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But can you hear the difference?”

My colleague asked me this as I removed my earphones and he realised I was listening to music through a dedicated music player rather than my phone.

And the answer is yes’. I think most people would hear the difference listening to music played through a better digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), amplifier and headphones rather than a phone. It’s a lot less convenient though. The question is whether music is an important enough leisure activity to be worth the investment. There is no single correct answer to that question…

Possibly motivated by my recently dead hi-fi, I bought an Astell & Kern (formerly iRiver for those with long memories) SE 200 digital audio player and a pair of high-end Sennheiser earphones.

Astell & Kern SE 200


This setup is a major jump from my previous Chord Mojo DAC driven from my iPhone.


Where the Sennheiser earphones are beautifully milled and sculpted, the A&K player is an uncompromising slab of metal. There are no Jony Ive’ Bezier rounded corners here! The sound quality though is truly immersive and entirely natural. This is a system that lets the user lose themself in the music.

It was disappointing that this is an expensive component and it’s not a product where one can say it just works!” I needed to spend too much time working out where to find and download the correct version of Android Package files just to be able to play TIDAL music files offline.

This player actually has two DACs and each DAC has output for balanced and unbalanced headphones. I’ve found the two DACs to be really useful — one is software and warmer sounding and great for acoustic music such as Sean Shibe classical guitar, the other DAC is forward’ and really suits music styles such as rock music and elctronic.

Now that I am past these teething troubles I am delighted with this little hi-fi . This is not a system will date or be superseded by something with better performance. This is not a throwaway product. It will last.

Posted on October 3, 2022   #Music     #Design  

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