Do you remember Did you try anything other than the crappy plastic earbuds that came with your mobile device for the first time? I remember reading a forum post online about paying $100 for a pair of Shure earphones and taking them by surprise when I plugged them into my iPod Nano.
You get that feeling when you jump from entry-level wireless earbuds like the AirPods to premium headphones like the new Astell & Kern UW100.With great digital-to-analog conversion, custom drivers, and sleek design, I can see these being an easy entry point
For aspiring audiophiles.
High-end wireless earbuds take some time to do anything special other than look better than versions from Apple, Samsung, and others. The UW100 proves that we’re finally getting better sound for the extra money, and they might make some audiophiles cut the cord when they’re out and about.
form and function
If you don’t like hoarding FLAC files and spending thousands of dollars on fancy digital players, chances are you’ve never heard of Astell & Kern. The small audio brand has been making critically acclaimed digital-to-analog converters, headphone amplifiers and portable players for Rolex-level for years, but it’s only recently that it has ventured deep into high-end mainstream audio products.
In terms of design and audio performance, the technology trickle down is palpable. Astell & Kern is now willing to sell products for under $500, but engineers are still reluctant to sell products that sound bad.
The jagged, jewel-like appearance of each earbud instantly stands out among a bunch of wireless earbuds that look like golf tee.they are like you might be Star Trek A spin-off that doubles as a fancy space-age evangelist. That’s not to say the buds don’t look and feel elegant, but unless your personal style is very modern, you might find them a little flashy.
This visual cue complements Astell & Kern’s curriculum, which utilizes jagged edges at the heart of its design language. However, the case is a bit large and very plastic, and I wouldn’t expect the buds to cost almost twice as much as the AirPods. I may not like Apple’s basic model, but it’s twice as sleek and half the size.
Despite the lack of ear fins, the UW100 fits my medium-sized ears perfectly. I’ve been able to take them for long runs, do yard work, and generally putt without dropping buds. Of course, this part is a fluke: Unless your ears are like mine, your mileage may vary.But as long as you don’t small Ears (these are medium to large, but not huge), they should fit you.
Sound quality, though, is where the UW100 really shines. A 32-bit digital-to-analog converter and custom balanced armature driver paired with the aptX-enabled adaptive Bluetooth codec deliver the cleanest, most detailed audio I’ve heard from wireless earbuds.
The headphones’ excellent passive noise isolation contributes to a wide soundstage and confident (but not overly booming) bass. Sometimes, I swear by these earbuds with active noise cancellation because they block out the outside world so well. Engineers at Astell & Kern are well aware of this. You can activate Ambient Mode with a tap on the outside touch sensor, which you’ll find yourself using if you buy these buds.