Audio-Technica is a company that needs no introduction. With a whole range of products for every occasion, it seems everything they touch becomes popular. Recently, they debuted their new true wireless earbud, the ATH-CKS50TW. At $150, these fall right into the standard price range of the hotly contested True Wireless Earbud market. With the Airpod Race growing more intense by the day, will Audio-Technica stand out as they always do?
What’s in the Box
- Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW True Wireless Earbuds
- Charging Case
- USB Charging Cable
- 3 Additional Pairs of Silicon Eartips
- User Manuals
Look and Feel
Aesthetically, the S50 pairs well with its case. While on the bigger side, the case is sleek, feels sturdy when opening and closing, and has indicator lights for remaining battery, which is a nice touch. The earbuds feel secure in the case but are still easy to remove. The earbuds themselves are also on the larger side, but feel light and look relatively inconspicuous. Rather than opt for touch commands on either earbud, the S50 has a button on either earbud that can perform all of the same functions. These settings can be customized in Connect, Audio-Technica’s headphone control app. Overall the CKS50 has an incredibly high quality build.
The ATH-CKS50TW features new 9mm drivers that are said to give better bass response. As for features, the S50s sport many of the features that are becoming standard in modern true wireless earbuds, such as environmental noise monitoring/noise cancellation modes, app with customization options, and 3D Spatial Audio compatibility. The earbuds themselves can last for 20 hours of continuous playback before needing a charge, with the case holding an additional 30 hours.
The ATH-CKS50TW has a frequency response of 5 Hz – 20 kHz and an impedance of 20 Ohms.
The CKS50TW has a really appropriate soundstage. The stereo width is just the right wraparound, it feels real and exciting while still maintaining believably. Songs with more creative and experimental panning are realized very well and traditional mixes sit in a great place. The space feels relatively close and up front, but not without sacrificing a lot of the detail in the mix. The dynamics are good, but sometimes feel slightly squashed at louder volumes. Some features such as noise cancellation and some customization features in the Connect app change how the soundstage responds, so you can tweak it to your liking. For true wireless earbuds, I was very impressed with the soundstage on the CKS50TW.
I tried the 3D Spatial Audio feature and was fairly disappointed. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the CKS50TW, but rather spatial audio technology as a whole being underdeveloped. I can see the potential for the technology and I’m sure it will be cool in a decade of two, but at the time of writing this, I’d much rather stick with stereo mixes.
*For the following sections, I kept the EQ settings flat unless otherwise specified
Bass boosting is a delicate choice in a headphone that can easily ruin the sound of a headphone if not done tastefully. Thankfully, the ATH-CKS50TW boosts the low end very well. The lows are supportive and warm without sacrificing power. I always felt like they sat in an amazing spot in the mix without drowning out other elements, which is incredibly impressive. The CKS50TW has some of the best low end I’ve ever heard on a wireless earbud.
The midrange on the CKS50TW is by no means flat, but in a way that helps serve the overall sound profile. The low-mids received the most noticeable boost in order to give more impact to the low end, which works very well. I never had a hard time hearing lead instruments or smaller details in the mids. Chord instruments sometimes felt thin, but this is easily corrected in the EQ settings.
The highs definitely received the most manipulation, which comes with its own trade-offs. They sound good, though sometimes they don’t provide that detail and space they normally would in other headphones. That being said, subdued highs tend to make the sound less fatiguing over time, which I’m sure was Audio-Technica’s goal, and I never heard any ugly/harsh resonances that interfered with my listening experience.
You can’t analyze True Wireless Earbuds solely based on sound quality; you have to account for situation and ease of use. The ATH-CKS50TW does an amazing job of being easy to use, portable, and comfortable, all while having a fantastic sound character that works extremely well for day-to-day use. They easily surpass every other true wireless earbud at this price point. If you’re looking for a new pair of earbuds that will become your regular pair, I’d highly recommend the ATH-CKS50TW.