Review: Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW – The Versatile Athlete |... (2022)

With active noise cancellation (ANC), EQ adjustments, aptX Adaptive Audio, Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, and many other attractive features, the ATH-CKS50TW are a pair of versatile true wireless IEMs.

Thank you to Audio-Technica for providing the ATH-CKS50TW for review purposes.

General Usage78.7

Audiophile Usage63.9

What We Like

  • Durable and high-quality charging case
  • Above average ANC quality
  • Comfortable and secure fit for big ears
  • Deep extending sub-bass
  • Non-fatiguing sound
  • Robust equalizer
  • Low latency mode
  • aptX Adaptive Audio codec
  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like

  • Bulky charging case
  • Colored midrange
  • Auto-connect does not function with iOS devices

Where to Buy

Introduction

Founded in 1962, Audio-Technica is a worldwide group committed to designing, manufacturing, marketing, and distributing problem-solving audio equipment. Audio-Technica started its journey in the audio industry with its well-known state-of-the-art phonograph cartridges.

The company did not stop there. Audio-Technica now produces high-performance microphones, headphones, wireless systems, mixers, and electronic products for home and professional use.

From critical government installations such as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to significant broadcast music events like the GRAMMY® Awards and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, Audio-Technica microphones and wireless are chosen because of their reputable track records.

The ATH-CKS50TW are the latest release from Audio-Technica and they belong to the Solid Bass lineup. To compete in the competitive TWS industry, Audio-Technica squeezes tonnes of attractive technologies like low latency mode, ANC, and the aptX Adaptive Audio codec into the ATH-CKS50TW.

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Case

Battery

  • Battery Life: 30 hours
  • Connector: USB Type-C
  • Wireless Charging: No
  • Battery Capacity: Not stated in specification

The ATH-CKS50TW possess the Audio-Technica true-wireless design gene – a vertical case that opens to display the IEMs at a gradient. The case is relatively chunky, as are the earbuds, similar to the ATH-ANC300TW. They use USB Type-C for charging and there is no wireless charging feature.

I primarily use wireless charging for my TWS. I am looking forward to having a model from Audio-Technica that supports wireless charging.

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UX

  • Can be open easily with one hand: Yes
  • Pass the shake test: Yes
  • Light Indicators: Display battery level and charging status

There is sufficient space between the IEMs and case for ease of removal. By opening or closing the case, the 4 LED lights will light up and display the battery level.

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Design

  • Shape of the case: Vertical rectangular case
  • Material: Plastic
  • Build Quality: Premium

As mentioned in the previous section, the upright standing case design is similar to other Audio-Technica’s models. Audio-Technica chose to use plastic as the case material to reduce its weight. Despite this, the build quality remains premium.

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Portability

  • Weight: 76g (With earbuds inside, 8g per side)
  • Volume: 5.7 x 5.5 x 3.5 = 109.7 cm cu (~6.7 in cu)
  • Portability: Poor

The ATH-CKS50TW’s charging case has poor portability due to its large volume. There is an awkward hump on my pants when I put the case in my pocket. I only use them when I have my bag with me.

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Earbuds

Battery

  • Battery Life: 20 hrs
  • Charge Time (15mins): 100 mins playback time

I was surprised by the total 20 hours of playback time when I was reading the information on the ATH-CKS50TW’s box. This may be the longest battery life in all the TWS models that I have reviewed. Note that this doesn’t include recharging the earbuds from the case!

Imagine that you are flying to New York from Singapore, the ATH-CKS50TW can last the entire flight duration without recharge! I bet there is no other model that can do this.

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UX

  • Control Mechanism: Mechanical button
  • Touch Accuracy: NA
  • Control Symmetry on both earbuds: No
  • Mono Use: Yes
  • The buttons can be configured in the Audio-Technica Connect App

By using a protruding mechanical button on top of the shell, there is no force exerted on your ears when you are toggling the controls. I particularly like this design as I always get irritated by the force on my ears when I am pressing buttons that are on the faceplate.

The mechanical button can be configured in the Audio-Technica Connect App, but is only limited to special features like quick hear-through, low latency mode, and ambience control. Volume control, changing of tracks, and play/pause are fixed controls. Users do not have the ability to change those functions.

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Design

  • Profile: Medium
  • Material: Plastic
  • Comfort: Good
  • Fit: Good

The ATH-CKS50TW are huge and they are absolutely unfriendly for users who have small ears. Luckily, I have big ears and the ATH-CKS50TW fit me perfectly. With medium sized silicone ear tips the isolation is great, and with the help of ANC, surrounding noises are minimized.

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Mic

  • Noise Cancellation: Good
  • Voice Pick-up: Good

Using the ATH-CKS50TW for voice calls, the ATH-CKS50TW offers good quality voice pickup. The microphones pick up the user’s voice loud and clear in indoor conditions. When moving outdoors, the microphone’s background noise canceling helps to block wind noise to a certain level, but does not totally suppress it. The level of external noise reduction is satisfactory.

Mic Demo

Sound

  • Driver: 9mm dynamic driver
  • Sound Signature: Warm V-shaped
  • Sub-bass: Good
  • Bass: Good
  • Mids: Average
  • Treble: Good
  • Sound Detail: Average

Based on my usage in different scenarios, the ANC is definitely not the strongest when compared to major players in the market like Bose or Sony. However, the level of ANC on the ATH-CKS50TW is definitely sufficient for most situations like commuting or in a noisy office. With the help of the great fit, most of the surrounding noise is blocked out for me.

The ATH-CKS50TW also support ambient sound mode. This can be useful when you need to pay attention to your surroundings.

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Overall sound quality

The overall sound signature of the ATH-CKS50TW can be considered warm with a V-shaped profile. The presentation is not overly harsh and is forgiving for those who do not have good tolerance towards overly bright treble.

The overall sound signature can be adjusted using the equalizer in the Audio-Technica Connect application. Users can choose the preset profile or adjust according to personal preference. The modified profile can be saved too.

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Bass

ATH-CKS50TW are proficient in bass response. They deliver low frequencies energetically with a high level of precision. Despite having thick and full-bodied bass notes, the attack and decay for each note are accurate.

The sub-bass of ATH-CKS50TW is profound, creating a three-dimensional soundstage with depth. It is like having a subwoofer humming in your ear canals. With low latency mode and impactful sub-bass, the ATH-CKS50TW are a pair of good TWS for movie watching and gaming.

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Midrange

ATH-CKS50TW have a recessed midrange with warm coloration from their bass profile. The midrange is comfortable to listen to without being too shouty or “dry”. However, due to the coloration from the bass, the accuracy of midrange is compromised.

If you are using ATH-CKS50TW for listening to vocals, you can change the equalizer mode to “Clear Vocal” to “push” the midrange more forward and reduce coloration from the bass.

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Treble

The treble of ATH-CKS50TW is clean and well-extended. The treble extends well and decays without any distortion, and the well-handled treble makes the ATH-CKS50TW pleasant to listen to. The treble is almost as prominent as the bass, but without sibilance. Hence, for those who have lower tolerance towards sparkling and sharp treble, the ATH-CKS50TW are a good choice for you.

For treble-head audiophiles, the treble can be further enhanced through the equalizer. Personally, I really feel that the equalizer in the smartphone application makes the ATH-CKS50TW very versatile – users can have many profiles to cater to different needs.

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Connectivity

  • Audio Codec: AAC, SBC, and aptX Adaptive Audio
  • Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth V5.2
  • Auto-connect when: Taken out of the case
  • Average drop-outs in an hour: 1 – 2 times
  • Multi-point connection: Yes

The ATH-CKS50TW support AAC, SBC, and the latest aptX Adaptive Audio. With the aptX Adaptive Audio codec, the ATH-CKS50TW are capable to adapt bit rate dynamically and ensure consistently robust audio streaming in challenging crowded radio frequency environments.

The latest Bluetooth V5.2 is implemented on the ATH-CKS50TW and they auto-connect to the last connected device once out of the charging case. The auto-connect feature works flawlessly with Android devices, thanks to the Google Fast Pair enablement.

However, as an iOS user, I always need to manually connect them to my iPhone after I take them out from the charging case.

The connection stability is great and I only experience a few signal drop-outs in heavy interference regions like crowded trains.

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Waterproof

  • IP Rating: IPX5

The ATH-CKS50TW are certified for IPX4 waterproofness, meaning they can be used for exercising, such as jogging or gym workouts. With the great battery life, ANC, and low latency mode, they can be great workout companions, be it in a crowded gym or watching a movie while walking on a treadmill.

Software

  • Available on: iOS and Android
  • Equalizer, 360 Reality Audio, and button assignment

Audio-Technica spent much effort in developing the Connect smartphone application. As a user, I use this application almost everyday for the equalizer. If the preset EQ profiles do not meet your needs, you can always create a custom profile and save it in the application.

Besides the equalizer, there are plenty of additional features available in the app. One of the features that I like the most is the volume setting. Users can set the total volume adjustment steps, from 16 to 64 steps. I chose 64 steps so I that can finely adjust the volume from the earbuds.

For those who are into 360 Reality Audio, you can measure your ear shape in the application and start using this feature. Last but not least, the mechanical buttons on earbuds can be configured in the app too.

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Conclusion

Low latency, long battery life, stable connectivity, multipoint connection, 360 Reality Audio… there are so many attractive features embedded in the ATH-CKS50TW that make them an attractive set for all purposes.

The current TWS market is congested and competitive and Audio-Technica’s efforts in breaking through the current benchmark are much appreciated. I am sure that users will enjoy and benefit from all the features in this terrific pair of TWS.

The ATH-CKS50TW are the versatile set that you do not want to miss!

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