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Astell & Kern's first-ever wireless earbuds boast aptX Adaptive and ambient modes

Astell & Kern AK UW100 earbuds
(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

South Korean audio specialist Astell & Kern may be best-known for its extensive lineup of premium portable music players, but it also produces a wide variety of consumer hi-fi products that, as of today, now includes true wireless earbuds. Astell & Kern has just unveiled its inaugural pair of wireless earbuds, the AK UW100. 

As you might expect from a company that has built its reputation on consistently excellent hi-res portable players, the AK UW100’s sonic credentials include an AK4332 32-bit DAC, Bluetooth 5.2 with support for the latest aptX Adaptive codec, and "ultra-detailed" Knowles balanced armature drivers that, the company says, are typically reserved for premium in-ear monitors.

In terms of battery stamina, the claim is six hours of playback from the earbuds and 18 from the case (which supports both wireless and fast charging), making up a total of 24 hours.

You're also getting on-device touch controls, a proprietary iOS and Android app for customisation functions, and a lightweight earbud design that was supposedly developed through "countless simulations".

AK UW100

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

Astell & Kern claims that the UW100's passive noise isolation (PNI) is very effective, stating that, unlike generic Active Noise Cancellation which concentrates on blocking out low-frequency noise, PNI promises to efficiently minimise unwanted ambient noise in the mid and high range. If the user wants to hear outside sounds, a single tap of the left earbud will activate ambient mode, and they can easily switch between four different levels using the earbud’s touch controls or via the app.

A dual mic set-up utilises technology from voice application specialist Alango in a bid to deliver crystal-clear call quality, too.

Sporting an angular, almost Deco motif with a pentagon shape to fit snugly in the ear (comfort is aided by five sizes of silicone ear tips), the AK UW100 look every millimetre an Astell & Kern signature product. And at this stage, we can only hope they sound like one too.

The Astell & Kern AK UW100 are priced £249 ($260, AU$399) and will be available from next month.

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Becky has been a full-time staff writer at What Hi-Fi? since March 2019. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, she freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance is of course tethered to a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo, This is Cabaret and The Stage. When not writing, she dances, spins in the air, drinks coffee, watches football or surfs in Cornwall with her other half – a football writer whose talent knows no bounds.