Astell and Kern’s first true wireless set sights on best-in-class sound
We weren’t expecting this from Astell & Kern. The Korean company has been launching products left right and centre since the start of the year, and with the AK UW100, they’re jumping into the true wireless category.
And the wireless earphone market isn’t the easiest to get into, nor is it lacking for options, but with Astell & Kern’s know-how in the DAC/audio market, the AK UW100 are looking to deliver “immersive best-in-class hi-fi grade sound”.
And they’re going to attempt that with a dedicated DAC (Direct-to-Analogue Converter). Typically, a DAC is integrated into the Bluetooth chipset to save space and reduce power consumption, but Astell & Kern say no to that, incorporating a dedicated AK4332 32-bit high-performance DAC, working in tandem with the company’s proprietary AMP technology that is used in its award-winning digital audio players (which we like a lot).
And with that combination, A&K claim the AK UW100 is geared for a “clearer, more accurate and dynamic audio performance”. The use of Knowles Balanced Armature drivers also aims to deliver distortion-free audio across “all genres of music”.
AptX Adaptive is used to transmit audio from a compatible Android mobile device to the earphones (iPhone users will have to settle for AAC), adjusting the bit-rate to ensure the signal doesn’t drop in busy areas, as well as reducing latency. Bluetooth 5.2 support offers a more stable wireless connection, while Qualcomm’s True Wireless Stereo Plus will also beef up the connection between both earbuds and the device for seamless pairing and reduced power consumption.
Speaking of power consumption, battery life is six hours per earbud with a further 18 in the charging cradle for 24 hours in total. Fast charging produces an hour of playback from a 10-minute charge, and there’s wireless charging support, too.
Wireless earphones often suffer from below-par call quality, but A&K are looking to temper that with a dual mic set-up that integrates a Voice Communication Package (VCP) from voice application specialist Alango for “crystal-clear” voice call quality.
It wouldn’t be an Astell & Kern product if there wasn’t something off-kilter about the design. Here the company refers to its look as ‘light and shadow’ with a pentagonal shape that helps it fit in the ear. They look a bit chunky from the pictures but if the earbud fits… The UK100 eschew active noise cancellation, instead the focus is on best-in-class passive noise isolation, minimising ambient noise in the mid and high frequency range. A tap on the earbuds brings forth the ambient mode, with four levels of passthrough available in the app.
Given their premium pedigree, the AK UW100 have a premium price. £249 / $260 / €299 are the asking price for the earphones, which will be available from April 2022 at Astell & Kern and independent dealers. We’re very interested in how they perform.