What is the Aedle VK-1?
Then again, what you see here is not an ordinary pair of headphones. This is not an effort by an existing brand to make something shiny but neither is it a quick project designed to cash in on the current headphone boom. This is the Aedle VK-1 and it is the only product the company makes. It is the singular vision of two men that has taken several years to reach fruition. Instead of being produced in a corner of a giant Far Eastern factory, they are instead made by a small group of workers in Brittany. They are intended to be the definition of what a pair of headphones should be and they are undeniably very, very pretty. Does this beauty translate into something that is any good though?
Aedle VK-1 Design
The VK-1 is built around a pair of titanium drivers that were selected after a lengthy process and then further tweaked to meet Aedle’s specifications. They take up almost the full width of the housings and sit towards the front of them with the earpads putting the gap between them and your ear. The original plan was to make the VK-1 a sealed design but this changed during development to one that vents via two thin vertical strakes at the front of each housing. Interestingly, in use these vents don’t seem to leak much noise to the outside world which makes the VK-1 viable for use in public.
The other aspect of the VK-1’s design that is different from a few rivals is that the design is not intended to fold up or even fold flat which means it takes up a little more space in a bag than some other models. This is in part down to the way that the VK-1 adjusts on the head. Instead of building the size adjustment into the headband, the VK-1 is more like the Grado SR60i in that the housings are mounted on a single tube section that can slide in and out independently of the other side which means that that VK-1 would probably fit Sloth from The Goonies if you needed them too. The headband itself is a single piece of manganese steel that has no hinges or mounts. This in turn adjusts to the size of your head over the time that you use them and can resist being quite significantly bent out of shape before returning to the original hoop. The effect in use is quite hard to describe. The VK-1 starts feeling very tight on the head but after a few hours some of the tension wears off and it becomes very comfortable indeed. This is one indicator of the way Aedle has gone about using materials in a different way to the competition to make the VK-1 feel different.
They also look incredible. The VK-1 has almost no visible branding and as a result thanks to the materials involved manages to look somewhere between a piece of retro futurism - like a prop from a Fritz Lang movie - and the equivalent of a concept car that manufacturers bring to motor shows to demonstrate their vision of the brand unencumbered by reality. That everything on the VK-1 works as intended and it is no more demanding in use than any of the other headphones at the price is the clever bit. Like the Sennheiser Momentum, everything on the VK-1 is functional and in practice it works well. Where the VK-1 raises the game is that the Momentum feels like a mass produced object while the Aedle feels like a bespoke one. I am under no illusions that £300 is a fair chunk of money but I don’t know of any piece of audio equipment that costs less than this that manages to create this impression. For those of you who feel that the Venus de Milo would be better with a moustache drawn in magic marker, you can also order the VK-1 in black.
Aedle VK-1 Setup
Aedle VK-1 Sound Quality
The payoff to this is that the VK-1 is completely unflappable, even when seriously bright material is played at high volumes. Indeed, the harder you push the Aedle, the better it tends to be. With the greater reserves of power available from the iPad and laptop (to say nothing of the Furutech headphone amp and Naim integrated), the Aedle is powerful and impressively real. Listening to the truly magnificent Fink Meets The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Aedle is tonally faithful and able to reproduce the scale of the performance with genuine conviction. For what is a relatively small pair of headphones, the sense of soundstage and presentation is extremely impressive and further aids the sense of believability that the VK-1 is able to create. The weight and scale of the orchestra is conveyed in a way that is extremely successful and given this is one of the acid tests for any hi-fi system, that that Aedle does it for £300 should be welcomed.
- Stunning industrial design
- Rich and refined sound
- Beautiful build
- No inline remote or mic
- Slight limit to sensitivity
- Slightly slow bass response
Aedle VK-1 Headphone Review
As an audio reviewer, I have a slightly greater degree of subjective leeway in reviewing products but even so, the Aedle puts me in something of a quandary. On an objective level, this £300 headphone goes head to head with the Focal Spirit Classic and Sennheiser Momentum. It has a weaker specification than either of them with no inline remote, proper carry case or long cord for home use, the VK-1 is not as complete a package as these two very impressive headphones. Sonically, the wonderful tonality, impressive smoothness and genuine sense of scale are welcome attributes but again, the VK-1 isn’t perfect and doesn’t have an absolute edge over the most talented rivals at the price.
Beyond objectivity though, the VK-1 is something a little different from the norm. I love - and indeed always have loved - beautiful objects. Be they watches, camera lenses, cars or pieces of furniture, I am drawn to examples of striking design and the use of high quality materials and the VK-1 ticks all these boxes and more. Simply put, if you are like me and derive pleasure from the quality of an object as much as the way it performs, the Aedle is too special to be looked at purely objectively. The performance is excellent but the way it makes you feel is more special still. The VK-1 is a little piece of art in a world of science and for many people it will be too special to ignore.
Ease of Use
Design and usability
Value For Money
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