The Acro BE100, Astell&Kern’s first Bluetooth speaker, has the same design as the brand’s DAPs, with a faceted front panel and a large backlit volume knob. Staying true to the manufacturer’s philosophy, this Astell&Kern speaker aims to provide a high-quality listening experience thanks to its compatibility with Bluetooth 5.0 as well as the aptX HD and LDAC codecs. Its 3.5mm mini-jack input allows you to connect a wired source, while the three drivers and 55-watt amplification promise great sound. Will the portable hi-fi specialist become a fixture in living rooms with the Astell&Kern Acro BE100?
Astell&Kern Acro BE100: packaging & accessories
The Astell&Kern Acro BE100 comes in an elegant box on which “Hi-Fi Bluetooth Speaker” is printed, immediately revealing the purpose of this small 26cm wide speaker. It comes with a quick start guide and a power adapter with European-standard connectors.
Astell&Kern Acro BE100: presentation
The Astell&Kern Acro BE100 connected speaker has a particularly appealing design that leaves no doubt as to its origins. The front panel features a faceted metal grille similar to the geometric shapes of the brand’s DAPs, such as the Astell&Kern A&norma SR25, Astell&Kern KANN Alpha and Astell&Kern A&Futura SE180. The sides and the top of the A&K Acro BE100 speaker are made of a wooden chassis covered with a very natural looking imitation leather. The Astell&Kern Acro BE100’s design is very luxurious, and it is a genuine decorative object that will look great in both modern and traditional interiors.
The top panel of the Astell&Kern BE100 connected speaker features a control interface with a large notched aluminum volume knob with a light at the base, another nod to the manufacturer’s music players. The color of the LED ring changes depending on the source, making the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 easy to control.
Other controls are also present to quickly begin playback and change tracks. There is also a tone control to adjust the bass and treble levels to suit your preferences or the music you’re listening to.
The metal grille of the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 hides no less than three drivers, including a 4” model. Designed to reproduce the lows and mids, this driver uses a kevlar cone to combine rigidity and lightness to maximize control and excursion. Coupled with a bass-reflex enclosure, this design promises a great bass reproduction.
The Astell&Kern Acro BE100 connected speaker’s midbass driver works alongside two soft silk dome tweeters with a diameter of 1.5”. The larger size compared to standard tweeters ensures a wider reproduction of the high frequencies. The inside of this Astell&Kern speaker is lined with absorbing materials to reduce vibrations and resonance for a more natural sound. Unsurprisingly, it is very effective!
Each of the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 connected speaker’s drivers features its own amplification module, specifically calibrated to match the properties of the driver and the frequency range it reproduces. Consequently, there is a 25-watt module dedicated to the midbass driver and two 15-watt modules for the tweeters. This ensemble provides a total output power of 55 watts that the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 Bluetooth speaker manages to harness very well. Even when using the speaker at maximum volume, it doesn’t seem to run out of steam.
The Astell&Kern Acro BE100 speaker isn’t compatible with WiFi, which is unfortunate in this day and age. Consequently, streaming is only carried out via Bluetooth. However, being a leading specialist in hi-fi and Hi-Res systems, the South Korean manufacturer has sought to optimize the quality of Bluetooth playback as much as possible. The solution lies in the Qualcomm CSR8675 Bluetooth 5.0 controller, which supports both aptX HD and LDAC. The former allows transmission in CD quality (16-bit/44.1kHz), while the latter has a transmission capacity of 990 kb/s in 24-bit/96kHz. The sound is therefore more detailed and accurate, provided that the source is also compatible with these codecs. If not, the A&K Acro BE100 is also compatible with SBC and AAC codecs to ensure support for all Bluetooth sources: smartphones, tablets, computers, DAPs, etc.
The Bluetooth chip in most Bluetooth speakers also serves as a DAC to convert the received digital signal into an analog signal. Although very easy to implement for manufacturers, this solution isn’t the best for ensuring an accurate reproduction of musical information. It is with great attention to detail that Astell&Kern has integrated its own 32-bit converter, a hi-fi quality model that processes the signal more accurately. Finally, jitter is minimized by a 50ps clock that allows for more efficient data timing and, therefore, a more accurate and faithful listening experience.
In addition to Bluetooth playback, the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 connected speaker also allows you to connect a wired source thanks to a 3.5mm mini-jack auxiliary input. As a result, it is possible to connect a DAP, CD player, network media player or the headphone output of a TV, for example.
Astell&Kern Acro BE100: listening conditions
Once the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 speaker is connected to the mains, you have to press the volume control knob for 5 seconds to start it up. 5 seconds is quite long, especially since the process isn’t any quicker the next time the speaker is turned on or off. This isn’t a huge problem, but the integration of a switch that turns the speaker on and off instantly would have been more convenient. When it is switched on for the first time, the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 speaker automatically changes to pairing mode and you simply need to pair it with a Bluetooth source to enjoy music wirelessly. For this test, we streamed music from an iOS smartphone and an Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 DAP chosen for its compatibility with the aptX HD and LDAC codecs. We listened to music stored in the devices’ internal memory, as well as music played from Spotify and Qobuz.
Astell&Kern Acro BE100: listening impressions
Despite AAC Bluetooth playback (MP3 quality) with the iPhone, the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 speaker provided a very convincing sound, with a clear, tangible and pleasantly natural reproduction. The soundstage was surprisingly wide for a single speaker of this size and ensured that the music was clearly perceived, whether the A&K Acro BE100 was placed in front of the listener or in a corner of the room. Vocals were nicely transparent and stood out from the rest of the soundstage. On the whole, the tonal balance was preserved, with clear highs, as well as fairly transparent and pronounced mids. The bass was tight and lively. It wasn’t extremely deep, but it was impactful and powerful enough to provide the music with substance and weight.
The benefits of the LDAC codec with the Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 were undeniable. The Astell&Kern Acro BE100 speaker was even more precise in every frequency range, especially in the lows, where the presence and depth were slightly reinforced. The highs also gained a little in finesse, and the contours of the different instruments seemed to be more clearly delineated. With Alicia Keys’ latest album, the singer’s voice benefited from a great clarity and was reproduced with conviction. The piano that accompanies many of the tracks was correctly positioned and reproduced with a fairly natural volume that one would typically expect from larger speakers.
Contrary to many other connected speakers equipped with DSP, the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 did not try to show off with ultra powerful bass, to the detriment of the other frequency ranges. The listening experience was therefore very natural and balanced for this type of speaker, although those who enjoy a more robust sound may find it lacking during the first listening sessions. Fortunately, this was quickly rectified using the bass control, which added more presence and conviction to this frequency range. The size of the room also had a big impact on the bass reproduction. In a living room of almost 60m², the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 was more reserved and needed to be placed in a corner of the room or against a wall to reinforce the bass. On the other hand, in an office, a small living room or a kitchen of about 16/20m², the sound was much more physical without having to increase the volume excessively.
Astell&Kern Acro BE100: compared to…
Denon Home 250: sold for €499, the Denon Home 250 speaker’s sound signature puts more emphasis on the lows, with deeper and more dominant bass. Globally, however, the sound is less natural and transparent. That said, this Denon speaker has the advantage of integrating a WiFi module that provides a wider range of options, with access to streaming services, multi-room compatibility and voice control, in addition to Bluetooth.
Marshall Woburn 2 BT: available at the same price, the Marshall Woburn 2 BT also impresses with its vintage-inspired design that is reminiscent of the brand’s guitar amplifiers. Its sides are covered with an imitation leather finish and the top panel is equipped with large control knobs. Sound-wise, the Marshall Woburn 2 BT connected speaker benefits from more energy, making it more comfortable in larger rooms. It is slightly more generous in the lows, but the other frequencies aren’t as soft or precise. Moreover, this Marshall speaker’s Bluetooth controller is only compatible with aptX, not aptX HD or LDAC like the Astell&Kern Acro BE100. The transmission quality therefore isn’t as good.
Astell&Kern Acro BE100: who is it for?
The Astell&Kern Acro BE100 speaker is designed for users who don’t need a WiFi connection and simply want to enjoy the ease of Bluetooth playback, without compromising on sound quality. Support for aptX HD and LDAC codecs, combined with a dedicated conversion system and a well thought-out acoustic design allows the Acro BE100 to do a much better job than many competing connected speakers. It will appeal to those who enjoy natural, clear and transparent sound. Despite its frank character in the low register, it may seem too reserved for some users. It should therefore only be used in small rooms (less than 25m²), or its placement in larger rooms should be optimized. Lastly, with its faceted front panel and imitation leather finish, it will also appeal to lovers of stylish objects. This speaker can be proudly displayed in a living room, where it will add a touch of elegance and modernity to any decor.
Astell&Kern Acro BE100: conclusion
With the Astell&Kern Acro BE100 connected speaker, the South Korean manufacturer has effectively entered a new market while maintaining its editorial line by offering a natural sound, as close as possible to a hi-fi listening experience. The Astell&Kern Acro BE100 offers a balanced sound, with a great transparency and clarity that benefits vocals. Although playback is very good with any Bluetooth source, we still recommend using Bluetooth aptX HD or, ideally, LDAC compatible equipment to maximize the precision of the reproduction. Finally, despite the many strengths of Astell&Kern’s first speaker, it is regrettable that a WiFi module wasn’t integrated as it would have multiplied playback possibilities.
- The transparent sound
- The distinctive Astell&Kern design
- The compatibility with LDAC Bluetooth
We would have liked:
- More power
- More presence in the lows
- A WiFi module