Astell & Kern has been continuously improving their DAPs over the years, and the SR35 is a prime example of their advancements. This new iteration of the SR25 offers faster speed, more responsive navigation, and a range of features that make it a compelling option. Priced more reasonably than their flagship models, the SR35 aims to deliver a top-notch A&K audio experience without breaking the bank. How does it perform?
Look and Feel
The SR35 has a minimalist design, reminiscent of that “80’s European apartment building” aesthetic with its hard angles and tiled edges. The screen is skewed to the left, but ends up shifting into a straight position when held in your hand. On the left side of the player, you’ll find four unlabeled tiny buttons, while the volume knob on the right side provides a satisfying click as you adjust the volume. However, it should be noted that individuals with larger fingers may find the screen a bit small and challenging to navigate accurately.
Under the hood, the SR35 boasts a quad-core CPU and incorporates the TERATON ALPHA sound solution, along with a quad-DAC design utilizing the Cirrus Logic CS43198. With support for native DSD256 and up to 32bit/384kHz, as well as MQA, the SR35 covers a wide range of high-resolution audio formats. A standout feature is the DAC filters, which allow you to experiment with the sound signature of your music. Whether you prefer enhanced bass presence or a more natural sound, the SR35 provides options to play around with.
Like previous A&K models, the SR35 utilizes an Android system for navigation. Compared to previous models like the SP700, the SR35 offers significantly improved speed and more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity. However, it’s important to note that the Android platform is limited to outside streaming apps, and there are no web browsing capabilities. Given the small screen size, attempting to browse the internet on this device would be impractical anyway. So, don’t expect a full-fledged Android phone experience.
You should get a solid 9 hours of battery life from the SR35, though setting settings may alter this slightly.
The SR35 maintains the overall sound signature of your headphones without introducing significant coloration. Pairing it with Andromeda, the balance of warmth and bass impact remains intact, while the extension in the highs maintains its clarity without adding any sharpness. Even when driving the Beyerdynamic DT 1770, a 250 Ohm headphone, the SR35 comfortably powers it with headroom to spare.
The most noticeable improvement that the SR35 offers is an expanded soundstage and more precise imaging. If your IEMs or headphones already have a reasonably multidimensional soundstage, the SR35 takes it a step further, enhancing the depth and width of the soundscape while improving instrument placement. And I’ll admit, the sense of spatial immersion alone makes this DAP worth considering.
It’s worth mentioning that the filters only slightly alter the sound signature. For example, the “Phase Compensated Fast” filter slightly increases richness and width of instruments in the stereo field. However, these differences are minimal, and overall, the SR35 delivers a fairly unadulterated representation of your headphones or IEMs.
Finally, of course, you will also hear that famous A&K control and cohesiveness that lends a refined touch to your overall sound signature.
For $800, the SR35 offers solid value. With its powerful drive, capable of comfortably handling a 250 Ohm headphone and impressively responsive navigation, it is arguably the best DAP we’ve seen from Astell & Kern in this price range. If you’re seeking that classic A&K sound, and one that maintains your sound signature while enhancing the soundstage, the SR35 will not disappoint. However, individuals with larger fingers should consider the small screen size before making a purchase. But overall, the SR35 is a fantastic and reasonably affordable choice for those in search of a midrange to high-end DAC that provides a premium audio experience.
You can buy the Astell & Kern SR35 at Audio 46.