Astell & Kern AK T8iE

Hand-built in-ear headphones with an especially even sound reproduction

Image: Hugh Threlfall

It took me a little while to fall in love with these in-ear headphones. But fall in love I have with the AK T8iEs, a cooperation between Astell & Kern, the South Korean music-player maker, and German microphone meister Beyerdynamic. In fact, the AK T8iEs now seem quite groundbreaking; they make music I know well sound both different and better.

When I first got them, I found the sound a bit too light and the fit uncomfortable. Odd, I thought, because A&K’s £2,000 Layla in-ears, which I loved last summer, are like stuffing a Mini Cooper in each ear, but sit comfortably. Then I discovered that I was putting the T8iEs in the wrong way; the cables are supposed to rise vertically from the ear canal, then loop round the ear. Suddenly the overly delicate, precise sound I wasn’t keen on began to seem much lovelier.

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The unusual sound quality (reminiscent to me of electrostatic loudspeakers) is created by the unique construction. The hand-built earphones feature a single driver – what Beyerdynamic calls a Tesla driver (after the great and eccentric Serbian-American inventor, Nikola) – which transmit the entire audible spectrum, from deep bass to top trebles. This ensures an especially even sound reproduction, without interference between different frequency ranges.

The result is extremely refined. You may find they make you want to relisten to all the music you love – which for me is the most inspiring thing a new audio product can do.

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