Audio-Technica, like many Japan audio brands, likes to name their products with lengthy model codes. In this article, I am reviewing the ATH-CKS5TW, where ATH means Audio-Technica Headphones, CKS stands for Solid Bass earphones, and TW stands for True Wireless. Once you break the codes down, you will find it easier to remember them.
Besides having a solid bass reproduction, the ATH-CKS5TW is also solid in battery life. It can deliver up to 15 hours of play time on its own, which is practically unheard of (your smartphone probably runs out of battery before the earbuds do). While the earbuds are relatively big, I feel no extra weight on my ears. The ear tips are soft which exert no pressure against my ear canals while the additional external loop (ear fin/ stabilizers) helps to keep them secure in the ears.
The chunky charging case can top up the earbuds 2 more times, giving a total 45 hours of listening time. There are 3 LEDs on the case which shows the battery level. With just IPX2 water rating, they are not exactly designed for wet and wild activities, but dripping water is fine.
Connected wirelessly over the latest Qualcomm TWS Plus technology, the CKS5TW sounds as good as normal wireless, with minimal disruptions during my review. Operation is by clicking the single button on each earbud. On the right earbud, click once to play-pause, click twice to jump to next track, triple click to go to previous track. On the left earbud, click once to increase volume, click twice to reduce volume. The buttons are located at the sides of the earbud so that you do not push into the ears while operating.
It has been a while since I reviewed a pair of earphones with a tuning like CKS5TW. These are truly bass heavy, letting loose to produce strong grooves even on the flattest mix. On tracks where the bass is merely supportive, the CKS5TW gives you the kicks and rumbles. The mid to upper frequencies are warm and veiled, without clarity nor polish found on the ATH-CK3TW. Instrumentations are obscured by the intense lows, and I had to push up the EQ from 4000 Hz onwards to bring the treble out of the dark.
As always, I try to look for the silver lining in every product. The CKS5TW lets you enjoy heavy EDM without hurting the ears. The sound staging is cohesively spread forward in close range. The audio lag is relatively short when watching video or playing games. Personally, I prefer the ATH-CK3TW with a more palatable price and popular V-shaped tuning, where the bass is firm and boomy and the treble is sparkling and precise.
The ATH-CKS5TW is a pair of true wireless earbuds designed for true bass lovers. It does not shy away from the imposing size to provide the longest battery life among the TWS in the market. Its treble lacks the brilliance associated with high-fidelity, but I do appreciate the comfortable listen at high volumes over long periods. And after a while, your ears get accustomed to the tamed treble and you will gradually hear bits of details surfacing. In this era of excessively-mastered treble, the CKS5TW may be what we need.
Retails at S$218 in Singapore. Visit the official product website here.