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audio-technica ATH-CK100 Impression

post #1 of 71
Thread Starter 
The new Audio Technica's Triple Driver IEM - ATH-CK100 has been out for quite sometime. However there are very little reviews or impressions here in head fi, mostly because of other attractive options like the Sennheiser IE8 and the Westone 3. Seeing how little people owns this IEM in head fi, I decided to take the plunge and be the guinea pig myself after reading much of the great reviews about this IEM from the Japanese forum and kakaku.com. And today I receive this beauty purchased from Japan.

Introduction

The ATH-CK100 is Audio Technica's first Triple Balance Armature IEM, it uses a 2 way 3 driver design, it has 2 driver for mid/high and 1 for bass. Unlike other triple driver IEM which usually consist of 1 driver for high and 2 for mid/bass. It is also the world's smallest triple driver IEM available currently according to Audio Technica.

Specs:

Type: Balance Armature
Sound Pressure Level: 113dB/mW
Frequency Response: 20hz~18,000hz
Maximum Input: 3mW
Impedance: 23Ω
Weight(Without Cord): 4g
Cord Length: 1.2 meter (47inches)

Well I dont have a decent camera so I cant take the pictures of this beauty, for those dying for some headporn, you can visit the link below for some pictures.

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Packaging and Build Quality

Well visit the link above and you can see the whole unboxing process and all the stuff that comes with it. It comes with a Pleather case to keep your IEM, personally I much prefer the CK100's case than the Shure E4g's case. The CK100's case has a magnet button like the one on your mom's purse so it opens up easily, unlike the E4g's zipping case. It also comes with a handy cleaning cloth, apparently Audio Technica knows very well that their IEM's shiny surface is a fingerprint magnet.

The tips are a little short of options, it only comes with 2 type of sleeves, 4 pairs in total. One pair of foam tips and 3 pairs of silicon tips in 3 three sizes S,M,L. Important!! The silicon tips size are noticeably smaller than those of the Westone and Shure's tips, they vary very little omly in size among all three. The largest silicon tips of the CK100 are only slightly larger than the Medium size for Shure and Westone's IEM. The foam tips are a bit larger and fits tighter that the Large silicon tips, but only by a little. So those with huge ear canal might want to watch out, or try it first before you buy it. And for a reference, Shure's *Medium size* mushroom tips and clear flex are a perfect fit for me, while with the CK100 I need to use the *Large* silicone tips

The foam tips are similar to the Shure's olive tips, but they are harder and really need some effort to squeeze it down. I feel the build quality of the foam tips are better than Shure's olive tips. As for the silicone tips, it feels much softer and more comfortable than the Shure's mushroom tips. The nozzle is bolder than the one the Shure's and Westone so dont expect to use their tips on the CK100. Exchanging tips on the CK100 is very effortless and easy, the tips fits in smoothly unlike Shure and Westone's IEM, which needs quite some effort to push the tips in.

The CK100's shiny surface housing is made from Titanium. BUT, most of the time from the pics you only see the front of the IEM, which is the Titanium part, turn it back and you'll see that another half of it is covered in plastic. At least that's how it looks to me. But still the build quality is very good and it feels solid. The words and logo on the housing are carved on from the feels of it. The size of the IEM, as Audio Technica claimed - is REALLY SMALL, it's even smaller than my E4g, the westone 3 looks like it can swallow the CK100 easily. I wonder how they crammed three drivers into such a small size.

The cables has a rubber feel kinda similar to the ATH-AD2000 headphone, it *feels*(purely feeling, I feel the same way for westone's cable) kinda flimsy, I cant be sure how good is the quality of the cable. Although from the looks of it I think it won't suffer cable crackling like the Shure. It's slightly slimmer than the E4's cable, but thicker than westone's cable. The cable is pretty flexible too. And the best thing that surprised me is how well they handle microphonics. I barely hear any even if I purposely tap on the cable. The plug is a L shaped plug similar to the ones on the KSC75, so I guess it shouldn't be a problem for most Mp3 Players.

Fit:

The CK100 is very comfortable, the cable is very light so I don't feel anything touching my ears. And unlike the Westone 3 or Shure SE530 the housing doesn't touch your ears so after a while you would've forget you're wearing it!

Isolation:

The isolation is very good, the small housing lets you insert the IEM deeper and thus making a better and tight fit. I wouldn't worry about bad isolation with the CK100.

Hissing

I listen at low gain, 9 o'clock on the Pico. Even after I turn the volume to max I still dont hear any hissing. As for hissing with portable I'll try that later with my Sony NWZ-A616.

Update: After trying with my Sony NWZ-A616, there are no noticeable hiss even with max volume 30/30, and my normal listening volume is 9~11/30.

Sound

Now the most important part everyone is curios about Before I get into details I'll give some idea what I like and the listening environment.

The Setup:
foobar2000 -> Pico DAC/Amp -> ATH-CK100

I dont really believe in burn-in in Balance Armature IEMs, but just to be sure I let it ran for around 10 hours. If there ARE any changes later I will update it

I mostly listen to J-pop and trance/techno and some J-rock. I prefer bright sounding, detailed and energetic/forward sounding headphones. My headphones are the Sony MDR-SA5000 which I love very much. I owned the Audio Technica ATH-AD2000 too but I just sold it this morning Still I love the AD2000's sound and it is also why I get the CK100

Just a side note, although I tried the Westone 3 before, I wont do a comparison between them because I cannot wear the Westone 3!! No matter what tips I try the huge housing and the short nozzle is just not helping to get a tight and snug fit.

At first I tried the foam tips first cause yellow foamies sounds the best to me in my E4g. But when I put it on for the first time I was like the highs feels kinda recessed, so I changed to the silicone tips and was like ahhh~~~ this is how it should sound The first thing that came into my mind when I put on the CK100 is -- ATH-AD2000?? The CK100 definitely reminds me of the AD2000's sound, except the bass which I'll go into details later.

High:

The highs are DEFINITELY ONE of the strength of the CK100, it's very extended, smooth, sweet and beautiful!! Definitely no signs of sibilance at all. The CK100 can be considered as a bright IEM, the highs are a bit emphasized but it never gets in the way of other frequency. It blends in with other frequency very well, it won't stood out too much like the iM716(ER-4 should sound similar right?) I tried before. The E4g in comparison, sounds like a pillow in between, muffled and rolled off.

Mids:

The mids are colored, very forward and a bit warm sounding, very much like the AD2000, to me the coloration is very welcomed and I like it very much. But for those who think the AD2000's mids is *honky* or too colored.(I would guess that some other Audio Technica headphone also shares this coloration) This IEM is not for you cause the CK100 shares the same colored mids. It feels more full bodied. The E4g's vocal sound thin and dry compared to the CK100. However at some time the mids could be just a *bit* too forward and interfere with other frequency. A problem the AD2000 does not share.

EDIT: I should note that the mids are REALLY VERY forward, even slightly more forward that the Grados, so for those who hate that type coloring watch out.

Bass:

Bass though, is not a strong point of the CK100, unlike it's full-sized brother, the CK100 is quite lacking in quantity I would say. They are better than the iM716 since they sound more full bodied in oppose to the iM716 thin sound. But for those who thinks that the iM716 or ER-4 *seriously* lacks bass, I doubt the CK100 will satisfy you. I can see from other review why the Westone 3 bass totally crush the CK100, cause even with a bad fit, I can feel the sheer amount and impact of the Westone 3's bass. Although it's a bit too much for me Bass impact is the most lacking part in the CK100, almost non existance And the worst part is that the CK100 does not respond very well to equalizing. With the Sony NWZ-A616 Clear Bass setting on max, it helps but only up to a certain point. The E4g responds better to the equalizing and gives a better feel of the bass impact. Personally I'm not that unhappy with it cause J-pop usually requires a bass light phone, so the CK100 is just about right with that amount of bass to me, not too much and not too little.

Update of bass after 100+ burn in:
After burn in, the bass is significantly better, quantity wise, it's now even more than my Shure E4g. But still burn in wont do magic so although the bass is now more prominent, I would still think that the W3, IE8 or TF10pro would have even more bass quantity. The CK100 now has a much fuller and balanced sound. It feels like I'm listening to a full size headphone, the details in the bass region is also pretty impressive. I noticed in one of my song a fast bass line that I never noticed in the E4g. The bass is also kinda fast, with relatively short decay. Tightness is just so so, the E4g's bass still felt tighter and even more so with the Sony's Clear Bass setting. Non-responsiveness to equalizing is no longer a problem, CK100 now benefit quite a lot from equalizing, but I dont think equalizing is necessary unless one wishes for more bass.


Soundstage and imaging

Soundstage is consider quite good for an IEM, it's definitely much wider than every IEM I tried. But I never tried the Triple Fi nor the SE530 nor the IE8 before so dont take my word for it Personally I feel that the soundstage is wide enough for my taste and it extends vertically too, much like the AD2000. The soundstage is only smaller than the AD2000 by a notch or two. Shure E4g in comparison feels monoraul Imaging however is amazing with the CK100, instrument separation is very good. I can effortlessly tell where the sound comes from and it's easy to concentrate on one instrument.

Details

Details is also one of the strengths of the CK100. The CK100 brings out all the details and blends it into the music very well. Unlike the SA5000 which kinda forces the details into you (although I prefer that) The amount of details the CK100 brings out might not be at the SA5000 level (duh!) but it's definitely no slouch itself. This is also a part where it sounds very similar to the AD2000. Very detailed sounding yet musical at the same time.

Overall:

Overall the CK100 is very balance sounding IEM, some might feel the bass is lacking but that's personal preference. Like it's full-sized brother, it's also a very forgiving IEM, low quality Mp3 will still sound very good out of the CK100. However the lack of bass makes it not that suitable for hip hop or rock or other bass dependent genre. For pop songs, jazz, and J-pop especially, definitely give these babies a try!!

EDIT: After 100+ hours of burn in, I can say I dont really miss my AD2000 anymore, the CK100 sounded so similar. It's obvious that Audio Technica are trying to bring the AD2000's sound into the CK100. Although the AD2000 are still better in almost every aspect, but to be able to take such a great sound on-the-go, I wouldn't mind that little sacrifice made.

Second opinion from a friend:
Yesterday I went to a friend's house, and I got the chance to try out the SE530. The hissing are kinda annoying IMO. Compared to the CK100, the SE530's bass are absolutely more prominent, but that's all. To me the CK100 wins in terms of separation, imaging, highs and even the mids. The CK100 mids sounds much more intimidating to me, the highs on the SE530 are kinda roll off and recessed, the CK100 high simply sounds more prominent, extended, clean and clear. Overall clarity and sound balance is still better in the CK100.

My friend who had tried a lot of IEM including the Westone 3, IE8, TripleFi10 and SE530, said he definitely prefer the CK100 to the Westone 3 and Triple Fi. To him the triple fi is too colored, and the Westone 3 loses out in the highs and *bass*, "the CK100 have more bass".(Yes I'm pretty shocked by this statement too, he is also using his UM56 tips with the Westone 3 too so I got nothing to say cause it's impossible that he'll get a bad fit)
post #2 of 71
Thank you for making this review, I was considering these IEM. This is a good reference for me, because I listen to exactly the same genres The bass impact, how does it compare to other IEM you have?
post #3 of 71
Awesome! Thanks so much for the review, the forum's been waiting a long time on an impression of these IEMs.
I already own the W3, and I like a bright, forward sound signature (owned both CK7 and CK9 before). I knew the IE8 wouldn't be right for me (despite the soundstage) because of the relatively 'dark' sound signature.
This was the only high end IEM that I was wondering about and was interested to hear, but based on your comparison with the W3s bass, I think I've made the right decision as I love the tight/deep/fast bass of the W3 - any less would seem sonically anaemic IMO
post #4 of 71
nice review
post #5 of 71
Finally, a head-fier with a CK100. Nice review. But lack of bass meant it's definitely not for my music genre.

From the review, CK100 sound like SE530/UM2 but with lower amount of bass, similar forward mid and better high.
post #6 of 71
Soundstage only slightly worse than AD2K? A full-size open can? How can this be? THIS IS MADNESS!

THIS

IS

SPARTAAAAAAA!!!!
post #7 of 71
Well done review. Thank you very much. I considered ATH-CK100, but the lack of bass impact is quite a turn off for me. Not that I am a basshead, but I do want a healthy amount of punch in my music.
post #8 of 71
as a ck10 owner, i found with silicon tips, the bass is shy. as soon as i started using any type of foam other than the stock at stuff, the bass was fast and hard-hitting. good luck!
post #9 of 71
What about the isolation? Does it even have isolation?
post #10 of 71
Good review. I wish these were cheaper.
post #11 of 71
Thread Starter 
Update: Seems like I was wrong about BA IEM burn-in, I do notice some different, it's now already 20 hours. I'm going to continue the burn in and I'll report back the changes. It certainly is changing in a good way. Right now I am continually impressed by the CK100 ability to separate the highs and mids, I dont know how to say this but the forward mids never covers up the highs. Usually most IEM or even headphone I tried that has forward mid tends to cover up some of the high frequency. CK100 handles this very well I would say.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DeTrun View Post
Thank you for making this review, I was considering these IEM. This is a good reference for me, because I listen to exactly the same genres The bass impact, how does it compare to other IEM you have?
The CK100's bass sounds tighter and the bass line can be clearly heard. My E4g's bass instead sounds monotone. As for bass impact, I would say the E4g has slightly a bit more impact, and improves further with equalizing, where CK100 dont really benefit from equalizing much.

EDIT: The burn in are definitely showing improvements. The bass are more prominent as compared to what I heard yesterday. Not a night and day difference but noticeable definitely. I'll give these baby more time and I'll update it to the first post

Quote:
Originally Posted by i_don't_know View Post
Soundstage only slightly worse than AD2K? A full-size open can? How can this be? THIS IS MADNESS!

THIS

IS

SPARTAAAAAAA!!!!
The CK100 also sounds very airy, thus giving it better sense of space. Albeit not up to the AD2k level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post
as a ck10 owner, i found with silicon tips, the bass is shy. as soon as i started using any type of foam other than the stock at stuff, the bass was fast and hard-hitting. good luck!
I was using the foam at first but it killed the highs, I'm very picky about highs so I chose the silicone tips instead

Quote:
Originally Posted by scytheavatar View Post
What about the isolation? Does it even have isolation?
The isolation is very good, the small housing lets you insert the IEM deeper and thus making a better fit. I wouldn't worry about bad isolation with the CK100
post #12 of 71
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by toughnut View Post
Finally, a head-fier with a CK100. Nice review. But lack of bass meant it's definitely not for my music genre.

From the review, CK100 sound like SE530/UM2 but with lower amount of bass, similar forward mid and better high.
Hi toughnut!! If only I was a few day earlier I could've swept your TF10pro Then I can have a good comparison with other Triple Driver IEM
post #13 of 71
have you tried a foamie, not the foam that came with the at? i used ety foamies and they did not kill the highs but did not retain as much bass either.
post #14 of 71
Thread Starter 
I thought ety foamies have the same hole size as the Shure's foamies??

How did you manage to fit it in?? AFAIK the CK10 should have the same nozzle diameter as the CK100. Which is way too thick to fit in any Shure's or ety's foamies.
post #15 of 71
yeah, so take out the rubber insert. it fits fine then or use an earplug and cut out a hole.
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