• Sat. May 14th, 2022

Astell & Kern’s $1,799 music player lets you switch between DACs

ByTina R. Wimmer

Jun 26, 2020

Astell & Kern says its latest audio player is the first in the world to feature DACs from two separate manufacturers, allowing you to switch between them to customize the sound of your wired headphones. The $1,799 A&futura SE200 includes AKM (AK4499EQ) and ESS (dual ES9068AS) DACs, which have their own AMP circuits tailored to their individual sounds. After choosing a DAC, the sound can be further customized with a series of audio filters.

High-end audio devices usually include high-quality DACs. LG often differentiates its phones by incorporating a quad-DAC system and headphone jack for better sound. However, this is the first time we’ve seen a company include DACs from two different manufacturers, just to allow listeners to fine-tune their audio.

As expected of a music player that costs $1,799, the SE200 handles almost any music file you can throw at it. It plays native 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 files, and there’s also MQA support so it can play or stream hi-res audio files encoded in the format — handy if you’re on the HiFi membership plan from Tidal and want to stream its Master-quality music. There’s 256GB of built-in storage, a microSD card slot that can expand it up to 1TB, Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth AptX HD, and battery life of up to 14 hours.

Externally, the SE200 is controlled via its 5.0-inch 720p display, and there’s a volume wheel that will light up in different colors to show details about the music playing, including its bitrate, or which DAC is currently being used. There’s a USB-C port for charging, and you can also use the player as an external DAC for your Mac or Windows computer.

As well as playing locally stored files, the player is also compatible with a range of streaming services including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, SoundCloud, Deezer, and more. Additional services can be added by downloading and installing the appropriate Android APK.

$1,799 is a lot to spend on a digital audio player, but on a DAC per dollar basis, the A&futura SE200 sounds a little less obscene.