Astell&Kern may not be ultra popular among the mainstream crowd, but the brand carries a legendary reputation in the ultra-premium high-fidelity space. It has become renowned for engineering portable media players with unmatched quality – extracting every bit of potential from stratosphere-grade headphones and IEMs.
Eventually, the company’s in-house engineers delved into the IEM space by partnering with giants such as Campfire Audio, Beyerdynamic, and Empire Ears before finally releasing their very own product – the AK Zero1 IEM. It goes without saying that all its products have received rave reviews.
Last year, when seemingly every audio company in the world wanted a slice of the TWS earbud craze, most were surprised to see that Astell & Kern were also throwing down the gauntlet. It released its very first true-wireless earbud, the Astell&Kern UW100.
These $299 bad boys would go on to receive mixed feedback.
While the sound was tremendously impressive and it was clear that the company’s 32-bit DAC knowledge came into play, there were still considerable concerns with Bluetooth connection quality, IP ratings, and call clarity. This lack of all-roundedness made it difficult to recommend more than industry top dogs.
Now in 2023, the company’s just announced a successor aptly titled the UW100 Mark II.
The Astell&Kern UW100 Mark II
This Astell&Kern UW100 Mark II brings back the company’s unique 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC technology, as well as further improvements to the design of the original. The onboard drivers are superior Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers that supersede typical Dynamic Drivers found in other TWS competitors.
The acoustic chamber has also been redesigned to funnel sound more effectively into one’s ear. This promises to enhance detail, enable higher levels of clarity, and minimize unwanted sound diffusion.
As a result, the frame itself is reasonably sizeable but still remains compact when you consider the amount of tech embedded inside. The earbuds themselves are pentagon-shaped, designed to represent the flow of sound within its chambers.
The active noise-canceling technology here isn’t your cookie-cutter type either.
Astell&Kern boasts that the Passive Noise Isolation these revised buds possess is more than enough to block out sound or even match other companies’ ANC. Its own version of ANC operates uniquely in the sense that it also cancels out uninvited frequencies in the mid and higher ranges of sound – unlike the usual low-end blockages.
However, if the user desires to hear ambient sounds, then the Ambient mode can easily be triggered by a single tap on the left earbud. Four controllable levels of cancellation, as well as various EQ modes, can be configured from the AK Control app’s toggles.
Touch controls are effortless with sensitive pads on either side, as users can perform actions like activating the voice assistant, controlling music playback, answering calls, changing the volume, and a bevy of other features.
The Astell&Kern UW100 Mark II is powered by the Qualcomm QCC5141 Bluetooth chip and also comes with support for aptX Adaptive – allowing for up to 420 kbps audio.
With wireless 24-bit tech, as well as Bluetooth 5.2 onboard, we might just be able to say goodbye to the connectivity issues of yesteryear. Also available are multipoint pairing capabilities, and Android Fast Pair which utilizes Low Energy mode to automatically connect to one’s smartphone once the case’s cradle is opened.
To solve the call issues, Astell&Kern has installed a pair of mics per earbud as well as Qualcomm Clear Voice Capture 8.0 in order to optimize the software. This should minimize background noises and pick up on voices more effectively during calls.
Each full charge can keep the buds going for an astounding 9.5 hours, while users can squeeze out 29 more hours from the case.
The Astell & Kern UW100 Mark II will likely hit store shelves in September of this year for the same introductory price of $299.
What do you think of these? Do you think they’ll be worth it for the price?
How do you think they’ll compare to the all-new Sony WF-1000XM5 or the overperforming Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II? Let me know in the comments!
As someone who is very passionate about all things tech, Nath loves breaking concepts down into simple terms for even beginners to understand. In his free time, he travels, indulges in his automotive hobbies, or simply looks for new jams to listen to.