True wireless earbuds are great. There’s none of the chafing of cables as you’re jogging or lifting weights, plus you can control things like volume, skip tracks or pause the music, all without stopping whatever form of physical torture you’re currently indulging in. There’s one small problem… many true wireless earbuds have a battery life that would make an ice cube look long-lived.
Audio-Technica is a great brand that makes great headphones, earbuds, turntable cartridges, and some pretty decent microphones, too. Now the company has come up with a pair of true wireless earbuds that offer a staggering 15 hours of playing time on a single charge. That’s enough for a session in the gym every day for a whole week before you even need to think about recharging. Or, if exercise isn’t your thing, it’s enough power for a week’s worth of commuting.
So, what are these brand-new Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW like? It’s all very well having a great battery life, but if they don’t sound great, they’re not much use. I recently got my hands on a review pair of these premium earbuds and gave them a really good workout; mostly without getting out of my armchair.
The ATH-CKS5TW are housed in a fairly chunky charging case in which the earbuds sit in on their side with the contact charging pins facing downwards into the case. The great advantage of this unusual layout is that you can use custom ear-tips, such as the excellent Comply memory foam tips – and they will still fit in the charging case. A lot of true wireless earbuds slot into their charging case and will only fit properly if you use the supplied ear-tips. I like having a choice of tips and it’s a great move by Audio-Technica.
The charging case holds a 30-hour charge, which is enough to top up the ATH-CKS5TW earbuds twice before the case itself needs recharging. That gives a whopping 45 hours of playing time, which is more than enough for most people. And because most of us don’t use our earbuds for 15 hours at one time, it’s highly unlikely you'd ever run out of power and you’ll probably only need to recharge the case once every couple of weeks.
There's a nice selection of ear-tips supplied in different sizes, plus some ear loops. These little silicone wings help keep the earbuds fitting snuggly in the ear. And the fit is comfortable despite the chunky size of the earbuds. The reason for the size of these earbuds is down to both to the hefty 15-hour battery, plus they also incorporate large 10mm dynamic drivers that produce a sound that’s big and loud enough to dish up sufficient sound to cope with the noise of a gym or a bus. The ATH-CKS5TW are well built and rugged enough to cope with daily use and yet they weigh just 8g each.
Pairing the ATH-CKS5TW to a smartphone is easy and you only need to do it once. Every time the charging case is opened, the earbuds automatically connect to the paired device and you’re good to go. The earbuds are rated at IPX2 for water resistance, which means they should be fine in a humid or slightly sweaty environment of a gym. The other good news is these earbuds use the latest Bluetooth 5.0 and they support SBC, aptX and AAC codecs, plus you can use the A-T Connect app to choose which codec you want to use. Support for high-quality audio codecs makes these earbuds suitable with both iOS and Android devices.
A Qualcomm cVc noise-canceling microphone is built in for making and taking phone calls and for giving out orders to a voice agent, such as Siri or Google Assistant. Each earbud has a button that can be used to control music and several other functions. The A-T Connect app can be used to reassign functions between the left and right earbud so the controls can work just as you like.
Once the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW were paired, I put them in my ears and pressed play on my favorite music and sit back. The sound was big and beefy. If you like your music with plenty of bass, you’re going to love the ATH-CKS5TW. The sound is positively thumping and there’s lots of detail in the top end. If heavy metal or classic rock is your kind of music, then these are your kind of earbuds. However, if you like a little more midrange and some nuance in classical or acoustic music, then the ATH-CKS5TW might be a bit heavy on the bass for your tastes. For gym bunnies and roadrunners, the sound of these earbuds is pretty well perfect with a driving rhythm to keep one foot following the other.
Verdict: These ATH-CKS5TW earbuds from Audio-Technica feel incredibly well made and their clever charging position means users can fit OEM ear-tips and still manage to close the lid of the charging case. The sound is big – incredibly big – but the midrange lacks a little finesse so it may not be ideal for all genres of music. The battery life is a real triumph with one of the best playing times of any true wireless earbuds out there. If you like your music big and bold, these are the true wireless earbuds for you.
Pricing and availability: The Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW are available now in black, blue and khaki and retail for £149 / $159 / €169
- Type: Dynamic
- Driver Diameter: 10 mm
- Frequency Response: 5 – 40,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 110 dB/mW
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Accessories Included: 30 cm (12") USB-A/USB-C charging cable, ear-tips (XS, S, M, L), 3D loop supports, silicone rings
- Type (Microphone): MEMS
- Sensitivity (Microphone): -40 dB (1 V/Pa, at 1 kHz)
- Frequency Response (Microphone): 50 – 4,000 Hz
- Polar Pattern (Microphone): Omnidirectional
- Headphones: DC 3.7V lithium-ion battery
- Charging case: DC 3.7V lithium polymer battery
- Max. approx. 15 hours (earbuds); max. approx. 45 hours (with charging case)
- Charging time: approx. 2 hours (earbuds); approx. 3.5 hours (charging case)
- Headphones: Approx. 8 g (0.28 oz) (L side), approx. 8 g (0.28 oz) (R side)
- Charging case: Approx. 60 g (2.1 oz)