A reminder from the past
Fast forward more than seven years, and a much has evolved since then. Astell & Kern released a myriad of single DAC chip DAPs since that time. Different manufacturers entered the DAP market during the past several years, with the specific goal of providing “Premium Flagship Players.” FiiO’s recent flagship M15 is a perfect illustration of this trend. Is A&K’s current SE200 only another “Premium Flagship Player”? Can it surpass the competition? What does A&K have that the competition doesn’t? Let’s find out.
Meet the SE200
The SE100, the initial model of A&futura, introduced the world to a portable ES9038 Pro 8-channel DAC in a first compact DAP device. Astell&Kern have now announced another upgrade to this lineup, the SE200.
A&K SE200 Design
There’s no ignoring the fact that the SE200’s design gets its influence from the earlier model of the A&K SE100. Having a comparable style to the SE100, The SE200 blends the same bold curves with its predecessor’s trapezoidal pattern character.
The blended trapezoidal curves signify the merging of two different DAC chips inside a single player. The volume knob is split into two to signify the two different DACs employed and merge with the curves on the Player’s side to reflect a faint LED light. The SE200 has an alloy body made from a single block of aluminum. A Swiss watch factory manufactures the entire frame. In contrast to the previous 241g SE100, the SE200 is 33g heavier and weighs 274g.
Ceramic Top & Rear
Unlike the tempered glass found on similar devices, The A&futura SE200 utilizes a unique ceramic plate material on the Player’s top and rear. Contrary to standard glass, you can observe the light moving smoothly around the Player’s aluminum chassis.
Display & Battery Life
The DAP takes advantage of the large high-resolution 1280×720 touch display. Additionally, the latest model features an optimized octa-core processor. Although the battery life remains stuck at 3700mAh, it is more efficient than it’s predecessor.
Despite using three high-end DAC chips, the SE200 offers 14 hours of battery life using the ES9068AS DAC chip, and about 10 hours while decoding audio using the AK4499EQ. This places the DAP in a tight spot, directly challenging the 15 hours of battery life offered by the FiiO M15.
3 DAC Chips
What’s unprecedented about A&futura SE200 is the built-in AKM AK4499EQ / ESS ES9068AS (2 DAC Chips) of these two sets of DAC music processing chips with different brands and different flavors! DAPs earlier relied on two DAC Chips of the same type to output the left/right channels or balanced/unbalanced sound. SE200 is really “2 DACs in one player”. The SE200 features two flagships ES9068AS Sabre DACs from ESS in a Dual DAC configuration, whereas the third DAC is the flagship A&K AK4499EQ, the same DAC A&K used in its flagship SP2000. Combining the three DACs, they have designed the world’s first multi-DAC DAP.
Four different outputs
The SE200 also features two 3.5mm single-ended outputs as well as two 2.5mm balanced outputs. The AKM AK4499EQ DAC chip delivers up to 3.0Vrms and 6.0Vrms respectively; the two ESS DAC chips, on the other hand, are rated as capable of delivering up to 3.0Vrms and 6.0Vrms respectively.
Pricing & Availability
The SE200 is not officially available yet, but A&K has started taking preorders, while the official estimated release date is July 20, 2020.