Audio-Technica’s first few true wireless earbuds received mixed reviews. Some people had issues with sound quality, while others complained about size and fit. But I have to admit, Audio-Technica may have finally got it right with their new and affordable, CK3TW. At $119, what can you expect in terms of sound and design? Let’s take a look in this Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW Review.
Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW Review
IN the BOX
Unlike Audio-Technica’s previous models, I think few people will experience problems with the fit of the CK3TW. The shell size is smaller than that of the older models. And the stems are long, making for a deep seal. So, the natural sound isolation is very effective. The only problem I ran into was that I’d have to occasionally adjust the fit to get the bass frequencies equal in both ears. But I didn’t play around with eartip size, and perhaps it was just the shape of my ear canals. I’m a freak show.
Controls and Functionality
The touchpads on the earbuds give you control over standard functions, including play/pause, track skipping, volume control, and call answering/ending. I’m not usually a fan of touch controls. They’re often either overly sensitive or not particularly responsive. But the touchpads on the CK3TW worked well, and they were easy to use.
A nifty feature is “Ear Detection.” When you take the earbuds out of your ears, the music will automatically pause. And once you pop them back in, the music starts playing again. This function can also be turned off.
Battery Life and Charging
The CK3TW delivers 6 hours of continuous play on a single charge. And the charging case holds an additional 30 hours. So, the CK3TW gives a solid performance in this department, especially when you compare it to other leading brands at this price point.
The CK3TW also uses a USB-C connection for charging. So, it’s a fast charge compared to the older Micro-USB connection. And you’ll be able to fully juice up the earbuds after about 2 hours of charging.
Call clarity is solid. Not only did the caller sound clean, but the microphone transmitted a clear signal of my voice as well.
With respect to hi-res codecs, the CK3TW only supports AptX. Great news for Android users, but iPhone owners won’t get the benefit of AAC.
Only an IPX2 rating. So, I wouldn’t trust the CK3TW to withstand more than a little sweat or a minor splash
Huge. Bigly. The bass takes center stage on pop tracks. And this isn’t a particularly tight and grippy bass. Rather, it’s wet and reverberating, and you’ll feel it in your bones. Certainly, when listening to hip-hop you’ll get your sub-bass fix. Even some pop tracks reveal subby frequencies that you may not have known existed. Therefore, if you have a particular aversion to bass, you may want to keep looking. That being said, once the bass reaches higher frequencies, it becomes much less dominating in the mix. So, bass guitars on rock and folk tracks, for example, still sound naturally placed. And overall, the low-end lends a tasteful level of warmth to these genres.
Nicely balanced in this range. Many Audio-Technica models tend to really emphasize the upper mids, bringing vocals too far forward and taking body out of the mix. But not the case here. The sound feels relatively natural. Vocals avoid stealing the show, and the low mids get some attention too. As a result, you’ll get an expansive and all-encompassing feel when listening to rock and pop-rock tracks. And you won’t experience any harshness in the higher mids.
Now, the CK3TW may not be the cleanest true wireless earbuds I’ve heard at this price point. Especially in the lower-mid frequencies, guitar strums can turn to mush at times. That being said, things become a lot tidier as we move up the frequency spectrum. In terms of detail, you shouldn’t expect a highly textured and nuanced sound when listening to strings, for example. Again, there’s little grip here. Instead you’ll hear a fatter, more fluid presentation of string instruments.
A little extension in this range nicely balances out the heavy low frequencies. The high frequencies lend plenty of snap and crispness to pop tracks. And vocals, while not utterly airy and breathy, do lean on the lighter side. So, rather than having a thick and velvety tone, vocals like Rihanna have a more buoyant quality.
As mentioned above, there’s a slight reverb to the sound. As a result, the sense of spaciousness is increased. So, the stage feels grand. But in terms of imaging, the CK3TW doesn’t perform any better than you’d expect at this price point. That is, though you will feel depth and height, instrument placement feels less than pin-point accurate. So, don’t expect particularly nuanced imaging. Still, overall, the imaging is solid enough to give you a decent sense of dimension.
PROS and CONS
PROS: Well-balanced sound with satiating bass; great call clarity; solid battery life.
CONS: No hi-res support for iPhone (AAC).
I have very few complaints about this particular Audio-Technica true wireless model. Good sound quality, great call clarity, and a relatively long battery life makes for a great deal at 120 bucks. And the fantastic sound isolation makes any fancy ANC feature unnecessary. In fact, considering the price, if the CK3TW supported AAC for iPhones, I would have given it 5 stars.
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