As an upgrade to the middle-tier A&futura product line of DAPs from Astell & Kern, the newest player SE200 features three DAC chips. Offering both a ESS ES9068AS dual mono and AKM AK4499EQ setup, the SE200 is perhaps the first to come to market with this type of allocation in digital conversion realm. AK claims as much, and I can’t recall a product ever attempting this kind of feature set before either.
Is it a gimmick? Depends how you frame it. But Astell & Kern was never one to let the unknown hamper their exploration into all things portable. Plus, given this product falls into the diverse category of high end audio, there is no shortage of less concrete ways to position an audiophile product. At least on the P&L sheet, this feature costs real money. In a realm where budget products will often opt for the lowest tier of any DAC chipset maker (especially common for the ESS SABRE chip lines) its a statement to triple down on the investment for the core functionality of a digital product. Another bonus to the A&futura SE200 is the use of digital filters, something that full size DAC components will frequently offer, but is much more rare in the field of portable electronics.
Even though it might have very little to do with sonic gains, I also appreciate the interesting ways designers use elements of the casework to convey playback resolution. The SE200 features a color changing LED ring that lights up around the volume knob to show bit rate.
A unique amplifier section is paired with each DAC chip setup, allowing for a more bespoke experience between the two options. Interestingly, according the the spec sheet the AKM option draws 10 hours of play for the device, while the ESS chip is capable of 14 on the same battery. More specs are available from the link below, also a there is a promotional video embedded.
The A&futura SE200 will retail for $1,799 in the US, with preorders starting July 2nd. Shipping is expected to start Monday, July 20.
More info: Astell & Kern A&futura SE200