Astell&Kern SR35 DAP Music Player Review

SR35 DAP wityh Bathys headphones

It's Easier Than Ever To Be An Audiophile

I had the distinct pleasure of checking out the new SR35 music player from Astell&Kern earlier this year at AXPONA. You can see more of my interview and initial device info on our blog HERE. Needless to say, AK has raised the bar yet again in designing their entry-level music players with even more premium features for new audiophiles and music lovers alike.

Astell&Kern has some new tricks up their sleeves for the SR35, and I won't reveal them all right off the bat. Take my word for it: the SR35 is impressive and has the upgrades many have been asking for from the previous generation music players in the A&norma lineup. Is it possibly the best entry-level portable music player on the market right now? Read on to find out.

No Other Music Player Has THIS Quad-DAC Feature | SR35 DAP Music Player Video Review

Astell&Kern makes some of the best portable music players on the market, there's no doubt about that. Their A&norma lineup of DAPs is aimed at the entry-level or beginner audiophile. Sure they're still a bit pricey for some, but I'll tell you right now, you won't find this many premium features and performance in any other DAP under a thousand bucks.





Riff Notes  


  • Amazing Astell&Kern sound quality
  • Great portable size
  • Price
  • Tons of premium features / New Dual DAC Mode


  • The screen is small - not for fat fingers
  • $799 might not be "entry-level" for some

About Astell&Kern

Astell&Kern is a South Korean company that focuses on creating some of the most popular DAPs (Digital Audio Players), CD players, headphones, and home cinema products on the market. The company was founded in 2013 by iRiver with the debut of their AK100 digital audio player (DAP). Later that year they released the AKR01 in-ear monitors to go along with the new music player. The brand name Astell&Kern was created in October of that year to develop their in-brand products.
Astell&Kern products stylistically stand out from the crowd with their modern metals aesthetic, sharp edges, and sleek designs. Their digital music players look like the future. They are best known for high-end music players, portable audio devices, or hi-res “iPods.” As the Financial Times notes, Astell&Kern is committed to fidelity and quality. To say Astell&Kern media players are HOT would be an understatement. As consumers learn about the need for higher resolution music files to feed our high-quality media players, those made by Astell&Kern have thrived.

What makes AK different?
Astell&Kern creates the best music players in the world as our customer reviews note plus their technology is easy to learn and navigate as a newbie or a technology wizard. Our founder, Drew Baird, P.E., and the staff at Moon Audio recommend Astell&Kern high-resolution music and media players for people who love “mobile audio.” Astell & Kern (A&K) music players are "iPods on steroids". If you love to listen to music “on the go” and want hi-fi sound AK Digital Audio Players (DAPs) are essential listening gear with Mastering Quality Sound (MQS). Playing all the high-res information captured during the music recording process is Astell & Kern’s expertise. You will not believe what your ears were missing once you try AK music players!

Materials & Quality

Astell&Kern does a great job with the presentation. If you're cashing out for an AK product, you know it's going to look good inside and out. I like to think of Astell&Kern DAPs like the iPhones or Apple products of the audiophile industry. They just have that attention to detail that makes their products stand out from the crowd.

The A&norma series is Astell&Kern's entry lineup of music players. I'm a big fan of the smaller size - it makes for a much more portable setup than some other DAP behemoths out there. It's very palmable, relatively lightweight, and pretty much has all the functionality you need in a portable music player. Be aware though - the screen is quite small (only 3.6 inches) and might be an issue for music lovers with big hands or fat fingers. Part of the trade-off of a super-portable music player I suppose.

I/O (Inputs & Outputs)

On the top of the SR35 music player, Astell&Kern has packed three individual headphone jacks on the DAP: a 3.5mm unbalanced port, a 4.4mm balanced port, and a 2.5mm balanced port. On the left-hand side of the device are four buttons (from top to bottom): power on/off, track skip backward, play/pause, and track skip forward. On the bottom are the USB-C jack and the microSD card supporting up to 1TB card sizes. Finally on the right side of the player is the volume knob. I'm a big fan of their volume knobs - they're oversized, tactile, and milled with precision. No one makes knobs like Astell&Kern.

Let's talk about the design for a minute. Astell&Kern players are striking to look at. Period. The interplay with different angles, textures, and materials creates a work of art time and time again. It's tough for me because I like to protect my investments and put a case on everything, in this case (pun intended), it covers up one of the most aesthetically beautiful parts about the player: the design.

The A&norma line is also known for its iconic angled screen. It looks a bit strange at first until you hold it in your hand. Then it all makes sense. You naturally hold your hand at an angle and this makes the experience of using the SR35 that much more comfortable. The aluminum sides of the device are a matte finish with a lovely blue/grey color. It looks stunning juxtaposed with the smooth glass on the front and back of the music player. It's certainly one of my favorite-looking Astell&Kern players to date.


Sound Quality

This is where Astell&Kern has really outdone themselves. Let's be honest, all their music players sound awesome. It's a fact. If you love detail, textures, and definition in your music then you can't go wrong with any of their players. But the one thing I appreciate about the company is that they continue to innovate and bring their best technology to every device in their lineup. They don't restrict the best tech behind a paywall for their customers.

That being said, the SR25 Mark II was a superb little music player. How do you improve upon an already outstanding entry-level audiophile device? More tech? More options to tailor the sound to your liking? Better specs? Astell&Kern said yes to all of the above.

For the first time in an A&norma series DAP, Astell&Kern equips the new music player with a quad DAC configuration. Not just one, but four Cirrus Logic CS43198 chips are packed inside. The CS43198 is a capable and efficient chip, providing a great amount of detail and soundstage.


That's not all, however, because AK implements a new audio circuit for the SR35 - providing more sonic fidelity in an entry-level player than ever before. More on that further down in the sound impressions section. What really impressed me at AXPONA was the newly-designed Dual/Quad DAC switching mode on the SR35, allowing the user to disable 2 of the DAC chips to run in a dual-DAC mode for better efficiency and longer battery life, without much sonic degradation. Absolutely no complaints here, as I'm already a big portable lover, and being able to stay away from the power outlet for longer is huge. In dual-DAC mode, I'm getting around the estimated 20 hours.

The SR35 also sports some new AMP technology from Astell&Kern. The New Generation AMP as they're calling it, improves noise reduction at high power output. This change brings the entry-level A&norma line - in line - with their more expensive A&futura and A&ultima music players. Combine that with the 2-step gain mode, you can now select normal or high gain modes depending on your power requirements. The SR35 can output a whopping 6 Vrms from the balanced connections. That was my biggest beef with the previous SR series of DAPs - they sounded great but they just didn't have enough power for my favorite headphones. The SR15 was grossly underpowered, the SR25 was decent, the Mark II improved a bit, and now the SR35 can carry itself respectfully. A much-needed change and a very appreciated upgrade for sure.

Sound Impressions

Right out of the gate, it's nice to be able to press a button to switch from dual DAC to quad DAC mode. It's a noticeable improvement in space, textures, and depth. I'm actually quite surprised at how robust the sound is in such a tiny music player.

For my testing setup, I paired the SR35 with the Focal Bathys headphone with a Black Dragon Portable cable (I paired both wired and wireless setups). I also tried the Empire Ears Bravado MKII IEM with a Bronze Dragon IEM cable.

Dual DAC mode is certainly great at bringing out those crispy details, brass shine, and giving you decent and punchy low end. If you are concerned about the battery life if you're going on a long trip or whatnot, I certainly wouldn't be disappointed by the dual-DAC mode. It's not going to be for bass heads in this mode, however.

SR35 with Bravado

The Quad-DAC mode really flexes the music muscles of the SR35. I can notice an immediate change and improvement. Mids and lows are buffed/enhanced, the soundstage gets wider and deeper with the extra processing power. I would say it still leans to the analytical side of things for the most part, but I could see the SR35 easily pairing with a warmer headphone without issue for those who prefer a more musical presentation.

In the scheme of things, Astell&Kern is giving music lovers options on how they want their music to sound, and that's a great thing. Having more versatility from one device is a lot more economical, especially for those who are new to the hobby or don't want to cash out a lot of money if they're upgrading from their phone. I'll make a quick mention of the gain switching as well on the SR35 - since you can switch the gain setting by simply pressing a button, Astell&Kern has implemented a volume reset each time it changes as a safety precaution. Thanks for the attention to detail AK - the last thing I want to do is accidentally blow out my ears by mistakingly tapping the screen.

The SR35 gives you options for filters and full EQ control to give you additional access to change your sound, although I'll be honest, I hardly ever use them because the SR35 sounds naturally robust on its own. But they're there if you need them for a particular genre. Speaking of genres, the SR35 excelled with classical, jazz, folk, and classic rock. Rock, EDM, R&B, Rap, and others will certainly benefit more from the quad-DAC's added depth and mid/low-end weight. Ultimately, this just makes the SR35 an extremely versatile music player that you can easily take with you anywhere.

The Quad-DAC mode really flexes the music muscles of the SR35. I can notice an immediate change and improvement. Mids and lows are buffed/enhanced, the soundstage gets wider and deeper with the extra processing power.

Brian Wilson
by Barenaked Ladies
No Diggity
No Diggity
by Blackstreet/Dr. Dre
(No Diggity)
The Plagues
The Plagues
by Hans Zimmer
(The Prince of Egypt Soundtrack)
City of Dreams
City of Dreams
by Talking Heads
(True Stories)


Quad-DAC Mode for True Hi-Fi Sound: For the first time in the A&norma series, the SR35 deploys the CS43198 DAC from Cirrus Logic, in Quad DAC configuration. A very well-received DAC is praised for its outstanding spatial sense and resolution. In addition to this, a new design of audio circuit has been implemented, incorporating Astell&Kern's unique technologies along with the Quad DAC and our patented TERATON ALPHA technology for outstanding advancement in the dynamics, sense of space, resolution, and the level of separation. Furthermore, our latest technologically advanced amplification circuitry, which was only available in our flagship products has now been incorporated into the SR35, boasting a dramatically improved and industry-leading SRN of 130dB.

A Dual/Quad DAC Switching mode is offered to enable users to adjust and improve power management efficiency, further improving the long continuous playtime, a core feature of the A&norma series. The SR35 supports Native DSD256 and PCM playback of up to 32bit/384kHz allowing you to enjoy true Hi-Fi sound without any restriction and free from distortion.

SR35 sd slot

The Essence of Astell&Kern Technology: Equipped with New Generation AMP: Astell&Kern's brand philosophy - refusing to overlook even the smallest differences in sound quality - has been recognized by numerous media and audiophiles through our multiple releases of premium audio players that combine innovative circuits and amplifier technologies.

The SR35 is equipped with New Generation AMP technology that was applied to the A&ultima line so that A&norma users can also enjoy the highest level of sound provided by the A&ultima line with this exclusive in-house technology.

The New Generation AMP technology applied to the SR35 is Astell&Kern's unique amplifier design that effectively improves noise reduction at high power output. With this new technology, the SR35 contains the same amplifier design as the latest A&ultima and A&futura products, completely transforming into an amplifier design worthy of premium audio, from OP-AMP selection to component placement and circuit design. Moreover, in order to reliably operate different impedance output sources, the current handling capacity at the output end is increased to maximize the performance of various devices with one SR35.

2-Step Gain Mode for the Perfect Hi-Fi Experience: For seamless use of sensitive IEMs and hard-to-drive headphones, a device must provide suitable output, respective to the connected device's specification. The SR35 supports a 2-Step Gain Level mode to create the perfect match for a wide range of headphones and IEMs, maintaining optimal sound output. The 2-step gain setting with "Normal Gain" and "High Gain" modes can generate a high current output to create a powerful sound and excellent driver control. With up to 6Vrms from the balanced connections, driving high-impedance headphones has never been easier.

All-Day Music - Amazing Playtime: The SR35 provides premium-class audio specifications and genuine Hi-Fi sound by Astell&Kern. Along with the core value of A&norma series that seeks to provide unlimited Hi-Fi audio anywhere and at any time, we offer you the best portability in the digital audio player market, with a class-leading long playtime and powerful output.

The compact size of the SR35 fits easily in your pocket and weighing in at only 184g is light enough to carry without any inconvenience. With a maximum of 20-hour continuous playtime, you can enjoy music without a recharge all day long. The SR35 is the perfect companion that you can use for long-haul flights as well as full days at work and vacations, guaranteeing you Hi-Fi sound anywhere, anytime.

New Experience, New User Interface: The SR35 comes with a redesigned Crimson-themed UI/UX transforming into a "true music player" for users to deeply connect with their music listening experience. The new UI/UX is designed so that users can quickly browse music categories and re-discover songs within their music library. We also added an easy album art search function so that users can re-discover the joy of viewing and interacting with music album art whilst listening to their music.

The crimson theme focuses on edge, simplicity, and dark mode keywords. The color theme of black and red highlights lowers visual fatigue and offers intuitive user experiences, and many other improvements were made to the device's user-friendliness of app service, artist view, album sorting, and the album art search function. Immerse yourself in music with the new UI/UX.

Output Level Comparison: SR35 MKII v. SR35

SR35 Filters

Dragon Cables

For my testing setup, I paired the SR35 with the Focal Bathys headphone with a Black Dragon Portable cable (I paired both wired and wireless setups). I also tried the Empire Ears Bravado MKII IEM with a Bronze Dragon IEM cable.

When pairing your existing gear with a source device like the SR35, a lot of consideration should be taken into account for the natural signature of the headphones you are using. In my case, pairing the Black Dragon with the Focal Bathys helped to bring out some more low-end for a more musical presentation. Beefier mids really helped to balance out some of the detail and clarity provided by the SR35. In the case of the Bravado, the Bronze Dragon does much of the same, yet provides more low-end weight. What headphones or IEMs do you have? We'll be more than happy to provide a personalized recommendation just for you.

Dragon Cable logo

Generally, stock audio cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon cables are handcrafted with the highest standards and made to order according to your specific needs. At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. UP-OCC metals are void of impurities and are optimized for signal transfer and sound quality. We have one of the largest collections of audio and headphone connection options available online and we create limitless audio cable options depending on your specific gear and needs.


Why Dragon Cables?

You’ve heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right? Well, the same applies to your brand-new audiophile-grade headphone or other audio components. The weakest link, in this case, is your stock cable or the cheap interconnects the manufacturer threw in the box just to get you up and running. Why is the cable always an afterthought, when it’s just as important as the rest of your system? At Moon Audio, we use the best raw materials in our cables to unveil your music. We believe the materials matter and your audio cables should have the same care and craftsmanship that manufacturers put into their audio components and headphones. Audio cables are ultimately the connection to your music. The fact remains that cabling is often considered the last priority to that of the main product and a means to cut down the overall production costs. It’s as simple as that.

The Verdict

Astell&Kern has made the perfect portable DAP in my opinion with the SR35. It's still a lightweight in the ring of music players, but it can finally hold its own. The biggest and needed improvement is by far the power output. You'll benefit a lot from the added Vrms. Dual gain and dual/quad DAC switching is also a huge perk, giving you the option to improve efficiency and increase battery life if needed. The up-to-20 hours in dual DAC mode is impressive, and the quad DAC setting adds a lot of extra weight and depth to the presentation and performance. The soundstage and overall sonics are equally improved over previous A&norma installments.

Sure, $799 might not be "entry-level" for some, but for those wanting to take the first step into the larger world of audiophilia and get more out of your music, I can't recommend enough the SR35 music player as a first step. Astell&Kern even throws in all their other proprietary technology on top of the enhancements and improvements over the SR25 MKII. With a new UX design, a stunning exterior design, and a superb-sounding interior design, the SR35 checks off all the boxes for the best entry-level music player on the market right now.

The SR35 checks off all the boxes for the best entry-level music player on the market right now.

Featured Products

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

What's in the Box

  • Astell&Kern SR35 DAP Music Player
  • USB-C Charging Cable
  • Warranty


General Specifications

Model SR35
Body Color Charcoal Gray
Body Material Aluminum
Display 3.6 inch HD (720 x 1,280) TFT LCD
Supported Audio Formats WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DIFF, DSF, MQA
Sample rate PCM: 8kHz ~ 384kHz (8/16/24/32bits per Sample) / DSD Native: DSD64 (1bit 2.8mHz), Stereo / DSD128(1bit 5.6MHz), Stereo / DSD256(1bit 11.2MHz), Stereo
Output Level

Unbalanced 2.1Vrms / Balanced 4Vrms (Normal)

Unbalanced 3.1Vrms / Balanced 6Vrms (High Gain)

CPU Quad-Core
DAC Cirrus Logic CS43198 x 4 (Quad-DAC)
Decoding Support up to 32bit / 384kHz Bit-to-Bit Playback and Native DSD256
Input USB Type-C input (for charging PC & MAC)
Outputs Unbalanced Out (3.5mm), Balanced Out (2.5mm TRRS, 4.4mm TRRRS), Optical 3.5mm
Wi-Fi Dual Band Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz, a/b/g/n/ac)
Bluetooth V5.0 (A2DP, AVRCP, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, LDAC)
Dimensions 2.51" (64mm) [W] x 4.26" (108.3mm) [H] x 0.63" (16.1mm) [D]
Weight about 6.49 oz (about 184 g)
Opeating Temperature 0*C ~ + 40*C (32* ~ 104*F)

Audio Performance

Fequency Response ± 0.012dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalanced / ±0.011dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Balanced ±0.125dB (Condition: 20Hz~70kHz) Unabalanced / ±0.126dB (Condition 20Hz~70kHz) Balanced
Signal to Noise Ratio 127dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced / 130dB @ 1kHz, Blanaced
Crosstalk -134dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced / -145dB @ 1kHz, Blanaced
THD+N 0.0005% @ 1kHz, Unbalanced / 0.0006% @ 1kHz, Balanced
IMD SMPTE 0.0002% 800Hz 10kHz(4.1) Unbalanced / 0.0002% 800Hz 10kHz(4.1) Balanced
Output Impedance Unbalanced Out 3.5mm (1.1ohm) / Balanced out 2.5mm, 4.4mm (2.7ohm)

Clock Source

Clock Jitter 25ps(Typ)
Reference Clock Jitter 70ps


Capacity 3,150mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer Battery
Continuous Storage Time about 20 hours (Standard: FLAC, 16bit, 44.1kHz, Unbalanced, Vol. 50, EQ Off, LCD Off)
Charge Time about 2.5 hours (5V 2A General Charging)


Built-in Memory 64GB [NAND]
External Memory microSD (Max. 1TB) x1


Supported OS Windows 8,10 (32/64bit), MAC OS X 10.7 and up


Astell&Kern SR35 DAP Music Player Review Video

Astell&Kern SR25 MKII DAP Music Player Review Video