Audio-Technica is a very established audio brand. Their headphones are used by musicians, artists, recording studios. With the recent launch of their new true-wireless earbuds, Audio-Technica Singapore reached out to me to review the ATH-CK3TW, their most affordable model to date, retailing at S$158.
One of the annoying challenges with true-wireless earbuds is removing them from the charging case. It’s good that the magnets are strong to keep the earbuds secure, but if the earbuds are flushed with the case, there is little room for the fingers to get a good grip and lift them out. Quite often, the earbuds slip out of the fingers just after a successful “lift-off” causing them to drop to the floor.
The ATH-CK3TW earbuds protrude out from the case, so they are extremely easy to lift off. The case is relatively compact and rounded all over, like a pebble. The matt finishing is a little sticky with grease and creaking sounds can be heard when handling them, due to plastic rubbing between the joints.
Operating the earbuds is by touch sensor: use the right earbuds to change tracks (double tap and triple tap), while the left earbud control volume (single tap increases, double tap reduces). The earbuds can also active smartphone assistant like Google or Siri, just press-and-hold the right earbud. During some operations, there are voice prompts, for instance, pause and play, connection status. I like that the prompts are soft and do not startle me when they are read.
Besides the case design and touch control, a few other features stand out among the crowded TWS market. The earbuds automatically goes into pairing mode when no devices are connect, which is very convenient. The earbuds also support in-ear detection which auto-pauses the earbuds when removed, but I like that they are turned off by default. To activate, tap and hold the left earbuds for 5 seconds until you hear the voice prompts.
The other memorable feature about the ATH-CK3TW is the audio quality. I am attracted to the sparkling, sizzling treble, delivering hair-raising resolution without overbearingly bright nor thin. The bass is powerful, delivering clean and distinct musical notation vibes without muddy. The midrange, while trying to bring balance to the overall sound, comes forth as slightly hazy. Still, the ATH-CK3TW is easily one of my favourites in recent memories.
Compared to the other similar V-shaped earbuds like Plantronics BackBeat PRO 5100, the CK3TW has slightly more bass and finer treble clarity, but Plantronics have a little more midrange to sound less thin. Compared to the Sony WF-1000XM3, the CK3TW delivers a more brittle treble and stronger bass, while the Sony is fuller at the treble while retaining clarity, balanced with midrange and an overall more “live”-like sound stage. Sonically, Sony is certainly at an upper hand but so is the price.
With Qualcomm TWS+ chipset, the audio lag is reduced but still perceptible, hence precise gameplay is not desired. A battery life of 6 hours is also sufficiently lasting for most users. The case offers additional 24 hours of listening time, but you can’t tell the remaining battery life until it’s running out.
I always appreciate established audio brands who create product that offers so much value for money. The ATH-CK3TW delivers the sound signature that Audio-Technica is known for, packaged with practical design and attractive price. I will recommend them to anyone who enjoys a V-shaped tuning but concerned about sounding too bright at highs or too bloated at the lows. The ATH-CK3TW achieves an overall clean disciplined sound that is easy for the ears to take in without getting too conservatively neutral like Klipsch T5 True Wireless.
Retails at S$158 in Singapore. Visit the official product website here.
Disclosure: product has been provided free of charge to Music Photo Life in exchange of opinions and publication of this review article.