Home Cd converter Two innovative new audio products that deliver concert-level sound in small packages

Two innovative new audio products that deliver concert-level sound in small packages


Ever since the first shrill transistor AM radio slipped into a pocket protector in the 1950s, people have enjoyed the freedom to listen on the go. Throughout the 1980s, the Sony Walkman improved gaming, and the iPod, introduced in 2001, was a magical music vault that stored thousands of songs on a small device thanks to the miracle of file compression. digital. But this so-called miracle was sorely missed by music listeners who appreciated precise sound, and MP3 files conspired to create a tiring listening experience compared to a true high-fidelity audio system. But times have changed. Thanks to huge advancements in DAC technology and overall miniaturization, it’s now possible to put a concert hall in your pocket, hooked up to headphones that sound so realistic that it requires a suspension of disbelief. We’ve looked at products from two leading-edge companies and found a product that will certainly appeal to the pickiest listeners. While by no means the only solution, each represents the best of the breed in their respective categories.


If you find MP3 files transmitted through plastic headphones to be as nice as fingernails on a chalkboard, think Astell & Kern, the Korean company specializing in high-resolution portable audio players. It’s new A & futura SE180 is about the size of an iPhone XS but, contradicting its build quality, twice as thick and heavy. At $ 1,499, the device is a tactile delight; the case, made from microblasted aluminum and impact resistant glass, evokes the precision and craftsmanship of a fine watch. Listeners can customize its sound signature with interchangeable modules ($ 349 each) that best match headphone choice and preferred music genres, depending on the digital-to-analog conversion (DAC) chips used. We listened with the default SEM1 module, which incorporates the excellent ESS ES9038PRO, an eight-channel DAC used in some of the best digital sources and CD players. It also supports playback up to 32-bit / 384 kilohertz PCM and DSD256 high-resolution audio. (The SE180 also supports MQA playback of downloaded files and music streaming services.) The player is equipped with 256 GB of internal memory and can accommodate microSD cards up to 1 TB.

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Front and rear views of the Astell & Kern Mp3 player.  - Credit: Astell & Kern

Front and rear views of the Astell & Kern Mp3 player. – Credit: Astell & Kern

Astell & Kern

The attractive large screen is intuitive to use and you can transfer files wirelessly via any PC, smartphone or FTP program located on the same network. Want to listen to music stored on an external device, such as your phone? There is a Bluetooth Synchronization function only for this purpose. Inputs at the top accept 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm connections, and the SE180’s high-efficiency amplifier can drive some of the toughest listeners. When tested using two phone systems, the sound was detailed, full and never overwhelming. Apple might have 1,000 songs in your pocket, like the original iPod tagline, but think of the SE180 as your portable concert hall.


Most audiophiles looking for “endgame” headphones choose behind-the-ear models, which are ideal for the chair but less convenient, if not impossible, to use on the go. Enter Sennheiserthe flagship of IE 900 headphones, an in-ear design that delivers cutting-edge sound in a breathtakingly microscopically sized package.

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Manufactured at Sennheiser’s headquarters in Wedemark, Germany, the case is milled from a single block of aluminum. The internal volume is designed to counteract the masking effect, an acoustic phenomenon that occurs when the human ear cannot perceive high frequency sounds at low volume if louder sound is present in a lower frequency range. Sennheiser specifies a frequency response of 5 hertz to 48,000 hertz, the two extremes virtually impossible to hear; who Is hearing is the all-important, lucid and realistic midrange, with effortless high-frequency and low-frequency transitions that provide an eerie simulacrum of real low-frequency energy.

With comfort being the key to usability, consider the IE 900s to be extremely usable, being able to be enjoyed for hours without ear fatigue. How Sennheiser manages to deliver that level of loyalty from such a small package is such a wonder that even at $ 1,300 the IE 900s should be considered a bargain. Truly the best level of in-ear options.

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