08/19/2015

Interview beyerdynamic / Astell & Kern

The history of the AK T8iE: A top-class pair of in-ear headphones is developed

Heilbronn, August 2015: The world's first in-ear headphones with Tesla technology from beyerdynamic and a portable high-definition audio player from Astell & Kern make a perfect couple. The two company directors tell us how this team came into being.

A conversation with:

Wolfgang Luckhardt, managing director of beyerdynamic GmbH & Co. KG and Henry Park, CEO iRiver, Astell & Kern brand owner

What brought the two companies together?

Wolfgang Luckhardt, beyerdynamic: We were connected by a common goal. Both companies strive for uncompromising high-end sound and thus pursue a similar philosophy: Results count, even when they demand a lot of effort. There has been regular contact between Heilbronn and Korea since 2013, when beyerdynamic collaborated with Astell & Kern on the portable high-end DAC and headphone amplifier A 200 p. The experience was so positive then, that we wanted to do more with each other.

Henry Park, iRiver/Astell & Kern: Astell & Kern players demand top quality headphones. That's why beyerdynamic also fits us so well. The brand epitomizes the “Made in Germany” quality concept like almost no other brand does. Products from Germany enjoy a great reputation all over the world, especially in Asia, Astell & Kern's home market. So after the A 200 p, we collaborated on a limited edition of the beyerdynamic T 5 p headphones, the AK T5p, which was built according to our specific requirements.

Is the new AK T8iE entirely “Made in Germany”?

Wolfgang Luckhardt: Yes. The exclusive Tesla technology from beyerdynamic, which the sound transducers in the AK T8iE work with, is a purely German development. We have the expertise and machinery to develop and produce such delicate components at the company's site in Heilbronn. Not forgetting a staff of highly-qualified employees, who assemble all headphone components by hand.

Incorporating the circular Tesla transducers into small in-ear headphones must certainly have been a challenge?

Wolfgang Luckhardt: Yes, the miniaturisation was a great challenge. In circumaural high-end headphones such as the T 1, T 5 p or T 90, there is a lot of space for a strong solenoid and the entire transducer technology. The Tesla configuration already had to be significantly downsized for the on-ear Tesla T 50 p. Yet with the in-ear headphones we have set a new record: The annular magnet that characterises Tesla headphones is 16 times smaller than in the T 1 reference model, and the extremely thin moving coil wire is barely visible. You don't develop something like this overnight. Work on the AK T8iE had already began in the summer of 2013.

How much Astell & Kern is there in the new AK T8iE?

Henry Park: Our team contributed to the sound tuning. In addition, the AK380 was used as the reference player. The in-ear headphones are also connected to the symmetrical output of our audio player using a cable and a 2.5 mm jack, which we developed. Transmission-related interference noises are thus reduced to the physically achievable minimum. A better connection between the headphones and music source does not exist.

Which acoustic advantages does the AK T8iE offer when compared with other high-quality in-ear headphones?

Wolfgang Luckhardt: It transmits the entire audible frequency spectrum with a single driver. In contrast to other headphones with Balanced Armature (BA) technology, there is no separate transducer for bass, mid-range or treble tones. This means the filters in which the frequencies are separated to adjoining drivers are also omitted. This avoids phase problems and the losses of sound quality that results from this. From deep bass to the highest trebles, the AK T8iE sounds like an integrated whole. Additionally, the efficiency of our Tesla transducer is so high that we don't need a multi-way system. It can easily be matched to a 4-way BA system.

The shape is reminiscent of professional models for stage use ...

Wolfgang Luckhardt: We consciously decided on the concha design with the cable running rearwards over the ear, because this has various advantages. On the one hand, a somewhat larger housing is necessary, to accommodate the 11 millimetre Tesla driver inside. On the other hand, the oval-shaped concha moulds sit very comfortably in the auricle without any pressure. They are easily inserted, instead of pressing them forcefully into the ear canal. And because the cable doesn't pull, they can't fall out.

Henry Park: Other than the sound, a perfect wearing comfort was one of our main objectives. The cable is positioned where it comfortably goes softly over the ear. beyerdynamic and Astell & Kern measured a variety of ear canals of people from around the world, and ergonomically optimised the eartips. Five different sizes of these unique silicone tips are included as well as Comply Foam tips in S, M and L.

Where are the primary sales markets?

Henry Park: beyerdynamic is a global brand and is very well respected in Asia. As we are also based in Asia, we see good chances here for the product. Europe is also a focal point, after all the headphones originate from there. But there is also great potential among audiophiles in the USA.

And what happens next? Is there already another joint future project planned?

Wolfgang Luckhardt: beyerdynamic and Astell & Kern will most certainly continue the collaboration. We already have another product in the pipeline. It will appear at the CanJam headphone show at the end of September. But no more details will be revealed yet.

 

The AK T8iE will celebrate its world début from 4 to 9 September 2015 at beyerdynamic’s stand at the IFA in Berlin (Hall 1.2, Stand 204).

The first in-ear Tesla will be available from specialist retailers from the end of September at a price of EUR 990.

 

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Publication free of charge; specimen copy requested.

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