Thanks to extensive headphone settings and EQ controls via an app, a low-latency mode for movies and mobile gaming, noise-cancelling and transparency mode, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW leave almost nothing to be desired. Especially as these wireless in-ears are certified for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and support the high-quality audio codec aptX Adaptive in addition to Bluetooth 5.2.
With a weight of eight grams per side, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW are not necessarily the lightest true-wireless system, but this is almost certainly due to the high battery capacity of these earphones. However, the housings embed well into the ears so that no pressure discomfort arises even during longer listening sessions, and it ensures a stable fit with reasonably high isolation. The selection of four sizes of ear tip that is included allows for specific adjustment of the fit. The earpieces are also protected against water and perspiration in accordance with IPX4 for use when playing sports or in wet weather. Compatibility with caps or hats is limited, as the housings are not flush with the ear but protrude distinctly.
The long-lasting batteries are a special feature of the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW, and these are capable of breaking the previous sound barrier of 20 hours in basic mode at high volume. If noise cancellation is permanently active, it is possible to achieve 15 hours and 30 minutes per charge. In the charging case, these in-ears can be fully charged once and then charged up to 60 per cent until an external power source is needed. This results in a total runtime of more than 52 hours in standard mode and 40 hours in ANC mode. A complete charging cycle of the headphones takes just under three hours. However, if you are in a hurry, you can make use of the quick-charge function, which provides up to two hours of listening time after only ten minutes of power. The battery reserves of the charging case can be restored in two hours and 45 minutes via the USB-C connection, and a USB-C to USB-A charging cable is included in the package. However, the case does not support wireless charging via Qi.
Pairing the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW is done by removing them from the case; this automatically turns the system on and puts it into pairing mode. Within an urban environment, the wireless connection proved to be stable over a range of twelve metres, especially as several rooms could be covered without any problems. With modern Android devices, Google Fast Pair can also be used for a fast connection. It is also possible to use Multipoint connections with two devices at the same time and to use one headphone in single mode. Another good feature is that these in-ears can be switched on and off manually by pressing and holding the button on the upper side of the housing; this means that the case does not necessarily have to be taken along with you. This is particularly good as the batteries of the earphones should be preserved if they are not recharged after each use.
In the remote’s factory settings, the right-hand button controls playback, while double-pressing skips forward and triple-pressing skips back when selecting tracks. On the left side, a single press increases the volume, and a double press decreases it. A short press and hold of the left button switches between basic, ambient and ANC mode, while on the right side, this action enables activation of the Hear-Through function at a lowered playback volume. Incoming calls can also be accepted on both sides by pressing the button and can be ended by holding it. Hailing a voice assistant is missing, but this can be selected in the headphone settings in the app, for example, to replace the Hear-Through function.
The Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW’s neatly organised app (for Android and iOS) provides playback control on the main page and displays the battery status of both earpieces and the audio codec used. In addition to standard Bluetooth, these in-ears support SBC and AAC, as well as aptX and aptX Adaptive. Other functions include noise control with ANC and transparency mode, a division of the volume control into 16, 32 or 64 steps and L/R balance control. For sound adjustment, there is a graphic EQ with five bands, and this allows you to save several of your own settings in the form of presets. In addition, there are pre-configured EQ settings such as “Bass Boost”, “Clear Vocal”, “V-shaped” or “Treble Enhance”, which can be used as a starting point for individual settings and encourage experimentation.
Furthermore, a low-latency mode can be activated via the app; this is intended to optimise the synchronicity of picture and sound when watching films or gaming and offers a smoother presentation without noticeable offset when using the SBC codec. In order for the latency optimisation to be applied, however, the headphones must be decoupled and reconnected, which seems somewhat awkward. On the other hand, the stability and range of the wireless connection are not reduced. In addition to the remote control, voice prompts and a tracking function can be activated or deactivated, and updates can be made to the firmware.
Speech quality during phone calls
In a quiet environment, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW offered clear and exceptionally good speech intelligibility on both sides, especially as the user’s own voice can be transmitted via Sidetone activation in the app’s audio settings; this creates a fairly lifelike conversation situation. In order to be easily understood even with a busier background, the earpiece microphone technology uses cVc-8.0 noise cancellation; however, this only works to a limited extent. Since there is a rather slight attenuation, one’s intelligibility may be affected in a louder setting.
Noise cancelling and transparency mode
Both the ANC and ambient modes and the Hear-Through function operated without a perceptible background noise on the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW. The noise reduction filtered low and high-frequency noise sources broadly and effectively so that they were significantly lowered. Voices or complex background noise such as road and construction site noise were also attenuated with noticeable but reduced effectiveness, as they remained proportionally audible in the mid-frequency spectrum. Nevertheless, the perception of mid-frequency noise sources shifted a good deal into the background, and the noise-cancelling achieved respectable results overall.
The amplification of external noise also offered indisputable added value in everyday use and enabled direct communication using the Hear-Through function by automatically lowering the playback volume. Announcements were also quite understandable. Only in transparency mode could the intensity of the amplification have been a little stronger, although there was responsiveness up to medium volume settings, and the surroundings were not completely faded out at higher playback levels.
For action-packed movies and gaming, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW’s dynamic 9mm drivers impressed us with a blistering bass range that reached down very deep to provide an energetic, immersive listening experience. If you appreciate imposing sub-bass then you will certainly enjoy the basic sound of these headphones. The heavy low bass may also appeal when listening to music; here, the timing of the bass reproduction seemed relaxed rather than impulsive and fast. More pressure can be generated for hip-hop, electro etc. if the lowest regions are lowered a little with the EQ. In this respect, it is a question of personal preference whether you add more substance or thrust to the sound.
The rich low-frequency presentation was followed by a warmly perceived mid-range that, despite a rather high sound density, managed to place instruments and voices cleanly as well as making them easily localisable on a medium-sized stage. Both film dialogue and vocals were perfectly intelligible.
The treble reproduction might be said to be a little more reserved and, in a positive sense, objective. Even at loud levels, there was no tendency towards harshness or sharpness, while sibilants, while not glossed over, sounded unobtrusive. However, there were no accents either, but this could be easily adjusted by boosting the upper registers if necessary. Especially as the bass-emphasised, rather dark basic sound could benefit from increased spaciousness and illumination when the treble was boosted, meaning that the overall reproduction gained clarity and brightened up.
With the exception of a fairly slight attenuation of external noise when making phone calls, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW gave us nothing to complain about. On the contrary, the rich, bass-driven basic sound can be flexibly adjustable thanks to the effective EQ control, which makes these headphones very versatile. The overall package seems coherent and offers a lot of functionality at a very good price-performance ratio. These weatherproof True Wireless in-ears also score points for their outstanding battery life.
- Sweat and water resistant according to IPX4
- Outstanding battery life
- Fast charging function
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Voice quality during calls (except in busier environments)
- Extensive app connectivity and sound settings
- Low latency mode
- Multipoint connections
- Certified for Sony 360 Reality Audio
- Supports AAC, aptX and aptX Adaptive
- Rather low noise cancellation during phone calls
- Case without wireless charging option via Qi
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance20 ohms
- Weight without cable8 g each, Case 57 g
What's in the box
- Eartips in 4 sizes (XS/S/M/L)
- USB-C to USB-A charging cable
- Charging case
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Adaptive
- BT version: 5.2
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP
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