Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW Review

Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW Review

New on the true wireless scene, Japanese headphone behemoth Audio Technica has finally launched the CKR7TW.  Having just arrived on my review desk, these small earphones are ripe for a review.  But at $249, is the sound worth the price?

Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW Review

Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW Review

Audio Technica has been making headphones and audio equipment since the 1970’s.  And you don’t make audio gear for almost half a century or so without learning a thing or two.

However, the ATH-CKR7TW marks the manufacturer’s first foray into the world of true wireless earphones.

Design

As a true wireless earphone, the CKR7TW proves easy to pair (thanks in no small part to the Bluetooth 5.0 tech on board).  This same Bluetooth version ensures optimal connection strength, too.  Supported codecs include aptX, AAC, and SBC.

Inside each earpiece, an 11 mm driver works in tandem with the built in DAC and amp to deliver a surprisingly good sound.

And once placed in the ear, the CKR7TW offers a surprisingly comfortable fit with no real issues.  While they do stick out of my ears a little bit, they don’t stick out any more than a pair of sucky earphones from Bose.

Battery life definitely waxes impressive, with the CKR7TW supplying an industry-leading 6 hours (and an additional 9 hours via the charging case).  The case is charged via a supplied micro-USB cable.

In addition to some eartips, a USB cable, and the charging case, the earphones also come with 3D loops – tiny rubber fins that can be attached or removed from the earphones to adjust fit.  And, if the CKR7TW possesses an Achilles Heel, these fins are it.  To be honest, they could easily serve a purpose if your earphones always fall out or you want more situational awareness.  They tend to the push the earphones a little way outside my earcanal, resulting in a tinnier sound that allows me to hear my coworkers joking around me.  But the sound is abysmal, and if you like even a semblance of listenable audio, you will ditch the 3D loops and never look back.

Sound Quality

With the 3D loops off of the earphones, listeners can expect a fairly articulate and detailed listening experience.

The low end features a fair amount of detail.  The sound, while natural, feels slightly accentuated by a decent bass response.  While I would have preferred more oomph to the bass, the overall effect tempers the low end.  That little bit of power goes a long way, though, and bass-heavy tracks like Atmosphere’s Arthur’s Song and Blink 182’s Anthem Part Two land with characteristic weight.

In contrast, the midrange seems straightforward and business-like, with a clean and present sound.  Despite a little compression here, vocals still sound articulate and sharp.  Tracks like River of Deceit by Mad Season and Jehst’s Alcoholic Author exemplify the CKR7TW midrange – one that accentuates vocals against a rich sonic background.

While the lows and mids impressed me, the highs presented the only real hiccup in regard to sound quality.  Just a tad bit peaky, this high end can sound a bit jarring with instruments like violins.  However, to the CKR7TW’s credit, pop songs sound fairly smooth while retaining a good amount of detail.  My KPOP staples, Likey and TT (both by TWICE) take full advantage of the CKR7TW’s rich lows and accentuated highs, leading to a pretty amazing listening experience.  But home-grown pop artists like Vanessa Carlton and New Found Glory sound phenomenal, too.

In terms of soundstage, the CKR7TW will give you about as much as any other true wireless in-ear:  not much.  Unfortunately, this lack of depth and space seems pretty much par for the course.  There some semblance of depth, but just enough to distinguish some layers of instrumentation or sampling.

Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW Review

Compared to Lower-Cost Models

Compared to lower-cost models like the RHA TrueConnect or AirPods, the Audio Technica CKR7TW kicks the metaphorical tar out of the competition.  At almost $100 more than either of these models, the sound quality should be good.  But this good?  I don’t know.  Lots of consumers or casual listeners will love this sound, though I imagine audiophiles might snub their noses at the V-shaped sound signature.

Compared to the Sennhieser Momentum True Wireless

If one headphone can beat the Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW, it’s the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless.  Stacked up against one another, the Audio Technica definitely comes out on top for rock and hip hop tracks, thanks to a thicker, more emotive low end.

The Sennheiser gives you more detail, though, and this earphone takes the cake for classical tastes and my audiophile sensibilities.  At $50 more expensive, it’s not too much of a hike to opt for this model instead.

Recommendations

If you like rock, hip-hop, or pop music, my recommendation would go to the Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW.  As a clear improvement over cheaper true wireless models, you can expect to hear more in the music you love.

However, if detail is king in your listening tastes, or you LOVE classical tunes, skip this earphone and opt for the Sennheiser Momentum.  Though it may lack the emotive and immersive listening experience of the Audio Technica ATH-CKR7TW, it makes up for it with an articulate and revealing character.

Headphone Dungeon Score

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Four skulls!  I dinged one skull for that slight compression in the mids.  I almost dinged a second one for the horrendous 3D loops, but maybe I’m the only one who does want an extra piece of material between my ears and a pretty amazing sound.  That being said, the CKR7TW does its job quite well – offering an engaging and fun listening experience for folks who are sick of paltry offerings from the likes of Apple, Bose, etc.

Specifications

Type Dynamic
Driver Diameter 11 mm
Frequency Response 5 – 45,000 Hz
Sensitivity 100 dB/mW
Impedance 16 ohms
Battery Internal Battery: 3.7V rechargeable lithium polymer battery
Battery Life 6 hours continuous use; 9 additional hours with charging case (15 hours total)
Charging Time (headphones): Approx. 2 hours (for 0-100% charge)
Charging Time (charging case): Approx. 2 hours (for 0-100% charge)
Depending on environmental conditions
Weight Headphones (left & right combined): 8 g (0.3 oz)
Charging case: Approx. 75 g (2.6 oz)
Accessories Included 30 cm (1.0′) USB charging cable, eartips (XS, S, M, L), portable power bank charging case
Type (Microphone) Condenser
Sensitivity (Microphone) -38 dB (1V/Pa at 1 kHz)
Frequency Response (Microphone) 100 – 10,000 Hz
Polar Pattern (Microphone) Omnidirectional

Input jack: Micro USB Type B
Communication System: Bluetooth Version 5.0
RF Output: 3.2 mW EIRP
Maximum Communication Range: Line of sight – approx. 10 m (33′)
Compatible Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
Support Codec: aptX, AAC, SBC

 

Want to get your hands on a pair?  The only US seller right now can be found here:

Audio46

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