Astell & Kern A&futura SE180: modular design and power optimization
The novelty from Astell & Kern – the portable player Astell & Kern A&futura SE180 – attracts with several interesting solutions. This model is based on the modular multiDAC concept first introduced in the A&futura SE200: different DACs can be used like replaceable cartridges. In addition, the SE180 supports Astell & Kern’s patented Teraton Alpha Sound Solution technology, which optimizes the power supply of the analog output stage.
In the basic version of SEM1, an 8-channel ESS ES9038PRO DAC is docked to the Astell & Kern A&futura SE180. With it, the new product handles PCM resolution up to 32 bit/384 kHz and DSD256. This DAC can now be replaced with a SEM2 with dual Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ – it supports 32bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512. One more module should appear at the end of this year, and the next one in the first half of 2022. Their specifications are not yet known.
With existing modules, you can connect headphones to the new product via 2.5, 3.5 and 4.4 mm jacks (the latter is rare in Astell & Kern technology). The SE180 supports MQA for files from on-board storage or direct from Tidal. The storage itself has a capacity of 256 GB – it can be expanded by inserting a microSD card.
Astell & Kern A&futura SE180 is the first Astell & Kern product to feature AK File Drop – it can easily transfer files wirelessly to a PC, smartphone or FTP. The BT Sink function will allow Astell & Kern DAC to play files from the memory of a smartphone connected via Bluetooth. Alternatively, regular Bluetooth 5.0 playback is available with support for 24-bit aptX HD and LDAC codecs.
All this is controlled from a Full HD screen with an updated interface. Docked at the bottom of the display, the navigation bar allows you to instantly switch between different functions. There is also a status LED around the volume control knob: it will show the level, file type and bit rate.
Astell & Kern A&futura SE180 in basic version with SEM1 DAC (ESS) module costs 1,600 euros in Europe. An additional SEM2 DAC (AK4497EQ) will cost another 380 euros.