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Astell & Kern SR15: A&norma Impressions & Reviews

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by pitch_black, Jul 29, 2018.
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  1. kevlar397
    Hi @schleppsound I’m new to quality audio equipment and would appreciate your help and advice.

    The only decent pieces of audio equipment I own are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s/LE headphones I bought back in 2011 primarily for watching Blu-rays at night and the 1more Quad Driver earphones/IEM’s I bought last year. Right now I use the Quads to listen to AAC files on my iPhone 6s.

    A few months ago I stumbled upon the Dragonfly Red being mentioned in an article and that sent me down the path of learning about DAC/amps. I was thinking I would buy one of those until it sunk in that the compressed files I’m listening to are a bigger problem in my chain than the iPhone’s DAC.

    I’m now looking to get a DAP and sign up for Qobuz’s Sublime subscription so I can stream their catalog while I use the included discount to build a good Hi-Res collection.

    I’m currently looking at the SR15, the FiiO M11, and the iBasso DX150. Oddly, I can’t find anyone selling the 150 except a couple random people on eBay.

    My question for you or anyone else viewing my post is whether or not $700 is overkill for a DAP if I’m only listening with the Quad Driver or maybe even the M11 is overkill?

    I don’t think either would be, but I’m new to all of this and would appreciate the insight of more experienced audiophiles.

    My personal opinion that they wouldn’t be is based on a review of the Quad by Chris Martens on Hi-Fi+ (linked below). He listens to them using his reference DAP’s the Questyle QP1r and the Lotoo PAW Gold. The part of his review that makes me think the S15 or M11 wouldn’t be overkill is this quote about listening to ‘The Mermaid’ from Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier, and Klaus Gesing’s Distances [ECM 16/44.1]:

    “To be honest, this track can sound quite good on many different transducers, but it takes a special in-ear headphone like the Quad-Driver to draw out the full, rich tonal colours and the sharply focused textural and transient sounds of which the song—at its best—is capable. Stated another way, the Quad-Driver is an in-ear headphone for listeners who are ready to step beyond merely ‘good’ sound to enjoy something noticeably better than that.”


    Now I’d love to invest a bit more and buy some Noble Savannas, but I feel like if I did so soon after buying the Quad I would be tossing away the $200 I paid for them.

    Thanks for reading my post and I’d appreciate any advice you or anyone else here can provide.
  2. schleppsound
    Hi Kevlar397 - it's a great question - and I'm still learning myself! Sometimes I think of purchasing progressively more sophisticated audio equipment the same as I do progressively higher resolution televisions - my eyes are only going to be so good! At the end of the day I realized I liked two things relative to this space: music and shiny new toys. From my own experience - the SR15 has been an excellent piece of equipment but I have learned that the cans on my ears are vastly more important - don't get me wrong - the combination of your 'phones and ability to play higher quality files is important but like my eyes - my ears are only so good! I've read reviews of the equipment with envy because these guys really know how to describe what they're hearing and can apparently do so. I only know enough to say "Sure my SR15 sounds better than an iPhone or an iPod - and I like my Cascades better than the Amirons I had ... but that doesn't mean the Amirons were "bad" or the iPhone "bad" ... like art it really ends up being a matter of what you like and enjoy at the end of the day no matter the cost of entry or logo on the equipment. If you can - you should listen to different types of both 'phones or IEMs and different sources. From my own experience - a Dragonfly Red connected to an iPhone was a real eye opener for me - it really was good! My Amirons connected to the balanced output of the SR15 sounded better than the normal one - at least to me. Now of course I'm thinking I need the silly expensive $350.00 balanced cable for my Cascades ... because I simply have to try it! At the end of the day - what sounds good to you is going to be the perfect choice - it doesn't have to be the most expensive piece of gear out there either. I've got my SR15 for sale at this moment - for no better reason than I want the Kann Cube that's coming out. I just like how it looks. I expect it to sound the same or better than what I have now - but that's not because I'm not happy with the SR15 - I just like the Kann's look better and of course it fills my need for a "new" piece of gear ... lol. And I can justify its price as being "not the most expensive" right? But the decision to do so is only partly due to sound. Everyone is different - try a piece of equipment that is reviewed well by more than a single person, read to see if the reviews resonate with your tastes and knowledge - make sure the new piece of kit can stream your chosen service and has the features you want - and give it a whirl. It may not be the most costly piece of equipment out there but if it works for you you've made the perfect choice.
    pilgrimbilly likes this.
  3. biscottino
    my dear friend, your question has a very simple answer, the better the headset or ear in will be and the better the result you will feel.
    Now I have taken some Meze Rai Penta and I use them with sr15 and I can assure you that this tiny setup has absolute level performances and you can look at the toys in my profile to get an idea of the things I listen to.
    In addition to headphones, it is essential that you use high quality files, for example using Qobuz Sublime which I installed in the sr15 and with files hires the end result is even better.
  4. Vincentaria
    This is a great news! The SE100 I'm using is with China region firmware, hope this new function will be added in all firmwares.
  5. dakchi
    Selling my SR15 from EU if someone is interested
  6. singleended5863
    I am selling my SR15 soon in US if anyone is interested please message me.
  7. JeremyLaurenson
    @JasonNYC whats the status with external playlists being used properly? It's been a while
  8. Maxistallone
    Hi Roon recently added another 38 approved and tested devices to their partner program
    They just launched on the amazon store

    Any further news for Roon apk availability on the SR15? Recalling it was announced as launching before Christmas
  9. abitdeef
    Ha ha I'm also selling my mint sr15 and official case very cheap :wink: PM if interested.

    US only.
  10. CANiSLAYu
    Waiting for this myself. Jason posted this in the SP1000 thread 2 days ago:

    Seems like still a ways to go :frowning2:
  11. Maxistallone
    Thanks fella
    Roon do certainly drag things out to the nth degree... I love em but it’s software, haven’t they heard of Agile... :0)
  12. Ressex1234

    Just a quick question I currently have the Astell and Kern SR15 with a pair of isine 10 and upgraded to a reference silver cable 2.5 balanced one.

    The iPhone XS Max now can handle hi res via a separate app and if I use the headphones with the supplied cipher cable which has a built in DAC would this be the same quality when streaming tidal masters hi res as the Astell Kern unit or would the sound be far more superior through the SR15.

    Just wanting to check that I haven’t bought the Astell Kern SR15 for no reason when my current phone will apparently do the same.

  13. audio-
    Hi folks,

    Curious about the SR15. Might anyone have an idea about how long a unit like this can be expected to last? Also is it possible to replace the battery? For battery replacement I'm meaning something official. Putting in a random 3rd party battery that is not officially recommend by A&K is not something I will do, and it would almost certainly void any warranty.

    Also, a bit off topic but does anyone happen to know where to get a cable that will connect to the balanced output? Will most iems allow for the use of such a cable? Was pondering possibly the Noble Audio Katana iems.

    Thank you
  14. ThomasHK
    Typically LiPo/Li-ion batteries are specced for a cycle life of >500 chargers (cycle life is the number of complete charge/discharge cycles that the battery is able to support before that its capacity falls under 80%. So after 2 years, you should still have ~80% battery capacity if you don't charge itevery day.

    All headphones with removable cables feeding L and R individually can be wired balanced,
  15. NovaFlyer
    There's a whole of choices when it comes to cables, to include price ranges. In case you haven't see the cables section of Head-Fi, it's in the Cables, Power, Tweaks, Speakers, Accessories (https://www.head-fi.org/forums/cables-power-tweaks-speakers-accessories-dbt-free-forum.21/) You can get cables direct from various manufacturers, speciality stores such as Audio46 (https://audio46.com) and Musictech (https://musicteck.myshopify.com), and of course Amazon. It all depends on what you're looking for in a cable and how much you're willing to spend.
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