Astell & Kern Talks Layla, Beyer and Activo – RMAF 2019


Astell & Kern has been on a roll this summer, with new IEMs and DAPs making waves, as reported at CanJam SoCal 2019.

Much is the same with Astell & Kern at the Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest, as they release a few “brand-brand-new” products. Starting with the new third generation Layla IEMs. The Layla platform is a collaboration product made by Jerry Harvey Audio. Astell & Kern has been partnering with Jerry Harvey Audio and Beyerdynamic for quite some time now, so it’s no surprise that the new Layla’s come with pedigree build, sound, and history in the Astell & Kern brand.

The new third generation Layla receives a whole new body architecture, and updated design aesthetics. Overall, these IEMs are much more compact than previous generations, with an emphasis on wear comfort and better fit. All the while keeping the same twelve-driver per side complement that was found in previous Layla’s. As with all of Astell & Kern’s Layla products, the new third generation will be manufactured in Orlando, Florida USA at Jerry Harvey’s production facilities.

Universal fit models of the new third gen’ are all that is planned for now, so it’s still unsure if custom fit designs are coming, but there’s always crossing your fingers in the time being.


Also showing were the new Astell & Kern AK T9iE IEMs, which are a collaboration with Beyerdynamic. These are an upgrade to the AK T8iE IEMs were released a few years ago with Astell & Kern, as well the Beyerdynamic label. The new AK T9iE however will be an Astell & Kern exclusive product.

The new AK T9iE IEMs are scheduled to be released closer to the end of September or beginning of October.

Activo CT10

A new Activo branded DAP was also showing at the Astell & Kern booth, the Activo brand comes from AK’s parent company iRiver. The new Activo CT10 DAP performs with the same user interface as all the Astell & Kern players. It’s tuned by the Astell & Kern sound engineers. Uses a single Cirrus Logic 4398 DAC, 16gb of internal memory and microSD slot for adding up to 1TB of additional storage. Full MQA decoding, and yet still considered a mass market device. The body of the CT10 is scaled down by using a plastic body as opposed to the high-finish metal bodies crafted for AK branded devices.

Only as a curiosity I had to get in front of the Astell & Kern ACRO L1000 / ACRO S1000 stereo near-field speaker system. The ACRO L1000 is a headphone amplifier and loudspeaker amplifier, which features dual AK4490 DAC chips. Essentially making a desktop solution out of the previous flagship AK 380 player. It should be noted that the amplifier used to drive the headphones and speakers are independent from each other. It just works better that way. The ACRO S1000 speakers are designed for the L1000 amplifier and sold separately as some may only want the L1000 for it’s discrete headphone capability. Also shown with the system, the PEM 15 CD ripper. The CD drive works across all AK products, so it’s more than just a player/ripper for the ACRO system.

by Eric Franklin Shook