Cost: £240.00 (RRP)
Available from: Thomann
Every now and then we get a rather special item in the What Mobile office which takes us by surprise. The Audio-Technica ATH-CKR10 is one such item.
Available primarily in Japan, these in-ear headphones have been slowly making their way over to the west through specific retailers. They’re still pretty hard to find, with most people not really knowing much about them over here. Originally retailing for between £240 and £250, they’re firmly in the upper echelon of in-ear cans. At this price point, you expect quality and thankfully, the CKR10 does not disappoint.
Build quality is generally very good. The majority of the headphones come in a plastic but it’s high grade and doesn’t feel flimsy to the touch. Titanium caps offer added protection to the drivers themselves, while the jack is machine-cut metal. The cable itself feels like it could be better, with a thin plastic coating that doesn’t offer much in the way of protection. Actual cable length is also a bit short at only 1.2 meters.
The design of the headphones is a bit strange. Cramming two 13mm drivers into each earpiece always meant that size was going to be a bit of an issue… but these things are huge! There’s also a massive plastic guard which protects the cable and hangs down quite far. Thankfully, once the headphones are in place you won’t notice any of this as the comfort and fit is very good. The included earbuds are okay but I found myself using the ones which came with the Focal Sphears, simply because they fit my ears better. This is really a matter of personal preference. There’s also a carry pouch in the box for added protection when outside but unfortunately, it manages to be too big to fit in the average pocket. This makes it pretty useless unless you’re the type to wear a thick parka all the time.
Now we get to the sound quality which I’m happy to say, is truly outstanding. The Audio-Technica ATH-CKR10 use a new design which combines two drivers out of phase and re-aligns the signal to compensate for the negatives of each. That’s some heavy technical jargon that you probably won’t understand but essentially, you’ve got two little speakers in each ear working to the best of their abilities. A benefit of using phase-alignment as opposed to traditional methods is that you don’t need a crossover, so there’s no frequency cutoff where the drivers transition. This means you get a full signal that sounds more like an exceptionally well tuned single driver setup.
On first impression, it was immediate to me that the Audio-Technica ATH-CKR10 has one of the biggest soundstages I’ve ever heard for a pair of in-ear headphones. The width is pretty insane, with sounds seemingly popping out the sides of my head. They’re also incredibly adept with bass, to the point where I’d argue they could be the best in-ear bass cans I’ve ever heard. Things never seem to get heavy or boomy, despite going down to an astonishing 5HZ. Sub notes are tight with masses of attack and I found myself hearing subtle nuances in the basslines which I never even knew existed. Rhythmic drum sections punched through with detail and power, with electronic music being a particular area where the CKR10s seem to shine. Pair these with a decent amplifier such as the DiGiGrid Q and things get even clearer, with the mid-range opening up further to reveal yet more detail and bass gaining extra weight.
The fact you can now pick these up from some dealers for only £80-100 is incredible considering the price they originally retailed for. Armature designs may arguably be better for overall detail but the Audio-Technica ATH-CKR10 puts up an impressive fight, with the unique design giving them best-in-class bass performance and a smooth sound.