With Astell & Kern’s latest hi-res audio players, there’s something for everyone

astell and kern a futura norma
Astell & Kern A&futura SE100

If you think a portable audio player is no better than your phone, then you’ve certainly never encountered the likes of Astell & Kern. We’ve long been fans of the company’s players, from its previous flagship to the more recent A&ultima SP1000. Now the company has debuted two new series of similar players at the High End 2018 show in Munich, Germany, for those who are looking for high-resolution audio on the go, but don’t want to shell out $3,500 for the flagship.

Both new models are encased in sturdy aluminum casing with a similar look and feel to the flagship A&ultima. While that model shot for the moon when it came to components and build quality, both new series cut the price tag without sacrificing the quality that Astell & Kern players are known for, which will quickly become apparent when looking at what goes into the new models.

The first model in the A&futura series is the SE100, which packs an Octa-core processor as well as the professional-grade ESS Sabre ES9038Pro DAC chip, which offers four channels of processing powers per left and right stereo channels, making for fantastically clear and detailed audio. Capable of playing Quad DSD audio natively, the SE100 can also play back up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM audio, making it perfect for your hi-res audio needs. This model features 128 GB of internal storage and can play back roughly 10 hours of audio before needing a charge. While most of the controls are accessible via the 5-inch touchscreen, a dedicated volume knob is a nice touch.

For those taking their first step into the world of hi-res audio, the A&norma SR15 is designed to be an affordable but still high-quality entry level player. This model features a quad-core processor and Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC, providing plenty of power to play back high-resolution formats. This model supports single-rated DSD natively as well as PCM audio up to 24-bit/192kHz. The interface remains the same as the higher-end Astell & Kern players.

Astell & Kern is also showing off its latest collaboration with Jenn Harvey Audio, the Billie Jeam in-ear monitors (IEMs). These use a two-way dual balanced-armature design to provide excellent frequency response, with an Acoustic Chamber Sound Bore design that provides a wider soundstage than you’ll find in many IEMs.

The A&futura SE100 retails for $1,700 and will launch in May, while the A&norma SR15 will sell for $700 and will begin shipping in June. The Billie Jean IEMs are available now for $350, but if in-ears aren’t your thing, check out our list of the best headphones you can buy.

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