos

    • Reply October 14, 2018

      Nikolas Vassilopoulos

      It would be nice to see a L&P L4 vs A&K SR15 comparison in future. Best, Nikolas

      • Reply October 14, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Nikolas,

        thanks for your comment.
        Indeed, that would be great, however there are no plans for an L4 review atm. At least I’m not aware of any.

        Cheers

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