Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW Review
As we continue to transition into the truly wireless era, there is one company that continues to push the boundaries of innovation and audio performance; Audio-Technica. The Japanese giants are symbolic of audio performance and are one of the biggest names in audio equipment. Audio-Technica’s diverse catalog includes a number of award-winning headphones, microphones, turntables, and you guessed it, truly wireless in-ear headphones. 2022 promises to be one of the biggest years ever for Audio-Technica with several impressive products on the horizon, but none of these products captured my attention as much as the recently released ATH-CKS50TW Truly Wireless in-ear headphones. Why? These earbuds are the first-ever truly wireless in-ear earphones to combine solid bass acoustic technology with active noise-canceling properties – and when you combine this with powerful 9mm drivers, 50 hours of battery life, and an affordable price of $249AUD, you quickly see why I’m excited to get my hands on these headphones.
Audio-Technica has taken an aggressive approach with ATH-CKS50TW by focusing on a larger than usual footprint. The ATH-CKS50TW all-black design features the Audio-Technica logo proudly showcased across the body that is highlighted by a blue ring that looks terrific. The larger than usual physical size also allows the earbuds to comfortably sit within in my ear, but the same couldn’t be said for my wife as she had issues with how they sat in her ear. This was despite her changing the rubber ear tips to suit her ears as no matter what she did, they would hang out of her ears like wings on an airplane which prompted them to slip out during her gym sessions. I didn’t have this problem as the headphones nestled securely within my ear for my walks or when I was jamming to some tunes. My wife did, however, love the IPX4 waterproof rating as she didn’t have to worry about raising a sweat while working out, something she cannot do with other her set of earbuds.
As much as I love the design, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the physical buttons located at the top of each earbud. They didn’t feel as responsive as capacitive buttons, especially when double pressing or triple pressing to skip through tracks, and took me a while to get used to their positioning. In saying this, I do understand why Audio-Technica opted for physical buttons rather than capacitive side buttons as each time you press the button at the top, you are pushing the headphones down and away from your ear canal. With capacitive buttons, you are pushing the headphones into your ear and applying pressure to your ear canal, which can be dangerous and cause damage if you press too hard.
The charging case continues Audio-Technica’s aggressive approach with again, quite a large footprint. On the outside, the case features a subtle Audio-Technica logo with 4 LEDs to indicate the charge level of the case. When you open the case you simply can’t help but smile; the headphone sits proudly on top and is held in by perhaps the best magnets I have come across in the wireless earbud market as the magnetic strength is quite impressive. The only slight disappointment I had with the case was the absence of wireless charging. In saying this, the case does provide an additional 30 hours of playback off a single charge, which compliments the already incredible 20-hour battery life of the earbuds themselves to provide a total of 50 hours of playback from a single charge. And just in case that is not enough for you, quick charge properties can provide 90 minutes of playback from just 10 minutes of charge, which honestly more than makes up for no wireless charging properties.
Anyone who is familiar with Audio-Technica will already be familiar with the high level of audio performance that comes with their products, and the ATH-CKS50TW is no exception! The 9mm drivers provide a deep and powerful soundstage that any audiophile will appreciate, especially anyone who loves their bass such as RnB, pop, and techno fans. This output can be further personalised via the Audio-Technica Connect App where users can select one of the preset EQ settings or customise to maximise their audio experience based on their music and preferences.
The addition of solid bass acoustic technology really compliments the bottom range of the earphones and when combined with active-noise canceling technology and the headphone’s physical design, provides incredible sound isolation that really immerses the user. Of course, using ANC within the office environment or when going for a jog around the block does have its drawbacks as sometimes you need to be aware of your surroundings and this is why Audio-Technica has included ANC with a hear-through option. Using the Connect app, you can adjust the level of intensity to pass through mainly low and midrange frequencies to get the balance of music and ambient noise just right. This can be the difference between hearing or not hearing a vehicle coming up behind you as you are about to cross the road and is definitely one of the best features.
A feature that may appeal to the minority of audiophiles out there is support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. The downside is that you need to have a TIDAL or Deezer subscription to take advantage of this but let me tell you, it’s well worth experiencing – 360 Reality Audio creates a virtual 3D sound effect around you, it’s almost like having an entire band or orchestra playing around you, which really immerses you within the music. Unfortunately, not all titles are 360RA supported, so if you purchase a TITAL subscription to experience this then make sure your favourite content is 360RA supported.
If you’re anything like me, you will put a lot of value in call quality. I use my wireless earbuds mainly at work where I take several calls throughout the day (some important, some are Chris asking where the ‘any’ key is). This means I like my voice calls to be of high quality, both in terms of capturing my voice and playback. The ATH-CKS50TW performs well in this area as background noise canceling helps reduce office/ambient noise to focus on capturing my voice. The core design of wireless earbuds means there is obviously going to be some background noise passed through with the microphone not directly located at your mouth, but anyone who intends to use ATH-CKS50TW for both audio and calls will not be disappointed.
Audio-Technica Connect App
The Audio-Technica Connect App easily allows users to customise their ATH-CKS50TW headphones on both Andriod and Apple devices. The app is quite user-friendly and surprisingly offers a lot of unique options including some that you don’t typically see with headphones. There are all your traditional features such as EQ settings, firmware updates, button configuration presets, and ANC profiles, but there is also a tonne of unique features such as setting up 360 Reality Audio (where you need to take pictures of your ears), Product Locator, adjusting the Volume Step from 16 steps to 32 or 64-step for precise volume adjustment, L/R Balance adjustment, and even a Low Latency mode for all you gamers out there looking for all your mobile gamers out there. I was impressed by the options on offer by Audio-Technica and wish more manufacturers would offer the same level of customisation with their products.
Honestly, what’s not to love about the Audio Technica ATH-CKS50TW – The combination of 9mm drivers, 360 Reality Audio, and solid bass acoustic technology with active noise-canceling properties delivers an exceptional audio performance, all for just $249AUD! The sound profile of the ATH-CKS50TW does favor low range frequencies and is sure to impress anyone who loves bass, but at the same time, the Audio-Technica Connect app provides plenty of customisation and allows users to take full advantage of the sound stage that the ATH-CKS50TW offers. I’m not the biggest fan of the location of the buttons, and I would have loved to see Audio-Technica include wireless charging properties for the case, but despite this, the ATH-CKS50TW is one of the best all-round truly wireless options on the market and perfect for audiophiles that want a wireless option they can use all day – even all week – without having to worry about the battery thanks to its 50-hour playback from a single charge.
Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW Review
- DESIGN - 89%89%
- SOUND - 96%96%
- COMFORT - 89%89%
- VALUE - 90%90%
The Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW is one of the best all-round truly wireless options on the market and perfect for audiophiles that want a wireless option they can use all day – even all week – without sacrificing sound or features.
Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW Review – For more on Audio-Technica, check out our previous coverage here.