Astell & Kern’s (AK) UW100 is another attempt to show that true wireless earbuds have a place amongst those who value audio quality.
With its recognisable ‘light and shadow’ deco motif on a pentagonal shaped housing, the UW100 is unmistakably an AK product. The company’s first fully wireless earphones are built around Knowles’ Balanced Armature drivers – which isn’t unique – but its standalone 32-bit DAC (AK4332ECB by AKM) paired with AK’s amplifier circuit – similar to that used in their Digital Audio Players – certainly is.
Interestingly, the UW100 eschews ANC to stop external noise, opting instead for a passive design to minimise ambient noise in the mid and high frequencies. While it’s certainly not surprising for an audiophile company to avoid ANC whenever they can help it, it’s rather unique that it employs an active circuit to enable an ambient mode for pass-through or hear-through.
With a single tap on the left earbud, you can turn on ambient mode, which lets you hear external sounds. You can choose between four ambient levels either through touch controls on the earbuds or via the app. The touch controls also support commands like play, pause, skip track, volume adjustment, answering calls and enabling voice assistant from a compatible device, whereas the app (iOS and Android) also lets you customise touch controls as well as various EQ settings.
AK also worked with voice application specialist Alango to integrate their Voice Communication Package (VCP) DSP, which is based on special Acoustic Echo-Canceller and Noise-Suppressor technologies to reduce noise and maintain call stability.
The UW100 also supports the latest wireless protocols like Bluetooth 5.2 for range and stability and aptX Adaptive for bit rate optimisation to reduce latency issues. If your mobile device supports Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus – good news, the UW100 supports it as well.
Despite all these features, the battery life looks fairly decent at six hours along with a further 18 hours provided via the carrying case. Ten minutes of charging will provide you with an hour of playback, so you never have to worry about running out of juice. The case also supports wireless charging.
The Astell&Kern UW100 true wireless earbuds are now available at AV One for $399.