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Audio Technica ATH-CK10

post #1 of 1506
Thread Starter 
These, along with the CK100, had picqued my interest within the past few weeks, and with the price floating around $200 for the CK10, I thought I'd give these a try before venturing into the purchse of the (twice as expensive) CK100's. These were purchased from newegg and arrived at my office last Friday.

A little background: I have been into audio (mostly two-channel stereo) for approximately 25 years, and had, at one point a few years back, assembled a fairly high end system. Unfortunately, that system has been parcelled out due to life's circumstances. For instance, I needed to buy my daughter a used car for her 16th birthday so i sold my turntable setup to fund the purchase. Seems kind of funny, really, when you think about it.

I got into headphone listening about three or four years ago. I dove right in and purchased more equipment than I had the time to listen. Along with the home gear, I also got pretty heavy into portable IEMs. At one point I had a few amps, along with a broad array of non-custom monitors (Ety ER6; ER4P (with S cable); ER4B; Shure E500; Shure SE530; UE 5 Pros; UE 5 EB; IE8 (twice), along with a few others.

I sold most everything (portable-wise) a few months back, as I wasn't using them at all. And I really didn't see myself getting back into it.

But a couple of weeks back I found myself thinking I should've kept at least one or two IEMs and it just so happened that that very evening, someone was selling their IE8's. This head-fier had purchased from the same vendor I had previously made my purchase (NCIX) so I felt comfortable enought that it would be the real deal.

Up until last Friday, I have been exclusively listening to the Senns for approximately two to three weeks. It's been my gym IEM, office IEM and an all-rounder used quite often as of late.

The CK10's arrived about midmorning on Friday. As I removed the contents from the container, I was really pleasantly surprised by the cabling. It seems like a heavy-duty wire compared to the Senns, being a bit thicker. Yet, they are very fluid in movement and easy to use. By that I mean that they hold almost no memory of their shape, which is very unlike the UE cabling and similar to the Senns.

The IEMs themselves are really (and I mean really) tiny. This was one of my concerns prior to my purchase, as I've got fairly large ear openings and was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get a proper fit.

Before I forget, the included pouch is rather diminutive and cute. My container of choice for all IEMs has always been an Altoids tin can. I could probably fit three or four CK10s into just one can.

Upon first listening to the CK10s through my iPod Classic, I noted that sound was rather tinny and lacked anything that resembled the lower frequencies. To say I was a wee bit disappointed is an understatement. And the fit just didn't feel quite right.

But no true head-fi'er worth their salt will let things lay in this manner, and I began my fidgeting, jamming, poking, pushing, shoving, etcetera of the IEMs into my ears; over-the-ear, straight in, sideways and nothing seemed to really work.

The sleeve of the CK10s have no ridge or anything of the sort to kind of "lock" the tips. The stem is smooth as a straw, and the tip sort of slides right on. I was a bit reluctant to insert the IEMs into my ears deep out of fear of the tip falling off the stem deep in my ear canal. But, I had read other head-fi'ers talking 'bout the "deep" insertion. So I took a deep breath, and sort of pushed the IEMs gently deeper and deeper until I could feel a rather solid (and sound proof) seal.

Then the CK10's came to life.

With the proper fit, the CK10s are at the top of the universal IEM heap that I've personally had in my possession. The music (mainly Jazz of all variety) just comes alive. These cans offer a clarity in the musical presentation that is truly remarkable. Very Ety-like, and yet smooth at the same time. I'm able to listen further into the recording with ease and pick out subtle nuances, which makes listening to well known recordings a fun game of sorts.

The bass is light, tight, and agile. It doesn't get in the way of the other frequencies. It's there, and is able to hit pretty hard, and then get out of the way. A couple of CDs I like to use for testing a speaker's bass quality/quantity are a few cuts from Stanley Clarke's "East River Drive" and "Mezzanine" from Massive Attack.

With the CK10's, the bass, when present in the recording, is brought to life through the IEMs. I was rather surprised that the low frequencies extended as they did. The lows were tight, controlled and fast. Absolutely no bloat in any way, shape or form.

For those who've heard a well designed and set-up minimonitor with a quality supporting cast, to include a properly treated listening room, the CK10s are very reminiscent of that type of sound. The sound where you sit and are totally awed by the sheer quality and palpability that you're hearing, where the sound is very cohesive and whole, while at the same time you're able to listen into the recording.

Listening over the course of the weekend consistently brought me awe at the quality of the sound these things bring to the table. For the first time since I've been into this hobby, an IEM caused me to question the need for my full sized cans. I remember thinking, "So this is what the JH13 crowd's been feeling" a few times during the course of listening sessions. Until the CK10s, I couldn't really understand how one could live with just an IEM.

I guess with anything audio, it's all about how the particular item fits with you, as the listener. For me, the CK10s are unequivacolly the best IEMs that I've had the pleasure of listening to. I'm really curious about the CK100s, but an emotional chord has been struck with these tiny giants.
post #2 of 1506
Awesome impressions. I too had a problem with the insertion at first, but I was able to get a proper seal after some fiddling. I also have some Sony Hybrid tips on the way, which was mentioned by |joker| in several threads. I will post some impressions of the stock tips vs the hybrids once I get them this week. Truly a remarkable IEM. Glad you enjoy them.
post #3 of 1506
That's it. I am selling my Ortofon e-Q7 and getting these. The impressions I read on CK10 are always positive. On a Russian audio forum that I visit often, ATH-CK10s are very popular and many prefer them over Triple.fi, SE530 and other top level universals too.
post #4 of 1506
hold your horses there @pianist..... lol!
post #5 of 1506
Quote:
Originally Posted by G3n0c|d3 View Post
hold your horses there @pianist..... lol!
LOL Yeah, I just got too excited there I guess. Right now I am trying to figure out if it will be worth to let go of e-Q7 for the CK10. I am also really curious about how Westone 2 matches up to CK10, since it's also seems to be getting only positive reviews so far. Urghh... there are too many choices these days!
post #6 of 1506
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AwakenedBeing View Post
Awesome impressions. I too had a problem with the insertion at first, but I was able to get a proper seal after some fiddling. I also have some Sony Hybrid tips on the way, which was mentioned by |joker| in several threads. I will post some impressions of the stock tips vs the hybrids once I get them this week. Truly a remarkable IEM. Glad you enjoy them.
I, too, was curious about the Sony hybrids (as I've read many things about the positive in the past) and stopped by a local Best Buy to pick up a set. I tried them with both the AT and Senns and I certainly looking forward to your impressions.

With both I got very similar results: Accentuated bass and reduced sparkle in the higher frequencies. It caused the CK10s sound merely good; not great. With the Sony's, the increased bass caused a muddying of the sound. The definition and clarity that I absoutely love about the CKs went out the window.

I then switched back to the stock buds and, wa-la, everything was back: Sparkle, clarity, definition and articulation.

Next up was the Senns.

The Sony tips are really nice in that I was able to stretch the part that goes onto the IEM stem easily even over the lip of the Senns. In this aspect, these tips are easily the best that I've come across.

As far as the sound difference, again, hugely bloated bass and reduced highs. It was clearly noticeable on the ATs, but seemed rather exaggerated on the Senns. A ton of bass, but very, very muddy.

The Sony tips on these two IEMs, to my ears, was not a good match. By looking at the tips, I would have guessed the opposite to happen. The Sony tips are a bit shorter (by about a third) than the CK tips and appear to be made of a good quality rubber. I assumed that having the IEM tips closer to my ears would have increased the quality of the sound. But I found it to be the totally opposite.

When I had all my IEMs sometime last year, I tried a variety of tips on a variety of IEMs and noticed subtle changes in the sound quality. Never have I experienced the dramatic difference the Sony's brought to the table.

I suspect each listener's anatomy and how the tips interract with their ears will make a huge difference in the perceived sound quality of whichever IEMs they happen to use. Also, even the tiniest of differences in the location of the IEM in the ear will change the sound quality.

In the end, everything we listen to is really subjective. What I find to be the top universal I've had the pleasure of listening to will undoubtedly be one that's lacking in bass slam and emotion in another listener.

That's what makes this hobby fun, all the differences we hear from the exact same thing. I guess we each draw something a bit different from whatever it is that we happen to be listening to.

Back to the subject of the CK10s:

I read somewhere that these IEMs improved with an amp. As I don't currently own any portable amp (and probably will not again), I hooked them up to my EC/DC set-up (Sony CDP/PBJ IC/amp) and was not impressed. They still sounded good, but seemed to be missing the "sparkle and space" that they're capable of producing.

It is possible that it was just the recordings that I had in my caraousel at the time. But as I skimmed through the five discs, the sound remained rather the same, sort of bland. I actually preferred the sound coming out of a Classic, with music encoded in 320 AAC.

I still can't quite figure that one out. I'll have to pick out some of the better recorded discs and see if that was the culprit.
post #7 of 1506
Thread Starter 
After having gotten used to the sound signature of these IEMs, my home rig, which at the time had been on a rotational basis of GS1K/RS1/HF2 through first the ZD, then for the past couple of weeks the EC/SS, sounded way too colored to be enjoyable.

So I opted to put the SA5000 in, as I figured these cans were the closest that I have to the CK10s and decided to do a short comparison. The CD that I used was entitled, "Wertico" by the drummer/percussionist with the Pat Metheny Group. I chose this because it's a great sounding (both musically and quality-wise) recording, and I had it loaded on m iPod and had been listening to the disc on my home rig.

The rig consists of the following: Sony SACD C555ES, Nordost Red Dawn IC's fed into an Eddie Current SS. I find the EC unit to be a very smooth sounding solid state amp.

I mainly listened to the first track, which has an intro of various percussion instruments played throughout the headstage, with a tremendous amount of echo and bloom in the recording venue. And also the 8th track, I believe, that had an introduction of acoustic guitar, followed by various other instruments.

Through the Sony can, the headstage was slightly larger, with the percussion instruments having a decay that resembled sounds recorded in a large, untreated room that allowed the sounds to have a long echo. Also, I found the highest frequencies to have a bit of a metallic etch to it. Bad description, I know, but it just sounded a tad harsh and uncontrolled.

The CK's, on the other hand, presented those higher frequencies much like in an acoustically treated room, where the sounds still have the decay and echo, but are more controlled. The headstage was only slightly smaller, if at all, and the bass seemed tighter and better controlled.

It would be akin to listening to some percussionists performing in a large, open, tile-floored cafeteria, and then hearing the same performance in a much smaller room that's been properly treated acoustically for optimal performance.

The differences weren't on that large of a scale, obviously. But I hope the example sheds some light into what I heard, but on a more subtle basis.

Then out of sheer curiosity I compared the sound to that of the D7000. With the Denon can, the music still sounded as if it was being played in a properly treated room, but one that is quite a bit larger in dimensions than the room with the CKs. The lower frequencies, when asked to be reproduced, came out sounding solid, controlled, tight and deep. In this department, the CKs merely offered a taste of what the Denon delivered in aplomb.

Back to the D7000s for a second: I don't agree with others' description of these cans as "bloaty" and "bass heavy". To my ears, the bass is delivered in a very tight, controlled, deep and fast manner and quickly gets out of the way of the music and is only present when it's called on to reproduce it from the recording.

I preferred the sound quality of the CKs out of an iPod at 320 AAC to that of the SA5000s through a fairly good system. The ATs offer, at least to my ears, as good a headstage as any other IEM I've listened to. I've got the IE8's, but have not done a comparison between the two, as from day one, I've been so totally smitten with the ATs sound quality that whether or not the Senns present a larger soundstage is totally moot.

The CK10's have quickly become one of my most treasured finds in all of audio. Each time I listen I am bowled over again and again.
post #8 of 1506
The more I read about the CK10 the more i want it.
post #9 of 1506
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pianist View Post
That's it. I am selling my Ortofon e-Q7 and getting these. The impressions I read on CK10 are always positive. On a Russian audio forum that I visit often, ATH-CK10s are very popular and many prefer them over Triple.fi, SE530 and other top level universals too.
How did I miss this post from 1/19? Wow, nice. Was this backdated? Glad I ordered these, because the mellifluous tone of this review is about as alluring as it gets. Can anyone say Pied Piper? Thanks much for the review, and now you have me really excited to hear the CK10s, both through the OEM tips and the hybrids, though your observations are very interesting since hybrids are my favorite after market tips.

Either way, you have made my day. Unfortunately, I will be out all day tomorrow when they arrive, but Friday is going to be fun. I also have the Westone 2s and Custom Triple Fi Pros (had the IE8 but no more). So I would say if your observations become mine, and I have no doubt that I am going to like the CK10s, I am set.

Also, I know these IEMs have been around, but until them came down to $199, I had not even bothered to look at them. The most I have paid for IEMs was $240 (with discounts on the W3s via Cashback and from NCIX when they were selling the IE for $224), and sometimes, good things comes to those who wait.

Thanks for the wonderful review.
post #10 of 1506
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pianist View Post
That's it. I am selling my Ortofon e-Q7 and getting these. The impressions I read on CK10 are always positive. On a Russian audio forum that I visit often, ATH-CK10s are very popular and many prefer them over Triple.fi, SE530 and other top level universals too.
And a couple of Amp3 owners say they match up well with that box too, as none of my other tops IEMS (W2, TF10s) will play without hiss.
post #11 of 1506
Quote:
Originally Posted by tstarn06 View Post
And a couple of Amp3 owners say they match up well with that box too, as none of my other tops IEMS (W2, TF10s) will play without hiss.
Yep, I agree with this. The CK10 isn't very efficient so it sounds great with the Amp3 - about as much hiss as a Grado or Koss headphone.
post #12 of 1506
Hi AudioDwebe and what a nice review. I'm contemplating purchasing the CK10's. Like you, I mainly listen to jazz and so far I've enjoyed the way that the TF10's reproduce it more than any of my other IEMs. From what I've read, it appears that the TF10's share much in common with the CK10's. I see that you also have the IE8's, as I do. I was wondering how these compare to the CK10's for jazz listening.
post #13 of 1506
I still find the CK10 (re-borrowed last week) to hiss with the AMP3 and lose bass detail, just not as much as a few others. But DWEBE, your impressions are spot on.

The CK10 is probably the most balanced, mature earphone I have ever heard. The fact that it can be had for less than other dual balanced armature contenders and sounds more balanced and neutral than most triples makes it amazing.

Couple that with the 4/5 build quality over 3/5 or 3,5/5 of the Westone, and you have an almost perfect earphone.
post #14 of 1506
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by iponderous View Post
Hi AudioDwebe and what a nice review. I'm contemplating purchasing the CK10's. Like you, I mainly listen to jazz and so far I've enjoyed the way that the TF10's reproduce it more than any of my other IEMs. From what I've read, it appears that the TF10's share much in common with the CK10's. I see that you also have the IE8's, as I do. I was wondering how these compare to the CK10's for jazz listening.
I really don't feel comfortable making a comparison between the IE8 and CK10s at this point because I am not 100 percent certain that my Senns are not defective in some way. The reason? Although my current IE8 was initially purchased by another head-fi'er from the exact same online store as I had mine (NCIX), upon receiving it I noticed (what appeared at least from my recollection) that the cabling was different from the one that I had. And, from listening to these new Senns, I just couldn't get over the fact how bass-heavy it sounds, almost to the point of it sounding a bit muddy. The sound definitely was not how I recalled them to sound.

I preferred the Senns to all my other IEMs at the time (UE 5Pro, Ety 4B/P/S, Shure E500/SE530). But these new, used Senns just didn't sound the same.

Initially, I just questioned my own auditory memory because, let's face it, I really don't think it's possible to give an accurate description of a comparison unless both items are listened to at the same time. And, besides, for several months I had been pretty much listening to Grados only, and we all know about Grados.

So just this morning, I put the Senns back in with the intention of giving a comparison for you, but just listening to it for a few minutes I didn't feel right doing it. I don't know how accurate such a thing would be.

I then contacted Senn USA and spoke with one of their product managers who informed me that there's not been any change in the producton of the IE8. I suspected that the cabling difference was due to just a different run in the production, but now that's been tossed out. He did, however, inform me that NCIX is, indeed, an authorized dealer.

I had previously called NCIX to ask them if there had been any changes in the development or assembly of the IE8, and had specifically mentioned the cabling. The gentleman I spoke with indicated that that was, in fact, possible. But, he assured me they received all their Senns directly from Senn.

Senn USA asked that I send the IE8's into their office so that they could evaluate it to see if its defective in some way. So I'm going to do that.

In the end, this is just a very long-winded way of tellin' ya I can't do a comparison between the two now. Sorry.

Back to the CK's:

Most of my IEM listening has been done at the office. When I had all the various monitors, I switched them periodically. They all sounded really, really good. None were bad. And I was always able to concentrate on work while listening.

With the AT's, I'm still able to do that; however, there's been more than a few occasions where I'm working but all of sudden I hear something in the music that draws my attention away from whatever it is I'm doing, forcing me into the music. That's never really happened to me before.

This is what the CK's do for me: You've all seen movies where the homely, unattractive girl that got no notice goes through a makeover of sorts, and all of sudden it's like, bam!, wow!? It's sort of like that, where the little subtle details that were previously glossed over are now clearly audible. It's not like every song I hear is that way, but it happens often enough that listening to music through these is a wonderful experience.

Me likes these a lot!
post #15 of 1506
Thanks AudioDwebe. Coincidentally, I posted in another thread how bass dominant the IE8 sounded to me when I listened to it last night after a prolonged absence. Perhaps you have become accustomed to the balanced sound signature of the CK10 and then having switched back to the IE8, found that its flaws are now more apparent to you. Our memories do have a way of playing tricks. Be that as it may, the CK10's are becoming increasingly desirable. But it's way past my time to hit the hay so I'll bid you goodnight.
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