The SE100 is one of Astell&Kern’s higher end players from their A&Futura product line.
Disclaimer: The SE100 was sent to us free of charge by Astell&Kern directly in exchange for this review. The SE100 unit is being returned next week to AK. All AK samples are loaners.
The South-Korean Astell&Kern by iRiver does no longer need an introduction anymore as they quickly have become one of the world’s most famous DAP makers. It’s a given fact that they aren’t the cheapest – though a lot of brands charge these prices right now – but you can’t deny the sublime design and top quality sound their unites have.
You can find the SE100’s dedicated product page right here: https://www.astellnkern.com/eng/content/shop/features.asp?mcg=CG110000&mpos=0&scg=CG231960&spos=1&tcg=&tpos=0&gcode=SC32050
According to Astell&Kern, the A&futura is a premium line of players with advanced features that bring the original performance to life. The SE100, the first model of A&futura, is designed for you to feel the quality of premium Hi-Fi from the moment you hold it.
The SE100 is the first unit to introduce a different sound by using a Sabre ES9038 Pro 8-channel DAC together with the next Level Octa-core CPU.
The SE100 comes with a 5-inch touch screen display with HD screen resolution and improved user interface, like the one the SP1000 uses. The SE100 is capable of putting out 4.1Vrms balanced with minimal noise. As the output power increases, the noise fluctuates louder as well. However, A&futura SE100 shows 123dB of SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) at 4.1Vrms of audio output.
At the same time, the noise level on single-ended is even smaller, it produces 122dB of SNR.
Storage wise you get 1 microSD slot and 128gb of internal storage and that should be more than enough as we now have easily available 400gb memory cards.
On the AK website it is compared to the AK380 which was AK’s Flagship DAP for quite a while. It’s not available anymore from AK’s shop and I don’t have it with me anymore either. With the SP1000 as flagship now, I suppose we can see the SE100 somehow as the AK380 replacement but to me it’s more of a new unit in between the AK SR15, the KANN and the SP1000 flagship.
The official price in AK’s webshop is $1699USD, making it the second most expensive DAP in their line-up after the A&Ultima units and not looking at limited editions which regularly become available in some countries. The SE100 isn’t the flagship DAP but at the same time I do look at it as the SP1000’s little brother. A few weeks ago however the A&Ultima SP1000M was released, and that mini SP1000 is now the real little brother and the 2nd most expensive unit of their line-up.
If you look at the SE100 quickly you’ll find it to have a similar look to the SP1000 flagship and that’s done on purpose. The SE100 according to AK has the same audio block design of SP1000 for premium Hi-Fi audio performance. The SE100 measures are 2.98” x 5.22” x 0.6”, which in real number translates to 75.8mm x 132.7mm x 15.3mm. It’s more or less the same size as the SP1000.
I absolutely like the design of the Astell&Kern units but not everyone does and that’s only normal as it’s a very personal thing. The SE100, style wise, to me isn’t as refined as the SP1000 is but it’s still a really nice looking piece of gear. Like with the SP1000, AK designed a beautiful volume control wheel and the SE100 is designed in such a way that all the attentions gets drawn to that wheel.
AK describes the design as follows:
The design of A&futura SE100 resembles “unrestricted balance” from a composition of a trapezoid and curves together. The volume knob at the end of the side curve is easy to operate from front and back and its shape fits just right in either hand. The glass back plate has a unique arrangement of “A” logos in a diamond pattern that visualizes the amplification of Astell&Kern before your eyes. As you rotate the device under light, hidden beauty shines as you change the angle and reveal its beauty.
The AK SE100 has already won a Reddot design award but yeah they’re handing those out to anyone lately so it doesn’t hold as much value anymore as it once did.
Again, the SE100 looks great (if you ask me) and it’s like a piece of jewelry. I have to admit has sharp edges but I in general don’t mind that. It’s also certainly isn’t the first time AK does this, but this time, no leather case comes included with the player. That means you’ll feel the sharpness all day long when you’re using the new DAP. For the price I in all honesty feel they should have included one of their nice cases to protect the player and it’s awesome design, including the sharp edges. The leather cases are for sale as an accessory though.
If the regular SE100 is too basic looking for you, you can always get the limited edition MR. Cat design version of the SE100. I’m a big fan of Mr. Cat’s art and I personally would pay the extra $100USD to get this premium version. His paintings are way out of my budget so this would be my only shot at owning a piece of Mr. Cat art.
The review continues on Page Two of this article