Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 Review

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Excellent audio and user feel, united with an innovative swappable DAC characteristic, while the A&futura SE180 isn’t inexpensive and not all that portable, it’south an impressively featured and assured music player.


  • Open, expansive soundstage with lots of detail
  • Premium build quality
  • Intuitive user interface and operation
  • Extensive specification
  • Swappable DAC feature


  • Thespian and DAC modules are expensive
  • Not exactly portable
  • Bombardment life not the longest


  • UK
    RRP: £1399
  • USA
    RRP: $1499
  • Europe
    RRP: €1599

Primal Features

  • Swappable DAC feature
    Can bandy the internal DAC and customise the audio functioning

  • Teraton Alpha Sound Solution
    Aims to remove power noise and provide more efficient power consumption

  • Audio file
    Supports upwardly to native DSD256 and 32bit/384kHz support with original DAC


If you believe the likes of Apple and Samsung, an iPhone or Galaxy smartphone is all yous will ever demand to go along you company on your travels. Clearly, no one has told Astell&Kern.

The Korean company continues to swim against the tide, launching new portable music players and updating its older models – and for adept reason. If you want the best audio performance on-the-go, you ought to consider picking up a dedicated music role player.

And according to Astell&Kern, the A&Futura SE180 is its almost advanced actor even so, offering users the ability to switch DAC modules on-the-wing to produce a different sound. It’s a radical notion in the field of portable music, and information technology doesn’t come inexpensive, but quality this adept rarely ever does.


  • Premium build quality
  • First-class book wheel functioning
  • Not exactly pocketable

Surprisingly, the Astell&Kern A&futura SE180’south advent isn’t as eclectic as some of its more angular and off-kilter brethren, taking on a – believe it or not – more straightforward but nonetheless asymmetric and, about definitely, minimalist approach to design.

As a unit of measurement, the SE180 feels reassuringly well congenital. When turned off, the touchscreen looks similar it takes up much of the role player’s front existent-manor. Still, the screen isn’t a top-to-bottom, side-to-side thing with black borders running effectually information technology. Nevertheless, the five-inch touchscreen looks handsome, and the back is covered by a tough glass surface.

AstellKern SE180 with cover on

Both the rear and front are decumbent to picking up smudges and fingerprints, but other than that you’ll find information technology hard to crusade it any significant (or, potentially irreversible) harm. Having dropped information technology (accidentally) on a wooden floor, the offset idea was relief that it didn’t fall on my pes, followed by a bank check on the integrity of the woods-panelled flooring. They are screen guards included in the packaging, if you’re concerned most potential scratches.

To call the A&futura SE180 portable is something of a stretch. At 280g it’s lighter than some headphones; when carried in the hand, at that place’s a weightiness that affirms its premium cost point. Just the weight isn’t the issue – it’s the A&futura’s size. The SE180 takes up plenty of place in a trouser pocket, which makes it cumbersome to carry effectually – unless you lot’re storing it in a jacket pocket.

AstellKern SE180 volume wheel

There is a wonderfully tactile volume bike on the side, and behind it is a colour LED light that signifies the resolution of the file being played (16-bit is red, 24-bit is greenish, DSD is royal). Below the book wheel is a office button for playback (get-go, finish, skip etc).

At the bottom is a USB-C connection and microSD slot, while upward top you’ll detect 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced outputs aslope a 3.5mm unbalanced out. At either end of the role player’s top half are buttons to prise the DAC module area away to insert a different one. It seems the more you bandy DACs effectually, the easier it becomes to pull it out.

AstellKern SE180 headphone outputs


  • Intuitive and well-designed interface
  • Innovative swappable module feature
  • Extensive file support

Where to brainstorm with a player that’s every bit characteristic-complete as the A&futura SE180? Storage, like other Astell&Kern players, is 256GB internally, with the microSD slot supporting cards upwardly to 1TB. Conveniently, the player’s interface mixes albums/tracks from both storage options into one seamless whole.

A&K calls the user interface Android-similar, simply don’t go in expecting a carbon re-create of Android Pie; similarities encompass the navigation and operation functionality. A swipe from the pinnacle reveals notifications, wireless connectivity, EQ modes and a brightness slider for the screen. Swipes to the left and correct motion picture through album tracks, and there’s a degree of modification of arranging your tracks and albums just how you like them.

AstellKern SE180 album cover list

Information technology’southward all fairly speedy thank you to the quad-cadre CPU, and intuitive to utilise, making perusing through your music collection a simple joy rather than a chore. Firmware updates are supported, and you lot tin can download streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal, although they’re delivered in a slightly truncated course compared to their Android counterparts.

The 5-inch touchscreen features a 1920 10 1080 Full HD display, and information technology’southward excellent. Colours look great, text is clear and legible, and glare from whatever low-cal source doesn’t have a detracting effect. Notch this upwardly as some other tick in the win cavalcade for the SE180.

AstellKern SE180 interface

There’s no mention of battery life, simply in apply the A&futura SE180 feels like information technology eats up its battery similar a savoury dish at times. Charging isn’t the quickest either, with three hours considered a fast-accuse and five hours in total to get dorsum to full beans if the battery is depleted.

Audio format support is encompassing and is more a case of what isn’t supported by the SE180. WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF, and MQA are all onboard, with PCM supported up to 384kHz, and DSD up to DSD256. A slight addendum to that is you tin reach higher flake-rates by plugging in dissimilar modules. The SEM2 Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC goes up to 32-flake/768kHz PCM and native DSD512.

AstellKern SE180 swappable module SEM2

And those modules can be bought from Astell&Kern, with the SEM2 and SEM3 available – although at the time of the review, the SEM2 was out of stock and both cost a mentum-stroking £319. Switching the module isn’t equally easy as A&One thousand would accept you believe. I managed to chip a few nails in the process; it isn’t simply a instance of easing the DAC module from the main housing – some force is nigh definitely required.

Other features include the AK File Driblet, for wirelessly transferring files to a PC, smartphone of FTP program on the aforementioned network and the BT Sink function, for connection to an external device over Bluetooth. Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity brings with it wireless high-res compatibility with aptX Hard disk drive and LDAC, also. However you look at the A&futura SE180, you’re non short of options for feeding it with height-quality sources.

Audio quality

  • Open and expansive sound
  • Fantabulous levels of item and insight
  • Swappable DACs can affect overall presentation

Having used the A&futura SE180 with a range of headphones, its central traits become articulate: namely a smooth, clear, and naturalistic approach to sound; a fanaticism for uncovering detail; and a presentation that’s layered and spacious.

Of course, which headphones you lot pair the A&futura SE180 with volition bring their ain characteristics and quirks. A pair of Beyerdynamic AK T9iE in-ear monitors were supplied for this review, and I wasn’t addicted of their detail retrieval or their sharpness with higher frequencies. As such, I used other headphones.

AstellKern SE180 Little Women album

The A&futura SE180 is a player that rarely overcooks or oversells a track. It’s transparent in the signal information technology feeds to a pair of headphones, natural and nuanced, and presents every bit much particular equally information technology tin can wrangle from the recording. Separation of instruments within the soundstage is finely washed, with each distinct from one another that makes for a dense, layered and – ultimately – very chatty soundstage that’s broad and big in calibration.

Smoothness is a word that comes to mind oft when thinking about the SE180. Information technology offered a composed and assured listen that’s incessantly engaging and encourages the listener to play ‘one more than track’ to hear how the Astell&Kern describes information technology.

The character of vocals is preserved well, with the smooth and distinctive delivery of Jez Williams’ voice in Doves’ The Universal Desire (24-bit/96kHz) retained or conveyance of mournful longing of Nick Cave’s Ghosteen album (24-chip/96kHz) standing out. There’s never been anything less of a sense that from an emotional standpoint, the SE180 guides the listener to where they demand to be.

AstellKern SE180 Ghosteen album playing

With higher-resolution files, the A&futura SE180 – as you might await from a £1399 thespian – stretches its legs and flexes its muscles. The low-frequency performance of Ludwig Göransson’southward Rainy Night in Tallinn (24-bit/44.1kHz) is big, weighty and propulsive when piped through the Meze Audio Liric headphones, while a DSD file of the Bach Concerto is fettered with tremendous detail, clarity and insight, the timbre of instruments and texture of notes naturally described.

If there’southward an area of the SE180 that I could nit-pick at, information technology’s that the role player’due south measured approach can rein in greater levels of expression – but this was my perspective with the original SEM1 DAC in play. Brass instruments in David Bowie’south Modern Love on Tidal sounded a little less expressive than I recollect; the track more crisp in its delivery. A swap to the SEM2 DAC module and there’s more of a smoothness to the SE180 with vocals, there’due south some more weight and texture to the bass, and a slight hint of more than overall warmth; only it still maintains its expansive stage and handle for unearthing detail.

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Should you lot buy information technology?

If you want the intricacies of your music drove revealed
Top-notch presentation from the Astell&Kern, with its expansive soundstage and fanatical sense for particular.

If what you seek is something portable
It’south big, chunky and a bit heavy, as well – if yous’re looking to put the SE180 into a trouser pocket, you may desire to call up again.

Concluding Thoughts

If you lot treasure your music collection, yous ought to accept a defended music histrion – and Astell&Kern consistently puts out some of the all-time on the market. The A&futura SE180 is some other effort of superior quality.

Build quality is excellent, the screen and interface brand it piece of cake to employ, and the performance provides an splendid foundation for your favourite music. The A&futura SE180 is expensive, nor is it peculiarly portable, but its performance is unarguably impressive.

How we exam

We test every portable music player we review thoroughly over an extended menses of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. Nosotros’ll always tell you lot what nosotros find. We never, always, take coin to review a product.

Discover out more than about how we exam in our ethics policy.

Tested with a range of audio formats

Tested over several weeks

Tested with diverse headphones

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How much does it cost to buy the swappable DAC modules?

Astell&Kern has priced both the SEM2 and SEM2 DAC modules at £319

Full specs



European union RRP



Screen Size

Storage Capacity

IP rating


Size (Dimensions)




USB DAC Manner

Release Date

Model Number




Audio Formats

Bear upon Screen

Wifi Spec



USB charging

Headphone port

Astell & Kern A&futura SE180





Astell & Kern

5 inches


Non Disclosed

3800 mAh

77 x 19.9 x 137.2 MM

280 One thousand






USB-C, microSD, 3.5mm unbalanced, 2.5mm balanced, 4.4 counterbalanced

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth five.0

Moon Silver



802.11 b/g/north (ii.4GHz)






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