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.
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.
Drivers: Hybrid Drivers
Special Micro Rectangular Planar Dynamic Driver x1
Astell&Kern, the global leader in premium portable high-resolution audio devices, introduces the SE180, the third model in its award-winning A&futura series and the audio specialist’s first player to feature interchangeable all-in-one DAC modules. Expanding on the multi-DAC innovation first introduced with the SE200, music fans can customise their sound with different audio-flavoured DACs to find the hi-fi-grade sonics that suit them.
The A&futura SE180 is the company’s most advance player yet and is the first model to boast Astell&Kern’s TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology for improved audio, an enhanced user-interface design, a full HD display and added advanced connectivity functionality.
Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 new audio design and feature innovations include:
Interchangeable all-in-one DAC modules
New TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution technology
Full HD display for improved image quality
Enhanced user interface more consistent with an Android smartphone experience
AK File Drop for easier wireless file transfers
BT Sink function for simpler connection of the SE180 to an external Bluetooth device
INTERCHANGEABLE DAC MODULES
The innovative interchangeable DAC design not only offers a new level of audio flexibility for the user but also improves the sound performance. By physically separating the main body from the all-in-one module, power and radio frequency (RF) noise generated by the main unit is completely blocked. This creates an independent structure that prevents noise from interfering with music playback.
The module slots easily into place from the top of the player and features an innovative double locking mechanism that securely connects each component. Expertly engineered, with flowing smooth lines between each part, there isn’t a noticeable trace of two separate elements in play.
The A&futura SE180 arrives with a default module featuring the SEM1 ESS ES9038PRO, an 8-channel DAC traditionally used for premium home audio equipment. This DAC provides a wider dynamic range and greater detail, while audio file support is extensive for high-resolution fans, with the SEM1 DAC capable of playing up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 files.
The SEM2 Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC will be the first optional module available on launch with the ability to play files up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD512. Both modules support 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphones connections for accommodating a greater variety of headphones and in-ear monitors (IEM), while there is support for MQA playback via downloaded MQA audio files and through the Tidal music app. The next DAC module will be released later in the year with another model following in the first half of 2022.
The result of extensive research and development, Astell&Kern’s patented TERATON ALPHA Sound Solution 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.
With the A&futura SE180 the first to harbour TERATON ALPHA technology, it 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.
ENHANCED USER INTERFACE DESIGN
The A&futura SE180 user-interface has been enhanced to offer an experience consistent with an Android smartphone. A new navigation bar pinned at the bottom of the screen allows users to control playback and skip tracks from any screen, while a single swipe returns to the previous screen. Like the SE200, users can also discern the volume level, file type and bitrate being played thanks to the colour-coded LED light surrounding the player’s volume wheel.
FULL HD DISPLAY
Album artwork pops from the screen with the A&futura SE180 is the first Astell&Kern player to boast 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.
The A&futura SE180 is also the first model to feature 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 newly introduced BT Sink function connects the A&futura SE180 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 the A&futura SE180 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&futura SE180 features 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.
To keep the A&futura SE180 in pristine condition but still stylish, a Black or Navy leather case is available. Using quality Badalassi Carlo Minerva leather, this material is made from a process called ‘full vegetable tanning’, a traditional method used in Italy for over 200 years, that brings out the special characteristic of leather while creating a natural tanning look. A variety of trees and plants are involved in this tanning process which takes about 40 days to complete, while containing oil that allows the leather to shine the more it is used.
The Astell&Kern A&futura SE180 (with SEM1 ESS ES9038PRO DAC module) is priced £1,399 / $1,499 / €1,599 and is available now from www.astellkern.co.uk
The optional Astell&Kern SEM2 DAC (Asahi Kasei AK4497EQ Dual DAC Module) is priced £319 / $349 / €379 and is available now from www.astellkern.co.uk