Review: ATH CKS550iS Solid Bass In Ear Headphones

Yet another entry in its Solid Bass lineup, the ATH CKS550iS is Audio Technica’s In-ear solution for those who want something more portable than a circumaural full-sized headset.  Promising to deliver a sound signature that favours the low end of the spectrum, the CKS550iS is quite a departure from the Japanese company’s usually neutral sounding offerings. Will these headphones live up to their billing, or will they serve up a whimper? It’s time to find out.

ATH CKS550iS

STYLISH & EFFECTIVE

Despite the vast selection of earphones in the market, the CKS550iS somehow manages to stand out with its stylish and sleek design, incorporating golden accents on top of a matte black finish. These earphones feature huge 12mm dual magnetic field drivers, which promise ample bass within a sleek package. Audio Technica has also seen fit to include several different sets of earbuds to ensure the perfect fit, though the default buds felt fine to me.

I was able to go on a workout session without the earphones ever coming close to falling out, which is something that can’t be said for most of its competitors. The downside to the snug fit is that sometimes, it can get a bit uncomfortable with it pressing against my ear. Switching to a smaller earbud mitigated this, at the expense of a less snug fit. Overall, these earphones manage a good balance between design and functionality.

Further enhancing its appeal is the flat cables, which meant no matter where I stashed them, they never ended up tangling, which is incredibly useful. There is also a microphone and in-line controls, allowing it to be used as a hands-free kit while driving. The fact that Audio Technica included a pouch to store them in further sweetens the deal.

FUN TIMES

Just as advertised, these earphones truly delivered on the bass front. Low end sound signature was excellent, along with really good details and sound separation. Both electronic and rock based songs sounded a lot more engaging and fun with these on, leading to some head-thumping good times. Where these fall short is in the mid-range and highs. While certainly not as bad as some other bass-focused offerings, the highs tend to get a little bit muddy, and the mids are clearer on some of Audio Technica’s other offerings.

This leads to some tracks sounding not as full as we’d like, lending a sort of emptiness to them. Unless you only listen to bass-heavy music, you might end up a little bit disappointed with these considering the limited use case of the CKS550iS.

Of course, while they may be heads and shoulders above any bundled offering, at this price point, the expectation certainly exists, and these earphones unfortunately do not offer anything more than what is on the box.

Simply put, these are excellent earphones for the average consumer and most of today’s hit music will definitely fit these well. However, if you have a playlist that encompasses a wide range of genres, you might want to look elsewhere.

Verdict: An excellent earphone for bass lovers, but not for anyone else.

Value: 8/10

Features: 7/10

Performance: 8/10

Design: 9/10

Usability: 9/10

 

Total Score: 8.2/10

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