About the Astell&Kern A&Futura SE180
A first for Astell&Kern — a swappable DAC module
A first for Astell&Kern — a swappable DAC module
Astell&Kern has become one of the best-known makers of portable high-res music players. Almost a decade of rapid innovation by the company has given them the power to create something unique and modular. This go around, they wanted to give people unparalleled freedom to shape the sound of their music. The A&Futura SE180 is what they came up with, and what a beast it is.
The SE180 is the first Astell&Kern portable high-res player to feature a swappable DAC module. Right out of the box, the feature-rich SE180 has a ton of goodies to enjoy, including a crisp 1080p display, a sleek new user interface, a potent amplifier, and a powerful 32-bit DAC. Its eye-catching all-aluminum housing and ceramic back give it a premium look and feel. Additional modules (available separately) give you the option to configure your player with a different DAC to change its sonic characteristics.
All-in-One Teraton Alpha Module
The Teraton (pronounced "tera-tone") Alpha module was developed exclusively by A&K for maximum sonic impact. The SEM1 module included with the SE180 fits inside the player and snaps in place. The module and the body of the player have separate circuit structures and layouts. That helps to eliminate RF and power noise from muddying your music.
The Teraton Alpha has a lot under the hood, including a flagship ESS Sabre ES9018PRO 32-bit digital-to-analog converter, a stout analog amplifier, and a jitter-minimizing clock. ESS Sabre's ES9018PRO chip is a real powerhouse, boasting an extremely low total harmonic distortion. Couple that with the jitter-minimizing clock and you've got a DAC setup that'll reveal texture and depth that you may never have heard in your music before.
The amplifier uses Astell&Kern's next-gen AMP technology and features a new circuit board layout, hand-selected components, and a new amplifier tuning. It provides clean, detailed sound without breaking a sweat.
Portable players like this one do a fantastic job of driving your wired headphones, but this model also works with your favorite wireless Bluetooth pair. It has Bluetooth 5.0 built in and supports high-quality aptX and LDAC streaming, giving you the best Bluetooth sound quality possible. The wire-free fun doesn't stop there, though. If you have files on your computer, smartphone, or anything else that supports FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and you'd like to transfer them to your player, you can bring up the AK File Drop app on the SE180. It'll scan devices on your network for transferrable music files. Just pick the ones you'd like and the files will be transferred over Wi-Fi to your player.
Astell&Kern also introduced a new feature called BT Sink. It lets you pair the player up with your smartphone, computer, or tablet and play the files from that device on the SE180 without having to do a file transfer.
More premium features
Everything about the SE180 screams luxury. The volume knob has a satisfying, tactile feel. The LED light behind it reflects the bit rate of your music. It'll glow red for 16-bit, green for 24-bit, blue for 32-bit, and magenta for DSD.
Astell&Kern also did some serious user interface upgrades. For the first time on an A&K player (lots of firsts here), you'll find a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen that's reminiscent of what Android™ smartphones use. You can use it to quickly go back and forth between screens, breezing your way from album to album.
And here's a cool, useful touch: on the side of the player, there's a nifty multifunction button. One press pauses and plays the current track. Two presses switches to the next track, while pressing it three times plays the previous track or replays the song if there are no tracks before it.
- Featured in our article: Best portable high-res music players for 2023
Digital music player specs:
- durable all-aluminum housing with ceramic back
- 5" 1080p display
- analog volume knob for fine adjustments
- color LED ring behind volume volume control displays bit rate. (Red: 16-bit, Green: 24-bit, Blue: 32-bit, Purple/Magenta: DSD)
- multi-function button lets you play, pause, skip, and restart tracks
- 256GB internal flash memory
- microSD card slot for cards up to 1TB
- built-in Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX for high-quality music streaming
- built-in Wi-Fi for wireless file transfers
- unbalanced 3.5mm output
- balanced 2.5mm (4-pole) and 4.4mm (5-pole) outputs for compatible headphones
- high-speed USB Type-C interface (cable included) for high-speed file transfer and battery charging
- built-in rechargeable battery offers up to 10-1/2 hours of playback
- charge time:
- standard charging (5V, 2A): 5 hours
- quick charging (9V, 1.67A): 3 hours
- 3-1/16"W x 5-7/16"H x 13/16"D (player without module)
- weight: 9.88 oz
SEM1 Teraton Alpha module specs:
- combination aluminum, stainless steel, and polycarbonate housing
- premium ESS Sabre ES9018PRO digital-to-analog converter
- supported sample rates: PCM up to 384kHz, DSD up to DSD256 (up to 11.2 MHz)
- supported formats: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, DSD, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF, and MQA
- frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
- signal-to-noise ratio at normal gain setting: 122dB (unbalanced); 126dB (balanced)
- signal-to-noise ratio at high gain setting: 125dB (unbalanced); 129dB (balanced)
- total harmonic distortion at normal gain setting: 0.0005% (unbalanced); 0.0004% (balanced)
- total harmonic distortion at high gain setting: 0.0007% (unbalanced); 0.0006% (balanced)
- output level:
- normal gain: 2V RMS (unbalanced); 4V RMS (balanced)
- high gain: 3V RMS (unbalanced); 6V RMS (balanced)
- output impedance: 1 ohm (unbalanced); 1.5 ohms (balanced)
- 3-1/16"W x 3"H x 13/16"D
- weight: 3.53 oz. (module without player)
- total weight: 13.41 oz. (player and module)
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # 3PPR319C-CMSIN1
What's in the box:
Astell&Kern A&Futura SE180 owner's manual
- Portable digital music player (Moon Silver)
- SEM1 All-in-One module (installed)
- 39" USB cable (Type A USB on one end and USB-C on other end)
- microSD card slot cover (installed)
- Clear protective film
- Quick Start Guide
- Warranty card
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More details on the Astell&Kern A&Futura SE180
Overview: The Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 is a premium portable high-resolution music player that delivers exceptional sound quality playback. Like the SE200, the SE180 has multiple DACs (digital-to-analog converters), however, the SE180 introduces interchangeable DAC modules. The SE180 also features dual balanced and unbalanced analog outputs, and a 256 GB internal memory for storing thousands of high-resolution music files. You can add even more memory through its microSD slot. The SE180 has a 5" full-HD LCD touchscreen display, plus built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Construction: The SE180 is only 3"W x 5.4"H x 0.8"D, and weighs 13.25 ounces. The body is machined from solid aluminum with a Moon Silver finish. On the right side is a large rotary volume knob with a single multi-function button below for convenient one-handed operation. The ceramic rear cover adds to its beauty and quality feel. The SE180 comes with protective film to help prevent scratches on the front and back panels, and the top.
5" FHD Display: The A&K SE180 has upgraded the 5" display to Full High Definition (1920 x 1080) for improved image quality. By comparison, its predecessors (SE100 and SE200) have 1280 x 720 HD displays. With a high pixel density of 441 PPI (pixels per inch) and a large color gamut of 16.7-million colors, the SE180's display is easier to read and provides an improved user experience.
Digital Storage: The SE180 has a built-in 256 GB internal memory. You can also insert a microSD card (up to 1 TB) in the memory card slot on the side of the device. Samsung and SanDisk microSD cards have been tested and are recommended for this device.
Amplifier: The SE180 features Next Generation Advanced AMP technology to provide sound quality beyond what other DAPs (Digital Audio Players) offer. You can set the output to Normal (2Vrms unbalanced, 4Vrms balanced) or High (3Vrms unbalanced, 6Vrms balanced). Battery consumption will be greater in High mode, and it is recommended that you connect the unit to power when it is set to High Output.
All-in-One Modules: The Astell&Kern SE180 features Interchangeable All-in-One Modules that let you swap out different DAC/AMP modules for different applications. Physically separating the main body from the All-in-One module completely blocks RF and power noise from the main body. This independent sturcture prevents that noise from interfering with the pure music playback. The modules feature a double locking mechanism with spring-supported internal connectors for a secure and reliable audio connection. Out of the box, the SE180 comes with the SEM1 module which contains a single ESS ES9038PRO DAC. This 8-channel DAC is ideal for premium home audio equipment with its wide dynamic range and detailed output. The optional SEM2, with dual Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ DACs and higher audio resolution (up to 32-bit/786kHz), is available directly from A&K. SEM3 and SEM4 are planned for release at a future date.
Teraton Alpha: The SE180 introduces the Teraton Alpha, AK's ultimate Sound Solution, with patented technologies that come from tens of thousands of hours of research and development. Teraton α (pronounced "Teratone") produces audio playback that is close to the original sound due to a 3-point emphasis:
- Audio Power: Effectively removing power noise from the audio signal through a patented Hi-Fi audio device is the starting point of better sound delivery.
- Amplifier: A&K's advanced AMP design features efficient power consumption, a patented wiring structure that improves crosstalk, and powerful amplification that produces the best audio. The SE180 uses premium OP-AMP parts, and improved circuit design, board layout, and tuning, to produce the best sound. The result is a higher Signal-to-Noise Ratio (129dB) while maintaining a high output (6.1Vrms).
- Audio Interface: Over the years, A&K has perfected their DACs and the audio interfaces that output the analog signal to produce the best sound without noise.
Supported Audio Formats: The A&K SE180 and the SEM1 support the following Audio Formats and Bit Rates:
- Audio Formats: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF, and MQA
- MQA Playback: Services (Tidal Masters), Local files, External USB, MQA-CD (ripped)
- Sample Rates:
- PCM: 8kHz - 384kHz (8 / 16 / 24 / 32 bits per sample)
- DSD Native:
- DSD64: 1-bit / 2.8MHz (Stereo)
- DSD128: 1-bit / 5.6MHz (Stereo)
- DSD256: 1-bit / 11.2MHz (Stereo)
LED Indicator: The SE180's volume control features an LED indicator that glows a different color to show the status of the music currently playing, including bit rate and volume level. The LED glows red (16-bit), green (24-bit), blue (32-bit) and purple (DSD). You can turn the LED indicator off in the Menu, if desired.
USB DAC: You can use the SE180 as an external USB DAC which supports Native DSD playback. The player delivers much better sounding audio than your computer's built-in sound card. Connect the unit via USB from your computer and listen to your stored digital music with headphones, powered speakers, or home stereo. The USB DAC is compatible with Windows 8 (32/64-bit) and Windows 10 (32/64-bit) or MacOS 10.7 (Lion) or later. The volume is controlled by the SE180's rotary volume control. You can also connect the SE180 to a portable USB DAC using the USB-C port in order to listen to music stored on the device through the connected DAC. The packaged USB-C cable is for computer data transfer or charging the device. A different cable is needed to connect the device to a portable DAC.
CD Ripping: You can rip CDs directly to the SE180 using the A&K CD-Ripper (sold separately). The CD's metadata (ID3 tags) will be retrieved via Gracenote if the built-in Wi-Fi has been turned on.
Balanced/Unbalanced Outputs: The Astell&Kern SE180 offers balanced (L+/L-/R+/R-) and unbalanced outputs (L+/R+/GND). Balanced outputs have an additional "cold" signal to compliment the hot signal, which reduces external noise and increases output. The balanced outputs are the 4-conductor 2.5mm and 5-conductor 4.4mm (Pentaconn) ports on the top of the device, while the unbalanced output is a 3.5mm port for connecting most headphones. You can also connect an external audio device to the SE180 by connecting to both the unbalanced 3.5mm port (ground) and the balanced 2.5mm port (LR), using an optional balanced cable available from Astell&Kern.
User Interface: The SE180 features a high-quality user interface to make it easy to find and select your music files, change the volume, and adjust the sound:
- 5" LCD Touchscreen: The full-color LCD touchscreen has a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The screen displays the title and artist of the currently playing song, along with elapsed and remaining time, with the album art in the background. On the touchscreen is a new navigation bar that is consistent with an Android smartphone. You can touch the Play/Pause, Previous/Rewind, or Next/Fast Forward icons to control playback. In the menu, you can activate the Repeat (track, playlist) and Shuffle (track) modes during playback. You can make adjustments to the EQ, set the repeat and random modes, and add the song to a playlist, all using the touchscreen interface.
- Rotary Volume Knob: The SE180 has a side-mounted analog-style rotary volume knob. As you adjust the volume, the volume range is shown numerically (0 to 150) on the display. You can change the output to "Line Out", which locks the volume level at maximum. You should not use headphones with the Line Out feature enabled.
- MultiControl Button: The SE180 introduces a single multi-function button below the volume knob to replace the multiple control buttons along the side. The intuitive controls include Play/Pause (single short press), Next Song (double short press), and Previous Song or Restart Current Song (triple short press).
USB Type-C: The SE180 has a USB Type-C port on the bottom of the unit for connecting the unit to your computer for downloading music files and for charging the battery. USB Type-C allows faster digital file transfer speeds and faster battery charging. Data transfer and charging are done from the same cable. The SE180 is compatible with Windows 8 and 10, as well as Mac OS X 10.7 and up.
Note: For best results, you should make sure your device's firmware is up-to-date before transferring music files.
Wi-Fi Capability: The SE180 features built-in Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n--2.4GHz), allowing you to connect the device and your computer to the same network for streaming and downloading music. With the MQS Streaming Server software installed on your PC or Mac, you can use the SE180 to access music files stored on your computer's hard drive or a connected HDD. In addition, the Wi-Fi connection allows you to receive notifications of new available firmware updates (OTA Upgrades), allowing you to download them on the spot.
AK File Drop: AK File Drop is a new feature that lets you freely transfer files wirelessly through a PC, smartphone, or FTP program on the same Wi-Fi network. You can upload or download files to or from these devices.
Bluetooth: The SE180 also has built-in Bluetooth Ver.5.0 for connecting a Bluetooth device to listen to music wirelessly. Bluetooth 5.0 offers faster data transmission, greater range, and more stability, compared to BT 4.2. It features support for aptX HD, LDAC, AAC, and SBC codecs and A2DP/AVRCP profiles. Device performance may be affected during Hi-Res playback. You must place the player within 8" of the Bluetooth device to pair it, and maintain a distance within 6.5 feet for best audio quality and connection quality.
Bluetooth Modes: In Bluetooth TX (transmitter) mode, you can wirelessly connect and listen to music on the SE180 through Bluetooth speakers. Similar to connecting to a Bluetooth speaker from a smartphone, the RX Mode/BT Sink (receiver mode) lets you play music from an external device (smartphone, tablet) and listen to it in high-quality with headphones through the SE180.
AK Connect 2.0: The SE180 can stream or download music files stored on a computer on the same network. Using the AK Connect 2.0 app (available for iPad running iOS 8.0 or later or Android devices running version 4.2 and up), you can connect to a NAS or PC and control it with a smartphone or tablet.
Power Requirements: The SE180 is equipped with a 3800 mAh 3.8V Lithium-Polymer battery. With USB Type-C, you can charge the battery in approximately 3 hours (with a commercially available 9V 1.67A USB wall adapter.) Normal charging takes approximately 5 hours (with a 5V 2A adapter). A fully charged battery can provide up to approximately 10.5 hours of continuous playback time (based on FLAC, 16-bit 44kHz, Unbalanced, Volume 50, LCD Off).
Timers: The device offers selectable Auto Power Off, Screen Timeout, and Sleep Timer modes. In Auto Power Off, the unit will power off automatically after a selected amount of time of no user or device activity. You can also select an amount of time for the screen to remain on, then turn off automatically after no user activity. The Sleep Timer lets you set a duration of time for playback before turning itself off.
|Unbalanced (3.5mm)||Balanced (2.5mm or 4.4mm)|
|Signal-to-Noise (@1kHz)||Normal Output||122dB||126dB|
|Output Impedance||1 ohm||1.5 ohm|
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