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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Astell&Kern A&futura SE200 Review

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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.

Sound Quality

When we first listened to the SE 200, it was probably also the first time we have four headphone jacks to plug into a portable audio device. Nevertheless, as a matter of habit, we started from the left: plugging into the output ports for the single AKM AK4499EQ DAC before plugging into to the output ports for the dual ESS ES9068AS DACs for a listen. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves alternating between the two as we put the two DAC configuration through the review process.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE200

While AK claims to have spent twice the usual amount of time on development and tuning; it is fair to say that we also spent twice the usual amount of time reviewing the SE200 if not more. In our opinion, both the AKM and ESS outputs are well-tuned and performed up to expectation. However, we must point out that the AKM output impressed us more, in a rather significant manner.

Listening to How Deep Is The Ocean by Diana Krall, a slow-burning reimagining of the Irving Berlin classic on TIDAL Masters. One could not help but enjoy the spacious sound stage coupled with the clarity, depth, dynamics and musicality that the AKM output exhibits. On the other hand, the ESS output offers a warmer and thicker sound signature with a darker background, though lacking in clarity, depth, and the sound stage spaciousness that we enjoyed on the AKM output.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE200

Regardless of which music genre we throw at the SE200 in the AK4499EQ DAC configuration, the DAP was impressed by reproducing the music faithfully, making the SE200 an articulated listen with its neutral sound signature.

Lastly, AK has included nine audio filters with the SE200, six for the AKM output and three for the ESS output. This allows one to experiment and further tailor a preferred sound profile on the respective DAC configuration. However, do be advised that the audio filters will not work with MQA playback or streaming services and is, in our opinion, not significant enough to differ from the original settings.

Part 1: Introduction, Design & Build
Part 2: Usability
Part 3: Sound Quality
Part 4: Product Specifications
Part 5: Review Ratings, Summary

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