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Audio Technica CK10 review: Audio Technica ATH-CK10 sound-isolating earphones

The CK10s are sound-isolating earphones, featuring dual armatures and compact enclosures, making them most suitable to general pop, rock, country and folk. Clarity and sonic detail are the defining factors, so if this is something you're been looking for, you'll definitely miss out on a treat if you pass over this model

Nate Lanxon

Special to CNET News

See full bio
3 min read

At £249 the Audio Technica ATH-CK10s are not expensive for home headphones, but they are at the top end for portable earphones. As such, they immediately draw comparison to some of the best in their league from Shure, Denon, Ultimate Ears and Etymotic.

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7.5

Audio Technica CK10

The Good

Airy sound quality; ruthlessly detailed treble; clear mid-range; small and comfortable; decent sound-isolation.

The Bad

Bass will be underpowered for some; lacks warmth; expensive.

The Bottom Line

Clarity and sonic detail are the defining factors of the CK10s, and if this is something you're been looking for, you'll definitely miss out on a treat if you pass over this model

Like many models from the aforementioned manufacturers, the CK10s are sound-isolating earphones, featuring dual armatures and compact enclosures. But with such attractive competition from Shure at this price point, what has Audio Technica got to win us away from our all-time favourite earphones, the Shure SE530s?

Design
It must be said these earphones fall into the category of 'earphones for babies'. Not literally, of course, but they are ludicrously small. They're much smaller than the Shure SE530s and Denon AH-C751s, and offer ultra-lightweight comfort in a discrete package. Only the Klipsch Images and Jays q-Jays compete in terms of incomprehensible minimalism.


A compact design make these extremely comfortable earphones

Highlighting this is the fact that two out of the three sizes of the supplied sound-isolating tips are in fact larger than the earphone enclosures themselves. This assorted collection of silicone tips helps provide the correct fit for every ear, and a good fit is crucial for a powerful bass performance and effective passive blocking of noises around the listener.

And it works well. We experienced decent sound isolation, without feeling oblivious to the world around us. They're extremely comfortable, too, and far less intrusive than the Shure competition in terms of bulk and fit.

Features
Inside both of these tiny enclosures sit two balanced armatures -- one woofer just for low frequencies, and one tweeter for the highs. These jointly respond to frequencies between 20Hz-15kHz, with an unusually high impedance (for earphones) of 55ohms, but a fairly average sensitivity of 107dB/mW.


Dual armatures sit behind this dampened nozzle

There's not a great deal in the box in terms of accessories. You get a small hard-backed carrying case and the aforementioned silicone tips. There are no adaptors, no extension cables and no in-flight adaptors, which was a touch disappointing.

Performance
What's not disappointing, however, is performance. Two things have stood out during our last couple of weeks of daily testing. Firstly, these earphones probably offer the airiest, crispest treble available on the market -- a trait we've heard numerous times before from Audio Technica.

The second is the sonic detail offered. Not even the Shures, Denons or Jays models mentioned earlier offer the clarity and high-end detail of these earphones; they're remarkably crisp.


This is backed up by a clear mid-range, delivering beautifully clear instrumentation. However it was clear, so to speak, that these earphones lack the extra warmth some listeners will crave -- what the bright treble delivers in airy, natural and open soundstages, it substracts in the warmth you'd expect at live performances.

Lining up a sterling competitor to the CK10s -- the Custom-3s from Klipsch -- another dual armature offering, highlighted this point. The Custom-3's natural warmth and diminished brightness in the treble created a much more natural reproduction of Grace Griffith's vocally-driven performance of Carry You than the CK10s, which conversely offered extra detail and spaciousness, but with a colder overall tone.


Sufficiant isolation helps you enjoy the decent performance of the CK10s

Perhaps the other contributor to this characteristic of the CK10s is its delicate bass presence. Like the Audio Technica W5000 headphones, the bass is tight, effective, but noticeably careful not to overpower -- almost the antithesis of the Denon C751s, with their epic bass presence.

But when not being critically compared to other models, the CK10s are excellent earphones. Some folk rock from Capercaillie and Mary Black sounded terrific: an open soundstage, cracking percussion, bright fiddles and violins, and instrumental separation few earphones can match.

Conclusion
Clarity and sonic detail are the defining factors of the CK10s, and if this is something you're been looking for, you'll definitely miss out on a treat if you pass over this model. They're most suitable to general pop, rock, country and folk.

If you want similar clarity but booming bass for your electronic and dance music, check out the Denon AH-C751s. If you want warmth and extra power for vocals, rock and metal, read up on the Shure SE530s or Klipsch Custom-3s. And for less money but comparable bass, mids and a duller treble, inspect the Jays q-Jays. All of these cost less than the CK10s.

Edited by Marian Smith

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