At CE Week, we got the chance to look into the Audio-Technica SonicFuel line of headsets. Deeper focus was given to their SonicFuel CKX in-ear headphones: the ATH-CKX5iS, the ATH-CKX7iS, and the ATH-CKX9iS. From low-end to high-end, all units are very affordable with the highest end only reaching $99.95 in price. Here, we will dive into the middle model, the ATH-CKX7iS, to get a taste of the quality you should expect from this line-up. Let’s continue on see exactly how much they packed into these headphones…
Driver Diameter: 8 mm
Frequency Response: 10 – 24,000 Hz
Maximum Input Power: 40 mW
Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
Impedance: 16 ohms
Weight: 10 g (without cord)
Cable: 1.2 m, Y-type, flat
Connector: 3.5 mm gold-plated stereo 4-pin mini-plug, L-type
As mentioned last week, the most unique feature with all of the CKX in-ear headphones is the 360-degree rotating ear tips combined with rubber hooks that slide into the contours of your ears. The aim is not only to provide comfort but to execute a perfect sound seal as the 360-degree eartips slide in and adjust to your ear canal. Combine these features with an in-line mic, a music track control button and a flat, tangle-free cord and you have a complete mobile listening package in the ATH-CKX7iS. And to complete the deal, all of the CKX variants come with S, M and L-sized C-tips, XS, S, M and L-sized eartips, a carrying pouch, and (medium) Comply™ Foam Tips that form to the shape of the ear canal.
The ATH-CKX7iS excels in comfort. Once you find the proper size pair of ear tips and hooks, the headset slides into your ears and maintains a sturdy non-intrusive hold. With the rotating ear tip, you don’t have to worry about finding a comfortable angle – it just sort of happens. Taking a step further, in other headphone reviews (like with the Westone ADV or Soul Combat+) foam ear tips or pads take comfort and sound-sealing to a level past of their rubber/silicon counterparts. Comply specializes in making a premium foam that feels like a second skin. As Comply foam had contributed to some of the most comfortable headsets I’ve tried, I can easily say these are the most comfortable earphones that I have ever worn. It’s actually surprising that such a simple concept of a rotating ear-tip backed with a hook hasn’t become more mainstream yet.
All of that sound isolation allows you to appreciate the sound produced by the 8 mm drivers all the more. The ATH-CKX7iS’ sound presentation is very well balanced. You notice more treble with a clear mid-range as opposed to a lean towards bass. To clarify, instrumentals are quite crisp and vocals are clear. I would have liked more of a lean towards bass, but that is merely my listening preference. This is the most balanced sound I’ve heard from 8 mm drivers, and it was a very enjoyable listening experience.
I have to give much and take away little credit when it comes to the ATH-CKX7iS’ in-line controller. Headsets with volume control were always aimed towards iPhones unless you purchased some proprietary headset for your specific device. Whenever the headset was used on an Android device for example, you can still control the tracks but you miss out on the volume control functionality. The buttons end up simply taking up space. However, here I have to give big points to the volume slider included on the controller. It alters the incoming volume from the device depending on where the slider is. It does not necessarily give you full control from highest volume to mute, but you can at the very least significantly alter the volume to a point. Finally, a close-enough volume control can be used for non-iDevices.
The take-away from the in-line controller is that it rests where the cable splits for the left and right ear-tips, a contrast to the majority of controllers that tend to rest closer to one of the earphones. The problem here is that the mic rests on that very in-line controller. Since it’s not one of the sides, it’s very far away from your mouth sinking closer to your chest. In our tests on a noisy street, I had to hold the mic closer to my face in order to be properly heard by the person on the call with me. This takes away the hands-free aspect found in so many other mobile-ready headsets on the market.
To be honest, the mic placement is not enough of a deterrent from purchasing the ATH-CKX7iS. For just $79.95, you can get an extremely comfortable in-ear headset that produces excellent sound presentation, has solid sound isolation and comes in a myriad of colors: black, white, blue, red and purple. If you’re in the market for the best listening experience in an in-ear headset which doesn’t hurt your wallet, then you will quickly overlook the mic placement. For what you get in comfort and sound quality, the ATH-CKX7iS at $79.95 is a steal.
Did I sell it to you? Maybe? Well, you can always check it out for yourself here…
† Main detailed product images provided by Audio-Technica