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Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW Review: Solid Sound, Amazing Battery Life

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $149
Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW case and ear buds
Chazz Mair / Review Geek

Audio-Technica, a company with a familiar name to even the most casual listeners, created a great sounding set of buds that, unfortunately, chooses function over form. The ATH-CK550TW have top-of-the-line specs and versatility that should put these earbuds near the top of any buyer’s list.

Here's What We Like

  • Customizable
  • Insane battery life
  • Solid Sound

And What We Don't

  • Bulky charging case
  • Clunky, flat buttons

Review Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Design: Clean and Simple

Visually, the ATH-CKS50TW isn’t anything to write home about. They feature a tactile, beveled design. If you haven’t worn in-ear earbuds in a while, these might take a little while to get used to. Weighing about 8 grams (0.28oz), these earbuds use rubber tips and a closed acoustic design, meaning they’re noise canceling.

A single button on each bud adjusts volume, digital noise-canceling, audio playback, and controls music playback—they do everything. However, I could never really get the hang of which button to use because each ear controls different functions; it always felt a little off.

Also, the controls are wide and thin—you won’t notice them in your ears. I would’ve preferred a knob or second button on some of the unused space for a more nuanced measure of control.

Charging Case: Insane Battery Life

  • Earbuds Charging Time: Approx. 3 hours
  • Case Charging time: Approx. 3 hours
  • Power supply: DC 3.7 V Lithium-ion battery

These truly wireless earbuds come with a charging case (and a USB-C to USB-A cable) that provides an astonishing extra 30 hours of battery life in addition to the buds’ 20 hours of playback. In comparison, Apple highlights that the AirPods Pro only have 4.5 hours of listening time, with a total of 24 hours when charged using the included case.

The company’s site advertises that you can get 90 minutes of playback time after charging the ATH-CKS50TW for just 10 minutes, and it’s true. You can toss these buds into the case for a few minutes and be good to go for an hour. This is probably the best charge time out of any case I’ve used.

The design of the case is almost as sleek as the buds themselves. The USB-C port used to charge the case is in the rear, and the battery and charge status are noted on the front with a series of LED lights.

The charging case is a little larger than your average earbud case, so it makes a pretty big lump in your pants pocket. It’s perfect for your jackets or personal bags, though.

Features: Built for Music Enthusiast

Audio-Technica ATH-CK550TW charging case
Chazz Mair / Review Geek

  • Bluetooth: Compatible, 5.2
  • Operating Range: Line of Sight, approx. 10m (33-feet)
  • Frequency Band: 2.402 GHz – 2480 GHz
  • Support Sample Rates: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz
  • Supported Bitrates: 16 bit, 24 bit (When using Qualcomm® aptX™ Adaptive audio)
  • Transmission Band: 20 – 20,000 Hz

The ATH-CKS50TW buds themselves don’t do a whole lot besides sound great. As mentioned before, the buttons on the buds control audio and answer calls in the ways you’d expect. Beyond that, it’s a toggle between the Hear-Through and Noise-Canceling modes.

The noise-canceling feature stacked on top of the closed-acoustic design of the buds made everything that wasn’t immediately next to me silent. In contrast, the hear-through mode did the exact opposite. The earbuds’ sound can sometimes get overwhelming, so it’s nice to opt out of noise-canceling (and it’s useful for walks around the city).

To go beyond what the buds offer themselves, you will have to use the Audio-Technica Connect app (available for iPhone and Android). It gives you access to a fully-featured equalizer with sound balance adjustments.

360 Reality Audio is a unique, sound-improving feature that has you upload photos of your ears to the app. Unfortunately, to really use it, you’ll need to have a compatible premium music streaming service like Amazon Music Unlimited, Deezer, or Tidal which is a pain—it does a lot for the immersion.

The spacial audio functionality simulates live audio by surrounding your ear with sound—as if you were at a live concert. Still, I feel it’s a bit superfluous for anyone who isn’t the most diehard of audiophiles. The base settings did just fine, and even those could go unused by a less-enthusiastic user.

Sound: Fresh Highs and Heavy Lows

Audio-Technica ATH-CK550TW ear buds on table
Chazz Mair / Review Geek

  • Impedance: 20 ohms
  • Microphone Type: MEMS type
  • Microphone Sensitivity: -38d (1 V/Pa, at 1kHz)
  • Microphone Frequency Response: 100-800 Hz
  • Microphone Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional

Sonically, the ATH-CKS50TW is set at a profile designed to produce sounds with high bass and treble with a deeper mid-range. This means the low and high-frequency noises tend to pop out while anything between them produces a lower, smooth sound on the edge of your hearing. You can bring more out of that midrange by adjusting it in the Connect app (available for iPhone and Android), which is nice to have if you prefer flatter sounds.

Personally, what stuck out to me was how the sub-bass would take notes and stretch them into a lovely, pleasant hum. It’s great for nice ambient noises, and the ability to draw that sound out more through the equalizer is greatly appreciated.

Also, the noise-canceling features help the earbuds’ microphones make calls clear for both parties. The multipoint pairing comes in clutch here—there were times when I was working on my computer and a call came in on my phone; the ATH-CKS50TW just let me pick it up without fumbling around for the actual handset.

However, the Bluetooth works using line of sight, and a few random signal disruptions caused drops in audio streaming. This was less of an issue when connected to just my phone, but a semi-frequent problem when multi-pairing it and my desktop computer.

All in all, I don’t think the ATH-CKS50TW’s sound is perfect, but it sits comfortably in the middle-top of the pack. I enjoyed listening to the earbuds while I was out, but whenever I was working in my office, I switched back to my Anker Soundcore Life headphones.

Should You Buy the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW?

The Audio-Technica ATH-CKS50TW is certainly a music aficionado’s dream. It simply offers too many options to be ignored. While more novice listeners might find themselves overwhelmed and intimidated by design, knowledgeable listeners will be able to fine-tune their experience exactly the way they want it.

The ATH-CKS5OTW is well worth the price, but only if you’re someone who will squeeze the most out of every single feature.

Rating: 8/10
Price: $149

Here’s What We Like

  • Customizable
  • Insane battery life
  • Solid Sound

And What We Don't

  • Bulky charging case
  • Clunky, flat buttons

Chazz Mair Chazz Mair
Chazz Mair is a freelance writer with three years of experience providing guides, news, and reviews of the newest tech for publications like Wired, Screenrant, and TechRadar. When he's not writing, Mair spends most of his time creating music, visiting arcades, and finding out about the ways new tech has changed old media. Read Full Bio »