Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Astell & Kern makes the high-res media player modular

Specialty media players are kind of a thing for audiophiles, and while the Type C cable could make a dent on that, A&K’s latest tries something new.

The idea of a modular gadget has never really taken off, and the last few times we’ve seen the concept, it’s been a part of a phone. But it doesn’t just have to be a phone, as audio brand Astell & Kern demonstrates.

The latest modular device might be the media player, as A&K looks at a new take on the audiophile portable player with components that can be switched out based on what you’re playing.

It’s a very niche inclusion, but Astell & Kern’s A&future SE180 is a new media player sporting a module change that can either handle DSD256 or a DSD512, with later modules coming out for other features further down the track.

In essence, you’re changing the standard digital-to-analogue converter, the DAC, from supporting high-res as high as 384kHz to one that pushes as much as 768kHz later on, basically ideal for people looking for the best of the best of the best.

The main module, the one supporting DSD256 and 32-bit/384kHz will come with the SE180 media player to begin with, while the secondary model — the DSD512 32-bit/768kHz module (SEM2 DAC) — will arrive later on.

Overall, the whole thing is very niche, catering to audiophiles looking to play back the best sound, though it goes deeper than that, with the modular DAC approach cutting back on RF noise, and essentially allowing the sound to be as clear as it gets. There’s also a new technology from Astell & Kern along for the ride, something the company calls “Teraton Alpha”, which helps the power handling of the hardware by removing power noise and making the signal as pure as you might hope for.

Beyond the modularity and focus on sound clarity, Astell & Kern’s A&futura SE180 offers a 5 inch Full HD touchscreen with 256GB on-board, and room to move using a microSD slot.

Like the A&norma SR25, we’re expecting this one to run on a fork of Android, and should support Tidal’s HiFi service and Qobuz, especially now that the latter has launched in Australia.

Beyond the streaming services, you can also move big lossless music and smaller lossy MP3s to the player using a wireless file transfer, transferring through either a computer, phone, and even over FTP. It will even support playback from a phone to the media player over Bluetooth, with 24-bit aptX HD and LDAC supported, making it ideal for big wireless headphones, such as the Sony WH-1000XM4.

However Astell & Kern’s modular player won’t come cheap, and neither will its secondary module.

As such, you can expect to find the A&K A&future SE180 with its standard DSD256 module at a recommended retail price this month for $2099 in Australia, with the secondary module, the SEM2 DAC, available later on for $499.

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