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Audio-Technica ATH-CKP500 in-ear headphones review: Secure fit, clean sound -- and waterproof

Offering a comfortable, secure fit and strong sound for a reasonable price, Audio-Technica's ATH-CKP500 headphones are one of the better in-ear sports headphone models available.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

When you think of Audio-Technica headphones, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't an in-ear sports model. Rather, the company is much better known for its full-size over-the-ear models, including the popular ATH-M50 headphones.


Audio-Technica ATH-CKP500 in-ear headphones

The Good

The <b>Audio-Technica ATH-CKP500</b> in-ear sports headphones offer a comfortable, secure fit and are waterproof to the degree that they can be washed after use. They also sound good and come with both standard silicone eartips and ridged ones for runners and bikers who don't want to totally seal themselves off from their environment for safety reasons.

The Bad

No inline remote/microphone for cell-phone calling and no carrying case included.

The Bottom Line

Offering a comfortable, secure fit and strong sound for a reasonable price, Audio-Technica's ATH-CKP500 earphones are one of the better in-ear sports headphone models available.

So it comes as a little bit of a surprise that in the waterproof ATH-CKP500 SonicSport earphones, Audio-Technica has made very good-sounding -- and well-fitting -- in-ear headphones that are sporty but also work just fine as a day-to-day pair. I wish there were an in-line remote with a microphone for cell phone calls, but otherwise I didn't find too much not to like about the ATH-CKP500s.

Design and features
While they have an all-plastic design, the ATH-CKP500 earphones -- available in black, red, white, and blue -- seem sturdily built and are certified as IPX5 waterproof headphones. That means they can withstand a good dousing with a sustained "low-pressure" spray, but can't hang out underwater too long (so, no, you can't wear them swimming). That said, you can rinse them clean, and they're certainly sweat-resistant.

The ATH-CKP500s come in four different colors (black shown). Sarah Tew/CNET

What I liked about them was the fit. As with some competing sports models, you get a few different sets of "wings" (Audio-Technica refers to them as C-shaped eartips) that are designed to "nestle" inside the inner rim of your ear and create a secure fit. Monster's sports earphones have a similar design but I found the ATH-CKP500 earphones slightly more comfortable.

Along with the typical silicone eartips, you also get three sets of ridged eartips that allow some sound to filter in from the outside world. This can be important for runners and bikers who want to be able to hear oncoming traffic. Without a tight seal, you do lose a little bass, but that's something some people can live with in exchange for a bit of extra safety.

The 'C-shaped' eartips along with the ridged eartips that allow some sound in for safety reasons.

The cord has a couple of design traits worth highlighting. For starters, the cable running to the right earpiece is longer than the one running to the left earpiece. This is called an "asymmetrical" cable and the reason for it is so that you can wear the longer section around behind your neck.

Secondly, the base cord is relatively short and is designed for use with armbands. A 2-foot extension cable is included to add more length if you keep your device in a pants pocket or clipped onto your belt.

As far as extra features go, the one big omission is an inline remote/microphone for making cell phone calls. Audio-Technica's $99.95 ATH-CP700BK earphones offer this feature, but that model's design is quite different.

Also, no carrying case is included.

The earphones include a 2-foot extension cable. Sarah Tew/CNET

The ATH-CKP500 earphones have more of an audiophile sound profile, with clean, well-balanced sound but not a huge amount of bass. As I said, you lose a little bass with the ridged eartips, and you'll also lose some bass if you don't achieve a tight seal with the standard ones.

I liked the ATH-CKP500 earphones' sound and so did CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg, but we both prefer more natural, accurate-sounding headphones.

The cord terminates in an L-shaped plug. A clip is included to attach the cord to your clothing. Sarah Tew/CNET

The ATH-CKP500s aren't incredibly open-sounding, but they're pleasant to listen to (I didn't get listening fatigue after an hour) and work well with a variety of music. However, if you're into bigger bass and more aggressive headphones, you should probably look at the Monster Immersion in-ear sports headphones (the yellow Livestrong version is a great deal at around $50 while it lasts).

And fans of Audio-Technica's full-size ATH-M50s take note: you're not going to get the M50's impressively rich, spacious, and detailed sound from this in-ear model. In other words, keep your expectations in check.

Close-up of the earphones. Sarah Tew/CNET

I've tested a fair number of in-ear sports headphones and the ATH-CKP500 ranks up there with my favorites, offering a comfortable, secure fit and very good sound. It's also nice that they're IPX5 waterproof headphones and can be rinsed off after use.

The ATH-CKP500 in-ear headphones list for $74.95, but you can pick them up for less online. At one time, the Monster Immersions could be had for $60 to $75, but the price has gone up (except for the yellow Livestrong model). While this model doesn't have as much bass or an inline remote/microphone, it's a decent value at its price. I have no problem recommending the ATH-CKP500 earphones for both sports use and everyday use.


Audio-Technica ATH-CKP500 in-ear headphones

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 8Value 8