Astell&Kern is a Korean company that makes some excellent DAPs (digital audio players) for people who refuse to compromise when listening to music on the go.
For its latest in-ear headphones, Astell&Kern has teamed up with Campfire Audio, and they should sound fantastic thanks to a slew of audiophile features.
The AK Solaris X in-ear monitors use custom-made balanced armature drivers and a dynamic driver hybrid system to produce music “as the artist intended,” according to the company.
They are hand-assembled with a tailored balance armature driver and a dynamic driver hybrid system in each ear. A proprietary tuned acoustic expansion chamber technology is combined with a 3D printed acoustically optimized chamber.
The Solaris X’s balanced armature is smaller than the driver in Campfire’s original Solaris IEM, allowing it to extend high frequencies without sibilance or fatigue caused by upper frequency distortion.
Campfire Audio’s patented Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber technology changes the volume of space in front of the driver to offer “unsurpassed clarity and a smooth, extended top end.” It optimizes driver performance by adjusting the amount of space available in front of the driver while maintaining a direct passage from the driver to the listener’s ear.
While the 10mm drivers are smaller than earlier Astell&Kern earbuds, the ‘Polarity Tuned Chambers’ are designed to employ cavities around the drivers to draw out as much sound as possible, resulting in deeper and more refined mid frequencies.
The cables that come with these wired in-ear headphones have been given a lot of thought, as you’d expect from an audiophile company.
A balanced 2.5mm Pure Silver Litz Cable (along with a 3.5mm adapter) is included in the box, and it’s designed to deliver “the most transparent and extended sounds possible.” It features four 4N (99.99% purity) conductors for a clear and extended sound. A soft-touch jacket wraps around each conductor to create a cable that is both flexible and long-lasting.
The earpieces are connected to the detachable cable through MMCX connectors made of beryllium/copper, which Camp Audio claims are more sturdy than normal brass connectors.
Finally, Campfire Audio has acquired a casing for the AK Solaris X from a small boutique workshop in Portugal. The zippered cases are made from eco-friendly cork, which is both sustainable and durable, by a workshop that employs disabled people. The cases will keep your buds in top shape.
It’s not totally shocking that the price is so high. After all, Astell&Kern is best known for their high-end MP3 players and portable DACs, both of which are notoriously expensive.
As a matter of fact, the Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 is one of the finest portable music players available, featuring exceptional support for high-resolution audio files as well as Bluetooth LDAC wireless connectivity. This model costs $699 / £649 (roughly AU$920).
However, audiophiles on a budget have a less expensive alternative. The Astell&Kern AK USB-C DUAL DAC Cable costs $149 / £109 (approximately AU$190) and allows you to connect wired headphones to phones or devices without a 3.5mm audio port (like most modern smartphones, for example). It also improves the sound of your music.