At £249 the Audio Technica ATH-CK10s are not expensive for home headphones, but they are at the top end for portable earphones. As such, they immediately draw comparison to some of the best in their league from Shure, Denon, Ultimate Ears and Etymotic.
Like many models from the aforementioned manufacturers, the CK10s are sound-isolating earphones, featuring dual armatures and compact enclosures. But with such attractive competition from Shure at this price point, what has Audio Technica got to win us away from our all-time favourite earphones, the Shure SE530s?
It must be said these earphones fall into the category of 'earphones for babies'. Not literally, of course, but they are ludicrously small. They're much smaller than the Shure SE530s and Denon AH-C751s, and offer ultra-lightweight comfort in a discrete package. Only the Klipsch Images and Jays q-Jays compete in terms of incomprehensible minimalism.
Highlighting this is the fact that two out of the three sizes of the supplied sound-isolating tips are in fact larger than the earphone enclosures themselves. This assorted collection of silicone tips helps provide the correct fit for every ear, and a good fit is crucial for a powerful bass performance and effective passive blocking of noises around the listener.
And it works well. We experienced decent sound isolation, without feeling oblivious to the world around us. They're extremely comfortable, too, and far less intrusive than the Shure competition in terms of bulk and fit.
Inside both of these tiny enclosures sit two balanced armatures -- one woofer just for low frequencies, and one tweeter for the highs. These jointly respond to frequencies between 20Hz-15kHz, with an unusually high impedance (for earphones) of 55ohms, but a fairly average sensitivity of 107dB/mW.
There's not a great deal in the box in terms of accessories. You get a small hard-backed carrying case and the aforementioned silicone tips. There are no adaptors, no extension cables and no in-flight adaptors, which was a touch disappointing.
What's not disappointing, however, is performance. Two things have stood out during our last couple of weeks of daily testing. Firstly, these earphones probably offer the airiest, crispest treble available on the market -- a trait we've heard numerous times before from Audio Technica.
The second is the sonic detail offered. Not even the Shures, Denons or Jays models mentioned earlier offer the clarity and high-end detail of these earphones; they're remarkably crisp.