Under Thy Spell – A Review of the Astell&Kern SE100

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As far as pairing options, the SE100 is not picky. But you may be. If you own a treble-happy headphone, but are used to hearing them on a very warm source, this SABRE DAC may reveal ugly truths about some of your favorite monitors. I have not experienced this personally. Maybe because I am NOT used to overly warm sources. In my testing, everything sounded really good on this AK.

Even the marvelously extended and poignant highs of tia Fourté by 64Audio ($3,599, Review HERE) remain beautiful, and void of stridency. When you take an IEM known for extreme clarity and resolution, and put it with a player which excels at detail and cleanliness, the results send chills down your spine. And let’s not forget, both player and IEM also create a soundstage of grandiose proportions. It’s hard to find a more revealing and transparent setup to get lost in.

JOMO Audio’s Mélange Quatre (around $1,455 USD) is a wonderfully rich, musical IEM. Even when you aren’t using the “Musical” filter. It’s a chocolaty swirl of deep, seductive tones, and responds best to a brighter, more articulate DAP. Quatre simply loves the SE100. What a splendid mixture of lushness and resolution. Savagely addictive!

The Empire Ears Legend X ($2,299, Review HERE) showcases the AK’s strengths like nothing else. It’s punchy and clear, spacious and detailed, with powerful, deep lows and a smooth, articulate render all the way up the spectrum. Elegance and refinement exudes from every note. To these ears, it’s an example of perfection, and could be end-game for most audiophiles.

If you’re in the mood for profound, all-consuming warmth, but don’t want to “overdo it”, look towards the FIBAE ME by Custom Art + Massdrop ($819.99, Review HERE). The SE100 and a nice silver Litz cable makes sure you aren’t losing out on clarity whilst enjoying those thick overtones and lush mids. This system is one of the best when you just want your music to sooth you. Whether reclined in a chair, or out running errands, the velvety, analogue sound puts you at ease. You may even find yourself thinking, “This is what music is always supposed to sound like.”

Thanks to the bad-ass driving power from the balanced port, you can experience, on-the-go, all the glory of something like the ZMF Headphones Atticus ($1,099.99, Review HERE). Atticus embodies so much of what I love about Legend X, but in Over-Ear form. Which, for my money, is the best sounding. I never even come close to max on the volume, and SE100 brings Atticus, and all its majesty, to awesome life. It’s the stuff of dreams, and I have a hard time caring whether or not “better” is out there. At this level, who really cares?

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About Author

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.

5 Comments

  1. Nice review, but I found the se100 to be much better overall, particularly in clarity, detail, and musicality than my dx200. After getting the se100 I sold my dx pretty quickly. The dx is fine until you hear the se IMO…

    • You can’t go wrong with either. It’s up to you. Neither of them suck in any way.

      If you don’t care at all for luxury, and only concern yourself with sound quality, go for Opus#2. It’s less expensive now a days.

      But if you want the sexiest-looking DAP ever, get Astell&Kern.

  2. Great Review! I just picked my SE100 up from B&H yesterday, and from the first few moments it was love! I use Shure SE846’s. Little surprised to here DX200 w/amp8 is on par, tho…

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