If you’ve been thinking about getting one of the best portable hi-res audio players, you'll know that the prices can be terrifying. So here's some good news: one of the very best players has just got a really big discount, taking its price down by a whopping £900.
The Astell&Kern SE180 bundle, which includes the SEM4 DAC and a leather case, is normally £1,867. However, it’s currently online at Amazon for £999. That’s a serious discount on the bundled hardware; sold separately, the player alone is usually £1,399 and the SEM4 DAC is usually £369.
It’s still a lot of money, granted, but you get a lot of player for your pounds. The SE180 has amassed lots of five-star reviews from reputable reviewers such as our colleagues at What Hi-Fi, who gave it one of the brand's coveted awards for its “engrossing sound quality”, modular design and excellent user experience. The only real niggle was the cost of extra DAC modules – and that’s a gripe this particular bundle addresses.
What’s so great about the Astell&Kern SE180?
The SE180 is part of the company’s high-end A&futura range, and it’s designed in such a way that you can swap out the DAC for a different one. Different DACs have different sonic characteristics, so the swappability means you can effectively transform your entire audio experience. The separation of DAC and the main body is intended to reduce radio frequency noise too.
The SE180 is a serious player. The SEM4 DAC has very low distortion and a wide dynamic range, and it supports 32-bit, 768kHz PCM, nativeDSD 512 and MQA audio. It has 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs for the very best headphones. It was also the first Astell&Kern product to include Digital Audio Remaster (DAR) technology for impressive upsampling that promises “analogue-like original sound” with more clarity and immersion than the audio source.
There’s Bluetooth with LDAC, aptX HD and AAC so you can stream to smart speakers, and it’s all controlled via a nice 5.5-inch touchscreen. Despite the high spec battery life with the SEM4 is an impressive 14 hours.
This is way beyond my budget, even with the discount. But if you're serious about sound it looks like a great audio investment.