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Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey – The pursuit of the extraordinary

It's a collaboration that has resulted in one of the best in-ear headphones on the market, and it's the new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey, is how Astell & Kern describes its cooperation with headphone specialist Empire Ears.

The new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey represents what has always characterized the companies Astell & Kern and Empire Ears, namely the pursuit of perfection, according to the two specialists in the field of personal audio, who have joined forces for this project. The Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey is an in-ear headphone that sets new standards, because they combine technologies that have never been used in this way before and which are intended to ensure that they address audiophile music enthusiasts who do not want to compromise on sound quality, even in the field of in-ear headphones.

Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey – The journey to sound perfection

It comes as no surprise that the two companies Astell & Kern and Empire Ears are not at a loss for superlatives when describing the new in-ear headphones, as they want to emphasize the special position they believe the new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey occupies in the market.

According to the two manufacturers of the Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey, this in-ear headphone is a glimpse into the future, a visionary approach, and a striving for the extraordinary.

They are betting on technologies that will change the market of in-ear headphones forever, they even go so far as to speak of a technological reference project.

10 Driver Quadbrid Dual Conduction Design

Probably the most outstanding feature of the new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey is that it not only relies on really countless drivers, but also features quite unusual technologies, and also the way in which these different approaches are combined into a new whole in the Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey.

Thus, one speaks of a so-called 10 Driver Quadbrid Dual Conduction Design, which the Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey features and which is supposed to provide for an unprecedented detail imaging and dynamics.

The basis are Dual W9+ subwoofers, which represent the lowest frequency range, followed by a total of five specially designed Balanced Armature Driver, where it is in detail a custom EMP78 Sonion BA and a quad custom EM69 Knowles BA. But then added to that is a so-called W10 Bone Conduction Ultra Driver and a Dual Electrostatic Sonion Tweeter.

All this finds, and this is the really amazing, place in the still comparatively tiny housing of an in-ear headphone.

  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey

The said Dual Conduction Architecture describes the mode of action of the different drivers, because on the one hand, the subwoofers, the midrange and tweeter must emit their signal in the conventional way via the ear canal, i.e. via the air, but also the bone conduction driver, i.e. a so-called bone sound driver must be able to optimally develop its mode of action. Air conduction and bone conduction thus result in the Dual Conduction Architecture described by the manufacturer.

The entire frequency range from 5 Hz to 100 kHz is reproduced via Air Conduction by the two W9+ subwoofers, five Balanced Armature Drivers and two electrostats, while imaging, soundstage, detail reproduction, low-frequency extension and reverberation from 5 Hz to 40 kHz are to be improved via Bone Conduction by the W10.

Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey

Empire Audio synX Crossover Network

It is obvious that such a complex setup requires a very special crossover network. Astell & Kern and Empire Audio rely on a solution from Empire Audio, namely the Empire Audio synX Crossover Network.

The manufacturers are convinced that this is characterized by countless customized methods and technologies that make it a unique masterpiece. The connection of four different driver technologies is mapped via a proprietary 7-way synX crossover network, which optimally ensures the maximum performance of all ten drivers.

Empire Audio EIVEC MKII Engine

However, special attention still had to be paid to the electrostatic drivers of the Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey, specifically their interaction with the Bone Conduction Driver to ensure perfect timing and phase mapping.

This task is performed by the newly developed Empire Audio EIVEC MKII engine, where this abbreviation stands for Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostatic Control.

Dual Tri-Port Exhaust

Especially with regard to the powerful subwoofers used in these in-ear headphones, it was particularly important to rely on a particularly solid, optimized to the last detail housing with a special structure, so that via different sound guidance the individual drivers can always do their job undisturbed by the rest.

This also includes that the housing was damped separately in some places, so that the manufacturer speaks of an A.R.C. Treated chassis. In fact, it is a 3D-printed, hand-polished enclosure that houses all components – from the drivers to the crossover. The final touch is a particularly striking top plate, which is guaranteed to be an eye-catcher when you wear the Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey in your ear.

  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
  • Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey

Effect Audio Ares II Cable

The Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odysseywe have 0.78 pin connectors, so the user can use a wide variety of cables. However, a particularly high-quality cable is already included anyway, which is supposed to bring out all the advantages of the Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey.

It is an Effect Audio Ares II Cable, which consists of 26 AWG UPOCC stranded copper wires interwoven with special geometry and is provided with EA Ultra Flexi insulation. The cable terminates in a 4.4 mm Pentaconn and is thus designed for balanced drive. But, also an adapter to 3.5 mm for an unbalanced connection to the source device is included.

Technical key data – 5 Hz to 100 kHz

Briefly we have already mentioned it, here again everything in compact summary: the Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey is with its ten drivers (two W9+ Subwoofer, five Balanced Armature Driver, two Electrostatic Tweeter plus W10 Bone Conduction Ultra Driver) capable of a frequency range between 5 Hz and 100 kHz. Sensitivity is claimed by the manufacturers to be 100 dB at 1 kHz and 1 mW, and impedance is 2.1 ohms at 1 kHz.

Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey
Foto © Astell & Kern | Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey

Prices and availability

The new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey is expected to be available at retailers in the near future. In addition to the described Effect Audio ARES II UPOCC Copper Litz Cable and the 4.4 mm to 3.5 mm Pentaconn adapter, the package also includes five pairs of Final Audio E-Type tips (XS, S, M, L and XL) along with an aluminum tip tray, a cleaning tool and a microfiber cloth, plus a Pandora V1 CNC Anodized Black aluminum case.

If you’re excited about the new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey, however, you’ll have to budget US$ 3.400,- for it.

Getting to the point

The new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey is the result of the pursuit of perfection, and the years of experience and expertise of the two partners involved in this project, personal audio specialists Astell & Kern and Empire Ears. Even though this is an in-ear headphone, no less than ten drivers with completely different concepts are used here, a combination that number as well as combination that has never been seen before, so it is indeed unique. The result that can be achieved with the new Astell & Kern X Empire Ears Odyssey is also supposed to be unique.

PRODUCTASTELL & KERN X EMPIRE EARS ODYSSEY
PriceUS$ 3.400,-
BrandASTELL & KERN
ManufactureriRiver Ltd.
Distribution AustriaAudio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH
Distribution Germanyheadphone.shop GmbH
Distribution SwitzerlandPortacomp AG
More about this manufacturer at HiFi BLOG

Michael Holzinger

Michael Holzinger, founder and editor-in-chief of HiFi BLOG and sempre-audio.at, has been working for years as a journalist in the fields of IT, photography, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

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