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Astell and Kern bring out new SEM4 DAC module for Afutura SE180 player

Astell&Kern has introduced a new DAC module – the SEM4 – for its well-regarded A&futura SE180 digital audio player, offering users another means of customising its performance.

The SEM4 DAC module is fourth module to be released so far, and it is the first to feature Digital Audio Remaster (DAR) upsampling technology. This enhances the sample rate of the audio source, with Astell&Kern saying it allows music fans to get closer to the analogue-like sound of the original source.

Astell&Kern SE180 SEM4 DAC module

DAR can upsample the audio source up to a maximum PCM sample rate of 384kHz/DSD256. Whatever you’re playing, the SEM4 looks to convert to a higher sample rate that “suits the source” for a refined, and richer sonic performance that reveals “detail and nuances in your favourite music otherwise unheard.”

There are, of course, a few rules to this upsampling process. For PCM files the maximum upsampling rate are the following:

  • 44.1kHz range PCM will be converted to 352.8kHz for playback
  • 48kHz range PCM will be converted to 384kHz for playback
  • No conversion when playing DSD with this option selected

The maximum rate for upsampling to DSD is:

  • PCM files lower than 96kHz will be converted to DSD128
  • PCM files over 96kHz will be converted to DSD256
  • DSD files below DSD256 will be converted to DSD256

Other details include the SEM4 being the first A&K equipped with a premium dual AK4493SEQ dual DAC from Asahi Kasei. It features Velvet Sound technology to help deliver a natural audio performance with less noise and distortion along with a wider dynamic range.

Battery life is said to be up to 14 hours, the most of the SE180 modules, thanks to carefully selected advanced switch and capacitor components used with the low-power consumption design.

The optional Astell&Kern SEM4 DAC is priced £369 / $400 / €429 and goes on sale in May from the Astell&Kern website. The Astell&Kern A&futura SE180, which we reviewed earlier in 2022, awarding it five stars, is priced £1,399 / $1,499 / €1,599.

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