“Audio-Technica nails the performance-and-features worth for cash components.”
- Nice sound with large bass
- Big battery capability
- Excellent noise cancellation
- Bluetooth Multipoint
- IPX4 water resistance
- aptX Adaptive
- No wi-fi charging
- No put on sensors
- Cumbersome charging case
Audio-Technica (A-T) is greatest identified for its studio-grade however extremely inexpensive wired headphones and its turntable cartridges. However the Japanese model is also carving out a pleasant area of interest for itself within the wi-fi earbuds world. Its newest effort — the $149 ATH-CKS50TW (yup, like all A-T fashions, it’s a mouthful) — observe that very same components, and will be thought-about the alternative of Apple’s iconic AirPods, in practically each significant means. They solely are available in black, they’re enormous, they’ve an astounding quantity of battery life, and in the case of bass, I don’t suppose there’s anything like them.
How do these bodacious buds stack as much as the competitors? Let’s verify ‘em out.
Audio-Technica’s aesthetic is a mix of form-meets-function. I’d hardly name the corporate’s headphones fashionable, however they do possess a purposeful, no-nonsense high quality I like. The ATH-CKS50TW (which I’ll from right here on out name the CKS50 on your sanity and mine) observe that very same strategy, with an virtually monolithic (and monotone) design. They’re chunky — regardless of their rounded contours — one thing which all of the beveled edges on the planet can’t disguise.
As an alternative of the extra widespread contact controls, A-T makes use of bodily buttons on its earbuds, that are positioned on the highest edge, the place they’re simple to entry. That’s a little bit of a departure from the standard placement on the entrance, round panel, however maybe that room was required for the drivers and big batteries.
With Bluetooth Multipoint help, you may preserve two paired gadgets energetic concurrently, like a PC and a telephone.
You received’t need to take the CKS50 to the seaside, however their IPX4 score for water resistance ought to preserve them secure from the ravages of sweat and rain so long as you clear them after every use.
Their charging case can be a cumbersome affair, and whereas it’s going to simply discover a house in a health club bag or backpack, you’re asking for some humorous appears if you happen to cram it in your pocket. Ordinarily, I’d assume the dimensions was associated to the battery inside, however as I’ll clarify later, that doesn’t fairly add up.
On the brilliant aspect, A-T has used that dimension to make the CKS50 very accessible. The enormous flip-top lid will get fully out of your means, and the earbuds sit going through barely ahead, making them simple to seize and exchange.
The case’s flat backside permits you to stand it upright on any flat floor, however there’s no wi-fi charging. With the CKS50’s massive battery, that’s so much much less of an inconvenience.
The CKS50’s massive dimension means these with small ears are going to have points with match. They’re not fairly as massive as Sony’s mammoth WF-1000XM4, however shut. Nonetheless, so long as your ears can accommodate them, they’re a really snug form, with a gently tapering horn. A-T supplies 4 sizes of silicone ear ideas that will help you get a superb seal, and I discovered the default mediums have been supreme for me.
I used to be pleasantly stunned that regardless of their dimension, as soon as firmly seated they stayed put, even throughout a exercise. They usually have been snug sufficient to put on for as much as two hours earlier than I wanted a break.
The multifunction management buttons on every bud are simple to achieve and along with the tactile suggestions, you get a brief tone to substantiate whether or not you’ve single-, double-, or triple-clicked. Sadly, there’s little or no journey on the buttons they usually’re a bit mushy, making multi-click instructions a bit difficult.
Utilizing lossless hi-res tracks, it turned obvious that aptX Adaptive was delivering a better high quality sign.
Nonetheless, they supply every little thing you want, together with play/pause, observe skip ahead/again, name reply/finish, and quantity up/down. For those who obtain the A-T Join app for iOS/Android, you additionally get the flexibility to customise the long-press operate for every earbud, with these decisions: Voice assistant entry, fast hear-through, low-latency mode, ANC management, or no motion. By default, these are set to ANC management on the left bud and fast hear-through on the proper. I’ll focus on these options extra in a second.
By default, the buds will provide you with voice suggestions for features, e.g. “Play,” “pause,” and so forth., however you’ll in all probability need to disable these within the app as they really decelerate the response occasions for every operate they usually’re actually not needed.
The one factor lacking right here is auto-pause. The earbuds aren’t outfitted with put on sensors, to allow them to’t cease and begin your tunes as you take away and exchange them.
The A-T Join app does an outstanding job of letting you handle related gadgets.
With Google Quick Pair, getting Android gadgets related is a cinch, however even getting the CKS50 paired with iOS gadgets continues to be very fast and simple. Due to Bluetooth 5.2, the connection is robust and really dependable — I had no dropouts in any respect whereas testing. Higher but, with Bluetooth Multipoint help, you may preserve two paired gadgets energetic concurrently, like a PC and a telephone, and change between them seamlessly.
The A-T Join app does an outstanding job of letting you handle related gadgets, exhibiting which of them are energetic and related, which of them you’ve related to beforehand, and provides you the flexibility to place the earbuds into pairing mode remotely so you may add further gadgets without having to futz round with the earbuds’ controls. It’s the perfect multi-device help I’ve seen in a companion app up to now. And sure, you need to use every earbud independently for each calls and music, however you may’t break up them up between paired gadgets.
True to Audio-Technica’s repute for audio high quality, the CKS50 sound nice. The manufacturing unit tuning is massive on bass — dramatically so. I’ve lots of love for earbuds and headphones with highly effective low-end efficiency (just like the teeth-rattling JVC HA-XC90T) and I can’t keep in mind the final time I felt overwhelmed by it, however the CKS50 had me trying to find the EQ changes within the A-T Join app instantly.
Don’t get me mistaken, it’s completely superb. And if you happen to’re a bass-head, I think you’ll be in heaven. However I discovered it simply an excessive amount of. Thankfully, these EQ settings could make an enormous distinction. There are useful presets, like clear vocal and treble improve (and even a bass enhance if you happen to dare), however you too can use the five-band sliders to create and save your personal stability. What wants no tweaking is the general efficiency. There’s tons of definition and readability within the midranges, the soundstage is beneficiant in its width and precision, and vocals are clear and crisp — although these have been additionally improved with EQ modifications.
Having Bluetooth Multipoint means I used to be in a position to join the CKS50 to each an iPhone 11 and a Xiaomi 12 Professional concurrently, and hop backwards and forwards between them so I may hear the distinction between the AAC codec on the iPhone and aptX Adaptive on the Xiaomi. Utilizing lossless hi-res tracks from Amazon Music, it turned instantly obvious that aptX Adaptive was certainly delivering a better high quality sign.
Dynamics have been improved significantly, and little particulars began to emerge. On the Weeknd’s Blinding Lights, as an example, the vocals took on an airier high quality, and deep, complicated synthesizer notes felt clear, not fuzzy. I can’t all the time inform the distinction between AAC and high-quality codecs like LDAC and aptX Adaptive — it lately proved fairly tough when reviewing the Sony LinkBuds S, however the Audio-Technicas profit from it in a noticeable means.
One different spectacular characteristic: You possibly can resolve how granular you’d like the amount management to be — from a minimal of 16 steps to a most of 64. I can’t recall ever seeing that choice on a set of wi-fi earbuds earlier than.
ANC on the CKS50 is great, offering excellent discount of most frequencies. It’s equally adept at coping with fixed, droning seems like lavatory followers or air conditioners, as it’s with intermittent and variable noise like visitors.
I had no downside staying targeted on each podcasts and music whereas strolling via downtown streets, and when sitting at my laptop I used to be in a position to make use of it to only get a little bit of peace and quiet for focus.
I even had a coworker touch upon how good my voice sounded, which I can inform you doesn’t occur fairly often.
You possibly can choose from two sorts of transparency: Fast hear-through mutes (however doesn’t pause) your audio and allows you to hear the skin world for ad-hoc conversations, whereas a devoted management for ANC permits you to change between ANC, transparency, and no operate (off) on your longer-term wants. They’re each useful, however I’d prefer it if the A-T Join app allow you to resolve to only change between ANC and transparency as an alternative of biking via the off mode.
The silicone ideas do an excellent job of passive noise isolation, so the transparency mode is useful, however it’s not the type of magical feeling of not sporting any earbuds that Apple has mastered with the AirPods Professional. Nonetheless, it’s higher than nothing.
Total, calling on the ATH-CKS50 is superb. Like most wi-fi earbuds, they wrestle a bit with canceling background noise, however what I like is that they don’t distort your voice as they achieve this. As an alternative, there’s a slight lack of microphone achieve — you sound quieter and farther away.
However get them in a quieter location and your voice will sound clear and really pure, with loads of resonance. I even had a coworker touch upon it throughout a Microsoft Groups name, which I can inform you doesn’t occur fairly often.
There’s a selectable side-tone choice within the app, but when there’s one weak point to calling on these buds, it’s that even with side-tone turned on, your voice will nonetheless sound a bit muted to your personal ears — positively not what you’d get with the AirPods Professional, or the Jabra Elite 7 Professional, each of which provide wonderful voice suggestions.
As I hinted above, the ATH-CKS50 have a fully monstrous battery capability within the earbuds — a claimed 20 hours. Granted, that’s with ANC disabled, however even when it’s on, A-T says you may count on 15 hours — nonetheless enormous by wi-fi earbud requirements.
And from what I can inform, these aren’t exaggerated numbers. What I can’t fairly determine is why the charging case solely holds an extra 30 hours. Don’t get me mistaken, that’s a very massive determine too, it’s simply the proportions that appear skewed to me.
For comparability, the AirPods Professional final about 5 hours on a cost, and their tiny case can recharge them about 4 occasions earlier than it dies and must be recharged itself — a reasonably widespread ratio. The CKS50’s case is means greater, and but it might solely recharge the earbuds about 1.5 occasions. It appears to me that the case ought to have the ability to do not less than a three-times cost, which might give these buds a complete play time of 80 hours.
Once more, 20+30 is nothing to be sneezed at, however while you’ve acquired that a lot room to play with, why not swing for the fences? A fast-charge characteristic provides you an extra 90 minutes of play time with simply 10 minutes within the case.
The Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50 are an outstanding set of noise-canceling earbuds with monster bass and monster battery life. And regardless of a number of lacking options and a charging case that’s something however pocketable, they’re an unbelievable worth for across the $150 mark. For those who’re on the lookout for a premium set of wi-fi earbuds, they deserve a spot in your shortlist.
Are there higher options?
At this value, the CKS50TW haven’t any competitors in the case of battery life and massive, daring bass. And when you think about their many different strengths, it turns into even tougher to seek out direct comparisons. Their closest rivals come from Anker Soundcore:
The $179 Ankerprice a bit extra, however they provide wi-fi charging, put on sensors, and I feel extra folks will discover them to be a greater, extra snug match. Sound-wise, they’re each excellent and each provide Bluetooth Multipoint. However the Soundcores can’t maintain a candle to the CKS50’s large batteries, and I feel Audio-Technica does a greater job with ANC and controls.
The $129 Ankereven have wi-fi charging and put on sensors, and with the current addition of the LDAC Bluetooth codec, in addition they do hi-res audio. The CKS50 nonetheless sound higher general, plus they’ve that massive set of batteries, they usually have Bluetooth Multipoint, which the Air 2 Professional lack.
How lengthy will they final?
It’s all the time arduous to guage this with wi-fi earbuds, however I’m going to exit on a limb right here and say that the ATH-CKS50 will last more than most different fashions. I say that for 2 causes: One, like all Audio-Technica merchandise, construct high quality is great. However two, and arguably the extra vital cause, is their enormous battery capability. Each time you recharge a battery, its capability drops by a really small quantity. The maths is straightforward; the larger a battery’s preliminary capability, the longer it’s going to present a helpful quantity of energy. E.g. if a set of earbuds loses 50% of its whole playtime after 500 recharges (I made that quantity up), then which means a set of AirPods Professional will die after about 2.5 hours of use, whereas the CKS50 will nonetheless have an enormous 7.5-10 hours relying on ANC usages.
Must you purchase them?
Sure. The ATH-CKS50 don’t nail your entire wi-fi earbud components, however they ship the stuff that most individuals will care about: Sound high quality, battery life, ANC, and wonderful app-based settings, they usually do it for a really cheap value.