Astell and Kern is typically known for their stellar high end digital audio players, but they also dip into the lake of personal audio in its various other forms from time to time. No sector in headphones has grown as much as the “true wireless” category in recent years, with Apple AirPods literally becoming a product category all by itself. In their latest release, Astell and Kern offer up a new TWS (true wireless stereo) in the form of the second generation AK UW100 MK II which is coming next month and will retail for $299.
More from the press release:
“Astell&Kern, a global leader in high-resolution audio players and accessories, launches the UW100 MK II, an update to the brand’s popular audiophile-grade True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earphone first released in 2022. The UW100 MK II will be available at authorized Astell&Kern dealers worldwide in September 2023 for $299.
Most True Wireless Stereo (TWS) products available today utilize the generic Digital to Audio Converter (DAC) built into the Bluetooth module, focusing on lower power consumption rather than better sound quality. In the UW1000 MK II, Astell&Kern combines the unique amplifier and audio circuit technology developed for A&K’s digital audio players with an Asahi Kasei AKM 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC, to reproduce sound on a whole new level compared to other true wireless earbuds that just use the BT-chipset-integrated DAC.
The UW100 MK II enables clearer and more accurate sound reproduction in all music genres by adopting Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers, which are typically used in expensive IEM (in ear monitor) systems, instead of the Dynamic Drivers that are common in generic TWS systems.
With the UW100 MK II, Astell&Kern has further improved on the highly regarded TWS design of the original UW100. The position of the BA driver has been moved towards the inside of the ear to better deliver the finer audio details more directly, and the acoustic chamber structure and mesh size have been re-designed multiple times in accordance with the new BA driver position to deliver the optimal sound output. The new design took numerous attempts to minimize sound diffusion to provide a more delicate and dynamic performance and a richer high-frequency expression.
Based on technology and sound expertise perfected over the past 10+ years, the UW100 MK II features AMP and circuit technology developed by Astell&Kern that enables separation of the digital parts and analog circuits of the wireless earphone. This updated TWS design allows for further noise reduction than the previous model, offering clearer sounds with higher separation levels.
The AK UW100 MK II uses best-in-class Passive Noise Isolation (PNI) to immerse you completely in the music. Implemented correctly, passive noise isolation is sufficient to reduce noise physically.
Unlike generic ANC, which concentrates on cancelling low-frequency noise, PNI can efficiently cancel unwanted ambient noise in the mid and high ranges, as well as higher-pitched sounds.
Notably, the AK UW100 MK II noise cancelling capability is comparable to that of ANC, even for low frequencies. A significant feature of passive noise isolation is that sound quality is retained since noise is attenuated by the structure of the earbuds rather than by software in the case of active noise cancellation.
Developed with the help of countless simulations, the AK UW100 MK II’s best-in-class PNI capability allows you to escape annoying ambient noise and allows the listener to immerse oneself in an experience where only you and the artist exist.
If the listener wishes to hear ambient sounds, a single tap on the left earbud activates ambient mode. You can switch between the four ambient modes by tapping the left earbud or using the AK Control app, available for iOS and Android devices.
The AK UW100 MK II features powerful wireless performance enabled by the premium-tier Qualcomm QCC5141 Bluetooth chipset and includes support for aptX™ Adaptive, Qualcomm’s next-generation high-quality codec for wireless 24-bit sound quality and Bluetooth 5.2 support, for better connectivity than other TWS products.
With the aptX™ Adaptive codec, latency — the downside of Bluetooth audio — has been significantly improved. aptX Adaptive also provides a feature that adjusts the bit rate according to the content or wireless environment and supports 24-bit audio through a bit rate of up to 420 kbps.
In addition, Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus mode minimizes transmission delay by transmitting independent signals to each earbud.
With support for USB-C fast charging and wireless charging support, the UW100 MK II can provide one hour of playback with a ten-minute charge. Fully charged, the UW100 MK II provides continuous playback of approximately 9.5 hours and up to 29 hours of total playback with the case. Five different sized ear tips are included for the best fit.
The AK UW100 MK II contains two mics per earbud and features Qualcomm® cVc™ Generation 8.0 (Clear Voice Capture) codec that creates enhanced call solutions for clearer and more stable call quality. The Clear Voice Capture technology used in cVc Generation 8.0 keeps background noise in check and always delivers clear voice audio. Now you can experience not only the ultimate Hi-Fi sound of AK UW 100 MKII when listening to music, but also more powerful, crystal-clear call quality.
Touch controls on each earbud allow a simple tap to switch between functions including playing music, answering calls, activate ambient mode, adjust the volume and more. Tapping the left earbud three times will activate your smartphone’s Voice Assistant function and allow you to control music playback, make phone calls and more just with the sound of your voice.
With support for multipoint and multi-pairing, you can pair your UW100 MK II earbuds to multiple devices at the same time. Not only can you easily switch your connection to another mobile device, but you can also listen to songs played on your tablet, computer, or DAP, while actively allowing phone notifications and calls from your smartphone. The Multi-Point function supports a connection of up to two devices.
The AK UW100MKII also supports Google’s Fast Pair Service, allowing for easier and faster connection with Android devices. Fast Pair Service utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy technology to automatically recognize and pair Bluetooth devices. By simply opening the cradle of the UW100 MK II near an Android device, it enters pairing mode, eliminating the hassle of opening Bluetooth settings, and providing a simple and convenient way to pair the device.
The AK Control companion app, available for iOS and Android devices, allows the listener to customize the touch controls, ambient levels, use pre-set EQ settings, create custom EQ profiles and more.
As with all Astell&Kern products, design is just as important as providing the best sound possible. The product design emphasizes the contrasting surfaces, allowing users to appreciate the shapes, colors, materials, and finishes used in the earbuds and how they play with the light, and to picture in turn the stellar beauty and delicacy of the sound created by Astell&Kern as it is focused and diffused.
Designed to fit snugly in the ear, the earbuds’ shape is transformed from a pentagon to a circle, just as the sound flowing through them transforms when it is gathered, refined, and then reproduced with clarity.
The AK UW100MKII cradle design combines two pentagon-shaped ear buds, representing the continuity of light and shade, the identity of Astell&Kern. While the cradle of the original UW100 actively displayed the identity of AK, the UW100MKII cradle keeps the essence of Astell&Kern design, while increasing portability with a smaller case.”
More info: Astell and Kern True Wireless AK UW100 MK II