Astell&Kern AK UW100MKII TWS buds include a built-in 32-bit DAC, balanced armature drivers
High-end audio maker Astell&Kern has launched its latest TWS earphones, the UW100 MKII. For the uninitiated, the company is based in South Korea and was established by a group of former Samsung executives. They have won numerous design awards and are probably best known for their high-end digital audio players, which it has traditionally matched with its high-end, but wired headphones and earphones. The company, however, has begun embracing wireless audio as Bluetooth technology has improved.
As you would expect for a company obsessed with delivering the best possible audio quality, its UW100 MKII are packed full of audio goodness. Unusual for a set of TWS buds, the Astell&Kern UW100 MKII is fitted with a ultra-low power 32-bit DAC (AKM AK4332ECB) that has been specially tailored to be integrated into the buds’ Qualcomm 5141 Bluetooth chipset. The DAC also incorporates a headphone amplifier that should help to boost audio quality over most buds on the market considerably.
As is the case with many wired high-end earphones, the Astell&Kern UW100 MKII are fitted with Knowles balanced armature drivers. These take a different approach to typical TWS earbud dynamic drivers as they use an electronic signal to vibrate a small reed that is balanced between two magnets inside a tiny enclosure. The approach is supposed to deliver a very pure sound without unwanted harmonic resonances while also creating more room for other components (such as a DAC in this instance).
The Astell&Kern supports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound meaning that it works with AptX Adaptive at up to 24-bit depth, which should keep audiophiles happy. However, it also works with the standard SBC and AAC audio codecs meaning that compatibility is wide and it will work with both iOS and Android devices. However, to get the most out of the earbuds, an Android phone with support for Qualcomm’s AptX Adaptive would be ideal. Battery life is rated at 29 hours in total with the companion charging case, or up to 9.5 hours per charge.
The Astell&Kern UW100 MKIIs are available now and are retailing for $299. They are compatible with both iOS and Android and come with a companion app downloadable through the respective app stores.