The Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW does a lot right: an extremely long battery life, fast charging and good speech intelligibility on the receiver side. Other issues, such as the balance of the frequency spectrum, the handling or the lack of current additional functions such as noise-cancelling or transparency mode, are not solved so well. Therefore the ATH-CKS5TW are recommended especially for lovers of massive bass reproduction, because they will get their money’s worth! As an all-rounder, however, they are less suitable with this sound signature and therefore have a tough time competing with Apple’s de facto standard.
In the strictly logical structure of Audio-Technica’s naming system, type number “5” indicates that the ATH-CKS5TW are currently in the mid-range, between the entry-level CK3TW and the top of the range CKR7TW . Where you would place them in terms of sound, we have done the listening for you.
In general, we are dealing here with the still quite new device genre of “true wireless in-ears”: in-ears that do without additional brackets or connecting cables, and combine battery, receiver module and of course audio drivers. This is not only functionally beautiful; this allows the modern, active person to keep their head “free”, but it also offers the sonic advantage of no disturbing mechanical sound reaching the ear via a cable. As a benchmark, the AirPods Pro from Apple have achieved a near-top position in terms of handling, design and sound. A competing product should be at least as good (or rather, better), in order to be able to compete with the front runner.
Individually fitting ear moulds are now standard, and the ATH-CKS5TW comes with four sizes (XS, S, M, L). In addition, so-called ear hooks are included in the package. These are small silicone rings that provide additional support in the auricle (more precisely: in the concha auricularis). In contrast to the larger CKR7TW, where both in-ears together take the weight up to 18 grams, the CKS5TW are a bit lighter at 16 grams, and the housing protruding from the inner ear is also smaller. Depending on your individual ear shape, you might only have to use the ear-hooks, which are also included, when you’re jogging or on the running track.
These in-ears draw their power from the integrated batteries for up to 15 hours, this is exceptionally long-lasting for this device class and surpasses the current AirPods Pro by a factor of three. The charging process is started by inserting the in-ears into the charging case, which also automatically switches off the Bluetooth connection from the player. When fully charged, the case itself has reserves for three full charges of the in-ears. The insertion into the charging cradle is not that straightforward: in order to slide the headphones into the appropriate slot, you have to check which is left and which is right, and where the charging contacts are, otherwise you can end up fiddling around stupidly. The case itself has somewhat unfavourable dimensions because it is too big for a trouser or shirt pocket. If you have any doubts about your battery, then you need to carry it with you in a bag or somewhere external. The charging time is convincing; our tester charged 75% percent in less than an hour. (According to the specification, they are 100% charged in 2 hours).
Appropriately for the kind of gear needed by modern multimedia consumers, the ATH-CKS5TW have integrated hands-free microphones and media control. For this purpose, two small buttons are fitted on both sides of the headphones with which call acceptance (press once); title forward/backward (press 2/3 times) and volume (press 1/2 times) can be commanded. These buttons can be reassigned via the “Audio-Technica Connect” app; further configuration options include selection of the audio codec (Auto, aptX, AAC, SBC) and the activation of voice guidance. Other modern algorithmic magic such as noise-cancelling, acoustic fit test or transparency mode, on the other hand, are not found here.
The drivers built into the CKS5TW have a diameter of 10 millimetres, thus providing a frequency response of 5 Hz to 40 kHz, they are stimulated to vibrate with a sensitivity of 110 decibels per milliwatt supplied, so far, so neat and tidy. The available Bluetooth profiles are A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP. Since Bluetooth 5.0 is used for wireless communication, the connection to the terminal device (if it also supports this standard) is established quickly. In terms of reception performance, Audio-Technica has obviously improved on the CKR7TW. Because the 5TWs hold the connection even if your mobile phone playing the music remains in your back pocket (the 7TW failed in the test because the biomass of my body was already enough to interrupt the signal).
In direct comparison with the CKR7TW, where I noticed a slight midrange emphasis, the 5-er radiates a real party mood, because the energy is more in the bass range. If, for example, the sub-bass in “Slow Music” by “Skee Mask” coldly crashes down on you and lingers powerfully until the end of the bar, the CKS5TW stages it powerfully and muscularly. The mids, on the other hand, fall off and are not able to counteract the massive bass boost. The same applies to the high-frequency display, which, if you consider it under audiophile criteria, where balance and neutrality are important, does not provide the necessary illumination of this frequency range. If you play “Sonder at Mountain Street” by “Sebastian Mullaert”, for example, where the whole first half is covered by a finely filtered high-frequency crunch, the CKS5TW sounds in direct comparison to my reference, the Beyerdynamic Xelento, like being behind a thick velvet curtain. In its entirety, the sound is rather dark and muffled, which, depending on your listening preference, doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When worn during exercise, where a voluminous bass provides the necessary motivational boost, I quite liked the sound staging, especially because the discreet treble hardly caused any ear fatigue.
In terms of tuning the internal microphone, Audio-Technica seems to have made further optimizations compared to the 7-er, because the speech intelligibility was really good when listening to the test calls.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 40.000 Hz
- Impedance16 ohms
- Weight without cable16 g; Charging case: 60 g
What's in the box
- 4 pairs of earpieces (XS, S, M, L)
- 3D Ear Hook
- USB charging cable
- Charging case
- BT version: 5.0
- BT codec: SBC, AAC, aptX
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP