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Astell&Kern

Astell&Kern’s latest IEM, the AK ZERO1, features three different types of drivers for a new hybrid sound

Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium portable high-resolution audio devices, introduces its latest in-ear monitor (IEM), the AK ZERO1, featuring three different types of drivers to deliver a ground-breaking hybrid sound. Composed of a micro planar dynamic driver, dual balanced armature (BA) drivers and a dynamic driver, this unique design combines the sonic characteristics of each driver to produce an unprecedented natural audio. Astell&Kern has set new standards in IEM engineering to get the music fan closer to the original studio sound.

Astell&Kern AK ZERO1 features and innovations include:

  • Three different types of drivers: Planar, balance armature and dynamic
  • Perfectly harmonised driver structure
  • Precision crossover network design
  • Acoustic chamber created using 3D printed technology
  • Precise CNC-machined metal housing
  • Hi-fi-grade pure silver-coated OFC cable for improved transparency of the audio signal

Micro planar dynamic driver

The Micro Rectangular Planar Dynamic Driver is a specially developed, highly advanced driver that allows a planar driver design, normally difficult to scale down for headphones, to be applied to in-ear monitors. Adopting a sturdy and lightweight planar membrane to minimise frequency loss, this is combined with a vibration panel boasting a high-polymer and thin metal film to create crystal clear and dynamic high frequencies.

Dual balanced armature and dynamic drivers

The AK ZERO1’s driver system also features dual BA drivers, using custom-designed coils to deliver transparent vocals with super-low distortion. Couple this with the single 5.6 mm dynamic driver to ensure rich, controlled and deep low frequencies and the AK ZERO1 is poised to deliver its pioneering hybrid sound.

Crossover design

To realise this new sound through the ideal frequency response, a Crossover Network design was generated based on a thorough understanding of each driver’s parameters. Once established, each driver is carefully placed in the optimal position, enclosed in specifically designed acoustic chambers manufactured with 3D printing technology. These precision enclosures cleverly eliminate unnecessary movement and resonance from the drivers to ensure a stable performance. Lastly, the main precision-tooled housing reduces internal and external vibrations to deliver the most focused and accurate sound possible.

Hi-fi grade pure silver-coated cables

To further maximise the audio performance the AK ZERO1 arrives equipped with a pure silver-coated OFC cables. Exquisitely crafted with high-purity silver plating and copper, alongside aluminum plugs, this design strives to maintain transparency of the audio signal. Elsewhere, the MMCX connectors ensure a prime-quality connection between the ear housing and cable, offering a long-lasting and stable performance.

NEW 4.4mm MMCX Cable accessory

For discerning audiophiles looking to experience the highest quality audio possible from their AK ZERO1 IEMs or any other MMCX-connector compatible headphones, Astell&Kern is launching an optional 4.4mm cable. The PEP11 sports larger aluminium-machined 4.4mm plugs and features the same top-quality high-purity silver plating and copper cable.

Signature Astell&Kern design

Astell&Kern’s recognisable bold diagonal design language continues on the AK ZERO1, with the premium cut metal surface brilliantly reflecting the light. The shape of the housing and the slender ear nozzles have been carefully designed and refined to not only provide a secure and comfortable fit, but to deliver the sound efficiently and accurately through your ears. To further provide a snug fit, five different-sized pairs of silicone ear tip and one set of foam tips are supplied, along with a carry case to keep your IEMs pristine during transit.

The Astell&Kern AK ZERO1 is priced £649 / $699 / €749 and will be available from November from www.astellkern.co.uk and local independent dealers.

The Astell&Kern PEP11 is priced £119 / $130 / €139 and will be available from November from www.astellkern.co.uk and local independent dealers.

Technical specifications

AK ZERO1

Drivers: Hybrid Drivers

  • Special Micro Rectangular Planar Dynamic Driver x1
  • Custom Balanced Armature Driver x2
  • 5.6mm Micro Dynamic Driver x1

Connector type: MMCX

Housing material: Aluminum

Frequency Response: 25Hz–30KHz*

SPL: 96dB@1KHz (1mW)*

Impedance: 16Ω@1KHz*

Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.7%@1KHz

PEP11

Connector type: MMCX

Cable core: 4

Cable material: Silver, Copper

Plug: 4.4mm

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Astell&Kern

Astell&Kern’s latest A&ultima SP2000T portable digital audio player packs a next gen triple amp system

August 27th 2021, UK Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium portable high-resolution audio devices, introduces its newest member of its A&ultima series, the  SP2000T. Building on the class-leading sound of the A&ultima SP2000, this latest player is the first to feature a Quad-DAC, a Replay Gain function and a new Triple Amp System allowing music fans to switch between the different sonic characteristics of a normal OP-AMP (operational amp) mode, a vacuum TUBE AMP and a HYBRID AMP mode that combines the tube amp’s warm analog performance and Op-Amp’s high-resolution clarity.

Astell&Kern A&ultima SP2000T new audio design and feature innovations include:

  • Triple Amp System takes portable music listening to a new acoustic level.
  • Vacuum tube amplifier compatible with 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm output jacks.
  • Equipped with an ESS ES9068AS QUAD-DAC for balanced and ultra-detailed sound.
  • New TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology.
  • Replay Gain function uniformly adjusts volume playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz.
  • Dual-Band Wi-Fi Support for improved wireless connection.
  • Internal mechanical design to minimise noise.

NEXT GENERATION AMPLIFIER TECHNOLOGY

Boasting the most advanced amp technology of any portable player, SP2000T owners can toggle between three-amp modes to find the optimal sound to suit the music they are listening to. Based on the set-up from the original SP2000, the OP-AMP configuration offers ultra-clarity and a dynamic playback. Switch to the TUBE AMP mode and the uniquely warm and musical audio associated with vacuum tube amplifiers will be revealed.

To realise the sonic flavour of a vacuum tube amp, the SP2000T is equipped with the portable-friendly dual-triode KORG Nutube. Featuring an anode grid filament structure that operates the same as a triode vacuum tube, this smaller component, consumes far less power, yet delivers the same audio with rich overtones. The Nutube also offers a reliable continuous playback time of approximately 30,000 hours with support for the player’s onboard 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone output jacks.

BEST OF BOTH AMP WORLDS

The culmination of Astell&Kern’s rich amp design heritage and expertise, the new innovative HYBRID MODE brings together the distinctive sonic DNA of the detailed OP-AMP and expressive TUBE AMP modes, while providing five options with different mix ratios of each amp’s sound characteristics to best serve the music being played.

SPECIAL INTERNAL DESIGN

To overcome internal microphonic resonances generated by the vacuum tubes that can seriously impact sound quality, Astell&Kern’s audio engineers painstakingly designed a clever modular structure physically separate from the PCB (Printed Circuit Board). Firstly, the vacuum tubes are fixed with flexible silicone covers to minimize any mechanical vibration, while the design uses magnetic forces to float the amp in the air to reduce internal noise.

Further steps are taken to eliminate electromagnetic interference caused when internal components are in operation by applying highly conductive, hyper-pure silver plating on the existing shield cans for extra defence against these sound performance-effecting disturbances.

QUAD-DAC FOR SUPERIOR SOUND

The SP2000T comes equipped with four ES9068AS DACs, with two DACs per channel dedicated for decoding. The result is a more detailed and balanced sound with great depth and spatial realism.

This latest model is also the first to feature Replay Gain functionality that automatically and uniformly adjusts volume playback from sound sources up to 24-bit/192 kHz so playlists can be enjoyed throughout without reaching for the volume.

INTRODUCING TERATON ALPHA SOUND SOLUTION TECHNOLOGY

Following on from the A&futura SE180 player, the SP2000T is the second model to adopt Astell&Kern’s patented TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution. The result of extensive research and development, it is designed to deliver audio playback close to the original sound. The onboard DAC is not the only factor that determines the quality of sound from a DAP: Power, noise, signal conversion, circuit structure all effect the sound signature. Only when each and every one of these elements are optimised, can a player produce sound as close as the music artist and producer intended.

TERATON ALPHA technology, effectively removes power noise and provides efficient power consumption and amplification right through to the audio output interface stage where the digital-to-analogue signal conversion (DAC) takes place – audio technology Astell&Kern has consistently developed and perfected over the years.

FULL HD DISPLAY

Album artwork pops from the screen with the A&ultima SP2000T boasting a full HD display. This 5-inch touchscreen packs a 1920×1080 pixel resolution, 16.7 million colours and 441 PPI, resulting in a clean and sharp user-interface design.

CONNECTIVITY

Alongside with improved dual-band Wi-Fi support, the SP2000T features AK File Drop for easier wireless file transfers. Users can wirelessly transfer files through a PC, smartphone, or FTP program located on the same network to make music management even more convenient.

The new BT Sink function connects the A&ultima SP2000T to an external device, such as a smartphone, via Bluetooth, enabling music to be played back in high-quality on the Astell&Kern player.

Elsewhere A&ultima SP2000T boasts Bluetooth® 5.0, providing greater range and a more stable wireless connection to headphones and, along with support for 24-bit aptX™ HD and LDAC codecs, offers the best possible wireless sound quality.

The A&ultima SP2000T harbours 256GB on-board memory that can be expanded up to 1TB via a microSD card slot, meaning users can carry thousands of hi-res albums with them at all times.

The Astell&Kern A&ultima SP2000T is priced £1,999 / $2,399 / €2,299 and will be available from October from www.astellkern.co.uk and local independent dealers.

Technical specifications*

Body Colour: Onyx Black

Body Material: Aluminum

Display: 5.0-inch touchscreen, FHD 1920 x 1080 pixels

Supported Audio Formats: WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF

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), DSD512(1bit, 22.4MHz) Stereo

Output Level: Unbalanced 3Vrms │ Balanced 6Vrms (Condition No Load)

CPU: Quad-core

DAC: ESS ES9068AS x4 (Quad-DAC)

Vacuum Tube: KORG Nutube 6P1

Decoding: Support up to 32bit / 384kHz Bit to Bit playback

Input: USB Type-C input (for charging & PC & MAC)

Outputs:

  • Unbalanced Out (3.5mm), Optical Out (3.5mm)
  • Balanced Out (2.5mm, only 4-pole supported / 4.4m, only 5-pole supported)

Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz)

Bluetooth®: V5.0 (A2DP, AVRCP, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, LDAC)

Dimensions: 3.07″ (78.1mm)[W] x 5.55″ (141.1mm)[H] x 0.68″ (17.5mm)[D]

Weight: about 10.89oz (309g)

Feature Enhancements: Firmware upgrade supported (OTA)

Frequency Response:

  • ±0.024dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Unbalanced / ±0.038dB (Condition: 20Hz~20kHz) Balanced
  • ±0.027dB (Condition: 20Hz~70kHz) Unbalanced / ±0.052dB (Condition: 20Hz~70kHz) Balanced

S/N:

  • 121dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced
  • 123dB @ 1kHz, Balanced

Crosstalk:

  • -137dB @ 1kHz, Unbalanced
  • -142dB @ 1kHz, Balanced

THD+N:

  • 0.0003% @ 1kHz, Unbalanced
  • 0.0003% @ 1kHz, Balanced

IMD SMPTE:

  • 0.0004% 800Hz 10kHz (4:1), Unbalanced
  • 0.0003% 800Hz 10kHz (4:1), Balanced

Output Impedance:

  • Unbalanced Out 3.5mm (1ohm)
  • Balanced Out 2.5mm (1.5ohm), 4.4mm (1.5ohm)

Clock Source

Clock Jitter: 25ps (Typ)

Reference Clock Jitter: 70ps

*Audio specifications will be based on Operational (OP) AMP.

Storage Capacity

Built-in Memory: 256GB [NAND]

External Memory: microSD x1 (Max. 1TB)

Battery

Capacity: 4,200mAh 3.8V Li-Polymer

Charge Time: About 3.5hours (9V / 1.67A Fast Charging) | 5hours (5V 2A General Charging)

Playback Time: About 9hours (Standard: FLAC, 16bit, 44.1kHz, Unbalanced, Vol.50, LCD Off, LED On, OP AMP Mode)

Supported OS 

Windows 7, 8, 10 (32/64bit), MAC OS X 10.7

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