Astell&Kern SR15 review: This digital audio player is packed with features and high-fidelity performance

Astell&Kern’s new SR15 hi-res digital audio player is built for those who have a passion for high-fidelity music on the go. Armed with Astell&Kern’s updated user interface, the ability to side-load a host of streaming services, a car mode, and lots more, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-built, more-flexible, or better-sounding player at this price point. 

The Astell&Kern’s SR15 (officially known as the A&norma SR15) is the first model from Astell&Kern’s new “standard” line of players. Astell&Kern says that the A&norma line is designed to “provide those new to high-resolution audio a feature-packed introduction to the Astell&Kern brand.” I’d say Astell&Kern succeeded in spades. 

Power and performance

The A&norma SR15 is the successor to A&K’s superb AK70 MK II that I previously reviewed. The SR15 is built for high-res music playback. Under the hood, you’ll find two Cirrus Logic CS43198 DACs performing the heavy lifting of converting digital audio files into the analog music you hear through your headphones. The SR15 will decode pretty much whatever file format you throw at it, including native support for 24bit/192kHz PCM audio and DSD64. 

The SR15 features a quad-core CPU. The powerful processor ensured a fairly fluid UI experience in my testing. I previously took Astell&Kern to task for the molasses-like UI response on their now discontinued AK Jr. Every subsequent A&K model I’ve reviewed has performed flawlessly.

The SR15’s feature list goes on with Wi-Fi, support for the AK Connect app (I’ll talk about this more below), USB DAC functionality, DLNA networking support, OTA (over-the-air) software updates, digital audio output via USB, and aptX HD.

Theo Nicolakis / IDG

The new “car mode” seen here offers a vertical or horizontal presentation that simplifies and enlarges the user interface with all the basic controls you need.

The SR15 has a new “car mode” that you can either switch on from the settings or add to the pull-down menu as a shortcut. When you enable car mode, it puts the interface full screen with large track-forward, previous-track, and play/pause buttons on screen similar to Apple Car Play. Car mode can be oriented either horizontally or verticaly. The SR15 is not compatible with Android Auto, in case you’re wondering.

astellkern sr15 car mode vertical Theo Nicolakis / IDG

Here’s an example of the new “car mode” in vertical orientation.

For expansion, there’s a single microSD card slot that supports additional storage up to 2TB. The major feature, however, is support for Astell&Kern’s new Open App service that allows you to side-load a host of streaming music services onto the player.

Industrial design on display

Astell&Kern puts their industrial design prowess on full display with the SR15. The solid aluminum alloy body resembles the AK70 series, but takes on a unique flair. The screen is physically angled, tipping to the left like a leaning of Tower of Pisa. I must tell you it was really odd to get adjusted to the screen tilt when I first used the player. If you look at the photos throughout this review, you’ll see what I mean.