Astell & Kern's angular AK Zero1 earbuds feature three different drivers

Astell & Kern AK Zero1
(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

South Korean audio specialist Astell & Kern is best-known for its catalogue of premium portable high-res music players, but the firm also produces a wide selection of consumer hi-fi products, including headphones – and the AK Zero1 is its latest wired in-ear proposition. 

Featuring three different types of driver per earpiece, the new AK Zero1 promise a "ground-breaking hybrid sound" and while the company's most recent AK Solaris X earphones were a collaborative effort with Oregon IEM outfit Campfire Audio, these in-ears are 100 per cent A&K.

Digging down into the specs a little, the AK Zero1's unique configuration comprises a specially developed micro rectangular planar dynamic driver (difficult to scale down for an in-ear monitor) and vibration panel boasting a high-polymer and thin metal film; dual balanced armature (BA) drivers using custom-designed coils for midrange and vocal frequencies, plus a single 5.6mm dynamic driver to handle the low end. 

Astell & Kern AK Zero1 with cable

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

You're also getting Astell & Kern's precision crossover network design (where each driver is carefully placed in the optimal position and enclosed in specifically designed acoustic chambers manufactured with 3D printing technology), CNC-machined metal housing and hi-fi-grade OFC cable crafted with high-purity silver plating and copper, alongside aluminum plugs in a bid to maintain transparency of the audio signal.

Elsewhere, the MMCX connectors promise a prime-quality connection between the ear housing and cable, and there's an optional 4.4mm MMCX cable accessory: the PEP11.

Visually, Astell & Kern’s trademark bold, brutalist diagonal design language continues on the AK Zero1, with the housings sporting premium reflective cut metal surfaces – potentially an ideal companion for your A&K player, then.

To further ensure a snug fit, the slender ear nozzles come with five different-sized pairs of silicone ear tips, and one set of foam. Finally, to keep them pristine during transit, you also get a carry case.

The Astell & Kern AK Zero1 is priced £649 / $699 / AU$999 €749 and will be available in November from Astell & Kern and local independent dealers.

The Astell & Kern PEP11 is priced £119 / $130 / AU$189 €139 and will also be available from November.

Astell & Kern AK Zero1

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)


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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.