Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW True Wireless Review

True wireless earbuds are truly liberating. But the only thing that bothers me about true wireless technology is the short battery life. On average, you can only use them for four or five hours at a time before having to put them back in the case for charging. And the problem I have with the expensive pair that I own (I won’t name names) is that I’m constantly having to charge them. Those who share my aversion to plugging things in at night should be pleased with Audio-Technica’s new release, the ATH-CKS5TW. What can you expect in terms of sound and design? Let’s find out in this Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW True Wireless Review.

Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW True Wireless Review

IN the BOX

FIT

If you’re transitioning from Apple earbuds, you’ll be more than pleased here. A comfortable fit with a really snug seal, the CKS5TW does a great job with respect to sound isolation. And the little rubber ear wings that fit in the contour of the ear provide that extra feeling of security. So, rest assured that these buds will stay in when skateboarding or running. But be warned that the CKS5TW only has an IPX2 water resistance rating. So, if you sweat buckets, it’s better to go with Audio-Technica’s sports model, the ATH-SPORT7TW.

DESIGN

Controls and Functionality

You can expect all the standard functionality, including play/pause, volume control, track skipping, call answering/ending and voice assistant activation. And all of these functions are controlled by the single buttons on the right and left earpieces. I personally prefer buttons on earbuds rather than touchpads. Touchpads can be overly sensitive, causing you to inadvertently activate functions. 

Battery Life

This is where the CKS5TW really shines. It delivers a whopping 15 hours of use at a time, while the charging case provides an additional 30 hours. And considering that the higher priced Apple AirPods provide a total of only 24 hours, the CKS5TW is quite impressive in this department.

The CKS5TW employs a USB-C connection for charging. And it takes about 3.5 hours to fully juice up the charging case.

Call Clarity

The call clarity is decent, but I’ve heard better. For short and simple conversations, the clarity is more than sufficient. But if you’re calling your cousin in London to ask how Brexit is progressing, you might be pushing it. That being said, I was making my test call on a busy city street. So, if you reside in a quieter area, you may have more luck.

Water Resistance

Though not as tough as the SPORTT7TW (which has an IPX5 water resistance rating), the IPX2, CKS5TW can withstand some light sweat and a little rain.

Bluetooth and Supported Codecs

The CKS5TW supports Bluetooth 5, which should provide better transmission and fewer dropped signals than the older Bluetooth 4.2 version. These earbuds also support aptX for Android users and AAC for iPhone users.

Power/Volume

Unlike most true wireless earbuds in this price range, the CKS5TW gets really loud. Careful kids! Listen at a reasonable volume if you still want to enjoy Drake when you’re 85. 

SOUND

Lows

Dr. Dre, watch out. The bass is huge. Fat and forward leaning, the low-end takes center stage in the mix. So, pop has tons of oomph, and listening to hip-hop, you’ll feel a massive sub-bass response. Certainly, the CKS5TW isn’t for folks with bass-anxiety. And listening to acoustic instruments in this range, you won’t hear too much detail. There’s a little haziness to this sound. But strings have a pleasing smoothness, nonetheless. And rock fans who appreciate tons of warmth in their mix should gravitate towards this sound signature as well.

Mids

You’ll hear some decent presence in this range, even though the bass overshadows the low-mids at times. The upper mids also have a little emphasis, so female vocals, especially, tend to sit a little forward in the mix on a lot of tracks. And this gives pop tracks an energetic feel. At the same time, rock and pop-rock reveal a nice amount of body and fullness. But again, clarity is a little lacking. And acoustic guitars can be a little mushy, especially in the lower half of this range. So, don’t expect a clean and crisp profile. The CKS5TW has a lot more meat than definition.

Highs

The highs maintain a solid feel. So, yes, you will get a bit of snap with respect to percussion in this range. But these frequencies remain heavy in their presentation. Vocals have lots of weight and thickness, as do string instruments in this range. So, this isn’t a sound signature for people who like a bright or sparkly high end. But on the flip side, this is a sound signature that’s pretty easy on the ears. And you can listen for long periods of time without any fatigue.

Soundstage

Not a vast soundstage. But you will get a decent amount of width and a definite sense of height. That being said, depth is a little lacking, so it falls short of sounding thoroughly multidimensional. But this is to be expected for true wireless buds in this price range. 

SUMMARY

Bass-heads will definitely enjoy the juicy lows that the CKS5TW provide. And the sound isolation is great, making them a much better option for commuters that the AirPods, at least in this respect.  Furthermore, the 45 hours of battery life is fantastic, considering that the $300 Sennheiser Momentum TW only offers 12. That being said, the level of clarity is less than spectacular. And if you’re looking for a particularly clean sound, you might want to consider Audio-Technica’s higher priced TW model.

You can find the Audio-Technica CKS5TW for the best price here:

Audio-Technica CKS5TW at Audio 46

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