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Astell&Kern introduces the A&futura SE180

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Goh Beng Yeow
Goh Beng Yeow, the Founder / Editor at Porta-Fi™, is a recipient of the IT Youth Award in Singapore. Twice nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Beng Yeow has previously founded startups such as PDALive.com, Coded Pixels Consultants and was a Tech writer for TODAY, a national daily newspaper under MediaCorp. Since 2017, he has been writing, editing and producing commentaries, interviews, news and reviews on Porta-Fi™. In 2019, Beng Yeow was appointed Advisor to LHDC™, the industry's latest low latency and high-definition Bluetooth audio codec.

Today, Astell&Kern introduced the A&futura SE180, the South Korean brand’s third product in the A&futura line. Expanding on the multi-DAC innovation first introduced in the A&futura SE200, the A&futura SE180 allows one to customise the sound with different audio-flavoured DACs to match one’s preferences via its interchangeable DAC modules.

The A&futura SE180 is equipped with the SEM1 DAC module, sports an ESS ES9038PRO 8-channel DAC chip, which previously featured on the A&futura SE100, the inaugural model of the A&futura line. According to Astell&Kern, the use of the ESS DAC chip provides a wider dynamic range and greater detail, along with extensive high-resolution file support up to 32-bit / 384 kHz PCM and native DSD256 files. At launch, an optional DAC module, the SEM2 featuring a pair of Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ DAC chip which supports playback of up to 32-bit / 768 kHz PCM and native DSD512.

By physically separating the main body from the all-in-one module, the brand claims that any power and radio frequency noise generated by the main unit is completely blocked. The DAC module should slot easily into place from the top of the player and features a pioneering double-locking mechanism that promises to securely connect each component.

The SEM1 and SEM2 DAC modules will support 3.5 mm single-ended, 2.5 mm balanced, and 4.4 mm balanced connections and MQA support for locally stored files and playback via TIDAL.

Astell&Kern have shared that another module is planned for later this year, with another scheduled in the first half of 2022.

The A&futura SE180 also sees the introduction of the brand’s patented TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology, a new technology that effectively removes power noise and provides efficient power consumption and amplification through the audio output interface stage, where the digital-to-analogue signal conversion takes place, according to Astell&Kern’s representatives.

Arguably the South Korean brand’s most advanced player yet, the A&futura SE180 features a 5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) 441 PPI touchscreen with the addition of a new navigation bar pinned at the bottom of the screen, allowing one to control the playback from any screen. Astell&Kern has also added AK File Drop for easier wireless file transfers and BT Sink function for simpler connection of the SE180 to an external Bluetooth device.

Like the A&norma SR25 and the KANN ALPHA, the A&futura SE180 supports Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, sports 256GB of internal memory, which is expandable up to 1TB via the microSD card slot.

The Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 with the SEM1 DAC module will be available from May, priced at EUR 1,599 / GBP 1,399 / SGD 2,299 / USD 1,499 and the SEM2 DAC, which will also be available from May, is priced EUR 379 / GBP 319 / SGD 549 /USD 349.

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