Dynamic driver or balanced armature? Yes. In-Ear Monitor (IEM) manufacturers have been combining these two types of drivers inside their earpieces for some time. The thinking behind such hybrid designs is that the strengths of a dynamic driver (bass weight and richness) can be combined with those of BA drivers (clarity and zippiness) for win-win situation.
After many years of collaborations with Jerry Harvey, Campfire Audio and Beyerdynamic, South Korean portable player (and dongle DAC) manufacturer Astell&Kern this week enters the IEM fray with its first self-branded model. The AK ZERO1 is a hybrid design that marries a 5.6mm dynamic driver for “rich, controlled and deep low frequencies” with a pair of balanced armature drivers that promises “crystal-clear vocals with super-low distortion”.
But there’s a twist.
The AK ZERO1 also sports a third driver type — a Micro Rectangular Planar Dynamic Driver. The press release explains it thusly: “The Micro Rectangular Planar Dynamic Driver is a specially developed driver with highly advanced technology that allows a planar driver, normally a very difficult driver to scale down, to be applied to in-ear monitors. Astell&Kern adopted a sturdy and lightweight planar membrane to minimize frequency loss and applied a vibration panel that features a high-polymer film with thin metal to create crystal clear high frequencies.”
Each driver is precisely positioned inside the AK ZERO1’s aluminium earpiece using a 3-D printed acoustic chamber that reportedly minimises unwanted resonances. Nominal input impedance clocks in at 16 Ohms.
On cabling, we get a “Hi-Fi Grade Pure Silver-Coated OFC 4 Core” wire terminated with a 3.5mm connector at the source end and MMCX connectors at each earpiece. An optional 4.4mm balanced cable will be made available for US$199 when the AK ZERO1 itself begins shipping in November for US$699.
The AK ZERO1 is handmade in Japan.
Further information: Astell&Kern