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Astell&Kern’s A&futura SE300 DAP Features A Very Unique DAC: High-End Munich 2023

Astell&Kern’s A&futura SE300 DAP utilizes an R-2R Ladder DAC and looks to be an ideal match for the new A&K AURA IEMs that are also making their debut at High-End Munich 2023.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 portable DAP lifestyle

Astell&Kern made its name with its award-winning premium DAPs and over the past few years, the Korean manufacturer has faced some rather stiff competition from both Sony and FiiO. The DAP market is very niche and all of the brands are fighting for a small group of music listeners who are extremely passionate about headphones and IEMs and also rather knowledgable in regard to the technology that had propelled the headphone space forward over the past decade.

With CanJam NYC and Singapore in the rearview mirror, Astell&Kern are debuting two products at High End Munich 2023; an ultra premium portable DAP for $1,900 and cost-no-object IEMs in collaboration with Vision Ears for $4,200. Both products will be on display at their booth – HALL 1, E03 from May 18 – 21, 2023

The new SE300 becomes the fourth player in Astell&Kern’s A&futura line of Digital Audio Players (DAP) and is the first to use an ultra-refined R-2R DAC. It also features dual amps (Class A and Class AB) developed with their proprietary TERATON ALPHA technology and in-house developed FPGA.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 portable DAP angle views

Fully Discrete 24-bit R-2R DAC

The SE300 comes supplied with an R-2R DAC, instead of a Delta-Sigma DAC that is most commonly used in other audio players. An R-2R DAC is also known as Ladder DAC, as it arranges resistors in a ladder form and is extremely technical and difficult to execute as it requires complex refined resistor units and hard to manage current controls.

The R-2R DAC used in the SE300 arranges 48 pairs (23xR and 25x2R) of 96 ultra-precision resistors to create analog signals, in turn realizing true 24-bit decoding. The key to producing the best hi-fi sound is ultra-precision resistor design with the smallest error ranges. In the SE300, Astell&Kern inspected each specifically selected ultra-precision resistor and only utilized those that met their specifications to complete the design of the R-2R DAC.  

R-2R DAC Circuit Board for Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 DAP

Class A/AB Dual AMP Mode

The A&futura SE300 features a switchable AMP mode, allowing users to select between Class A or Class AB AMPs. The Class A AMP is an analog amp that offers the best linear output, amplifying signals without distortion or loss of signal and providing soft, warm, and natural sounds.

The refined analog signal created directly by the R-2R DAC, reproduces a sound closest to the original analog audio through the organic and powerful Class A AMP.  The Class AB AMP is an analog amp that offers a powerful output with the added benefit of high efficiency. This presents dynamic and crisp sounds with less harmonic distortion.  

Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 portable DAP bottom view lifestyle

2-Step Gain Mode

A 2-step Gain Level mode allows listeners to create the perfect match for a wide range of headphones and IEMs, maintaining optimal sound output.  The two-step gain setting with “Normal Gain” and “High Gain” modes can generate a high current output to create a powerful sound and excellent driver control.  With up to 6 Vrms from the balanced connections, driving high-impedance headphones has never been easier.

Custom-designed FPGA with Optimized OS/NOS Modes

Astell&Kern developed an in-house FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) for the SE300 instead of using common off the shelf commercial semiconductor chipsets, relaying digital signals to the R-2R DAC through its algorithm. Astell&Kern’s FPGA, developed specifically for the SE300, supports two modes – OS (Over Sampling) and NOS (Non-Over Sampling).   

In NOS mode, the player reproduces the pure original sound without any digital processing, allowing users to enjoy the true unprocessed sounds as decoded by the R-2R DAC itself.  OS mode offers partial digital processing that expands the bandwidth of the original signal up to 8x to offer impressive details, with an expansive sense of space creating crisp and clear sounds.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 portable DAP user interface screens

Astell&Kern 4th Generation Graphic User Interface

First introduced on the flagship A&ultima SP3000, the SE300 features Astell&Kern’s newly developed 4th generation UX/UI which focuses on the process and experience of listening to music.

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The new theme is designed with a focus on the experience of rediscovering songs that you have forgotten; you can quickly browse through music categories with simple gestures. A convenient search feature along with album art has been added so that you can enjoy a digital display of CD album covers of your music collection. It is designed to give you not only the pleasure of listening to music, but also to create fun when operating the device.

With the new Crimson Theme, one of the main features of the 4th generation UI, the graphics are simple and unintrusive, focusing on usability and intuitiveness. Three key concepts, Edge, Simple, and Dark Mode, were used to improve usability and increase clarity with a style unique to AK. The black and red theme colors are chosen to reduce eye fatigue, maximize battery usage and reduce heat generation.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 portable DAP angle tilt

Additional Features:

  • Native playback support of up to 32-bit/384KHz PCM and DSD256, allowing you to fully enjoy your favorite music anywhere you like.
  • ReplayGain, which allows the player to automatically adjust the volume between tracks and maintain a consistent playback level.  
  • BT Sink allows the SE300 to connect to an external device via Bluetooth, and function as a Bluetooth DAC. Music from an external device, such as a smartphone can now be played back in high-quality, taking full advantage of the hi-res audio decoding in the player.
  • With AK File Drop, transferring your music files from a computer or NAS is even easier and more convenient.  Using AK File Drop, you can freely transfer files wirelessly through a PC, smartphone, or FTP program located on the same network.  Music file management is now possible with a cableless, wireless solution.
  • Real-time information, confirmed by light.  Behind the exquisite A&futura SE300 volume wheel is an LED light that is reminiscent of rising waves. With the LED light that radiates from the inside of the SE300, users can see the bit rate of the currently playing music track or the current AMP mode in use by the color of the LED light.

The SE300 includes a 5.46-inch 1080×1920 Full HD touchscreen, 128GB of internal memory with support for microSD cards up to 1TB, dual-band 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi, DLNA networking, USB digital audio output, USB-C for data transfer and fast-charge support, and the ability to use the SE300 as a USB DAC for your Mac or Windows-based PC. 

The SE300 includes support for the most popular music streaming services including Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify and is Roon Ready certified.   

Connection options include a 3.5mm unbalanced, 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced headphone outputs.  The SE300 features Bluetooth 5.0 which features faster transmission speed and greater range compared to Bluetooth 4.2, therefore providing a more stable wireless connection.  Both LDAC and aptX HD are supported to provide audiophiles with 24-bit audio playback wirelessly.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 portable DAP front and back views

Design Concept

Astell&Kern is made from aluminum and has streamlined surfaces that represent the flow of music. The bottom section of the device curves outward, allowing for a more ergonomic grip while using the player.

The right side of the SE300 is coated with stainless steel to enhance visual focus. The polished side and triangular-patterned volume wheel are key to creating powerful and visually striking contrasts. The straight pattern on the rear of the volume wheel elevates the visual density and allows users to control volume and visually check the changes.

The wheel lighting is placed behind the volume wheel to avoid direct exposure while allowing the light to be reflected on the side decorations and volume wheel knurl, creating the effect of light bursting from the inside.

The rear glass also features a new etching pattern with the A logo of Astell&Kern that adds a sense of depth that may otherwise look dull.

Astell&Kern A&futura SE300 portable DAP with optional case

Price & Availability

The A&futura SE300 will be available June 2023 at authorized Astell&Kern dealers worldwide for $1,900.

Two cases for the SE300, made of high-quality vegetable leather from BADALASSI CARLO will be available for purchase separately.

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  1. Ryan

    May 12, 2023 at 10:00 pm

    It’s $3700 not $1900

    • Ian White

      May 13, 2023 at 1:40 am


      $1,900 USD according to Astell&Kern.

      Ian White

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